LOOKING BACK ON THE CONTINENTAL SEASON
WHAT were the outstanding features of the 1937 Continental racing season ? First and foremost comes the overwhelming superiority of the Germans in the Grand Prix races of the year. Mercedes-Benz and AutoUnion have had the races all to themselves, with the Italian Alfa-Romeos
nowhere. Not even the still potent genius of Tazio Nuvolari was sufficient to make up for a lack Of speed and acceleration which has reduced the cars of the Scuderia Ferrari to an insignificant place in the history of the Grand Prix Formula which has now expired.
Of the big Grand Prix events MercedesBenz have won seven, as against AutoUnion’s four. In addition, Auto-Unions got the better of their clash with MercedesBenz in the American Vanderbilt Cup Race; Taking into consideration every race in which the two teams met, then, the score is 7-5 in favour of Mercedes. The first time the cars lined up was at Tripoli on May 9th, and immediately it was seen how their speeds had been increased by experimental Work during the winter, for in practice Stuck made the fastest lap with his Auto-Union at the terrific speed of 142.97 m.p.h. As usual, tyre wear played an important part in this race, and the lead changed during the race in consequence. Rosemeyer’s hair-raising driving of the Auto-Union resulted in his having to make’ two tyre changes, whereas Hermann Lang, the winner, managed to bring his MercedesBenz through with Only one Stop. Lang averaged 134.42 m.p.h., and was only 9.65 seconds ahead of Rosemeyer at the end—which gives some idea of the great effort Made by the latter to make up for his extra pit-stop. . The late Ernst Delius was third, and Dick Seaman,: making his first appearance in the Mercedes-Benz team, finished fourth after lapping at
138 m.p.h. The Ferrari Alfa-Romeos were completely outclassed.
The second meeting took place on May 30th, and the setting was the re-modelled Avus track on the outskirts of Berlin. The North Turn, previously only slightly super-elevated, had been rebuilt with an almost vertical banking, which allowed the cars to swing round from one six-mile straight to another at about 120 m.p.h. Lap speeds were obviously going to be terrific, for the race was not confined to formula cars and this permitted the Germans to enter their super-streamlined record-breaking machines. The Scuderia Ferrari thought this over, and decided to stay away. In order to eliminate the danger of tyre wear, the race was run in two heats
and b. final. Mercedes entered three streamlined cars and two road-racing models. Auto-Union had four cars, two of them being of the streamlined type. The first heat saw a tremendous struggle between Rosemeyer and Caracciola, victory going to the latter by the fraction of a second. Rosemeyer had the consolation of making the fastest lap (and Of the day) at 171.6 m.p.h. In the second heat, Fagioli’s AutoUnion battled with Mercedes-Benz driven by Lang and Von Brauchitsch (this car being a new ” twelve “). Lang and
Fagioli both had trouble, although the former restarted, and it AVa8, Von Brauchitscit’s race at 160.3 m.p.h.
The final was rather a tale of trouble, Mercedes losing Caracciola and Von Brauchitsch with clutch-slip. Lang kept well in front of Rosemeyer. who stopped once at the pits, and pulled off the second big raceof the year at an average speed of 162.5 m.p.h.
Mercedes-Benz two up, and Lang the winner both times ! This didn’t suit the Auto-Union book at all, so the cars were given an especially careful examination
race Nurburg Ring on June 13th. If the Cars were all present and correct, the same could not be said for the drivers ; Stuck being away in South America (where he was most unexpectedly beaten by Pintacuda’s Alfa-Romeo), Fagioli being ill, and only Rosemeyer, Delius, Muller, and Hasse being available on the day of the rag!. ” Only Rosemeyer was sufficient, however, for this young man is never happier than when he is flinging his AutoUnion round the winding and twisting
Ring. Caracciola pressed him hard in the earlier stages, leading on. several occasions, but the Auto-Union driver eventually built up a 50 seconds lead at the finish. The Alfas reappeared in this race, thinking to have more chance on a course where maximum speed does not count so much, but the best Nuvolari could do was to finish fifth. Now there was a lull for a month, during which some of the leading drivers packed up and went off to America to clean up the Vanderbilt Cup Race. Rosemeyer continued his winning streak on the other side of the Atlantic and brought the score to two all. Seaman impressed everyone by finishing second. The next European race was the Belgian Grand Prix on the lovely Spa circuit, and it turned out to be rather an un exciting affair. Stuck was back from Brazil, and his opposite first-string in the Mercedes team was Lang, but neither of them managed to win. Instead, bespectacled Rudolf Hasse recorded his
