GREAT RACING MARQUES.
By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
COMPARED with other leading firms in the racing world, Bugatti’s fame is not of very long standing. Ettore Bugatti’s policy of selling replicas of his racing cars to the public, has, however, had the effect
of causing his cars to appear in an enormous number of events all over the world, and their reputation as racing cars of the first order has been built up extremely rapidly. The fact of their participation in so many events incidentally makes it impossible to sketch more than a small proportion of their activities in a single article, and one has to concentrate rigorously on the more important events in which Bugatti cars have appeared.
The Bugatti is not, however, in any sense a new marque, for in 1911 Bugatti cars were already racing. In that year Bugatti entered a microscopic car—at any rate for these days—in the Grand Prix de France road race on the Sarthe circuit near le Mans. This little car, which only weighed 6 cwt., had an engine of 65 x 110 c.c. (1456 c.c.), which was then considered ridiculously small, but which serves to show that M. Bugatti’s experience in 1500 c.c. engines stretched over a considerable number of years. The car was so small, incidentally, that no space could be found to attach a spare wheel, with the result that the mechanic had to hug it throughout the race. Actually only one car finished, a Fiat, driven by Hemery ; but when the roads were opened the Bugatti was still running, and having covered the second greatest distance in the hands of Friedrich, it was placed second. As soon as the war was over, Monsieur Bugatti returned to his factory at Melsheirn, which was now in French territory, and busied himself with the production of his sporting cars, which were destined to win so much fame. As well as this, part of the energies of Crossley
in England were devoted to the production of Bugatti cars ; and a team of three Crossley-Bugattis were entered for the 1500 c.c. Tourist Trophy race in 1922. These were examples of the standard 4 cylinder Bugatti of 69 x 100 nuns, bore and stroke (1,466 c.c.), which had already won considerable renown on the continent, with 4 valves per cylinder operated by a single overhead camshaft. They were driven in the race by Pierre de Vizcaya, 1VIenes Maury and B. S. Marshall, and soon showed themselves much the most formidable rivals of the famous Talbot-Darracqs, finally finishing third, fourth and sixth. Thus the Bugattis had the honour of finishing a complete team, in spite of almost continuous misfiring on Marshall’s car, which prevented him figuring more prominently in the race.
In the meantime the Melsheim factory had been preparing a set of 2-litre cars for the French Grand Prix at Strasbourg, with straight-eight engines of 60 x 88 mms. bore and stroke, and a single overhead camshaft operating 2 inlet and one exhaust valve per cylinder. M. Bugatti, who is nothing if not original, designed some rather curious barrel shaped bodies for these cars, with the exhaust pipe emerging at the end of the long pointed tails. Four cars started in the race and ran with great regularity. Pierre de Vizcaya finally finished second, although nearly an hour behind Nazzaro’s Fiat, with his team-mate Marco third. The third Bugatti driven by Menes Maury was still running when the race was called off, while the fourth man, Friedrich, retired with magneto trouble. As only three cars finished the race out of eighteen starters, the Bugatti’s performance was distinctly commendable. The cars were also entered for the Italian Grand Prix on the new Monza track, but on arriving at the scene
of action, Bugatti discovered that his gear ratios were quite unsuitable for the course and as he could not get any wheels of a different size to those which he had brought, he announced that he was unable to start. At the last minute however, Fiat offered to lend him a set, and so one car was able to start in the hands of de Vizcaya. The enthusiasm of the crowd was so ‘great that when the two Fiats had finished, they invaded the track although de Vizcaya was still running. He, therefore, had to be called in, but for which incident he would undoubtedly have finished third.
The next year witnessed a mass attack by Bugatti on Indianapolis, five cars being entered by their owners, Count Zborowski, Pierre de Vizcaya, Prince de Cystria, Raoul Riganti and Martin d’Alzaga. De Vizcaya’s car was the identical machine which had run at Monza, and all were fitted with very well streamlined single seater bodies. Fortune, however, did not favour them in the race, for although de Cystria finished ninth, Zborowski, de Vizcaya and d’Alzaga all broke connecting rods, while Riganti went out with an irreparable leak in his petrol tank. For the 1923 Grand Prix M. Bugatti again decided to -. do something novel in the way of streamlining, and while mechanically the four cars he entered for the race at Tours did not differ very materially from those of the previous year, their bodies were distinctly original. This year Bugatti took his inspiration from an aeroplane wing, and the ” beetle-backed ” Bugattis were among
the first exponents of the inverted punt type of streamlining. To conform to this idea the chassis were made very diminutive, with a track of 3ft 4 ins, and a wheelbase of Oft. Gins., while gear-box and back-axle were combined.
