Politics and Sport
There is a growing and regrettable tendency, I find, for people to let politics enter into their consideration of motorracing as a sport. Several times lately Englishmen have said to me : “I don’t see why we want to praise the Gentians so much for their racing-ears. After all, they couldn’t do it unless they were helped by their Government. They jolly well ought to build the best racing-cars.” Some of them have even gone so far as to say that they are not going abroad this year to see German cars win Grand Prix races.
Now the danger, as I see it, is in those two words ” this year.” For these same speakers were second to none in the enthusiasm about the thoroughness of German racing-cars and methods last year, and would travel many miles to applaud their victories.
What has happened to change their opinions ? There can be no other answer than the international situation ; the annexation of .Austria and the tension between Germany and Czechoslovakia. Now I maintain that to let one’s opinions on German foreign policy affect one’s admiration for their undoubted genius in all matters relating to motor-cars and motor-racing is illogical, to put it mildly. You might just as well refuse to .go to a concert at which Toscanini conducts a Beethoven symphony because you don’t approve of Mussolini’s conquest of Abyssinia and Hitler’s treatment of the Jews.
Of course I know perfectly well that the German people, or rather the German Press, treat motor-racing and all sports from a purely nationalistic angle. Many of you, I expect, have heard Korpsfiihrer Huhnlein’s perorations before the start of the German Grand Prix, beginning : “German men and women We are all hoping for a victory for our Fatherland to-day.” Personally I think that this sort of thing is rather overdone
in NatiOnal Socialist Germany. But I also bear in mind the extraordinary British habit of ” knocking” British sportsmen who happen to excel in certain spheres. And in any case, what does it matter ?
To me, the ‘German racing methods are a joy to watch, because I happen to believe that if a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well. To me, the Mercedes-Benz racing-car is the finest thing of its kind Man has ever produced, and therefore I admire it—irrespective of whether Germany should have annexed Austria or not. I like the thoroughness with which the cars are prepared ; the discipline of their pit-control ; the seriousness with which the driverstackle their job. The results speak for themselves. As for the assistance received from the German Government, all I can say is that the democratic French Government has seen fit to follow their example, for which I am extreMely, grateful. Why not face the fact that no motor-manufacturer can afford to expend the vast sums of money • necessary to .prodtice and race a team of -Grand Prix racing-cars ? The only alternative is for the money to be provided either by a private individual (as in the case of E.R.A.) or by the State. I wonder whether those who are so opposed to the German Government’s assistance of motor-racing would alter their tune, if, by some miracle, the British Government could be induced to do likewise ?
Talking of the French Fund, there has been a bit of a rumpus about its dis
tribution this year. For sonic extraordinary reason the Delahaye people have been left out of it. For 600,000 of the million francs are to be allocated immediately, most of it going to Talbots to help them build their new sixteen-cylinder supercharged. 3-litre Grand Prix car, and the balance to Bugatti so that he can perfect his existing 3-litre blown car. At the end of the season the remaining 400,000 francs will be given in a lump sum to the firm Which has done best in the Grand Prix races of the year. The only explanation can be that the French Government think that Delahaye have had their whack, last year, when they won the competition at Montlhery. Now it is the turn of the others. To this Messieurs Schell and Weiffenbach reply that each year’s fund should be treated separately. If they were fortunate or deserving enough to have got the lion’s share of the fund last year, that should not deprive them of a participation in
it this year. After all, they won it in fair competition with the Other manufacturers.
The position is at the moment. that Delahayes have announced their intention of scratching from the French Grand Prix, unless the French Government reconsider their decision in regard to the Fund.
Blown or Unblown ?
With all due respect to Messrs. Schell and Weiffenbach for producing a very remarkable car in the 4i-litre tmblown Delahaye, I still adhere to my original opinion that the most efficient car possible under the new formula is a 3
litre blown machine. The Mercedes people proved at Tripoli that they have been able to get over the problem of fuel consumption, thus giving their superior .acceleration a chance to reap its full reward, The relative maximum speeds of the two types are difficult to assess. Of the two, I should say that the 3-litre blown cars are a good deal faster.
It has been the boast Of the Delahaye people that they have confined the specification of their cars to features and points of design which are an extension of eVerydaytouring-car practice. That, I venture to suggest, is putting the cart before the horse, and in support of my argument I quote the old saying : ” The racing-car of to-day is the touring car Of to-morrow.”
No doubt on some circuits, and in some races, the 4i-litre =blown engine will be at an advantage. But those races and circuits will not be Grand Prix races and circuits. The Talbot people are building both 3-litre supercharged and 4k-litre =supercharged engines for the new racing chassis, but I rather expect the unblown engines will only be used at Le Mans. Auto-Union are also going to try both types, a sixteen-cylinder =supercharged 4i-litre and a twelve-cylinder 3-litre
supercharged. In -addition, they are rumoured to be building at their leisure a front-engined eight-cylinder supercharged 3-litre job for future use.
