Continental Notes and News, July 1939



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Mistaken Identity (inc of the best stories I’ve heard about the new li-litre Mercedes-Benz—and it’s perfectly true—was that of the two British journalists who arranged to see the cars by appointment with Herr Uhlenhaut during the Eifel meeting. The journalists got there first. No Uhlenhaut, no fifteen-hundred Mercs.

Only two G.P. ears making a terrific din being warmed up. The journalists, having seen them before, looked at other things.

At last Uhlenhaut turned up. ” Well, what do you think of them ? he asked. ” We haven’t seen them yet. Where are they ? ” shouted the journalists above the uproar.

” Right in front of you,’ replied the smiling Uhlenhaut, pointing at the two ” G.P.” cars. And that’s how it is. The Iflitre cars are dead spits of their 3-litre brothers, and the overall scaling-down in size is not noticeable unless they happen to be standing beside each other. I gather that the first car was begun before Christmas, as an experiment, and that it was not until a couple of months before Tripoli that it was decided to build a second one. This was done in six weeks, which, as everyone who has had anything to do with racing car construction will appreciate, is extraordinarily good going. But finishing them is one thing, and making them work is another. Personally, I think that the Mercedes debut at Tripoli. averaging 123 m.p.h. for two hours, with two cars finishing first and second, is one of the finest things ever known in motor-racing. I have it on good authority that the official reason for not running the cars in other 11-litre races this year is two fold. In the first place they say it is difficult to maintain two teams at the same time (which shows that Mercedes would not be content just to switch over mechanics and drivers from one kind of car to another as a regular thing), and in the second place they say that they built these cars and entered them for Tripoli as an experiment with a view to seeing what they could do if the Grand Prix formula were altered next year to 1,500 c.c. Having learnt all the lessons they

want, they say there is no need to run them elsewhere. I believe, however, that this scruple would be waived in the event Of any other National Grand Prix race, at present run under formula, going over to ii-litres. Something like this may happen to the

Swiss Grand Prix, which would thus be merged with the Prix de Berne. The result, if it came off, would be the first clash between E.R.A.s and Mercedes. I have heard another suggestion as to why the Germans are not going to race their 1,500 c.c. cars again this year, but

it is a purely unofficial one. It is that they think that a series of smashing victories for their cars in 1,500 c.c. races this year would put everyone off making new 11-litre cars for the formula. People would say that it’s just as hopeless to try and compete with them with 1,500 c.c. cars as it has been with the present and past formula cars. And

Germany would be left with hollow victories against independents with obsolete cars, which is no fun at all.

Be that as it may—as someone once remarked—the fact remains that rumours are flying about that Bugatti, Darracq and Auto-Union are all planning 1,500 c.c. cars, and there are tales of at least two new I I-litre teams being formed in Britain. One concerns a famous driver, and theother a famous manufacturer, but it would be obviously unfair to mention their names at this stage.

An interesting point is that in German motor-racing circles the Italians are not regarded as ever becoming really serious competitors in the 1,500 c.c. field. The new E.R.A., on the other hand, is eagerly awaited, and nothing would please the Germans more, I am sure, than for it to be a match for—and even occasionally beat up—their own machines.

In saying that I am not giving way to pro-German feelings. One of the leading British drivers said to me the other day : ” You could not possibly meet a finer set of sportsmen than the Germans Who came to Donington last year. I would rather race against them than any other drivers in the world.”

I wonder whether I am entirely wrong if I say that the Italians seem to have fallen behind in the art of obtaining the highest possible power outputs from racing engines ? In road-holding they have nothing to learn, but for some years now, (in fact, since the entry of the Germans and British), their cars seem to lack the requisite: urge, both in the Formula and Fifteen-hundred fields. Now for a storm of abuse from Alfa fans Time for a Change hi, any case, it’s high time a substitute for the present Formula Grand Prix racing was found. I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Alfa-Corse will run their 3-litre cars in opposition to the

Germans this year. The Italians were furious about Tripoli. They do say that the real reason why the race was changed over to 1,500 c.c. this year was not to prevent the Germans from competing, but to make sure that they had sufficient entries to run the sweepstake properly. They consider, therefore, that the German effort to win the race, after all, was entirely uncalled for.

The Italian answer has been to boycott the Eifel race, which in turn made the Germans furious. What made it all the more pointed, in the German view, was that Farina and Sommer should have rued at Antwerp the same week-end. It ia only fair to bear in mind, however, that the cars they drovc were of the new 4i-litre unblown sports type that are intended for Le Mans and other sports-car races, and that Antwerp was therefore a useful dress-rehearsal. With the Italian boycott of French races—at any rate Formula events— still holding good, it looks as though the only races open to the Formula Alfas are the Swiss Grand Prix (if it isn’t altered to 1,500 c.c.), the Coppa Acerb°, the Coppa Ciano and the Italian Grand

Prix. Presumably the Germans will run in all these races, just for spite. And the irritating part of it is that if the Italians decide to switch them over to 1pitres, the Germans may decide that they are justified in running the miniature Metes. in such important races ! The only loophole left for the Italians,

so far as I can see, would be to _confine the races to sports-cars. Perhaps that’s why they seem to be concentrating on the 21-litre and 447-litre unsupercharged models ? The only German representative in this category at the moment is the 2-litre B.M.W., which although supreme in the 2-litre class, is naturally outpaced by bigger machines. But if this happened, I don’t think it would take long for Mercedes-Benz or Auto-Union to turn out a really fast new 43-litre sports model ? And then there are the French Bugattis, Delahayes and Darraeqs—and the British Lagondas—so that it is by no means certain that an Italian Grand Prix for sportscars would be won by an Italian car.

