1932 IN RETROSPECT. A SUMMARY OF THE YEAR’S ACTIVITIES AND TENDENCIES
By HAROLD NOCKOLDS IN spite of conditions of world economic depression motor racing in 1932 has enjoyed a more widespread popularity than in any year since the Great War. Prom the public point of view this can be accounted for to a certain extent by the apparent paradox that the less money people are earning, and the larger the total of unemployed, the more frequently does” House Full” appear outside places of popular entertainment. With little, if any, prospect of an improvement in the economic health of the world, and a growing feeling of insecurity of employ ment in even the most well-established concerns, thrift goes by the board, and “Eat, drink and be merry” becomes an
understandable maxim—both as a grasping of immediate pleasure, and as a means of forgetting the exigencies of Life. In Berlin, where one quarter of the city’s workers are unemployed, 200,000 people paid for admission to the Avus Track Meeting, while the German Grand Prix, held on the Nurburg Ring, near Cologne, attracted a crowd of 150,000, with 30,000 cars. The same state of affairs held good in France and Italy, and
our own Ulster T.T. drew a colossal attendance.
The competitor’s point of view presents a different aspect of the case. On the Continent, manufacturers have often been fortunate enough to be subsidized, either publicly or privately, while individual drivers have been assisted by large prize money, and in some cases appearance money provided by the organisers. At home the competitor’s lot has not been such a happy one, and all the more credit is therefore due to such firms as M.G., Riley, Frazer Nash and Austin, who have continued their racing policy in the face of the economic blizzard, and to our enthusiastic band of private entrants. Nor must one forget to be grateful to the voluntary donors of prize money such as Lord Wakefield and Lady Houston.
” Unrestricted ” Racing. for built
Racing for specially built cars, as distinct from “sports car” racing, has had a full and interesting season, noteworthy chiefly for the overwhelming superiority of the 2,650 c.c. Alfa Romeo single seater racing car, and for the magnificent series of victories of the Italian driver, Tazio Nuvolari. Before going on to give a brief summary of the season’s racing, however, it would be as well first to take a glance at the actual machines which have taken part in the classic races of 1932, and at the men who piloted them. For the first few months the official Alfa Romeo cars were the well-tried 2,350 c.c. cars,
with two seater bodies, but at the Italian Grand Prix a new model made its appearance, the 2,650 c.c. ” mono posto,” which was destined to prove invincible. The Alfa Romeo team usually consisted of Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola, and Benito Borzacchini, the latter’s place sometimes being taken by Campari. In addition, there was a formidable array of independent ownerdrivers, all driving two-seater 2,350 c.c. cars, such as Wimille, Etaikelin, Sommer, Siena, Zehender, and Felix. Whereas the Alfa Romeo concern were assured from the start of the success of their single-seater car, and could concentrate their preparations for all races on this one model, the French manufacturer, Ettore Bugatti, was not so happily placed. His 2.3 litre car was as fast and as controllable as the Alfa Romeo of the same size, but was not a real match for the 2.6 litre Italian car. He had perforce to rely
on the 4.9 litre Bugatti introduced in 1931, a heavy car which was hard on tyres and brakes, and which fatigued the strongest driver on a winding course. For drivers Bugatti had Louis Chiron, Achille Varzi, and Albert Divo, with Guy Bouriat as reserve, and here again the official team was supported by a worthy contingent of individual entrants, such as Earl Howe, Dreyfus, Gaupillat, Fourny, Benoit. Lehoux and Williams.
Finally, Maserati. Although suffering a severe loss in the death of the founder of the firm, Alfieri Maserati, at the beginning of the season, the Bologna manufacturers have put up a gallant show throughout the year, both with the 16 cylinder car in the hands of Itagioli, and with the 2.8 litre model driven by Ruggeri. 2.5 litre Maseratis have also been raced extensively by Castelbarco and Premoli, while 1+ litre and 1,100 c.c. cars have taken part in ” junior ” races.
Romeo v. Bugatti. Alfa
hint of the difficulties which the 4.9 Bugatti was to meet was given in the big race of the year, the Grand Prix A litre first
of Tunis, in which Varzi on a 2.3 litre Bugatti had no difficulty in beating three 4.9 cars, two of which retired with engine and braking trouble respectively. No official Alfa Romeo ran, but nevertheless Bugatti had drawn first blood.
