1928 Le Mans 24 Hours report
4 1/2 litre Bentley driven by Woolf Barnato and B. Rubin wins the Grand Prix d'Endurance at record speed. 1,100cc Salmson wins the fourth Rudge-Whitworth Cup
The Barnarto/Rubin Bentley leads the race Photos: Motorsport Images
One of the finest road races ever staged on the Continent or anywhere else was run over the Sarthe circuit at Le Mans, on the 16th and 17th of June. The Sixth Grand Prix of Endurance and Twenty-Four Hour Race proved again a triumph for British cars, and what was probably the finest exhibition of driving and doggedness ever seen over this course was put up by an Englishman on an English car—Capt. H. R. S. Birkin, on the Bentley No. 3.
Bentleys again achieved first place, and put up the record for the course, at 69.11 m.p.h., while Birkin broke the lap record at 79.803 m.p.h.
Front wheel drive would appear to have been completely vindicated, in that all the front wheel driven cars--two Alvis and three Tracta—completed the course, the two English cars in sixth and ninth places, the Tractas twelfth, sixteenth and seventeenth. Moreover, there were five British cars in the first eleven places, which may be said to redound greatly to the credit of the British teams entered.
The American entries surprised everyone by their speed and reliability, the Stutz putting up a really remarkable performance, fighting a lone hand against the Bentley team, and it did well to finish so closely behind the winning car, having regard to the loss of top gear nine laps before the end. The two Chryslers, which ran into third and fourth places, also ran with complete regularity throughout the race, running sixth and eighth on lap one, fifth and sixth at the end of six hours—while the Stutz was in the lead—and third and fourth from then till the end of the race.
Other noteworthy features of the race were the winning of the premier award—The Fourth Bi-Annual Rudge-Whitworth Cup—by the 1,100 c.c. Salmson, the only marque to have secured this award two years running, and the performance of the 1,099 c.c. B.N.C., which finished in seventh place driven by MM. Dore and Treunet, having averaged 58.75 m.p.h. for the twenty-four hours.
1928 Le Mans 24 Hours race start Photos: Motorsport Images
A truly immense crowd surged round the tribunes and the pits, and lined the whole circuit, and as usual, vast numbers spent the night at the course. The race began in excellent weather, which held throughout except for mist, followed by rain in the early hours of the next morning. This year it was not required to put up the hoods at the start, although the run across to the lined-up cars was employed. Brisson was first away on the low, black Stutz, followed instantly by the Bentley team, the Chryslers, and then the rest. Baron D'Erlanger was unable to get going for a minute or two, and then he, too, was away, and the great race had begun.
The first car past the pits was No. 3, the 4 1/2-litre Bentley in the hands of Capt. H. R. S. Birkin having done the standing lap at 72.7 m.p.h., with the other two Bentleys second and third, then the Stutz, followed by Laly's Aries, the four Chryslers, and Samuelson's Lagonda.
On his second lap, Barnato, on No. 4 Bentley, averaged 74 m.p.h., and the Stutz put up 76.2! Veritably a battle of the titans.
The second lap of Laly on the Aries was his last, and the next disaster was to Birkin's car. He punctured a rear off-side tyre just beyond Pontlieue, and after cutting the entangled cover and tube free of the wheel and brake drum, he continued on the rim, as the Bentley carried no jacks. Then, on the Arnage corner, the wheel gave way, and the drum bedded itself well and truly into the earth. There was nothing to be done but to run back to the pit, a good three miles along the course. When Birkin arrived at the pit in a state of collapse, Chassagne, his brother driver, slung two jacks over his shoulder, leapt over the counter onto the road, and set off back to the derelict Bentley. Then, after a passage of time the car arrived at the pits; three hours had been spent en panne, a terrible handicap. From now on the car was driven in an inspired fashion; after twelve hours it lay fourteenth, ninth after another six, and fifth in the final order!