Poor Italy ? What it is to take sport too seriously. And so, you see, it looks as though Formula’ racing is now reduced to two German teams, with some negligible competition from Darracq, and possibly Delahaye. The Darracq position is a little obscure at the moment. ‘Tis said that the 3-litre blown sixteen-cylinder engine will be used in the French Grand Prix, but I have also heard that it may be scrapped. Certainly the performance of the new chassis with the 41-litre unblown engine at Nurburg was not impres sive. Carriere crashed his model quite badly, and Etancelin seemed to have a

full-time job on the corners. With all this talk about a 13-litre formula, of course, M. Lago may be toying with the idea of abandoning the 3-litre car and building a small one now in good time. Taking the most optimistic view, the prospects of 1,500 c.c. racing next year are extraordinarily good. Here is a list of the maximum number of cars built, in process of building, and being talked about :

G.B. E.R.A. (Mr. Cook’s team and many independents), Alta, Challenger, and two new X cars.

D. Mercedes-Benz, and almost certainly Auto-Union.

F. Possibly Bugatti and Darrarq. I. Alfa-Romeo and Maserati (works team and many independents).

Reims Races. The French Grand Prix will be a good Scrap between Mercedes and AutoUnion, with the latter making a big effort to reverse the decision of the Eifel Race. Don’t suppose there will he any Italians, and the French competition won’t amount to much. This will be our first chance of seeing George Meier in action. Soon after these lines are written he will be dicing

round the Isle of Man as a member of the B.M.W. motor-cycle team. I hear that Auto-Unions were very reluctant to part with him for the T.T. Speed counts for a lot at Reims, and I rather think the Mercs. will do it again, as their cars were definitely faster at the Ring. The Alfa and Maserati teams will presumably have to boycott the Sporting Commission Cup Race for 1i-litres, so that the field will consist mostly of E.R.A.s and independent Maseratis. One of Mr. Cook’s cars, and possibly two, will run. Dobson will be No. 1 driver, and the second has yet to be chosen, as Rolt’s military duties prevent him from getting

away in July. Wonder who it will be. Anyway, the news will be out by the time

these lines appear.

Abecassis will be there with his Alta— his first Continental race, I believe. As he isn’t running in the Nuffield Trophy it is safe to assume that he is making sure his car will be in good shape for the French race. ” Bira,” too, is going.

The Reims circuit, with its beautiful concrete grandstand and pits, deserves to be used more frequently than it is, and I understand that the A.C. de Champagne have decided to hold a 24hours race there next year, which should prove quite a rival to Le Mans—although the prestige of the latter race is, of course, tremendous. Racing in Belgium There has been quite a lot of motor

racing in Belgium lately. First of all there was the Antwerp Grand Prix, which I didn’t see myself but about which I have received some very interesting notes from a reader who lives in Brussels. He tells me that he had a good look at the new Alfas in the paddock before the race. They have 4i-litre V-12 unsupercharged engines slung in a chassis that is not unlike the 8C 2.9-litre type. From what he could see it looked like the old Formula V-12 engine minus the blower. Instead, it has three dual down-draught Weber carburetters, each of which supply mixture to a pair of cylinders of each bank (four in all). The car has a very big radiator, as well as an oil radiator. Suspension is by coil springs in front, independent, and by transverse leaf at the back with the gearbox on the rear axle. He also took a good peep at the new ” Olympic” Delages run by the Emile Watney. At first glance the car seems to be rather high, but it is a very fine job nevertheless, and it went like the wind in the race. This car has a six-cylinder push-rod o.h.v. engine with three Solex horizontal carburetters. The revolution counter reads up to six thousand, but there is no indication as to the peak revs. The chassis is of a similar layout to that of the Delahaye. As for the rest of the cars, Mazaud (last year’s winner) drove a Delahaye with a specially lowered radiator and a new

type of shock absorber. The AstonMartin impressed everyone by its beautiful lines, and my observant Belgian correspondent noticed that it had torque arms instead of the more usual torque cables at the front axle. Cowell’s Alta, too, was a handsome machine in his eyes (it is in mine, too, incidentally), but unfortunately the fuel allowed was not at all suited to the high tune and 18 lb. supercharger pressure of the engine. As he only arrived a day or so before the race, there was not time to modify things in any way and the car consequently ran very hot. So hot, in fact, that Cowell deemed it advisable to stop.

