Continental Notes and News, January 1939
Continental Notes a.road Ncws
Following my remarks about the alterations being made to the Rheims circuit, comes the news that the Nurburg Ring is to be considerably modified during the intervening months before the 1939 season starts. The German authorities are of the opinion that some of the corners and curves as they stand at present are not suited to the speeds attained by modern
cars and motor-bikes. These corners will accordingly be eased in radius, enlarged in width, and have their superelevation made even more super-elevated. All this should tend to make race speeds and lap records soar.
The Ring is to be improved from the spectators’ point of view as well. The grandstand–enormous as it is to-dayis to be enlarged and its capacity generally increased. Nurburg has easily the best catering arrangements of any circuit in Europe, and I understand. that these will be expanded to deal with the bigger grandstand crowds.
However much one may dislike certain aspects of the Nazi regime, one has to admit that in all that appertains to motoring and motor-racing Germany is the most progressive country in the world.
The Nazi plan to make Germany onehundred per cent. efficient in every respect of its national life has now been extended to the motor industry. Marshal Goering has recently appointed General von Schell to superintend the reorganisation of the industry in such matters as increased production, factory management and a reduction in the number of car types. This latter function will no doubt cause some heart-burnings in certain quarters, but that will not stop General von Schell from carrying out his task. On the face of it I should say that it will be the sports models that will stiffer most, only a restricted range being left to suit people with different incomes. Incidentally, General von Schell’s appointment has given rise to the belief in some countries that he has superseded
Korpsfuhrer Hulmlein. This is not so, of course, as the latter’s job is that of organising motor sport, as distinct from motor production.
German Reaction to Gardner
Major Gardner’s 186 m.p.h. with a 1,100 c.c. M.G. still continues to be a stock subject of conversation in German motor
racing circles. The greatest possible credit is given to all concerned, and especially to the technicians responsible for the design and tuning of the engine. People who should know say that Gardner has every reason to be confident that he will exceed 200 m.p.h. on his next attempt, which will take place in the spring on the 90 ft. record-road at Dessau. The car was plainly under-geared at Frankfort. A point which does not seem to have received any mention in the British Press is that the M.G. did not have the independent springing that has come to be regarded as essential for light cars travelling
at nearly 200 m.p.h. In spite of this the car was absolutely rock-steady throughout the runs.
The credit for this must go not only to the M.G. designers for the perfect weight distribution of the chassis, but also to the builders of the Reichsautobahn, which those who have used it will agree is as level as the proverbial billiard table. Indeed, at the risk of bringing down a storm on my head from English readers, I must say that the German road-makers are far ahead of the British in the art of making really smooth concrete roads. Visitors to England who travel along such roads as Western Avenue, for example, are amazed at the roughness of the surface even on the recently opened stretches. In their present state, quite apart from their short length, they would
be useless for record-breaking cars. It is not that they are actually bumpy, but they consist of a series of waves which would make high speeds very difficult, if not impossible.
In the speed at which the German roads are made, too, there are signs that the German road contractors have a far superior technique to their British counterparts.
Reverting for a moment to German admiration for the efficiency of the M.G., it is believed that any future teams of German 1,500 c.c. cars (no names, no pack drill) will have benefited from a study of the M.G. engines which have been used by certain German sportsmen for some time. This, of course, is in addition to any tips picked up from that other highefficiency British design, the E.R.A., a specimen of which, as I wrote last month, was purchased by a German driver a year ago. To conclude my notes about Germany, the Auto-Union people are still not satisfied with the composition of their team. According to present plans, Nuvolari will stay with them for another season, with Muller and Hasse as second and third strings. That leaves no one in reserve, or for a fourth car in those races where that number is permitted. There is also some doubt as to whether Kautz will be available next season, and in any case the young Swiss did not have the
best of luck last year. Bigalke, the reserve, has not had the chance to show his paces yet, and with a view to finding fresh blood trials have been taking place recently of well known motor-cyclists. Auto-Unions believe that this is their best field, because the men do not have to ” unlearn ” the technique of handling an ordinary car before mastering the feel of the rear-engined Auto-Union.
