Behra Gives a Fine Demonstration Run
Pau, France (B.P.), Easter Monday.
Last year was the first occasion since 1935, apart from the war years, that the Pau Grand Prix did not take place, and the reason was that the French Inspectorate of Circuits, who flapped around after the Le Mans accident, deemed the circuit unsafe. In spite of a full-length Grand Prix having been held every year without any modifications being made to the circuit, the Automobile Club Basco-Bearnais suddenly found themselves refused a permit. To the onlooker it seemed to be the end, for the Pau circuit had always been essentially a street race, and it appeared that real Grand Prix racing on the public roads was going to die for ever. Undaunted, the people of Pau raised an enormous sum of money and attacked the circuit with energy and intelligence, and the result was that a permit was allowed for 1957. The main quibble about safety was in the interests of the public, not the drivers, and all grandstands that had been in dodgy positions were removed, the enclosures of the banks of the park through which part of the circuit runs were well fenced and opposite the pits an enormous ferro-concrete stand to hold 4,000 people was built, together with concrete retaining walls along parts of the circuit. The road itself was completely re-surfaced, widened very slightly at one or two suitable points, and all the sharp kerbstones were replaced by bevelled kerbs. This work left the trace of the circuit unchanged, apart from a difference of radius on the bend by the start and the pits being positioned before the bend instead of on the apex, but it left the Pau circuit as a pure street race, with all the hazards of kerbs, lamp-posts, railings, walls, front gardens and so on. In fact, the circuit was not ruined as was feared; it was actually improved from the motor-racing point of view.
It was unfortunate that Easter came late this year for it affected the entry for the race, Ferrari being too busy with experimental work for the Naples race which was to be run only six days after Pau, and Maserati giving everything a miss and concentrating on World Championship races, apart from a single car for the French Champion Behra. Connaught would have run three cars but for the unfortunate burn-out they suffered in Sicily, and the rest of the British Grand Prix cars were busy with a sprint race at Goodwood. However, none of this had any effect on the enthusiasm for the re-institution of the traditional Pau Grand Prix on Easter Monday and most of the entry turned out for the Saturday practice. Behra was obviously in a class of his own as regards driving ability, but, typical of the tough little Frenchman, he was not content to tour quietly round but thrashed the Maserati hard, for Pau was going to prove a useful test before Monte Carlo, where the circuit has very similar characteristics. So hard did Behra try that he went too fast into the bend by the pits and had no hope of stopping for the Station hairpin, so went straight on into the straw bales, fortunately with no more damage than a dented nose to the car. The two Connaughts, driven by Bueb and Leston, were feeling their way round on their first visit to the circuit, as were many of the private owners, while Gould was having trouble with a dirty fuel system. The two Centro-Sud cars were ready, as were drivers Schell and Gregory, the latter eager to try his hand on a Grand Prix Maserati for the first time, but the “gaffer” of the Scuderia, Signor Dei, had not arrived so the head mechanic was reluctant to let the cars go out. However, Schell persuaded them to let him “see if they were all right,” and he did two quick laps in each one and smartly recorded third fastest practice time of the day! The Gordini team were in full strength, with da Silva Ramos and Simon in the six-cylinder cars and Guelfi and Burgraff in the eight-cylinder cars. Trintignant was driving the very old ex-Rosier Ferrari, for its new owner Rozier (spelt with a “z”), and was going at an absurd pace, the like of which that car had not known for many years, and the end of the day saw him in second position, much to the chagrin of lots of people with much newer cars.
On the Sunday the sun was very hot and the humidity was not so favourable for carburation us the previous day, so that Behra had to try really hard before he could approach his previous best time. Bueb was beginning to show signs of getting the hang of Grand Prix racing and got below 1 min. 40 sec., best time being 1 min. 35.7 sec. by Behra, while Leston was delayed with a defective fuel pump, but eventually got going and almost equalled Bueb’s times. Interesting times were being put up by Gregory in his first European Grand Prix and he eventually recorded 1 min. 39.2 sec., behind Behra and Schell, who made 35.7 and 35.9, respectively. Schell also tried Piotti’s car, which is a very well-prepared Maserati and nearly as good as a works car, and the result was that the time-keepers were taken aback at the final count by finding No. 6, Luigi Piotti, had made third fastest time and was therefore on the front row of the grid. After finding out that Schell had made the time, Piotti was promptly placed in the back row of the start. Of the private owners, Godia and Halford were showing remarkable similarity of ability, both being in Maseratis and both on their first visit, while Gould did hardly any practice at all as he was running out of tyres and was trying to conserve his car for the race. Da Silva Ramos tried Guelfi’s eight-cylinder Gordini and found it faster than the six-cylinder, so they changed cars for the race, and of the very-new drivers present Barthe excelled himself by spinning round on almost every corner.
Easter Monday turned out to be warm and dry, with light cloud obscuring the sun, so that conditions were perfect for racing when the cars lined up on the grid, with Behra, Schell and Gregory in the front row, followed by Trintignant and Bueb, then Leston, Godia and Halford, Ramos, Guelfi, Simon with the Gordinis and the others behind. Of the sixteen cars that practised only 14 were allowed for the race, by the regulations, so Burgraff and Barthe had to stand down.