first win for Auto-Union, at the same time putting his team one ahead in their private war with Mercedes-Benz. The ” boys ” got back in time for the German Grand Prix on July 25th at the
Nurburg Ring. This race is now the most important of the year, having deposed the Sports-car French Grand Prix from its position as the Blue Riband of the motor-racing world. Apart from their desire to get on even terms with their rivals once more, Mercedes-Benz were particularly anxious to win this race, for they had not done so for six years. A technical point of interest was that the ” Mercs ” were using a new type of carburetter which deprived the blower of its famous howl. The race was run at a fantastic speed. Rosemeyer soon got in front, but he could not shake off Caracciola,. Lang and Von Brauchitsch on ‘Mercedes-Benz. In trying to do so he skidded into a bank and damaged a wheel, losing, over two minutes at the pits afterwards. It was not to • be an Auto-Union day, for Stuck retired and soon after a disaster removed another of the team from the fray. Delius passed Seaman, with whom he had been haying a fierce dog-fight, on the long straight leading to the pits, and lost control of his car, which was rammed by
Seaman’s Mercedes. The Auto-Union crashed wildly into a field, rolling over and over, but Seaman managed to bring his car to a standstill in spite of a broken arm and cuts. Delius was so badly injured that he died later in Adenau Hospital. Meanwhile Rosemeyer was doing his best to get back on even terms with the leading Mercedes drivers, in doing so finding himself involved in .a scrap with Nuvolari’s slower Alfa-Romeo. He caught Lang when the latter stopped at the pits, but his delay had been too long, and eventually Caracciola, and Von Brauchitsch came in first and second for Mercedes. Rosemeyer was third, an amazing performance, for he had been off the road twice and had had extra pit-stops. Nuvolari was a very gallant fourth, and no record of the race would be complete without mentioning Kenneth Evans ‘s grand drive to finish ninth on his 3-litre Alfa-Romeo. Score, three all 1
This year the Monaco Grand Prix occupied an unusual place on the Calendar, being transferred from the spring to August 8th—an effort to popularise the Principality in a usually slack season. Well, the race turned out to be a real grand slam for Mercedes, their cars finishing first, second, third and • fifth. Rosemeyer was soon out with seized steering, but he later took over Stuck’s car and worked his way into fourth place at the finish. The race was remarkable for a terrific scrap between Caracciola and Von Brauchitsch, in complete defiance of the rigid team orders of Herr Neubauer. The two provided a superb display of masterly driving, and the duel ended when Caracciola had to come into the pits for a brief stop. Before this he had lowered the existing lap-record by no less than .12 seconds !
Lang was not driving in this race, nor was Seaman, who was still convalescent. Nuvolari did , not take part the Monaco Grand Prix, as he was busy getting the new 16-cylinder Alfa-Romeo into shape at Monza. in readiness for the Coppa Acerbo a week later. Alas, for the hopes and hard work of the Scuderia Ferrari ! The two cars driven by Nuvolari and Farina proved dismal failures on their first public appearance, and were withdrawn owing to road-holding difficulties. Once more it was Germany, Germany all the way, and this time Rosemeyer got one back on the Mercedes-Benz team to
bring the score to four all. He lost a wheel early in the race, but fought back and eventually took the lead to win from Von Brauchitsch and Muller. But Mercedes scored a clear-cut victory at Berne in the Swiss Grand Prix. Caracciola, Lang and Von Brauchitsch came home in a triumphant procession, the cars all going beautifully and the winIICT averaging a fraction under 100
m.p.h. Rosemeyer led off in great style, but went off the road and damaged his
Auto-Union. Something., of a sensation. had been caused at the Start by the appearance of Nuvolari at the wheel of an AutoUnion, and when Rosemeyer retired he took over the Italian maestro’s mount and set off after the flying Merc(.3des-Benz. He caught up a few places, but. his chance was gone, so he returned the car to Nuvolari, Who by this time had become more accustomed t thotinkusual handling of the rear-engined ” bolide ” and managed to finish sixth. Then came the Italian Grand Prix, in which the Scuderia Ferrari hoped to be able to turn the tables ,at last on their rivals. The venue was changed from Monza to Leghorn, but again the Alfas
were outclassed. Caracciola notched another victory, with I.ang second, Rosemeyer third and Seaman fourth. Score, Mercedes-.Benz six, -Auto-Union four.
The last Continental race was the Masaryk Grand Prix at Brno, in CzechoSlovakia. Caracciola was in magnificent form and completed his hat-trick, finishing ahead of Von Brauchitsch and Rosemeyer.
