LOOKING BACK ON 1934 A MAGNIFICENT RACING SEASON—GREAT INCREASE IN SPEEDS AND ROAD HOLDING—GERMAN CARS PROVE ALL-CONQUERING IN THE CLOSING G.P. RACES —RECORDS AT BROOKLANDS, DONINGTON AND SHELSLEY.
GRAND PRIX RACING.
N0 matter how severe may be the attitude towards motor racing in official British quarters, there is no doubt that on the Continent the sport has had , a triumphant season during 1934. From March to October the calendar was filled to overflowing with races, and although there were a good many cancellations, enough remained to keep both teams and independent drivers occupied practically every week-end.
The ” Grand Prix” season has been marked by a terrific battle between German and Italian cars. The former did not appear until the beginning bf June, and meanwhile the Alfa-Romeos Swept all before them. At Alessandria, Sicily, Tripoli, Montjuich, Montlhery and Rheims they scored ” 1, 2, 3 ” victories, while at Monaco, Casablanca, Avus, Montreux, Montenero and Nice they occupied two out of the first three places ; a truly marvellous record, and a vindication both of the Alfa design and of the Scuderia Ferrari organisation and personnel. The Alla-Romeos began the season with an engine capacity of 2,650 c.c., but in order to meet the competition of the larger German cars this was increased to 3-litres. In one race—at Avus—they used a car with a 3.2-litre engine, which gained the day in the hands of the late Guy Moll. But with their 3-litre engine they were not so fast as their rivals, and they were further handicapped by inferior road holding. The 750 kilogram limit imposed by the Formula made the cars extremely difficult to handle at high speed on a rough road, and the danger was added to by anything like a gusty side
wind. This factor played a considerable part in the fatal accident which befell Guy Moll. It can almost be said that the limit of speed safety with the use of normal suspension has been reached in the Alfa-Romeo. That the Mercedes-Benz and the Auto Unions would be formidable rivals was certain but few people realised that they
would prove such an overwhelming success. Of the two, the Mercedez-Benz is distinctly more orthodox in design and appearance than the Auto Union, and for this reason probably has More admirers. The latter, however, is just as efficient, and is a shade faster in road-racing trim. The amazing thing about these machines is that they represent a big advance on our previous conceptions of motor racing, not only in speed, but also in road holding and acceleration.
Their speed is staggering. Anything from 180-100 m.p.h. was regularly obtained during the season’s road races, a speed at least 20 -M.p.h. faster than that obtained previously with cars not conforming to the 750 kilograms weight limit. Their marvellous road-holdirig is due to independent springing of all four wheels. Really fast curves with a Slightly corrugated surface can be taken without a trace of that sickening sideways judder which is noticeable with cars of normal suspension. The fact that a bad bump only affects one wheel gives the cars a firmer grip of the road and renders them much less susceptible to the side-gusts of wind that can prove fatal to a normally sprung car. Lastly, in acceleration, they have opened up hitherto unima gined avenues of progress. When Kaye Don’s 4-litre Sunbeam exceeded 100 m.p.h. for the standing mile record we thought that the limit of acceleration was near. Power in plenty was there, but the problem of wheel-grip was insuperable. Yet last month Caractiola’s Mercedes-Benz sent this figure up to 117 m.p.h. I The 3-litre Maserati, has enjoyed a
successful season in the hands of independent drivers. It has proved a fast and reliable machine, handicapped by slightly weaker brakes and not quite such good road holding as the Alfa possesses. In the rain it is difficult to handle. At the end of the season a new model appeared, having a larger engine (3,300 c.c.) with six instead of eight cylinders. In the hands of Nuvolari this car carried off two Italian races in face of opposition from the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa-Romeos.
Bugatti has not had a good year. The factory has been engrossed in the manufacture of rail-cars, with consequent neglect of the racing department. The cars began as 2.8’s, but after a few races were found to require such drastic alteration that all future engagements were cancelled and a thorough investigation began. When they emerged the cars had engines of 3.3-litre capacity, and they soon began to show their paces. They gained first and second places at Spa, third in the Coppa Acerbo, third at San Sebastian and Berne, and finished up in fine style when Wimille beat the Ferrari Alfa-Romeos at Algiers in the last race of the season,. In their present form they are little slower than the German cars, and their road holding is extremely good for a normally sprung car.