The Bugattis were driven in the race by Friedrich, de Vizcaya, de Cystria and Marco, but only Friedrich finished, running his car into third place some 25 minutes behind the winning Sunbeam.
The San Sebastian meeting of that year provided a win for the 4-cylinder Bugatti, as in the touring car race, two Bugattis driven by Saturstegin and de l’Espee finished first and second in the 1,500 c.c. class. The next appearance of cars of this type in an important event was in the 200 Miles Race at Brooklands, in which four Bugattis started. Of these Cushman’s proved the fastest, and after keeping well up with the leaders throughout, he finally finished second, averaging 91.1 m.p.h. for the 200 miles. The Bugattis for the 1924 European Grand Prix at Lyon occasioned some surprise by being of quite orthpdox appearance. M. Bugatti explained however that he had only abandoned his beetle-backed design because his customers, to whom he sold the racing cars found their outline rather too outré. Original as ever, however, he equipped them with his now well-known aluminium wheels, which are somewhat reminiscent of a Roman chariot. These cars were extremely light, and in spite of the fact that they were unsupercharged, proved them
selves among the fastest in practice. Unfortunately, however, a most unsuitable type of tyre was chosen, and while the other competitors suffered little or no tyre trouble, the Bugatti drivers soon realised that theirs were their limiting factor and had to keep down their speed accordingly. Five cars started in the hands of Friedrich, de Vizcaya, Costantini, Chassagne and Gamier, and of these Chassagne and Friedrich finished seventh and eighth, while Gamier was still running when the race was stopped. Of the other two cars, Costantini’s retired with a defective steering gear, while de Vizcaya ran off the course.
Sunbeam, while de Vizcaya and Chassagne were respectively fifth and sixth. Costantini was only a little more than a minute behind Segrave, and proved that the Bugattis were very redoubtable competitors. In 1925 M. Bugatti decided to seek pastures new for his 2-litre racers by entering a team for the Targa Florio. After a very keen struggle with the sleeve-valve Peugeots, Costantini got home first on his Bugatti averaging 44.4 h.p.h. for 335.5 of the very difficult Madonie cirsuit, and incidentally breaking all records for the race. Pierre de Vizcaya on another of the Bugattis was fourth finishing some twenty minutes after the winner. It
Towards the end of the season B. S. Marshall scored another success for the 4 cylinder Bugatti by winning the Grand Prix de Boulogue for 1,500 c.c. cars, averaging 54.46 m.p.h. for 232.5 miles, incidentally being the only finisher of the 1,500 c.c. cars. This car • was also entered for the 200 Miles Race, but was unable to start. Nevertheless 4 Bugattis were present to uphold the prestige of the marque, and once more Cushman’s proved the fastest, finishing fifth behind the victorious Darracqs and Joyce’s A.C. The only other Bugatti to finish was Moutant’s which came in tenth. The San Sebastian Grand Prix provided a chance for the 2-litre Bugattis to show their mettle, which their tyres had largely prevented them from doing at Lyon. In the 386 miles race for 2-litre cars, Costantini finished second on his Bugatti behind Segrave’s supercharged
was a very great victory, and coming as it did after the Bugatti’s fine performance in the Grand Prix de Rome, it started the long list of Italian successes which have made the bugattisti,’ as the Italians call Bugatti drivers, the envy of sportsmen in the peninsula for the last two years. In the latter race Carlo Masetti had proved the victor irrespective of class, and was first of the 2-litre cars, averaging 60.5 m.p.h. for the 250 miles. In the 1i-litre class another Bugatti, driven by Croce was also first, averaging 51.5 m.p.h. Two other continental events of that year secured the participation of Bugattis as a preliminary to the more important races later on in the season. Of these the first was the Grand Prix de Provence at Miramas, in which Vidal’s 2-litre Bugatti won its class, and was third in the general classification behind the two 1,500 c.c. Darracqs,