There has been some talk of Nuvolari returning to Alfa-Romeo, but I think that this is extremely doubtful. On the other hand it is common knowledge that the little Italian has set his heart on winning Indianapolis before he retires.
The present state of animosity between. Germany and America would prevent him from taking an Auto-Union, so there is just a chance that he might go over with an Alfa, particularly if the sixteencylinder car really gets cracking this. year. The trip, if it came off, would not interfere with Auto-Union plans, for there is no big race in Europe between the Monaco Grand Prix on April 16th and the French Grand Prix on July 9th. There is the Belgian Grand Prix on June 25th,. but the German teams are not in the habit of sending their first-string drivers.
to this event. If necessary, however, Nuvolari could be back in time for this,. as Indianapolis is booked for May 30th.
It would be grand if he could win the American race, which has not been won. by a European for donkeys’ years.
Millers for Europe?
Talking of America, Continental folk are wondering whether the rumoured. 3-litre Millers will really come over to. Europe this year. The design mentioned. is a supercharged 3-litre, rear-engined, with four-wheel drive. Sounds a promising vehicle. Needless to say they would. be welcomed in the big Grand Prix races, which are badly in. need of bigger fields and a more international element. If they came and gave us all a sound beating it would be so much the better for the sport.
Millers, of course, have been over here before, and have taken part in the Tripoli and Italian Grand Prix, as well as racing at Avus. So far they have never been. successful.
A less problematical—indeed a certain— addition to Grand Prix fields next season is the French Talbot team, which has. benefited considerably by a wad of money
from the French Government. The sixteen-cylinder 3-litre blown model has. made favourable progress during the winter months, and its first trials are expected early in the New Year. A 41litre unblown type of modified design is. also coming along, and this will presumably be used for Le Mans. Events have proved pretty conclusively that =blown cars stand no chance in Grand_ Prix races.
The 3-litre engine has been installed in a chassis closely resembling the sports type used last year in =blown form, and. how this will cope with the higher speeds obtainable remains to be seen.
The trials will be carried out by Louis. Chiron, and on the performance of the car will depend his decision whether or not to join the team. He not unnaturally wants to make sure that the car will stand a sporting chance against the Germans before he commits himself too far. If all goes well, there is a possibility of the second driver being Wimille, who has not yet renewed his contract with Alfa-Corse, but nothing has been definitely settled. According to present plans, M. Lago is going to run a full team of three cars in all the big Grand Prix races. Here’s. wishing him the very best of good luck._
The French colours will also be upheld during 1939 by the Ecurie Lucy O’Reilly Schell, as the Ecurie Bleue is to be called in future. The cars will be the V12 Delahayes, foar single-seaters and four two-seaters. With the assistance of an Austrian engineer named Lacken and .a squad of eight mechanics, it is hoped to .extract a good deal more b.h.p. and geseral performance from the cars, which will be entered for all the important
races during the year. Rene Dreyfus will once more lead the team, backed up by Raph and two others as yet =nominated. Incidentally, with vacancies in both the Darracq and Delahaye teams, there seems to be a definite shortage of up-and-coming drivers in France. The Ecurie is moving its headquarters from Brimoy, near Paris, to Monte Carlo,
where the Schells live. As a natural consequence, Miramas track near Marseilles will be used for testing purposes in the future instead of Montlhery, which thus loses one of its few remaining customers.
While Laury Schell has been recovering from his accident, most of the organising work has fallen on the immature but capable shoulders of Hanki, his twentyyear-old nephew. Hanki used to be the team’s timekeeper, and a very good one, too, but recently he has experienced the weight of responsibility of a chef d’equipe. He has acquitted himself well, and is now busily engaged in attending to the hundred and one details to be settled in preparation for a full season’s racing. Hanki speaks very good English, likes England, and has paid it several visits. Two journeys he remembers vividly were an all-night dash from Dover to Fislaguard to catch the boat to Cork, and a midnight trip from Weybridge to Dover after the Dunlop Jubilee Meeting at Brooklands when the news of the French mobilisation for The Crisis came through. The only thing he doesn’t like about England is English hotels, for which no sensible Englishman will blame him. As for the Schell family, an evil eye of the most virulent sort seems to have cast a spell on their fortunes. First of -all there was Laury’s accident, which was so nearly attended with fatal consequences, and Madame Lucy’s ultimate breakdown with worry. Then, when Laury left hospital to finish his convalescence, his progress was suddenly retarded, and he has since been far from well. A few days before Christmas the specialists decided that he would have to have another operation, and almost simultaneously Mine. Lucy was rushed to hospital for an appendix removal. As if the family were not considered by fate to be truly down and out for the full count, Hanny, their eighteen-year-old son, broke his leg while playing football I
If anyone deserves the best possible wishes for the New Year it is M. and Mme. Schell and family.
