NEW MERCEDES WINS AT TRIPOLI
S0 the Germans did it after all ! When the R.A.C.I. decided to make the Tripoli Grand Prix a 1,500 c.c. race, little did they realise that Mercedes would produce—like a rabbit otit of a conjuror’s top-hat—a new one-anda-half litre car capable of beating the well tried machines of Alfa-Romeo and Maserati.
This Tripoli Grand Prix, you see, is a race that is really worth winning, not only from the prestige point of view, but for the immense sums of money that go with it. These are derived from a sweepstake, of which part goes to the ticket-holders and part to the winning drivers. Ever since 1935 the Italians have had the chagrin of seeing German cars walk away with all the best prizes. In that year Caracciola won on a 4i-litre Mercedes at 122.03 m.p.h. In the following year Varzi won for Auto-Union on a
litre car car at 120.62 m.p.h. In 1987 Lang got home first with a 5i-litre Mercedes at 134.42 m.p.h., and he repeated the performance in 1938 on a 3-litre Mercedes at 127.45 m.p.h.
No one could really blame the R.A.C.I., then, if they decided that it would be a good idea to alter the race from a Formula event to 1,500 c.c., particularly as Germany had no cars of that category.
But even with the surprise entry of two Mercedes to be driven by Caracciola and Lang, victory for the Germans was by no means assured. There were still twenty-eight Italian cars in the field, and so numerically, at any rate, the chances were all in favour of the Italians. But mere numbers don’t count in motorracing. The Mercedes turned out to be, in external line and shape scaled down versions of their big Formula brothers. That is the same as saying that they are beautiful looking little cars, smooth and sleek, with that finished appearance which is the outward sign of thorough preparation. The twin-camshaft Veeeight engine fills the under-bonnet space completely, and is set at an angle so that the transmission passes to one side of the driving seat, which is accordingly placed extremely low. The suspension is by vertical coil springs at the front, and by torsion bars at the rear, and the cars have a liv .1. -speed gearbox on the back axle. The engine has a single blower and two carburetters, and is reputed to develop
about 240 b.h.p. at 9,000 r.p.tn. Its devastating exhaust note is in the true Mercedes tradition. Six Alfettes were entered by the Corse, to he driven by Farina, Biondetti, E. Villoresi, Seven, Pintacuda and Aldrigh
etti. Known as Type 308, these cars have straight-eight engines with a single Roots blower alongside, and this year appeared to be rather smoother in appearance. They have also been modified as to their weight distribution and suspension (which is now by transverse torsion-bar in front) the result being a marked improvement in the road-holding while the car is negotiating fast curves.
The rest of the field consisted of twentytwo Maser/Hs of all shapes and sorts. The official teams was composed of three cars, driven by Trossi, L. Villoresi and Cortese. Villoresi’s car was fully streamlined, with a body designed by the same man who planned Caracciola’s recordbreaking Mercedes. It was a beautiful piece of work, with cowlings over the front wheels and a long tail, and in practice it made the fastest lap of all in 3 mins. 41.8 secs. (134 m.p.h.). However, the Germans were dangerously near with Lang clocking 3 mins. 42.3 secs. and
Caracciola 3 mins. 43.1 secs. The Maseratis had an aluminium oil-tank which also helps to stiffen the chassis. It was appallingly hot on the day of the race, and the heat, added to the fast nature of the course, which permits the cars to be driven very fast without any became apparent that the Merced.es were setting too high a pace for the Alfas. Farina’s effort lasted for ten laps, and after that the two silver German cars pulled steadily ahead from the remaining
Italians. Lang made no attempt to slacken his pace, and.he made the fastest lap of the day at 180 m.p.h. As time went on a deeper and deeper gloom settled on the spectators, as one by one their cars were lapped by the Germans. And so it went on until the end came with Lang 31 minutes ahead of his team-mate Caracciola, who was 4 minutes 10 seconds in front of Villoresi on the leading and only remaining Alfette. It was just about as convincing a victory as one is likely to see in any motorrace, and one can only stand in respectful admiration of the manner in which the Mercedes engineers have got down to
real break, gave rise to forebodings about engine stamina. And with so many cars in the field, no one would dare go slow and wait for the leaders to crack.
The thirty cars made a fine start, roaring away together in a tight mass. Out in front was the colour which one has become accustomed to seeing in the lead in Formula races, silver—the German interpretation of their allotted national colour, white. From the Italian point of view it was had enough to see the two German cars, Lang in front of Caracciola, with a clear lead at the end of the first lap, but it was even more depressing to learn that the whole Maserati team had retired on the
first lap. Trossi and Cortese both suffered broken pistons, and Villoresi got his gears mixed up at the start in such a way that the gearbox would not function any more. However, the Alfas were doing a little better, even though after five laps Lang was half a minute ahead of the best of them, Farina, with Caracciola close behind, and then Biondetti, E. Villoresi, Pintacuda and Severi. But it soon the production of a I flitre car. For a new car to have averaged 123 m..p.h. for two hours in that blazing sun is something of which the Germans may justly be proud for it proves that the cars have stamina in plenty. As far as one could judge from the amount of work being done by the drivers, their road-holding could not have been better. Altogether, the German challenge in the ” voiturette “
field can only be characterised as formidable.