The first clash between. the three rivals occurred at the Monaco Grand Prix, the arduous race run through the streets of Monte Carlo. At the start the French champion Chiron, on a 2.3 litre Bugatti, racing in his home town, gave a superb exhibition of driving, which unluckily ended in a crash. This accident let Nuvolari into the lead, a position which he held until the end, in spite of being pressed by Varzi (Bugatti) and Caracciola (Alfa Romeo), and the final placings were Nuvolari, Caracciola, and Fagioli (Maserati). The next big race, the Prix Royal of Rome, provided a win for Fagioli on the 5 litre 16 cylinder Maserati, Taruffi (Alfa Romeo) being second, and the late Von Morgen (Bugatti) third. Then came the one and only race for the Targa Florio, in Sicily. Nuvolari and Borzacchini on 2.3 litre Alfas opposed Chiron and Varzi on 2.3 litre Bugattis, with Fagioli’s Maserati a dangerous rival. Con trary to expectation a rather tame race resulted, for Fagioli soon retired, as did Varzi, while
Chiron had brake trouble. In the end Nuvolari won, followed by Borzacchini, with the two Frenchmen sharing the driving of Chiron’s Bugatti, third. Following two slight set-backs in the Avus Race, Berlin, when Brauchitsch (Mercedes) narrowly beat Caracciola by 4 seconds, and the Grand Prix of Casablanca, in which
Lehoux (Bugatti) took first place from Etancelin’s Alfa Romeo, the Italian firm was again triumphant in the Eifel Race on the Nurburg Ring, which was won by Caracciola. But it w as left to the next big race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, to begin the series of wins for Alfa Romeo which has been a feature of the 1932 season.
season. on one of the ” monoposto ” cars which were making their debut in the race, but he only just won, for if Fagioli’s pit work had been smarter the 16 cylinder Maserati would have assuredly crossed the line first. This race saw the downfall of the 4.9 litre Bugatti, for the cars tired the drivers considerably, and they finally retired, one with gear box trouble and the other with a seized piston. This victory for the Milanese firm was substantiated by Nuvolari’s brilliant win in the French Grand Prix at Rheims. The race was an Alfa Romeo-Bugatti duel, there being no other makers represented. Here again the 4.9 litre Bugattis were in trouble, and it was left to the gallant 2.3 litre car in the
car hands of Chiron to take up the Alfa Romeo challenge. But the Bugatti had not the speed of its Italian competitors, and had to be content with 4th place behind Nuvolari, Borzacchini, and Caracciola, all on single seater Alfas. From then on the list of wins becomes almost monotonous, Caracciola pulling off the German Grand Prix on the Nurburg Ring, ahead of the two other members of the chini, the first Bugatti being that of Dreyfus, who finished fourth. This race was run in three classes, the 1,500 c.c. category going to Tauber (Alfa Romeo), and the 800 c.c. class being won by H. C. Hamilton (111.G. Midget) whose little car was as superior to the rest of the field
as the ” monoposto ” Alfa Romeos were in the open class, and finished 13 minutes ahead of the second man. But a minor race, the Grand Prix of
Dieppe, gave Bugatti a slight revenge, for Chiron drove a 2.3 litre Bugatti to victory after a terrific duel with Williams on a similar car. This win was followed by another triumph for Chiron in the Circuit of Nice, but in neither case was the official Alfa Romeo team competing. But the balance was all in favour of the Italian firm, for Nuvolari won the Coppa Ciano race, with Borzacchini second and Campan third, although Varzi put up a good fight on a 2.3 litre Bugatti in finishing fourth. Nuvolari repeated his victory in the Coppa Acerbo, but the 1, 2, 3 win for Alfa Romeo was spoilt by Chiron taking third place, behind Caracciola. Honours were divided in two minor races, for Zehender won the Grand Prix
du Comminges on his Alfa Romeo, and Williams (Bugatti 4.9) carried off the sand race, the Grand Prix de la 13aule. The only real reverse to the Alfa Romeo fortunes was in the Grand Prix of Czechoslvoakia, when Chiron on a 2.3 litre Bugatti beat the two ” monoposto ” Alfas of Nuvolari and Borzacchini, the former experiencing magneto trouble caused by the drenching rain which fell throughout the race, and Borzacchini retiring with a broken differential. The following week, however, the however, Alfa Romeo once again asserted its supremacy by winning the Monza Grand Prix, the driver being Caracciola. This race is run in heats and a final, and was memorable for a great duel between Nuvolari and Fagioli. Earl Howe took part, on his 11 litre :pelage, and after a fast heat had the misfortune to crash badly, luckily
without personal injury.