Other news from France is that the French Grand Prix has been reduced in length from 500 kilometres to 400 kilometres, which, being interpreted, is 250 miles. Four cars of each make may be entered, and only works teams will be eligible. As usual, the A.C.F. want all entries to be in incredibly early. In fact, they have given manufacturers up to January 15th to file their scraps of paper, which must be accompanied by no less a sum than 15,000 francs, which will be forfeited if the cars don’t start. No one seems particularly pleased at having to make up their minds so soon, and much less to part with hard cash, but no doubt they will fall into line. The French Grand Prix still carries with it immense prestige. As for that other great French race, Le Mans, the regulations have now been published by the Automobile Club de l’Oeust, and show that the minimum distances and average speeds have all been increased somewhat, in accordance with increased ” sports” car performance. Here are the speeds for 1939 (distances given on application) : 500 c.c., 41.2 m.p.h. ; 750 c.c., 48.8 m.p.h.; 1,000 c.c., 53.8 m.p.h. ; 1,100 c.c., 55.4 m.p.h. ; 1,500 c.c., 59.95 m.p.h. ; 2,000 c.c., 63.5
m.p.h.; 3,000 c.c., 07.58 ; 4,000 c.c., 69.8 m.p.h. ; 5,000 c.c., 71.2$ m.p.h.
These, of course, are minimum speeds. To get some idea as to how much you have to exceed them in order to stand a chance of winning, bear in mind that the whining 3i-litre Delahaye last year averaged 82.36 m.p.h. French sportsmen, incidentally, are
mightily interested iu the prospect of one or more 41r-litre V12 Lagondas being entered. ” W.O. ” is regarded as almost a legendary figure at Le Mans, where his cars used to put up such wonderful performances ten years ago (is it as much as that ?). In any case it would be extremely interesting to see how the La.gonda fared against machines like Delah.ayes and Talbots to say nothing of Bugattis and Alfas. Somehow, I think it will do exceedingly well, especially if Dick Seaman is the driver, as is rumoured.
It is rather disappointing that the Prince Rainier Cup Race at Monaco will not be for 1,500 c.c. racing-cars, after all. The present idea is to use it once again for the sports-cars in the ParisNice trial, which is growing in popularity. Here is another event in which the Lagond a should do well, provided it is in good hands. In Paris, too, there has been lively discussion about Louis Gerard.’s adventures en route to the Cape in company
with M. Gleisner. Their idea was to break (or rather establish) a record from London to the Cape by road in fifteen days ; Gleisner having done the reverse journey in nineteen days. Their car was a 25 h.p. Dodge, which did not appear to be specially prepared in any way. After a false start, the pair got away, crossed the Channel by boat, and then tore across France to Marseilles. Near the latter city they skidded on a patch of Ice and crashed into a tree, damaging the car. After several days’ delay they got away once more, although all hope of breaking the record had gone. The next that was heard of them was that they were discovered in a forest eighty miles north of Nairobi, after having been missing for
several days. They were reported to be continuing after replacing damaged parts of the car. Gerard is due to take part in the South African motor-races, his Delage having gone by boat.
Since then another attempt on the same ” record ” has started, this time the drivers being Symons and Browning on a very carefully prepared Wolseley. They, too, reported a hectic journey across France on icy roads, and it is just these hectic dashes across France which are likely to bring the whole idea of the record into disrepute.