The Drawback of a New Formula
The first year of a new formula—or at any rate the first few months—is always apt to provide some disappointments in the shape of small entries and even race cancellations. The removal of the Formula race from the Eifel programme, therefore, did not come as a great surprise to those who were familiar with the conditions of the various teams. Only Mercedes-Benz can be said to be anything like au paint s so far. AutoUnions thought they would be ready in time, but trials at the end of May were not encouraging from the personnel point of view. Alfas. had Nuvolari, Pintacuda and Tadini in America for Indianapolis, and in any case Tripoli had shown that the Grand Prix cars need a good deal more preparation. In fact, they may not be ready for the French Grand Prix on July 3rd. Maseratis are pleased with their cars, but evidently thought that the Eifel race could well be missed, as it does not count as a national
Grand Prix. Delahayes are busy redesigning the coachwork of their twelvecylinder ears, but were prepared to send their cars to the Ring, and Bugatti has only one new Grand Prix car, and that in its experimental stages.
How They Are Shaping
It is still too early to dogmatise much about the ultimate performances of the Grand Prix bolides. Merc&les-Benz have obviously got a big start on most people, and I,ang’s 142 m.p.h. lap at Tripoli shows that they are not much slower than the old cars. Too much attention should not be paid to the reports of their engines sounding woolly towards the end of that race ; they always do when they are not being driven hard. I remember another occasion when they had it all their own way for the second half of the race, and they went round in forma
tion.. To the casual car their engines sounded decidedly fluffy, but I was assured it was only because they were not being pressed. The Alfas showed promise, particularly the new sixteen-cylinder job, which was driven at Tripoli by Biondetti. I think that, given time, the Alfas will be -a real menace to the Mercedes. Their roadholding is perfect, and it IS just a question of getting the maximum amount of power. Under the old formula the Germans were always a litre or so ahead in engine size, but the new 3-litre limit evens things
up. It rather looks as though, for internal reasons, the works are not able to give as much time to the cars as they migh which is a pity.
Auto-Unions have yet to demonstrate their new cars in public. When they do so, no doubt we shall see in the twelvecylinder rear-engined machine an immediate rival to the present 14-rcedes supremacy. Their chief problem at. the moment is drivers. Five new men were tried out recently at Nurburg Ring, their names being Bigalke, ‘Von Haustein, Zimmermann, Kluge and Winckler. The last two are well known motor-cyclists. No official statement was given afterwards, but unless one of them happens to be another Roseineyer, the chosen ones will only be third-rate drivers for this season. Stuck has not yet been induced to return to the fold, at least officially. The two Maseratis driven by Trossi and Varzi at Tripoli went extremely well, considering they were making their
first appearance. Their straight-eight engines, consisting of two blocks of four, seemed to give plenty of power, and the ears as a whole appeared to handle well. Their drivers are second to none, and it is possible that on a more twisty circuit we may see a Maserati victory in a big Grand Prix race once more. Certainly it would be well deserved, for the little Bologna factory has displayed great perseverance during the past few years.
The 3-litre Bugatti will have to show a little more speed than it did at Cork in order to compete with the Germans, and unless Wirnille is backed up by a second string, his chances of success, single-handed, cannot be rated very high. But one always feels with the Molsheim wizard that, given sufficient financial Lacking, he could turn out a team of Grand Prix cars which would be equal, if not superior, to anything yet conceived. French hopes of Grand Prix successes must be pinned on the new sixteencylinder Talbot which M. Lago is con
structing. This car ought to be really good, and it -will be interesting to see who will drive it, or them—if a team is built. Names which spring to mind are Comotti, Lebegue, Etancelin, and possibly Louis Chiron.
The cancellation of the Fad race owing to lack of entries has cast a gloom over the offices of the A.C.F. in Paris. The French Grand Prix, as one cannot help calling it, was going to be such a magnificent affair, and it may be yet. But it is not nice to be told by Alfas that their cars may not be ready ; and to know that Auto-Unions have not settled on their drivers yet ; and to have been told by Ecurie Bleue that the Delab ayes will not be on the starting line ; and to suspect that Talbots will prefer to stand down and concentrate on building their new cars. That leaves the Mercedes-Benz team, the two Maseratis, and possibly
Wimille’s Bugatti. Six cars . . . and one a doubtful runner !
In view of the above, it does seem rather a pity that a tiff should have arisen over the E.R.A. entries, because they would have come in useful now. But of course the cars might not have been ready in time.
