Motor Racing Sidetracks

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Among the wealth of motor racing history it is possible to find interesting side-tracks from the mainstream of events. For example, the 1922 Targa Florio. This was a very tough event for cars at that time, over the Sicilian course, and it resulted in a number of anomalies. First, it was reported in the early British press columns that Count Masetti had won, well ahead of the two sports-type 2-litre Ballots of Goux and Foresti, in one of the six cylinder 28/95hp Mercedes, when in fact he had driven a revised, 4WB version, of the all-conquering 1914 4 1/2-litre non-s/c four cylinder Mercedes.

The sixes had been driven by Sailer and Werner, into sixth and eighth places having been driven to Genoa. Then a French journalist, told that Nazzaro had crashed, wired his paper that the great Felice had been killed, causing wide-spread consternation. In fact, Felice’s nephew Biaggi, in his first race with a Fiat, had overturned and, unhurt, had walked away to seek refreshment, thus causing the confusion. A mourner was said to have wired 1000 francs for flowers, which was used for a party which Felice much enjoyed – he had not even been a competitor.

But destiny was cruel. A fault in the Fiat back axle caused the death of Biaggio in the Grand Prix later that year, his car losing a wheel at high speed. The same defect resulted in Bordino’s Fiat also losing a wheel, but on a slow corner, and the winner Felice Nazzaro had a close call, a wheel being found on inspection after the race to be on the point of detaching itself from his car.

The side-track here, however, is the entry of the two smaller Mercedes, rated in Germany as 6-25hp models. They were entrusted to Paul Scheel, who was 20th and Ferdinand Minoia, who retired. The small Mercedes might have been regarded as the forerunner of the smallest production model, except that the 16-valve engines had twin oh-camshafts and were of 65x113mm against 68x108mm and eight valves, but both had the Mercedes supercharger system, a very significant innovation, soon to be well known.

The supercharger was kept secret by the race engineer and it was some time before the road-test 12/40hp Mercedes was available, so MOTOR SPORT was fortunate to be able to thrash one around Brooklands for an hour in 1925, but was disappointed not to get over 80mph from this supercharged 1568cc single-oh-camshaft touring two-seater, which cost a high £775. Its rear wheel brakes were not good at over 70mph and the best cruising pace was quoted as 50mph, acceleration poor until the blower got going.

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