Continental Notes and News, December 1938



Continent& Noteo and News

By AUS LAN DER Faster and Faster

It seems that the days of the oldfashioned road-circuit, set amidst fields, woods and villages, are numbered. Take the beautiful Rheims circuit, for instance. Visitors to the French Grand Prix last July—at any .rate those who had been there before—had the shock of their lives when they found that the trees on each side of the long straight had been chopped down, and that the straight itself had been widened and re-surfaced. The result is, of course, that the circuit is losing, if it has not already lost, its character. Motor-races in France have always brought to mind a vision of cars roaring down tree-lined roads such as only France can offer. To-day the trees at Rheims are no more. As if this were not enough, the organising club have decided to carry out still more “improvements,” and it is proposed to demolish the houses on the

corner in the village of Gueux. Now, to the best of my knowledge, no car has ever collided with these houses, and they cannot really be called a hazard to the skilled Grand Prix driver. In any case, they are on a slow corner, and their presence lends a picturesque air to that part of the circuit, and it is difficult to see what motive the Club can have in pulling them down beyond making the circuit faster. As the lap record already stands at over 100 m.p.h.—or nearer 110 m.p.h.—further improvements of this sort are merely attempts to gild the lily.

In the case of the trees, on the other hand, I admit that there is something to be said for clearing them away, on the score of safety. The cars can get up to something like their maximum on this straight, and a collison with a tree at that speed, should they leave the road, would certainly be fatal for the driver. But even with its greater width and improved surface, the straight does not permit any passing to be done on it, except when the cars are accelerating at the beginning and braking at the end of it.

One driver, however, has had the experience of skidding between the trees on the Rheims straight and out into a cornfield—and lived to tell the tale. What is more he restarted his car, got back on to the road, and carried on. His name is Whitney Straight, and the Incident occurred when he was driving his Maserati in the Grand Prix de la Marne a few years ago. Straight, incidentally, is a driver who is missed by all Continental followers of motor-racing, who could discern in him the driving technique of an as du volant de la premiere classe. To them his retirement was a matter of the keenest regret. The 1939 Grand Prix de l’A.C.P.— French Grand Prix to you and me—will be held on July 9th. Let us hope that it will be attended with, greater success than the event of 1988. One thing is certain, the Auto-Union challenge to Mercedes-Benz will be a very different matter. Why, it may even be the other way round, if Nuvolari keeps up the form he showed at Donington, to say nothing of Muller 1 The race will be held over

51 laps, or 248 miles in all.

It will be preceded by the Sporting Commission Cup Race for 1,500 c.c. sports-cars, an event which has not been too well supported in the past. This will be over 38 laps. or 185 miles.

It seems a long way to look forward in these troublous times, but here’s wishing that we shall be drinking champagne again at the Lion d’Or next July.

E.R.A.s for Tripoli ?

The question that the motor-racing fans of Italy are all asking at the moment is whether English Racing Automobiles are going to send an official team of cars to the Tripoli Grand Prix, now that this race has been confined to 1,500 c.c. cars. The date is a bit early, May 7th, and judging by past seasons it is unlikely that the British team will be ready for such an important contest by that time. However, the same thing can be said for the Italians, especially the Alfa Corse, who are carrying out fairly extensive modifications to the 1,500 c.c. AlfaRomeo, notably in its crankshaft, which in future will have roller-bearings.

From the Italian point of view, British competition would be welcomed, not only from such formidable amateurs as ” Bira,” Dobson, Rolt and company, but also from the ” Works ” team itself.

The Mellaha circuit, of course, is tremendously fast, and would permit more or less continuous flat-out driving by 1,500 c.c. cars. Engine reliability would be at a premium, and the comparative newness of the Alfas would be against them in this respect, unless the Corse cars achieve this desirable quality during the winter, which is unlikely. The reliability of the Maseratis would depend largely upon whether they ran their latest cars or not. As for E.R.A.s, the marque have Martin’s convincing win at the last Avus meeting to their considerable credit, and on form they ought to win.

Incidentally, talking of Martin’s E.R.A., Continental fans are finding in the sale of this car to a German amateur (who does not appear to have raced it since) a peg on which to hang their belief that 1939 will see the participation of one or more German teams in 1,500 c.c. races. Learning lessons from successful predecessors is a recognised part of the technique of building a new racing-car, of course, and I know that the E.R.A. is deeply admired and respected abroad. In the province of producing great power from small engines, too, the British are unexcelled. Contentment For Tazio Nuvolari the year 1938 has been one of extremes. It began ominously enough with his car catching fire in practice and causing him to leap for life ; an experience which shattered him to

such an extent that he immediately declared that he had finished with motorracing. A trip to America, where he acted as starter for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, completely restored him, both physically and morally, with the result that he returned to Europe to take up the wheel once more as leader of the Auto-Union

team. The rest had apparently done him such a power of good that he returned to better form than ever, finishing with his never-to-be-forgotten drive at Donington.

Now the Maestro is as happy as a sandboy (whatever that may be), and has moved house from Mantua to Rome. He Is in a completely different frame of mind from what he was six months ago, and is looking forward—not to retirement— but to a full and successful season in 1939. With Indianapolis to be run under the G.P. formula again in 1939, I would not be surprised to see him make the trip—but not with an Auto-Union.