Nor was this the full tale of British disaster. Samuelson, who really ought not to go about in this way, charged the sandbank on the Mulsanne turn, and, frenziedly reversing, was charged by D'Erlanger on a sister car, who was just behind. Samuelson was thrust deeper in the sand, and the other Lagonda sustained a fractured frame member on one side, making it unwise to use the front brakes. However D'Erlanger forged on with a badly cut face, and maintained a very creditable speed until the finish, despite these handicaps. Samuelson remained playing in the sand for over an hour, and then found his motor car too damaged to continue. Retirements were now falling thickly and fast. Chrysler No. 6 fell out on his fourth lap, No. 18 Lagonda (Gallop and Hays) in the twenty-second, a Salmson on the twenty-ninth, and Aries No. 40 on the twenty-first. Bertelli (Aston Martin) withdrew on his thirty-first lap before six hours were gone, after being forced off the road and breaking the back axle casing.
After twelve hours, Bentley No 4 and Stutz were in that order, then came Chrysler (76 laps) and the other Chrysler (73 laps), Itala (73 laps), B.N.C. (71 laps) and two Alvis cars.
At Eighteen Hours
Eighteen hours gone, and still Bentley and Stutz fought it out grimly, with 116 laps each next ran the two Chryslers and the Itala. Harvey's Alvis had got ahead of the B.N.C., which was followed by Davis' Alvis, and the indomitable Birkin at last in the picture, while Casse and Rousseau were keeping their lead in the race according to the curve,
By this time there had been fourteen retirements, including No. 2 Bentley with radiator trouble (a pipe had broken, allowing all the water to escape) and the other Aston-Martin on its 82nd lap. At this point, Chassagne and Birkin arrived in ninth place.
At the twentieth hour misfortune overtook the Stutz, and it had to continue minus top gear, causing the car to fall further and further behind. Barnato, driving as one inspired, kept the Bentley in the front.
By this time, the dangerous morning mist and rain had given way to bright sunshine, and the multitude lining the course woke up and began to take notice— the end was near. Round and round thundered the Bentley, round and round swept the eight-cylindered Stutz; on and on roared the remainder of the field, lap after lap, lamps switched off, wings rattling, bodies covered in dirt, but the engines roaring as healthily as ever.
The Chassagne-Birkin effort had driven No. 3 into fifth place, which it held to the end.
Birkin (left) and Barnarto Photos: Motorsport Images
After covering 1,658.6 miles, at an average speed of 69.11 m.p.h., Capt Woolf Barnato crossed the line, bringing in his Bentley to first place. Six laps behind came the Stutz, having averaged 66.42 m.p.h. Birkin's last lap was covered at the record speed of 79.803 m.p.h.
The Salmson driven by Casse and Rouseau, after an unspectacular and perfectly trouble-free run, won the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, having covered 1,372 miles, at a speed of 57.17 m.p.h.—an excellent performance. In the 2-litre class the Itala No. 12 covered the longest distance, with 1,403 miles at 58.46.
The finishing order was:-
|Bentley (Barnato and Rubin)||
|Stutz (Brisson and Bloch)||66.42mph|
|Chrysler (Stoffel and Rosignol)||64.56mph|
|Chrysler (Ghica and Ghica)||62.45mph|
|Bentley (Birkin and Chassagne)||60.46mph|
|Alvis (Harvey and Purdy)||59.19mph|
|B.N.C. (Dore and Truenet)||58.75mph|
|Itala (R. Benoist and Dauvergne)||58.46mph|
|Alvis (Davis and Dykes)||58.20mph|
|Salmson (Casse and Rouseau)||57.17mph|
|Lagonda (D'Erlanger and Hawkes)||56.39mph|
|Tracta (Benoist and Ballade)||53.42mph|
|Lombard (Devaux and Goutte)||52.21mph|
|E.H.P. (Biouriat and Bussienne)||51.67mph|
|S.A.R.A. (Duval and Delano)||51.11mph|
|Tracta (Bourcier and Vasena)||49.32mph|
|Tracta (Gregoire and Wallon)||48.43mph|
Scap No.24 and Scap No.39, having doen 93 and 91 laps each, respectively, did not qualify for the race next year.