Continental Notes and News, March 1939



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Continenta„ Notes and News

Mercedes Mystery

At the time of punching out these classic notes on the well-worn keys of my typewriter, the air is almost solid with rumours and denials about the existence of a team of 1,500 c.c. Merce0s-Benz racers.

One thing is absolutely certain. If such a car has actually been made, no one will know anything definite about it until the powers-that-be in Germany degree that it should be revealed to the world at large. As in Italy, where the Alfa-Romeo factory is guarded as closely as the most secret parts of Woolwich Arsenal, the German racing departments are much, too much part of the national propaganda to yield up their plans for the future without due regard to their importance.

Being no mathematician, I find that the process of adding two and two together inevitably produces the answer five, but in the case of the alleged 1,500 c.c. Mercedes-Benz, I should say that all the clues and indications point to the car actually being made.

First there have been the circumstantial stories of people who swear blindly that the car is an eight, a sixteen or any other suitable figure that happens to occur to them. Secondly, there are certain folk about who claim to have been shown the drawings of the car—in the strictest confidence, of course (that’s why they are telling you).

But what really gives point to the whole thing is the fact that Huhnkin and Furmanik, big-shots respectively of the opposite poles of the famous axis, as far as motor-racing is concerned, have decided that it would be a good thing to have a 1,500 c.c. engine limit for the Grand Prix formula for the years 1940-1-2.

I don’t have to remind you that the Berlin-Rome firm have rather Ot into the habit of getting what they want in Europe these days. This particular wish of theirs would, I believe, be the first they have ever had that meets with our whole-hearted approval.

Taking into consideration the characteristic thoroughness of the Germans, it seems fair to hazard the guess that they have now got their 1,500 c.c. cars or cars at least within measurable distance of being so good that they will definitely beat the world—as their big brothers have done before them—and that they therefore think the time has come to suggest a 1,500 c.c. formula at the next A.I.A.C.R. meeting in Paris.

If you agree with that impressive chain of reasoning, it will not surprise you any more than it will me: if an offiei:1 announcement is made shortly. It would obviously be to their advantage to get all the experience they can with the new cars in the 1,500 c.c. races this year, even at the expense of getting an occasional beating-up, bccatise none of these races carries with it t he Status of an international Grand Prix. Meanwhile, behind all the interest and speculation surrounding Belercedes-13enz, the Auto-Union people o I am told on authority which, if not exactly unimpeachable, is not at all bad—are quietly By AUS LAN DER building a team of racers. I think it is fair to assume that Auto-Union would not leave the field entirely to

their national rivals. Being small cars, it would only be natural to call them D.K.W.s, and so cash in to the full in the matter of export sales on the racing successes of the special cars.


The very existence Of German fifteenhundreds still being shrouded in mystery, and E.R.A.s almost certain non-starters, the Tripoli Grand Prix looks As though it will be an all-Italian battle between Maserati and Alfa-Romeo. The Alfa position seems to, be that as no new cars have been made to replace those used last year, none will be for sale

to independent drivers. Instead, the existing machines have been largely rebuilt, with roller bearings throughout, and the piston trouble that beset the cars last year is said to have been cured.

I have a feeling that the Alfas may not be so fast as the Maseratis at Tripoli, but it is just possible that they will be better stayers. The circuit is tremendously fast, even for formula cars, and engine mortality is likely to be heavy. The Maserati people have certainly got their new cars cracking this year, judging by their performances in South Africa. Villoresi (Gigi) has been carrying out trials of the twin-blower four-cylinder car recently in the Dolomites and on an Autostrada, but the results are not available for publication. It is significant, however, that everyone is smiling at

Bologna. A maximum of 150 m.p.h. is talked about, but whether this has been achieved at the expense of reliability only tithe—and Ttipoli—will tell.

Talking of 1,500 c.c. racing, the curtainraiser before the French Grand Prix is to be for racing-cars this year, instead of sports machines. I understand that there is a possibility of two E.R.A.s being there, in the hands of Mays and Dobson, and as Alfa-Corse have promised to enter three cars this may very well prove to be the first clash between the British cars and their Italian rivals.