The last-named was pressed hard by Seaman, who eventually finished in his usual fourth place. Although not a Continental event, the tale of the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union rivalry would not be complete without the inclusion of the Donington Grand Prix, in which Rosemeyer pulled off his memorable victory for Auto-Union and brought the final score between the two
teams to 7-5 in Mercede.,s favour. Of these twelve races, Caracciola and Rosemeyer each won four. Lang won two, and Von Brauchitsch and Hasse one each.
1,500 c.c. Racing
As in the Grand Prix division, the 1,500 c.c. races were dominated by two marques, in this case E.R.A. and Maserati. During the previous season the Maseratis had demonstrated, notably at the Nurburg Ring, a marked superiority over the E.R.A.s., chiefly on account of their independent front suspension. For 1937 the E.R.A.s from the factory also had this feature, and a greater power output enabled them to beat the Maseratis on the few occasions on which
they met. With the older privatelyowned E.R.A.s, however, it was anybody’s race. The season opened at Turin with . a surprise E.R.A. victory, the Norwegian Bjornstadt beating Dreyfus on a factory Ma,serati. The Italians quickly equalised, however, for a week later Trossi beat
Bira ” and Bjornstadt at Naples. The junior race at Tripoli was an allMaserati affair, and the same applied to the Targa Florio, now fallen from its high estate to the levelof a 1,500 c.c. race. The next big event was the Avus race at Berlin, and this resulted in a convincing and most satisfactory win for Charles Martin on the E.R.A. previously raced by Tommy Wisdom and Norman
Black. Martin was never challenged, and won easily at 119.6 m.p.h. There followed an Italian national race, the Circuit° Della Superba, and the muchboosted Florence race, which was monopolised by the works Maseratis. A week
later another national race took place at Milan, and this again was a one, two, three Maserati party. The Grand Prix of Picardy was a different tale, and a works E.R.A. driven by Raymond Mays was a clear winner over the official Maserati driven
by Dreyfus. E.R.A. supremacy was even more marked at Albi, when Mays and Cook shared the winning car, Martin was second, and Tongue third.
The next clash was at Berne, and this time the winning E.R.A. was handled by Arthur Dobson, who beat Mays and ” Bira ” in a close finish. The Coppa Acerb° was an all-Italian affair, and finally the BrnoGrand Prix saw Villoresi’s Maserati beating Martin’s ERA. into second place, with Hartman’s Maserati third.
In Continental races, then, E.R.A. scored five wins out of eight meetings, and can be said to be the junior champions of 1937.
Sports-car racing found its chief home in France this year, eight of the eleven big races taking place on French territory. The season opened at Pau, and after a good race Wimille ran out a winner for Bugatti ahead of Sommer’s Talbot and
Dreyfus’s Delahaye. The Mille Miglia was, as usual, dominated by Ferrari All a-Rotueos, Pintactid.a and Farina taking the first two places, with a Delahaye driven by Schell and Carriere a very good third. Talbot scored their -first success of the season at Tunis, Sommer beating two of the Ecurie Bleue Delahayes. A week later Wimille returned to form at the Grand Prix de Bona, also in North Africa, and again two Delahayes occupied second and third places. A fortnight later. at Miramas, three Talbots scored a sensational one, two, three victory at the extremely high average speed of 112 m.p.h., faster than lsTuyolari’a speed a few years ago on a monoposto Grand Prix Alfa-Romeo. — Then came Le Mans, .-and a real endur
ance test for the cars. There was no doubt about the Bugatti victory, and Wimille and Benoist brought their winning car home at the record speed of 85.3 m.p.h. Delahayes were again second and third.
The French Grand Prix at Montlhery was another grand-slam for Talbot, Louis Chiron _making a fine Come-back which greatly pleased his admirers.
French and otherwise. But Wimille was out for revenge a fortnight later on the beautiful Rheims circuit at the Marne Grand Prix. He won handsomely front two Talbots, averaging 90.12 m.p.h. In Italy the Targa Abruzzo was an Alfa-Romeo race, with the Ferrari driver Cortese in first place, and the final clash of the season was the T.T. at Donington,
which although not a Continental race, must be mentioned for a minor duel between three Talbots and a solitary Delahaye, victory going to the former. The sports-car situation was considerably enlivened in France by the competition for two money prizes to be
awarded to the manufacturer whose car could lap the Montlhery road-circuit at a certain speed for a certain distance. The first went to Wiruille’s Bugatti, but he found a strong rival for the second in Dreyfus on a new 44-litre 12-cylinder Delahaye. The excitement reached feverheat as the last day arrived, and both cars were out together in a last-minute endeavour to win the million-franc prize. Mechanical trouble overtook the Bugatti, and Dreyfus pulled off the prize by a few seconds.