The following lists of cars and drivers have been compiled from the results of races in which at least two makes have been officially represented. Auto Union, Bugatti, and Mercedes-Benz have definite ” works ” teams, of course, while the Ferrari-owned Alfa-Romeos have been taken as the official Alfa team. As for Maserati, the cars run by Nuvolari, Etancelin, Zehender, the Whitney Straight Syndicate, and Sommer have been classed as official representatives of the Bolognese factory. Here, then, is our ” championship ” list for the year 1934:
It is worth while .making a separate ranking list of those races in which all three teams of Alfa-Romeos, MercedesBenz and Auto Unions took part. These were as follows :—Avus, Eifel, G.P. de l’A.C.F., German G.P., Coppa Acerb°, G.P. of Switzerland, G.P. of Italy, G.P. of Spain, Circuit of Masaryk. These races produced the following result :
To. a certain extent this list is flattering to the Alfa-Romeos, for the German cars were suffering teething trouble in lx) 11, the Avus race and the French Grand Prix. On the other hand it must be remembered that the Alfa was designed several years ago, whereas the Germans represented the latest development of the racing car, and were moreover of greater engine capacity. On the same basis of 3 points for a win, 2 for a second, and three for a third place, and counting the same races as before, the ranking of drivers comes out as follows :
It will no doubt surprise many people to see Chiron at the top of the list, and not Varzi. The crux of the matter lies in the racing of May 20th. On this date there were two, races, the Targa Florio and the Grand Prix of Casablanca. Varzi was sent to Sicily, where he had practically no opposition at all, and walked away with the race. Chiron, Lehoux and Comotti went to Casablanca, and had to deal with a pack of Maseratis handled by Etancelin, Straight, Sommer and Biondetti. We have therefore counted the latter race, but not the Targa Florio. On the other hand it is only fair to Varzi to point out that he was certain to be
placed at Casablanca, and the extra point or points would have placed him ahead of Chiron. In fact, Achille Varzi has proved himself to be the finest driver of the year. His driving has been amazingly consistent throughout, and has not been marred by a single misjudgment. In. skill he is unsurpassed, and he has the benefit of lengthy experience which confines his enthusiasm within the limits of safety.
Louis Chiron has lived down the criticism levelled at him in 1933. His record this year has been splendid, but one or two lapses have modified his claim to first place. He was extremely lucky to escape uninjured from the accident at Spa. No driver is more popular, and he possesses a certain ” flair ” which captures the spectators to a man.
Of the remaining Ferrari drivers-, the death of young Moll is one of the greatest tragedies of recent years. Be had just got into his stride as a first class driver, and undoubtedly had a great future before him. The President of the Scuderia, Count Trossi, has two fine victories to his credit, at Vichy and Montreux, and can always be depended on to be near the leaders. Marcel Lehoux was dogged by ill-luck, generally connected with the transmission of his monOposto. A second and two third places were his ” bag.” Comotti was only given a seat in a few races, but has shown himself to be a promising driver by his convincing win at Comminges. Tadini, too, upheld the Ferrari colours several times, .gaining three ” thirds.” Chez Bugatti, Rene Dreyfus was the star performer. He won the Belgian Grand Prix, and was third at Monaco and Berne. His neat and precise driving was only marred by It single error at Nice, when he damaged his car in colliding with the straw barricades. Robert Benoist has failed to register a startling come-back, but it is hardly fair to assert that he will not do better when the Bugattis are at concert pitch. That metoric young man, Jean Pierre Wimille, after a quiet season or two, suddenly found his form in the Spanish Grand Prix, chasing Stuck’s Auto Union for some time and losing third place by mechanical trouble. He clinched matters, however, by winning in splendid style at Algiers, ahead of the Alfas. Nuvolari drove a Bugatti in several races, getting a third at San
Sebastian. Brivio, too, handled a ” works ” Bugatti several times, being placed occasionally.
Nuvolari has also had a Maserati at his disposal. As we have already stated, a new 3.3-litre job was successful at the end of the year. His season was cramped by a bad accident in the Bordino G.P. which laid up the little Italian for some time. His skill and dash do not seem to have been affected however.
Philippe Etancelin was actually the most successful Maserati driver. He had one first, three seconds, and a third to his name—good going for an independent. ” FM” as he is known in France, is a fearless and resourceful driver. He does not possess the polish and finesse of a Varzi or a Chiron, but he gets there just the same. He sometimes takes a chance that the majority of drivers would avoid, but his innate skill always comes to his rescue—and he has not had a single accident of any kind this year.