Big Stuff

All this talk about 1,300 c.c. cars is having the effect, in the minds of many of us, of overshadowing the prospects of formula ruing. Auto n us have been very busy down at .NIonza, getting both the cars and the personnel into shape. As was shown at Donington last October, the ears are now right in practically every respect, going through that gruelling race, without any trouble at all. They hold the road well, they steer, and they go

like first-rate bombs What more can you want ? The NIonza trials were chiefly notable for the phenomenal driving of the new boy, Sergeant George Meyer. He has taken to the Auto-Union like a duck to water, and flings it around just as easily as if it were the motor-bike on which he has scored so many successes during the

last few years. He soon got down to within 2 secs. of the Monza lap record !

In Nuvolari, Muller and Meyer the Auto-Union people have got a really potent team, and I foresee sonic mighty struggles between the two German teams this year. Mercedes have been devoting their time largely to cleaning up records on the new Dessau-Bitterfeld autobahn, with what success most of you already

know. Caracciola’s standing start records, to my mind, are more staggering than his fiat-out rums. First of all he did 108.90 m.p.h. for the kilometre and 127.1 m.p.h. for the mile, and later on he raised the kilometre figure to 110.81 m.p.h. When you consider that the previous records were 93.73 m.p.h. for the kilometre and 102.86 m.p.h. for the mile, both made by Furmanik’s Maserati, you begin to realise the significance of the Mercedes performance. The flying-start records of 247.44 m.p.h. for the kilometre and 248.3 m.p.h. for the mile are pretty astounding, too, but relatively speaking they are not so outstanding when you remember Gardner’s 186 m.p.h. with the 1,100 c.c. M.G. However., 250 m.p.h. with a :1-litre is good going, all the same, especially in view of the fact that Furmanik’s old records stood at 155 00 m.p.h. slower I

The car was superbly streamlined for the record attempts, the one-piece body, covering the wheels, being abandoned in favour of a slim body and separate cowlings over each wheel. It is interesting that the ice-cooling of John Cobb’s car was used by the Germans. At the same time some exceptionally good Diesel records were made by Haeberle, driving a Hanoniag 2-litre streamlined saloon-. The standing mile (a new record for this type of car) was covered at 61.03 m.p.h., which gives a new slant on Diesel acceleration, and the

kilometres and 5 miles were done at 96.87 m.p.h. and 96.33 in. ph.. respectively. These records may be—who knows ?the shadow of the shape of things to come.

The new autobahn is mogul tieent, nearly nine miles of perfectly smooth 88 ft. roadway, ix miles of it dead straight. Down the centre, instead or the usual dividing strip, runs a white guiding line.

It will be instructive to see whether the Germans will be able to beat Eyston’s 350 m.p.h. record on this road with the new car that Dr. Porsche has designed for this purpose. The distance certainly seems to be against it, unless the car possessts—and is capable of using without wearing out its tyres—the acceleration of a Grand Prix car.

Gardner’s next attempt on his own record, incidentally, is scheduled to take place between April 21st and 24th. His aim is 200 m.p.h., and I have little doubt that he will realise it.

In Memory of Berndt

Caracciola’s records and the opening of the new Dessau autobahn reminded all of us of the tragedy that befell the motor-racing world this time last year, when Berndt Rosemeyer was killed on the Frankfurt-Damstadt road. Somehow that accident will always seem to me one of the most deeply regrettable that have ever happened. No driver on earth could have triumphed over the conditions with which he had to contend—a strong side-wind as he emerged from a cutting, and a film of ice on the road. But Berndt Rosemeyer knew no fear, and for sheer virtuosity in driving skill he has probably never been surpassed. What a tragedy it all was 1 He has not been forgotten by his fellow countrymen. Last month the AutoUnion drivers, wearing their racing overalls, attended at the monument that has been erected to his memory on the spot where he died, and placed huge

wreaths upon it. Stuck, Muller, Kautz, Hasse, Nuvolari—most of all Nuvolari, who had a tremendous affection for Berndt—were visibly moved by the oceasion.


There are good reports of the sixteencylinder Alfa-Romeo, which was just beginning to show its real form when the season ended last year. Its power output is now stated to be something like 410 b.h.p., which is considerable, but I rather fancy that Mercedes and AutoUnion have profited by the winter recess, too.

