Continental Notes and News, July 1938
Continental. Notes and News
Whither Bugatti ?
By the time these lines appear in print, Jean-Pierre Wimille will have driven his last race for Bugatti, to wit, the Grand Prix de l’A.C.F. From now on the brilliant young Frenchman will be seen at the wheel of Alfa-Romeos, as a member of the Alfa-Corse team. The good wishes of all followers of the sport will go with him, for he is a born driver, and deserved to be seen more frequently in action.
I remember when Wimille first started racing, with a 2.3-litre Bugatti, he quickly acquired a reputation for extreme wildness. He certainly had some most hectic adventures, getting into broadside skids on fast curves and occasionally going off the road. But he never hurt either himself or his car, very much, and there is no doubt that he gained a great deal of valuable experience in finding out just how fast it is possible to get round corners. Then followed a brief spell of ownership of a 2.3-litre Alfa, after which Molsheim
claimed him once more. On and off, during the last few years, he has put in brief but dazzling appearances at various motor-races, generally being outclassed in speed but never in virtuosity. He will be a powerful addition to the Alfa Corse.
But does this mean that Bugatti is definitely giving up racing ? That is a prospect from which one recoils with aversion, because so long as the Great Man of Molsheim kept going, even in the half-hearted way he has done in recent times, one could always comfort oneself with the thought that one day he would really settle down to it again.
No one has been appointed in Wimille’s place, and it does look as though we had seen the last of Bugatti in racing under the present Grand Prix system. I am writing before the French Grand Prix, of course, and no doubt a Bugatti victory in that race would alter the whole affair. But I somehow don’t see that happening.
Wimille was recently the subject of Paris newspaper reports of an accident, in which he was supposed to have been involved while motoring with Louis Chiron. Actually, it turned out that Chiron’s companion was none other than our old friend, the Anglo-Frenchman, Williams. No one was hurt, apparently, and the cars were not badly damaged.
Williams’s reappearance is not to be confined to this newspaper report, however, for he has made arrangements to drive in races once more. His mount will be a 1,500 c.c. Maserati. A few years ago Williams was one of the best drivers in France. I remember a French Grand Prix at Rheims, in particular, where he took his Bugatti round the fast curve at the foot of the slope beyond the tribunes quite as quickly as Nuvolariand that is saying something. That was about the last race in which he really shone, however, for bad luck seemed to, dog him thereafter. First of all it was mechanical trouble which put him out of races, and then, when he was given the wheel of one of the new 8.3-litre cars, it was a series of minor accidents which By AUSLANDER
eventually caused him to give up the game altogether.
I, for one, wish him the best of luck in his return to racing.
Age in Motor-racing
Motor-racing is one of the few sports in which it is possible for a man of middle age to continue to participate without being at an overwhelming disadvantage. The examples of Lord Howe and Nuvolari, of course, immediately come to mind, and while these two are the only fiftyyear-olds taking part in high-speed racing, there are other men of similar age who put up remarkable performances in other spheres of motoring sport.
One of these is a Frenchman named Molinari. This sprightly young thing of fifty-seven years recently took part in. the Bol d’Or race, in which, as I expect you know, the driver must drive single-handed for twenty-four hours. Molinari drove a 1,100 c.c. Simca-Fiat, and finished fourth in his class after covering 2,073 kilometres. At the end he was as fresh as a daisy, and could obviously have carried on indefinitely.
In ordinary life he is the popular restaurateur of the Velodrome d’Hiver, a Parisian centre of sporting activity.
Later in the month, at Le Mans, Molinari was not so lucky. First of all he rammed the Mulsanne sandbank and gave himself a couple of hours’ hard work with a spade ; then he set off again with a mudguard scraping against a tyre, which promptly caught fire ; and finally a broken oil-pipe put him out of the race altogether.
Good for Trade
The two most delighted people at Le Mans were the winners, Chaboud and Tremoulet—and not only because they had won the race. You see, it is under this title that they trade as well known Parisian motor-dealers, and the kudos resulting from their victory is obviously worth a great many francs to them in increased business. Other things being equal, it is much nicer to buy your car from the Le Mans winners than from a non-racing firm. France has every reason to feel proud of her sports cars. Both the Delahaye and the Darracq are tremendously fast
and hold the road beautifully. But it was sad to see no British big car challenge, especially when there is such splendid material available in the 4i-litre Bentley, the 4f-litre twelve-cylinder Lagonda, and the 4.3-litre Alvis—all of which, I am sure, would be capable of competing on level terms with their Continental counterparts.
The French ” Road Star” This for the first the French
This year, for the first time, the French championship is being decided on a similar system to that of the British drivers’ road-star.
Le Mans was the third event to count at the time of writing (the others were the Grand Prix of Pau and the Grand Prix of Picardy). The positions are as follows : Dreyfus, 11 pts ; Chaboud and Tremoulet, 10 pts. ; Serraud and Giraud-Cabantous, 6 pts. ; Prenant, Morel and Villeneuve, 5 pts. ; Biolay and Raph, 4 pts. ; De Cortanze and Contet, 8 pts. ; Matra, 2 pts.
The Cote d’Ars Hill-climb
A good afternoon’s sport was enjoyed recently by the inhabitants of Ars (Centre) when the annual hill-climb was held over a distance of 1 km. 300. There was one British car present, a 1,500 c.c. Riley, driven by Cayaux, and this beat an AMa and a Chenard to win the 11litre sports class in 53.6 seconds. Giron’s Darracq won the unlimited sports class in 47.4 seconds, after which the racing cars came up. Mestivier’s Amilcar beat the 1,100 c.c. record by climbing in 39.8 seconds, while Lanza’s Maserati did likewise to the 1,500 c.c. record in 38 seconds dead. The fastest 2-litre racer, Testut’s Bugatti, could do no better than 43.4 seconds, but the 8-litre class winner, Balsa’s Bugatti, beat the record for the hill and made fastest time of the day in 37.4 seconds. The over 8-litre class went to Benazet’s Delahaye in 42.4 seconds.
“With what Object ? ”
Bobby Kohlrausch, known to one and all as no mean handler of an M.G. Midget, has made the rather curious purchase of a 1937-formula Grand Prix AutoUnion. One is tempted to ask (as the old colonel in “A Yank at Oxford” remarked) “With what object ? ” For the car is useless from the point of view of 1938 Grand Prix races, and as a recordbreaker the type has obviously been fully exploited by the A.U. people.
Incidentally, and far more to the point, Kohlrausch is going to try and improve on his existing 750 c.c. records, and aims at a speed of 160 m.p.h.
Nice work, if you can get it.
Alfa Corse Tazio Nuvolari, having acted as official
as starter at Indianapolis and been feted in true American style as the world’s champion motor-racer that he undoubtedly is, has returned to Europe. Pintacuda and Tadini, who were with him in the States, travelled South to Rio, where they cleaned up a race for a handsome sum of appearance and prize-money. Nuvers ” is more determined than ever to win the American classic before finally retiring, especially now that the race is run under the Formula. He fully realises the difficulties of the 500-mile “grind,” and will probably go out next year in plenty of time to get plenty of
practice. Incidentally, he no longer talks dramatically about his escape from the burning Alfa at Pau.