I remember some years ago that enterprising publicity man, Dudley Noble, who now takes care of Humber-HillmanSunbeam-Talbot-Commer interests in this respect, conceived the idea of beating the time of the Blue Train Express to the
Riviera in a 2-litre Rover. As an individual run the idea was excellent, but his fast time encouraged others to see whether they could improve on it, with the result that travellers on ” N.7 ” would meet cars coming towards them like projectiles. The A.C.F. soon put a stop to that, pointing out that if such things weren’t allowed on British roads, why should things be different in France ? They took a similar stand in pre-War days when there used to be a LondonMonte Carlo record. Among those who broke that record were Charles J arrott on a Crossley and the late Charles Rolls (twice) on Rolls-Royces.
It will be interesting to see whether the A.C.P. will take a similar objection to the French section of these LondonCape record attempts, of which there are bound to be many more.
Talking of the A.0 F. reminds me of an item of news that will interest all British readers of MOTOR SPORT. It is that H.M. King George the Sixth has graciously honoured the Club by accepting the title of High Protector, or Patron. This no doubt is a sequel to the visit of His Majesty to Paris last summer, an event which had a far greater effect on the minds of all French people than the British Press reports conveyed.
Holland and Motor Racing
From Holland comes the news that the Royal Dutch Automobile Club has made Mrs. Kay Petre, the British woman driver, ” Protectress” of the Club. From Holland, too, comes a report that a national motor-race is going to be held on June 3rd on the Zanoveert circuit, which measures 2.3 kilometres
per lap. Dutch motorists have always been keen on motor-racing and sportscars, and this interest has been encouraged by Prince Bernhard’s liking for fast cars.
The present idea is to use the 1939 race as a means of perfecting the organisation for an International Grand Prix in 1940.
Change of Venue
The Swiss Automobile Club have decided to hold the Grand Prix of Switzerland at Zurich this year, where it will coincide with a big Exhibition. Originally two dates had been booked, one for a race at Berne on August 20th and the other for a race at Zurich on October 8th. The latter date has now been cancelled, and the Swiss Grand Prix transferred to Zurich on the earlier date. I hope to give you full particulars of the circuit to be used in the near future.
The Antwerp Grand Prix, held successfully for the first time last year, is to be repeated in a slightly different form on
May 21st. Instead of one long race, there will be three heats of 62 miles each, and the cars will be confined to 2-litresan d-over machines.
Preliminary negotiations for entries are already promising, and I understand that there is a good chance of the Delahaye and Talbot teams competing.
The Rest of the News
In Italy they have now published a
full list of champions. As I wrote last month, Farina is the Grand Prix champion, and he is now joined by Luigi Villoresi as the 1,500 c.c. hero and Franco Cortese as the sports-car champion. Among the makes, Alfa-Romeo claim the Grand Prix and sports-car classes, and Maserati the 1,500 c.c. division. Nuvolari, Farina, Varzi and
Trossi are now ranked as “experts,” and are accordingly barred from certain. small races in order to give rising drivers a chance of success.
Farina, incidentally, is doing his best to organise a ski-lug race among motorracing drivers, at Sestrieres. Chiron, of course, is good on two pieces of wood,. and so is Stuck. Caracciola used to be very hot before his crash at Monaco left him with a limp. Varzi and Nuvolari are both expert bobbers.
Actually speaking, such a race would in all probability be fought out by two English drivers, Cholmondely-Tapper and Wakefield, for both these men have raced for England, whereas I don’t think any of the others have represented their countries.
Both Alfa-Corse and Maserati have now settled their teams for 1939. Alfa will draw on the services of Farina, Biondetti, Pintacuda, Seven, Emilio Villoresi and Aldrighetti. Maserati will have Trossi, Luigi Villoresi, Cortese and Rocco at their disposal.
The sport is looking up in Italy, with forty-five events on the calendar. Three of these are to be held under the Formula (Coppa Acerbo, Coppa Ciano and Italian. Grand Prix), nine will be for 1,500 c.c. cars, ten for national sports-cars, and one for standard cars. One of the sportscar races is to be our old friend the 24hour Targa Abruzzi. This race will take place, as it used to do, at Pescara.
PS. Good news for newspaper men of all nationalities. Karl Kudorfer, erstwhile Press liaison officer of Merc6des-Benz, has joined Auto-Union in a similar capa
city. So we shall see his genial smile at Grand Prix races next season after all, and he will continue to help Press visitors to Germany—and other countries —in getting their necessary ” dope.”