Glen Kidson on another 2-litre being fifth, Magnier (1,500 c.c. Bugatti) seventh, and Cozette’s 2-litre car tenth. The other was the Solituder race meeting in Germany, when Kolb on a Bugatti finished second to Merz on a Merce.des in the class for racing cars. For the 1925 French Grand Prix at Montlhery, Bugatti again entered a team of 2-litre racers of the same type as had run at Lyon. The Touring Grand Prix, which was run in conjunction with it, also marked the appearance of the new straight-eight 1,500 c.c. Bugattis of the same design as the 2-litre. Five of these cars were entered and were driven by Costantini, Pierre and Fernand de Vizcaya, roresti and Goux, and achieved the magnificent result of gaining the first four places in the 1,500 c.c. class, beating the 4-cylinder Darracqs which had
hitherto been invincible since their first appearance four years before. The fifth Bugatti, driven by Fernand de Vizcaya, went out with a damaged radiator. It is interesting to note that Costantini, the winner averaged 52.5 m.p.h. for 590.3 miles as against 53.3 m.p.h. for 652 miles by the winner in the 5-litre class.
Five cars, with the same drivers as in the Touring Grand Prix, started in the French Grand Prix. M. Bugatti, however, was still faithful to induction by depression, and so could not hope to rival the supercharged cars in pure speed. Nevertheless the Bugattis achieved the very creditable result of finishing a complete team, their leader being fourth.
The five 1,500 c.c. cars which had run in the Touring Grand Prix also appeared in the Italian Grand Prix, with again the same drivers, though this time of course they ran in racing trim. Towards the end of the race Goux dropped out with a broken valve, but the other four Bugattis finished solid at the head of the 1,500 c.c class, Costantini also gaining the honour of beating all the 2-litre cars with the exception of two of the Alfa-Romeos.
Before the year was out yet another victory fell to the 4-cylinder 1,500 c.c. Bugatti when B. S. Marshall again won the Grand Prix de Boulogne, averaging 64.28 m.p.h. for the 278.6 miles. The events of 1926 are still too fresh in one’s memory to need any detailed description. A bare outline of their victories, however, will show that Bugattis have last
year won more important races than any other make has probably ever done in a single season.
In the first race of the year—the Grand Prix de Provence, Williams on a 2-litre Bugatti was third behind the two Darracqs, thus repeating the result of 1925. Then came the Grand Prix de Rome, in which a 2-litre Bugatti was again victorious, this time in the hands of Maggi. For the Targa Florio, Bugatti built a set of special straight-eight 2,300 c.c. cars, and had the satisfaction of seeing them occupy the first three places, Costantini, the winner, breaking his own previous record with 45.6 m.p.h. average. The Grand Prix d’Alsace saw the appearance of the straight-eight 1,100 c.c. Bugattis, which marked their debut by scoring a grand slam.
For the championship races of 1926 Bugatti entered the 1,500 c.c. straight-eight racers, now fitted with a supercharger. In the four European events, they were 1st and 2nd in the French Grand Prix, 1st and 3rd in the European Grand Prix, 2nd in the British Grand Prix, and 1st and 2nd in the Italian Grand Prix. This performance gave Bugatti the championship without very much question.
In the Spanish ” free-for-all ” Grand Prix Bugattis were 1st and 2nd, and in the same type of race entitled the Grand Prix de Milan they occupied the first three places. Finally the Grand Prix de Boulogne was again won by a Bugatti, this time driven by G. E. T. Eyston.
It was certainly a marvellous year, and has set the seal on Bugatti fame for all time. For all that, however, Bugatti is not the man to rest on his laurels, and one can look forward to seeing his attractive racers once more in this year’s great competitions.
A Belated Correction.
In the Victory Cup Trial, the Frank Hallam Trophy, originally awarded to H. M. Hicks, has now been granted to G. Patrick (8 h.p. Enfield sidecar). This is due to the fact that a protest from Patrick has been allowed. He therefore qualifies for a gold medal, and, since his figure of merit was better than that of Hicks, obtains the Hallam Trophy.