The forlorn aspect of Montlhery was somewhat relieved last month when the French Independent Drivers’ Club held a meeting of short races. Heats and finals were run for three classes : 1i-litre, 2-litre and over 2-litres. They were won by Forestier (Riley), Hertzberger (AstonMartin) and Lebegue (Talbot) respectively. A Riley and an Aston-Martin were also second and fourth in the 1,500 c.c. class.
Forestier is, of course, well known at Le Mans, while Hertzberger is a Dutchman who used to race a 1(3 M.G. Magnette painted bright orange—the national colour of the Netherlands.
It was only to be expected that sooner or later a Fiat 500 would make an attack on records in the 500 c.c. class. Last month saw Rafael Cecchini at Monza, driving a nicely streamlined version of the famous little ” mouse,” with which he cleaned up the following records :-50 kms. at 136.281 k.p.h. ; 50 miles at 137.419 k.p.h.; 100 kins. at 137.391 k.p.h. ; 1 hour at 138.438 k.p.h. ; 100 miles at 138.696 k.p.h. ; 200 kms. at
131.612 ; 200 miles at 131.915 k.p.h. ; and 3 hours at 133.555 k.p.h.
My hazy knowledge of arithmetic translates the fastest of these records, the 100 miles, from 138.690 k.p.h. to roughly 85+ m.p.h., which I think is distinctly good going.
What’s in a Name ?
A spectator in the Parc de la Favorite at Palermo on May 22nd would have had the greatest difficulty in realising that he was witnessing a race which at one time was one of the most coveted prizes in the whole racing calendar, to wit, the Targa Florio. The circuit was but 5 km. 720 in length, and the entry was confined to cars of 1,500 c.c. The drivers taking part were : Bianco, Baruffi, Teagno, Pietsch, Hug, Rocco, Cortese, Marazza, de Teffe, Villoresi, Lurani, Lanza, Grasse, Righetti, Raph, Battaglia, Taruffi, Cucinotta and Plate. All except Plate, who drove a car of his own construction powered by one of the old eightcylinder Talbot engines, were handling
Maseratis of various types. All were Italians, except Pietsch who is German, Hug who jq, I believe, Swiss, and Raph who is French.
After fifty fairly exciting laps the winner proved to be Rocco, who came home ahead of Raph, Villoresi, Battaglia and de Teffe.
I enjoyed myself at Antwerp. It was an extremely good show from all points of view, and I think we shall hear a lot more of this circuit. It has a certain asset which distinguishes it from the majority of circuits on ordinary roads, and a very valuable one at that. It is that no spectator can get anywhere near the course without paying entrance money. The circuit can only be reached by two tunnels, one for pedestrians and the other for cars, so that finaniially the race is an organiser’s dream. In fact, so satisfactory were the takings, that I have little doubt that we shall see a real Grand Prix race at Antwerp next year, with some lap speeds which will make the spectators sit up. The timing mistakes were largely due to the fact that two bodies were respon
sible for the organisation, the R.A.C.B. and the Town authorities. Next year the Club will be in sole charge. Another good feature of the circuit was that you could walk all round it, which
is rather unusual for a course on ordinary roads. Loud speakers were put up at frequent intervals, so that everyone knew what was happening. The Mathieson-Clifford. combination had had luck. The Aston had piston trouble in practice, and was not really in a fit condition to start. Mathieson’s Bugatti was his 3.3-litre car deprived of its coupe body and fitted with a rough two-seater. It went very well, but he misjudged its fuel consumption. It was good to see ” Taso ” in action again. Ill health made him give up the game a few years ago, much to his disgust, but he
seems to be quite fit again and was driving with all his old skill. The local press got very fed up with his initials, and dubbed him Mr. “Multiple Initials” Mathieson. Louis Gerard’s driving tactics came in for a good deal of criticism, due to his habit of trying to slip past on the inside at corners. This manoeuvre resulted in some of the most phenomenal avoid ances I have ever seen. I liked the look of Mazaud, the winner. This young Frenchman showed that he. knew a thing or two about strategy, for he let the Viale-Gerard duel burn itself out and then went on to win. Willing and Snow acquitted themselves well, and the former had quite an exciting moment when he made a tete-a-queue on the more-than right-angle bend at the end of the long straight. The B.M.W.s were as impressive as ever, swishing along in close for
mation until refuelling broke them up. The crowd held its breath when Prince Schaumburg-Lippe burst a tyre as he passed the stands at speed. He swerved a bit, but held it all right. The three Lancia Aprilias were entered to demon strate their speed (comparative) and
reliability. One of them dropped out, but the other two ran very well, albeit making an unwonted noise from their open exhausts. The comic relief was provided by a local Bugatti which surely must have
been the most disreputable looking machine ever entered for a race. It was lapped by the leaders in four circuits, and then retired.