The start was a bit chaotic and Gregory was caught in neutral when the flag fell. Schell led away, pursued by Behra, Trintignant and Leston, the Connaught driver having made a terrific start from the third row. When they got to the top of the circuit, by the Casino, Leston overdid things and went backwards into the bushes, where he had to wait until everyone had gone past before he could rejoin the race, so Schell and Behra finished the first of the 110 laps in close company, with a long gap between them and Godia, Bueb and Trintignant, who were in a tight trio. Schell led for five laps and then Behra went by and drew away to a comfortable lead of 50 yards or so, leaving Schell scratching along behind to keep pace. On the fifth lap Godia had a front brake lock and slid straight on into a brick wall, creasing the front of the Maserati and cutting his nose, but otherwise none the worse, so that Bueb was now third but could not shake off Trintignant, who was flinging the old four-cylinder Ferrari about in a wonderful fashion. It was obvious that the car had little hope of lasting a full Grand Prix, so the driver was having fun while he could, and holding fourth position.
By ten laps Behra had caught up the tail of the field and began lapping them without reducing his pace, so that Schell was soon left behind and, barring mechanical accidents, Behra was going to be a certain winner. Leston was trying hard to make up for the time lost on the opening lap, but in spite of this Behra lapped him along with the others. Then Halford went by, an ominous ticking noise coming from his transmission, and the next lap saw him come to a stop with a tooth off the final-drive pinion. There was very little actual motor racing going on, but plenty of demonstrations of driving ability, and the only driver to make up any places was Leston, who caught slower competitors such as Simon and Guelfi with the six-cylinder Gordinis, Piotti with his very fast Maserati, and Gould who was touring round on worn-out tyres looking thoroughly miserable. This terrific pressing-on by Leston was rather amusing, for he was using all the road, some of the grass, had his arms tied in knots on the corners, was sideways on more often than not, and in fact was doing a real “dice.” Unfortunately the result was not so spectacular for he gained nothing at all on the other Connaught, which was in third place, and which Bueb was driving in an apparent touring fashion, sitting fatly at the wheel with a placid expression on his face and reminding one of the “roast beef of Old England.” However, the crowd loved Leston for his efforts and it was a fine sight to see the two Connaughts circulating with perfect reliability.
By twenty laps the order was Behra, Schell, Bueb, Trintignant and Gregory, all on the same lap, then da Silva Ramos, Leston and Simon a lap behind, followed by Guelfi, Piotti and Gould. The old Ferrari lasted only five more laps in Trintignant’s hands and then the oil pressure sagged so he gave it back to the owner, who did five laps and retired. By now Behra had lapped Gregory, in spite of the fact that the American was driving very well in his first Grand Prix with a Maserati, so that now only the first three were on the same lap, Bueb more than content with third place and lapping very consistently and safely. Gould stopped at the pits hoping something could be found amiss so that he could retire, but the car being perfect he continued at his slow pace. Like clockwork Behra ticked off the laps in 1 min. 37 sec., determined not to ease up in spite of drawing away from Schell at 1 sec. every lap, for to ease the pace when there is no opposition is to invite a relaxation of concentration and risk a possible mistake. Simon dropped by the wayside, but everyone else seemed set to finish the race, there being no actual competitive racing, so that the cars were not being overstressed.
By half-distance the temperature was beginning to make itself felt and Schell was showing signs of fatigue, as was da Silva Ramos, Piotti and Guelfi. At lap 65 Piotti stopped and gave his car to Godia, who had returned to the pits on foot. Then Behra lapped Bueb for the second time, having done it the first time on lap 32, and as Schell tired the French driver drew nearer and prepared to lap the Centro-Sud Maserati. The race now became exceedingly monotonous and it was just a question of ticking off the laps with regularity, there being no hope of anyone passing anyone else, and the only diversion was provided by Godia when he retired with a hole in a piston of Piotti’s car. The two Connaughts were never missing a beat and were lying third and fifth, with about half a lap between them on the road. Suddenly this was increased to nearly a whole lap as Leston came by with Bueb right on his tail. The reason for this was another spin by Leston, fortunately without making contact with any solid objects.
On and on went Behra, still turning in laps at under 1 mm. 37 sec. even on the rubber-coated surface, which was getting very slippery, and he lapped Bueb for the third time and Schell for the second time before the end of the 110 laps were in sight. With the exception of Behra, Bueb and Gregory, everyone began to slow down for the final laps, Schell and da Silva Ramos almost coming to rest at one point so that friends could throw buckets of water into their cockpits, for they were both suffering badly from the heat.
Implacable as ever, Behra finished the race physically fresh but mentally fatigued, for it had been quite a strain to go on racing without having any opposition. With the Monte Carlo race in the offing Maserati were using the Pau event as a full-scale test for the six-cylinder car and Behra was determined to raise the average speed for the whole race over that set up in 1955. This he did satisfactorily, but due to the slight modifications to the trace of the circuit, together with the slippery condition of the new road surface, he was unable to break the lap record, held by himself with a Gordini since 1954, when a freak set of circumstances allowed him to go round in 1 min. 35.2 sec. His best this year was 1 min. 35.9 sec. — D. S. J.