Finally a wonderful season was wound up by Raymond Sommer winning the Grand Prix of Marseille on his 2.3 litre Alfa Romeo at Miramas, at an average speed of 109 m.p.h., beating Nuvolari’s ” monoposto ” car by 46 seconds. Although the Championship of Europe for cars is no longer held, an International championship was arranged this year on the results of the Italian, French and German Grand Prix races, the result being 1, Alfa Romeo ; 2, Rene Dreyfus ; 3, Maserati ; and 4, Bugatti.
Sports Car Racing.
The season opened, as usual, with the Italian Mille Miglia, or 1,000 Miles Race, an event which is unique in that it is run from point to point instead of on a closed circuit. This year two British cars took part, a Talbot ” 105″ in the hands of the Hon. Brian Lewis, and a Montlhery M.G. Midget driven by Lord de Clifford and T. V. G. Selby. Both performed admirably, the Talbot lying sixth until near the finish when it left the road on a corner through having one only one headin action. However, with the aid of it was dragged back onto the and eventually finished 25th. The 750 c.c. Midget, competing against of 1,100 c.c., was in second place the camshaft drive sheared, and de Clifford was forced to retire. A of retirements and accidents,
none of them serious, took place, Nuvolari, Campari, and Ghersi all leaving the road, while Caracciola had to retire after leading for most of the race. In the end Borzacchini and Bignami (Alfa Romeo) reached Brescia first, at an average speed of 109.884 k.p.h.
The British 1,000 Miles Race, held on Brooklands Track, was a very different affair from the exacting Italian race, for there was only one corner on every lap, and many drivers did not trouble to change gear for it, so that the race was primarily a test of engines and suspension systems. The winners were Mrs. Wisdom and Miss Richmond at the wheel of a Riley 1,100 c.c. car, both of whom drove with great consistency. Second place was taken by A. 0. Saunders-Davies (Talbot) and third came Norman Black and R. Gibson on a little unsupercharged. M.G. Midget, which averaged 75.50 m.p.h. The greatest distance was covered by a Talbot ” 105″ driven by A. 0. SaundersDavies who averaged 95.42 m.p.h. A fortnight later the Grand Prix d’Endurance took place at Le Mans, and resulted in a win for Sommer and Chinetti (Alfa Romeo), Cortese and Guidotti on a similar car being second, and Brian Lewis and T. Rose-Richards coming home third. A handicap win for Gt. Britain in this race was secured by the Aston Martin
driven by A. C. Bertelli and L. P. Driscoll, which won the final of the Ninth Biennial Cup.
Another All a Romeo victory was gained in the Belgian 24 Hour Race, the greatest distance being covered by Brivio and Siena, who travelled 2,876 kilometres. This race is run in classes, instead of a handicap system being used, and is therefore easier to follow. Sir Henry Birkin and. Earl Howe competed in an Alfa Romeo and came in third.
‘The season closed with the Tourist Trophy Race on the Ards Circuit near Belfast resulting in another win for alleys, C. R. Whitcroft crossing the line first at an average speed of 74.23 m.p.h., another Riley driven by G. E. T. I..’,yston being second, and the ever dangerous M.G. Midget securing third place in the hands of E. R. Hall at 69.93 m.p.h. The fastest time was made by Earl Howe with his Alfa Romeo, who averaged 80.53 m.p.h.
The B.A.R.C. meetings have continued to attract a considerable number of Corn petitors, the most popular races being those run round the ” Mountain” circuit. The first meeting at Easter was notable for the fact that in practice Sir Henry Birkin had broken the lap record by 115th
of a second, raising it to a speed of 137.96 m.p.h. with his 4i litre” blown” Bentley. During the meeting there were some excellent duels between Sir Henry Birkin and J. R. Cobb (Pelage), while at the other end of the scale L. P. Driscoll set
up a new 750 c.c. lap record at 103.11 m.p.h. At the VVhitsun Meeting the most remarkable feat was that of G. E. T. Eyston in making a new 750 c.c. lap record on the
Pendine single seater M.G. Midget owned by Mr. J. A. Palmes, of Jarvis (..ti: Co., at a speed of 112.93 m.p.h. This meeting also saw one of the finest Mountain Races held at the Track, a tremendous tussle between Earl Howe (Bugatti) and Whitney Straight (Maserati) eventually resulting in a win for the former, both
drivers breaking the record for the circuit during the race.