What a great little man lie is ! In Italy Now

Other news from the land of sunshine and spaghetti is that, as a result of their achievements in the sports-car sphere, Righetti and Aldrighetti (funny they should rhyme with spaghetti!) have been enlisted by Alfa Corse as junior pilots for the 1,500 c.c. team next year.

Italy is not too well off for young drivers just now, and a determined effort is to be made to ensure that her manpower in the motor-racing field is equal to that of any other nation.

Maserati are hard at work bringing to completion a new and ultra-hot 1,500 c.c. machine, which will probably be entrusted to Piero Taruffi in its early races. It could not be in better hands. Finally, the title of Italian Champion has fallen for the first time on the worthy shoulders of Dr. Giuseppe Farina, leader of the Alfa Corse Grand Prix team. Farina has been remarkably consistent this year, as I have already pointed out on more than one occasion, and he thoroughly deserves his new

distinction. If armament work at the Alfa factory has not interfered with the development of the sixteen-cylinder All aRomeo, I believe we shall see Farina up with the leaders in many 1939 races. Heil Huhnlein Any doubts which people might have had about the utility of Autobahnen must be set at rest by the announcement of Korpsfuhrer Huhnlein’s remarkable journey from Berlin to Munich recently on the new road between the capital of Germany and Bavaria. His time, including 25 minutes’ delay for refreshments and refuelling the car, was 4 hours 82 minutes for the distance of 860 miles, giving an average speed of roughly 80 m.p.h. over the whole journey. The best train connection takes over 7-i hours. Perhaps the best way to bring the significance of this performance—which was not in the least extraordinary—to British

motorists is to remind them that the distance was the same as that from the outskirts of London to Edinburgh—in four hours’ running time ! It is safe to say that the only danger throughout the whole of that trip was the possibility of mechanical failure of the car, a burst tyre or a broken steering

connection. The latter is extremely, unlikely, while the former—with independent springing—need be nothing more than unpleasant.

The astonishing thing about travelling on Autobahnetz, and the thing that impresses one most when one first uses them, is that one simply sets one’s speed at a determined figure and then holds it at that for anything up to 50 or 100 miles —or, in fact, the length of the Autobahn. There are no checks or delays whatsoever. The side-turnings only mean that cars either slowly veer away from the main road or else slowly join up with you at a very gradual angle. And with no cyclists, no really slow trucks, and no crossings there is nothing to impede your progress at a steady speed. The resulting restfulness, after ordinary roads, has to be experienced to be believed. Personally, I don’t find them boring, because I know I am ” getting places.” Instead, I am soothed, in contrast to my mood on ordinary congested roads, which is one of ill-suppressed irritation. Continental Rallyists And now we come to the high-spot of the winter, the annual Rally to Monte Carlo from all parts of Europe. The first three numbers have already been allotted to Continental drivers, by virtue of their winning various classes last year. Thus, No. 1 is Bakker-Schut, the Rally winner ; No. 2 is for Descollas, the Lancia driver who pulled off the 1,500 c.c. class ; and No. 3 is for Madame ROuault, the Ladies’ Cup winner. As I write, the entries up to date, in addition to those above (presuming they do so), are as

follows J. F. C. Westerman (Ford) ; 5, E. A. C. Cornelius (D.K.W.) ; 6, T. Gentili and Mlle. Pappos (Lancia) ; 7, Jean Trevoux (Hotchkiss) ; 8, P. A. Collins (Railton) ; 9, H. A. A. van Nievelt and A. M. J. de Visser (Lincoln) ; 10, G. W. Wilkin (Triumph) ; 11, R. J. Boddaert and G. A. M. Baar (Cadillac). This will be the eighteenth Rally— how time flies Competitors will start on January 17th from the following controls, whose markings are given in parentheses : Athens (500 marks), Bucharest and Tallinn (498 marks), Stavanger and Palermo (497 marks), John o’Groats and Umea (496 marks), and Amsterdam (468 marks). They will then proceed towards Monte Carlo at an average speed of 24.856 m.p.h. until they reach the beginning of the last 620 miles of their journey, after which they have to average 31.07 M.p.h. At the end of a long journey, and over the Alpes Martimes, this is no mean feat,

especially when the average is one to be aimed at, not merely exceeded. On arrival at Monaco, the cars will be submitted to an elimination test involving acceleration, braking and reversing. The next day they will be thoroughly examined to see whether they comply with the rules, and on January 23rd they will essay a hill-climb, the whereabouts of which will not be revealed until the actual

day. On the 24th the Comfort Competition will be held, and the whole affair will finish up with the prize-giving and a gala dinner on the 25th. A real attempt has been made by the organisers to make this year’s Rally a test of standard cars. The competing machines must be one of a series of thirty manufactured before November 1st. 1938, and they must have closed coachwork, which must conform to certain measurements and must be of normal manu facture. Special bodies, i.e. bodies by Specialist coachbuilders, are permitted provided thirty similar bodies

have been built. In fact, the flimsy construction of some of the previous winners, used in order to obtain an exceptional power-to-weight ratio for the final tests, is no longer countenanced. Supercharged cars are not eligible.

Continental drivers are determined as ever to keep the First Prize, but an overdue success by a British competitor, particularly a veteran of the Rally such as Whalley, would be very popular.