Whitney Straight has been beset by mechanical troubles. In spite of these, however, he has revealed himself to be a first class driver of natural ability and exceptional endurance powers. The reverse from Etancelin, he drives with a cool, precise style which is always good to watch. Of his drivers, poor Hamilton made himself a fine reputation before the ill-fated Swiss Grand Prix deprived England of one of her greatest drivers. Featherstonhaugh only drove in two races, winning the Grand Prix d’Albigeois after a magnificent show. Given the opportunity, there is little doubt that Featherstonha.ugh would develop into an “ace.” The remaining Maserati drivers to figure in lists of winners are Sommer, Falchetto and Zehender. All three are good drivers, if not possessing the” class ” of the others. Taruffi would have been an outstanding Maserati driver but for his crash at Tripoli on the 16 cylinder car
Now we come to the German teams. On behalf of Auto Union, Hans Stuck has been easily the most prominent driver, and his successes have led one to wonder what would have happened if the remaining cars had been in equally competent hands. Momberger has done quite well, but Prince Leiningen lacked stamina and several times showed signs of stress. This was partly due to the hardship involved in the handling of an Auto Union, where the driver is surrounded by tubes of hot water from the radiator. Reverting to Stuck, his driving has been particularly praiseworthy in that he has previously confined himself to hill climbing. Sebastian and Burggaller each drove in one race. Fagioli has been the outstanding Mercedes-Benz representative. This tough Italian possesses all the attributes of the first class driver; skill, courage, stamina and experience. His record this season has only been spoiled by a single accident
in the French Grand Prix. Caracciola surprised everyone by returning to racing when still suffering from the effects of his accident at Monaco in 1933. He has got back his old form, driving with calculating skill. His only blemish was the terrible crash at Pescara, which wrecked the car but left him miraculously uninjured. Von Brauchitsch was put out of action early in the season when he crashed while practising for the German Grand Prix. Geier was given a chance on two occasions while the most regular “third string ” of the team was Henne, the famous motorcyclist. The latter is very unpopular, however, on account of his disinclination to make way for a faster rival.
There have been, in addition, several ” independents ” and members of small stables who, although not figuring in the lists of winners, have nevertheless carried out a sound programme througlaout the season. Earl Howe, for example, has done well with his Bugatti and his Maserati, making himself one of the most popular figures on the Continent. Robert Brunet, too, is another Bugatti exponent of renown, while others of note were Soffietti, Minozzi, Penn-Hughes, G, E. T. Eyston, Pietsch, Ruesch, Falchetto, Braillard, Balestrero, Ghersi, Siena, Biondetti and Veyron. The success of a motor race depends on a good field, and praise must be given to the lone hand who has to fight ” works ” teams with small resources at his disposal.
SPORTS CAR RACING.
The sports-car racing season is now confined to a half-a-dozen important races. Each race is run under special regulations, so that no useful purpose can be found in ” ranking ” the cars and drivers.
The Mille Miglia opened the season in April, and as usual proved to be an AlfaRomeo ” 1, 2, 3″ victory. Varzi and Nuvolari had a terrific scrap before the former got home first. Among the smaller cars the team of M.G. Magnettes met with bad luck and had to give way to Taruffiss Maserati. Italy was also the scene of the next sports car race, the new Coppa d’Oro, or Tour of Italy. This race was run in separate stages, and from a huge entry the fastest time was made by a Lancia driven by Pintacuda and Nardelli.
Le Mans was more popular than ever, with a record entry of over 50 cars, the majority of which were British driven. Alfa-Romeos continued their run of victories in the G.P. d’Endurance, the drivers this time being Etancelin and Chinetti. Second and third came two Rileys, the first one also winning the final of the /0th Biennial Cup in the hands of its French owners, Sebilleau and Delaroche.
The Belgian 10 hours race was run in separate classes, without a general classification. It was notable for new rules excluding superchargers and twin overhead camshafts. The greatest distance was covered by Desvignes and Mahe on a 2.3-litre Bugatti. Italy showed herself to be the most ardent supporter of this form of racing by running her third race in August, the 24 hours Targa Abruzzo. The long Pescara circuit was used, and the general classification resulted in the usual Alfa
Romeo walk-over. The new unsupercharged six-cylinder model made its appearance in this race, and was completely successful. Earl Howe and Rose-Richards won the Campari Cup for the fastest supercharged car.
The R.A.C. Tourist Trophy race was the subject of much speculation, on account of the new ban on superchargers. It turned out to be a great success however, with thrills a-plenty and some really high speeds. The 3f-litre Bentley was raced for the first time, and finished second on handicap to an ” N ” type M.G. Magnette. The cars in the race were definitely nearer to the standard production models than any seen at Ulster in recent years, and provided an instructive as well as exciting spectacle.
Right at the end of the season there was a stock car race in Algiers. The entries were mostly French cars, and the result was a victory for Perrot on a Delahaye.