The “high spot” of the August Bank Holiday meeting was the great match race between Sir Henry Birkin’s Bentley and J. R. Cobb’s pelage, which resulted in a very narrow win for the Bentley, after a thrilling race. At this meeting Fotheringham-Parker distinguished himself by being the first driver to go over the top of the banking at the Members Bridge turn during a Mountain race. The closing meeting on September 10th was notable for two very fine lap records, the Ladies’ record falling to Mrs. Wisdom on the Leyland Thomas at 121.47 m.p.h. and the 750 c.c. record at 115.29 m.p.h. to R. T. Horton’s single seater M.G. Midget, an absolutely phenomenal performance. In marked contrast to 1931, the Mountain Championship race was dull, Sir Malcolm Campbell (Sunbeam) never being pressed at all. Two of the finest races seen at Brooklands for years were staged by the B. R.D.C., namely, the British Empire Trophy Race, and the annual 500 Miles Race. The first was a series of scratchrace heats, according to size of engine capacity, and a final open to heat winners on level terms. After an afternoon of first class racing, all easy to follow, the final resulted in a well-deserved win for J. R. Cobb on the 12 cylinder Delage,
although at the time the verdict was given by the stewards on a protest to G. E. T. Eyston on the ” razor-blade ” Panhard. However, there was neVer any doubt in the minds of the majority of spectators present that Cobb was the real winner, an opinion which was later born out by the decision of the R.A.C. Appeal Committee.
The ” 500″ added still further to its reputation as the finest race of the year at Brooklands. The result was a magnificent victory for R. T. Horton’s M.G. Midget at an average speed of 96.29 m.p.h., and was notable for the very high speeds attained by small cars. Unfortunately a fatal accident occurred to Clive Dunfee, driving an 8 litre Bentley, the car going over the top of the Members Banking. A Riley driven by “J. Phillip” and C. Paul was 2nd and the single seater Talbot driven by Brian Lewis and J. R. Cobb was 3rd.
The position reviewed.
In the face of this imposing list of memorable races, all fully supported by competitors and spectators alike, it is difficult to see what justification the pessimists have for reiterating their despondent complaint that there are too many races and not enough money.
To the question “Are there too many races ? ” the quality of the events during this season provides a definite answer in the negative. In fact there is plenty of room for a greatly enlarged Calendar, especially as far as Great Britain is concerned. With regard to the amount of money available, the Continental point of view is worth studying. On the Continent there is a motor race practically every week end,
a state of affairs which is made possible by the organisers treating motor racing as a commercial enterprise. I can well imagine purists raising their hands in horror at the suggestion that motor racing in Great Britain should be commercialised,
but it is only by such action that the sport can ever obtain the public support necessary for its enlargement. I will admit that there are several factors in favour of the Continental organisers. For one thing practically all Continental events are now scratch races, and the difference in excitement between handicap and scratch racing can only be appreciated by anyone who has seen such
widely contrasted examples as the Ulster T.T. and the French Grand Prix. It is sometimes held that scratch races would deprive British small cars of their chance of success, but this is not so, for Continental races are often run in classes, and the success of the 750 c.c. M.G. Midget in the 800 c.c. class of the German Grand Prix this year proved that we have nothing to fear from foreign competition in this respect. Then certain manufacturers are subsidized, but this does not apply to the large number of regular independent entries. Another advantage enjoyed by Continental organisers is that they have road circuits at their disposal,
for track racing, unless the cars are travelling at over 110 m.p.h. is not a thrilling Spectacle—a factor which rules out track racing for “sports cars” as a popular entertainment.
What of the future ? It is safe to say that Grand Prix road racing will be more popular than ever next season on the Continent. Can we hope for the same state of affairs ever to come to pass in England ? Our hopes depend on the construction of a road circuit on private grounds, worthy to rank with its Continental counterparts, and the eyes of motor racing enthusiasts will be fixed with the keenest interest on the progress of the scheme on foot at Ivinghoe.
At Brooklands the B.A.R.C. Meetings need only slight modification, such as better accommodation for spectattirs during Mountain races, while the B.R.D.C. British Empire Trophy and 500 Miles Races are firm favourites. The J.C.C. 1,000 Miles Race, being confined to ” sports ” cars, is handicapped by a lack of speed and cornering interest, but I understand that a new handicap system of an original nature, involving corners, is under consideration.
Altogether, there seems no reason for pessimism as to the prospects for 1933; rather does it appear that motor racing is gradually becoming the popular public spectacle it well deserves to be.