As you know, the race was run on a most extraordinary system, points being used instead of time for the placings. There were three ” heats” in which all the cars took part, points being awarded in each race as follows : first one point, second four points, third six points, fourth eight points, and the rest ten points. The winner of course, was the

car that scored the least number of points. The Alfas had the heels of the other cars in all three races, as one would expect them to do, with their much bigger engines. Farina won the first two heats and Sommer the third. My Bruxellois

tells me that Sommer cornered a good deal faster than Farina, from which he assumes that Sommer’s car was not so quick as the Doctor’s. There were some terrific scraps, and one or two lurid incidents. Louis Gerard was in his very best form. In the first heat he started by beating Levegh’s Darracq in an incredible scramble round the first corners, and throughout these two were never far apart, Gerard doing all sorts of spectacular things and eventually finishing in front of his rival. He didn’t last long in the second heat. He got involved in a duel with his team-mate Monneret, and the two of them went into a 100 m.p.h. curve side by side, with Gerard getting the worst of it on the outside. He failed to make the bend, skidded into the kerb with his back wheel, over-corrected the counter skid, turned right round, went along sideways for about 80 yards, hit the kerb on the opposite side of the road (which happened to be very wide, otherwise he would have done more damage), and finally finished up against a flagpole, which he broke. All that would have been enough to have reduce any normal driver to an ashen wreck, but not Gerard. He took a quick

look at his car, restarted his engine, revved it right up and shot away with spinning wheels. By the time he got to the pits he found that the steering was too badly damaged for him to continue. Monneret, who had a great duel with

Mazaud’s Delahaye in the first heat, went on to drive brilliantly and finish third to the two Alfas in the second heat, and he did the same in the final race of the day.

Paul had an anxious moment with his Delahaye. He turned round and stalled his engine on the corner after the pits. His car was right across the fairway, and for a moment it looked as though he was going to be rammed by several other cars. Here is a word about the Aston-Martin, which was driven by B. H. Talbot, who, incidentally, I think must have been competing in his first race. He seems to have driven extremely well, particularly on the corners, being fast and confident. It is worth remarking that his fastest heat was run at 120 k.p.h., which compares quite favourably with Farina’s

best of 142 k.p.h. Probably the outstanding performance of the day was that of Monneret, who averaged 139 k.p.h. on his 8-litre Delage, giving away Ii-litres to the Alfas. I understand that this car is the work of M. Lory, designer of the famous 1,500 c.c. Grand Prix Delage which was one of the greatest racing-cars of all time. Thank you, Monsieur Frere I The other Belgian race was the Grand Prix des Frontieres, on the Chimay circuit, in which Trintignant’s Bugatti put it across three 1,500 c.c. Maseratis, all of which fell out with mechanical

trouble of some sort or another. Joa’s Maserati, however, made the fastest lap of the day at 84.53 m.p.h. RESULTS Antwerp Grand Prix Heat 1. : 1, Farina (Alfa-Romeo), 63 miles in 43m. 528., speed 86.5 m.p.h.; 2, Sommer (AlfaBorneo); 3, Maraud (Delahaye); 4, Monneret (Delage)’ 5, Gerard (Delage); 6, Levegh (Darracq);

Heat 2 : 1, Farina (Alfa-Romeo), 63 miles in 43m. 1.38., speed 88.3 m.p.h.; 2, Sommer (Ails. Romeo) ; 3, Monneret (Delage) ; 4, Levegh (Darracq); 6, Forestier (Darracq); 6, Chaboud (Delahaye).

Heat 8: 1, Sommer (Alfa-Romeo), 63 miles in 43m. 46.1s., speed 80,72 m.p.h.; 2, Farina (AlfaRomeo) ; 3, Mon neret (Delage) ; 4, Levegh (Darracq); 5, Forestier (Darracq); 0, Chaboud (Delahaye).

Result : 1; Farina, 6 points; 2, Sommer, 9 points; 3, Monneret, 16 points; 4, Levegh, 18 points. Grand Prix des Prontieres

Racing : 1, TrIntignant (Bugatti), 102 miles in lh. 16m. 38s., speed 80.19 m.p.h.; 2, du Brusie (Bugatti), two laps behind ; 3, Herkuleyus (M.G.), three laps behind.

Sports (over 2-litres) : 1, W. 0. Black (Hotchkiss), lb. 22m. 31s.

Sports (under 2-litres) :1, Rome tB.M.W.), 18m. 538., speed 76.81 m.p.h.; 2, Bonnet (D.B.), lb. 21m. 4s.; 3, d’Aulins (B.M.W.). Satisfactory Demonstration The idea of ” demonstrating ” their products by cramming as many miles into one hour as possible has been taken

up by French manufacturers. Robert Benoist turned up at Montlhery the other day with a very nice-looking type 57C Bugatti, with carrosserie by Galibier, and proceeded to do 112 miles in the hour round the concrete saucer.