Notes on the Cars at Pau
From the point of view of mechanical interest the Pau Grand Prix was not unlike a V.S.C.C. meeting, for the newest car in design and construction was the factory six-cylinder Maserati driven by Behra. This was one of the Argentine cars of this year, with the lightweight chassis frame and lower c. of g., being the actual car he had raced at Syracuse two weeks earlier. Of the other Maseratis, Gould, Halford. Godia and Piotti had their own private cars, and the Scuderia Centro-Sud had their same pair, the only modification being the painting of a blue stripe down the centre of their original car, which had been painted white for Herrmann, as it was to be driven by Masten Gregory the American driver. The other two Maseratis present were the ex-Louis Rosier car, now bought by Bourely from Southern France, and the ex-Simon car, which had passed into the hands of Barthe, a sports-car driver from Bordeaux.
The two Connaughts which ran at Syracuse had had their engines changed and Leston drove the fuel-injection car and Bueb the same one he had in the previous race. Being the first French Formula 1 race of the year Gordini was out in force, with two “vintage” six-cylinder cars, one with a three-pipe exhaust system having cylinders 1/6, 2/5, 3/4 coupled together, and two eight-cylinder cars, virtually unchanged from 1956. To complete this motley collection of machinery there was the ex-Louis Rosier four-cylinder Ferrari new in the hands of an unknown driver, Marc Rozier, and being loaned to Trintignant.
Although there was nothing of technical interest at Pau, this list of cars, together with the drivers, provided a remarkable number of completely unknown quantities as regards performance potential, so that the interest lay more in the drivers than the cars; an unusual state of affairs for a Grand Prix race. — D. S. J.
The Riley Register
The Riley Register is flourishing. It had 571 paid-up members at the last count, at the end of March. Their cars are sub-divided as follows: 112 Monaco, 40 Kestrel Twelve, 37 Kestrel Nine, 32 Adelphi, 23 Merlin Nine, 22 Falcon Twelve, 17 Lynx Nine, 15 Kestrel Sprite, 12 Mentone, nine Lynx Twelve, nine Marks 1, II. III and IV, eight Brooklands, seven March Special, seven Alpine, seven Gamecock, six Blue Streak, five Lincock, five Sprite, five two-seater coupes, four Kestrel Fifteen, four Falcon Nine, four Touring saloon, four M.P.H., four Biarritz. three Victor, three Stelvio, three Imp, three Lynx Sprite, three Merlin Twelve, a couple of drophead coupes and lone examples of Lynx Fourteen, T.T., Hayal drophead, Continental, Winchester and W.D. tourer Rileys, plus 23 specials.
With such diversity the Riley particularly merits a register and from the contents of the “Bulletin,” edited by Mrs. Nix of Enfield, it appears to cater admirably, with technical data, news of cars and parts for sale and wanted, hints and tips, and members’ experiences and correspondence. The Secretary is: W. A. Davis, 4. Beckenham Avenue, East Boldon (Beldon 7843). If you run a pre-war version of the car with the blue-diamond badge there is pretty certain to be some way in which the Riley Register can assist you.
Renaults for Economy
In the recent Caltex Economy Test which started from Copenhagen and covered 1,156 miles, taking in the Ardennes, the Eifel mountains, and much of Germany, 67 cars started, representing 15 different makes. It is interesting that cars had to be strictly standard, even to normal carburetter jets. (This is a policy Mobilgas might well copy in their forthcoming Economy Rally in England, especially as they do not want freak fuel consumptions to figure in their results.) In the Caltex contest small cars had to average 29½ to 33 m.p.h., larger cars 30½ to 34.3 m.p.h. In the up to 1,200-c.c. class a Renault Dauphine driven by a London schoolmaster B Cumbers, won, with a petrol consumption of 62.1 m.p.g. Thus the Dauphine is not only proved the ideal ladies’ car (does not H.M. the Queen own one?), but an excellent economy vehicle. The event as a whole was won by a Renault Fregate, at 39.3 m.p.g.; another Renault Fregate being second, at 38.1 m.p.g.
A set of products designed to prevent trouble with cooling systems has been marketed by Smiths Motor Accessories, Ltd., 50, Oxgate Lane, London, N.W.2. These are a radiator preservative, radiator cleaner and radiator leak seal. These products retail at between 5s. and 5s. 6d.
An instant check on oil level can now be made it you fit this simple device which replaces the dipstick and by means of a pneumatic valve fitted to the dashboard enables the driver to check whether the sump needs topping up or not. Priced at 23s. 6d., it is available from Autolevel, Ltd., 10, Gaspar Mews, London, S.W.5.
Just over a year ago Western Electric Units, Ltd., of Foulridge, Colne, Lancs., introduced gear-lever extensions for the small Standards. Similar extensions are now available for the Jaguar range and the Morris 1000. These retail at 7s. 6d.