The 3-litre V10-cylinder Darracq is coming along as well as can be expected for a brand-new bolide. Figures are hard to come by about its specification and performance, but in trials at Montlhery recently it was observed to be travelling at about 140 m.p.h. This is just about 50 m.p.h. too slow for modern Grand Prix work, but I don’t suppose for a moment that the car was being driven at anything like its maximum. Indeed, I believe that its makers confidently expect a speed of 190 m.p.h. when they have finally got the machine “an point.” It was hoped to get a brace of these cars ready in time for the Pau Grand Prix, on April 2nd, but I understand that this plan has been dropped as there is

not much point in running the cars publicly until they are able to give a fair account of themselves.


Talking of Pau reminds me that the Germans were going to use this race as a useful practice for the Monaco Grand

Prix a fortnight later. Both circuits are of the short, twisty sort, and one would have been good preparation for the other.

Now that the Monaco Grand Prix has been cancelled, I wonder whether the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union will go to Pau after all. Even without Monaco, however, the race would be well worth while, for no amount of practice can reveal the faults that develop in the actual race.

It is a pity about Monaco. The race is unique, and it can ill be spared from the year’s calendar. Its cancellation will probably affect the number of entries in the Paris-Nice trial, which is held during the previous week, for this was going to be used by many competitors as a sporting way of going South to watch the Grand Prix.


The success of the French Grand Prix is more or less assured already. Nineteen cars have been entered—from works only—by Alfa-Corse (three), Auto-Union (four), Mercedes-Benz (four), Maserati (two), Darracq (three), Delahaye (two), and Sefac (one).

And as each entry carries with it a hefty deposit, there probably won’t be many non-starters.

By the way, supporters of the Entente Cordiale will be gratified to learn that H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor has been made an honorary member of the Club.

Prospects for Le Mans

People seem to have got quite worked up about Seaman not being able to drive for Lagonda at Le Mans owing to his contract with Mercedes-Benz. Actually the German viewpoint is eminently sensible. Seaman to them represents a highly valuable driver, one who is capable of

getting the last ounce out of the immensely powerful Grand Prix Mercedes. Such men are rare.

Why, they argue, should they expose him to the risks of racing at Le Mans, where so many accidents and pile-ups have taken place ?

The mere fact that sixty cars all race together naturally adds to the risk of accidents at Le Mans, especially when the cars vary from Fiat ” mice ‘ to 130 m.p.h. Alfa-Romeo, Darracq, Bugatti, Delage and Delahaye. In recent years, too, people with little racing experience have taken part, many from Britain, and it only needs one of these novices to make a mistake at White House, for example, for the almost annual pile-up to occur.

The car to have been driven by Seaman and Lord Howe will now in all probability be handled by Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury. The second car will be driven by my Lords Waleran and Selsdon. With engines delivering more urge than usual, and. a complete weight of something like Newt. the Lagondas should be capable of topping the 130 m.p.h. mark. The forty entries so far received are made up as follows :—


Lagonda (V12 4*-litre): 1, Works entry : 2, Lord

Selsdon and Lord Waleran. Atalanta (Ii-litres): W. Morrison

H.R.G. (11-litres): Peter Clarke.

Morgan (1,100 c.c.): G. White.

Singer (972 c.c.): A. W. Jones.

Not Declared : 1, T. A. S. 0. Mathietion ; 2, A. C.



Darracq : Four cars (4-litres and 4k-litres): Lnigi Chinetti.

Delahaye (4f-litre 12-cylinder): Ecurie O’ReillySchell.

Delahaye (31-litres): 1, three cars entered by Ecurie Francis ; 2, R. Maraud; 3, L. Villeneuve; 4, A. Belle-Croix.

Bugatti (3.3-litres Type 57) • J. P. Wimille. Salmon (1,100 c.c.): P. A. Pittard.

Singer (972 c.c.): J. Savoye.

Simea-Fiat 1, four cars (” 500 ” and 1,100 e.e.), Amedee Gordini; 2, V. Camerano.

Not declared : 1, three cars entered by Ecurie Walter Watney ; 2, J. Seylair, 3, Mine. ‘tier; 4, R. Gaillard ; 6, J. E. Vernet.


M.G. (847 c.c.): G. C. Rand.

Germany Adler Two cars entered

Adler (1*-litres): Two cars entered by ‘factory.


M.G. (950 c.c.): C. 1′. Bonneau.


Alfa-Romeo (3-litres): Entrant not declared. Alfa-Romeo (1*-litres): Senderla Anibrosiana.