Stock car road-racing returned to America, and successful races were held in California at Mines Field, Ascot and Oakland. The cars were nearly all Ford V8’s, which are particularly suited to the courses used. They are run with standard 2-seater bodies, stripped of mudguards and windscreens.
The season at Brooklands has been an interesting one, marked by many new records on both the Main and Mountain circuits. In addition to the usual B.A. R.C. Meetings of sprint races, there were three long distance events. The International and British Empire Trophy races utilised “road “circuits, while the 500 Miles Race retained its ” all-out ” flavour as a track race. For the first time for many years no sports car race was held, a wise move in view of the monotony of such events on the wide Brooklands track.
Dealing with the B.A.R.C. Meetings, some new races have been introduced, notably the Brooklands Championship, won by John Cobb at 131.53 m.p.h., and the Record Holders Mountain Handicap, which went to Whitney Straight’s Maserati. It has been a year of good finishes, high speeds, and fine driving. Nearly all the lap records have been beaten, and yet there has not been a single accident in a B.A.R.C. meeting. The entry lists have always closed with a huge figure, with the result that the programmes have been long and interesting. Now for a few outstanding performers. John Cobb has raised the Outer Circuit lap record to the magic figure of 140.9 m.p.h., while his Brooklands championship was the fastest race ever run at the track. Whitney Straight recorded the second fastest lap ever covered, averaging 138 m.p.h. odd with the red Duesenberg. In addition, he beat his own Mountain lap record by 3 m.p.h. and carried off the Mountain Championship for the second year in succession. Lindsay Eccles has scored the most points in the ranking list for the Outer Circuit given below, which is based on the B.A.R.C. meetings only, while E. K. Rayson has done likewise on the Mountain Circuit. Raymond Mays has done well with E.R.A.’s on the Mountain circuit, repeatedly raising class records. W. G. Everitt and L. P. Driscoll have both performed wonders with their 750 c.c. M. G. and Austin. Their speeds have been a good deal higher than the records Of larger cars. Freddie Dixon has won many races on the Outer Circuit, while other consistent performers were
R. F. Oats, Mrs, Petre, H. G. Dobbs, D. N. Letts, K. D. Evans, A. H. L. Eccles, T. S. Fothringham, 0. Bertram, C. Casswell, R. T. Horton among others. Lastly, a great battle has been waged between Mrs, K. Petit and Mrs. T. H. Wisdom for the Ladies Lap record.
The International Trophy Race was the first of the long distance events and was a thoroughly exciting affair, easy to follow and marked by an extremely close finish. The fastest cars gained the day, but no one grudged them their victory. The British Empire Trophy race was rim over a new circuit including two difficult “snakes.” In one of these John Houldsworth met with a fatal accident, the only one at Brooklands this year. The race was a handicap event, and poor scoring arrangements deprived it of a full measure Of success. Finally the ” 500″ met with similar treatment frorn, the weather as has been experienced by many events this year. Rain flooded the track, speeds Were consequently reduced, and public enthusiasm effectively damped.
enthusiasm effectively damped. OUTER CIRCUIT PLACING&
… MOUNTAIN CIRCUIT PLACING8 I. …
DONINGTON PARK. seen
As England’s only road circuit, Donington continued its useful function as a training ground for drivers. The earlier meetings were somewhat dull from the spectators’ point of view, in spite of a larger circuit and a longer “straight.” This was largely due to the absence of well-known drivers, in turn a result of small prize-money. However, Lord Nuffield generously came to the assistance for the last meeting of the year, which turned out to be a really good days’ sport. At last one felt that the racing was of the
real Continental variety, and some fast cars and famous drivers gave of their best. On the same basis the racing at Donington Park this season gives the following results :
… • • • • • • • , IN IRELAND AND THE ISLE OF MAN.
Motor racing has many followers—and exponents—in Ireland. There have been three good road races held this year, at Bray, Skerries, and Plicenix Park. Perforce they have been handicap events, but enthusiasm and good organisation has atoned for this, and excitement: has been enjoyed by both drivers and spectators.
The Mannin races were again held in the Isle of Man, and attracted good entries. The smaller event was a magnificent M.G. victory, three Magnettes coming home first in triumphant order. The Moatrace was notable for the appearance of a genuine Monoposto Alfa-Romeo, the property of the Scuderia Ferrari. Driven by Brian Lewis it was an easy winner.
The Shelsley Walsh hill-climb record has again fallen, and Whitney Straight’s new figure of 40 seconds dead is really wonderful going. The first meeting was favoured by perfect weather, but heavy rain considerably handicapped the drivers at the second event, and the record was not approached.