Fagioli wins at 58.17 m.p.h. Dreyfus and Brivio carry the Ferrari colours into second and third places. A fiery display by Etancelin on the new six-cylinder Maserati.
What better event could one have to open the racing season than the Grand Prix de Monaco ? The crowds, the noise, the cars in close proximity, all these factors combine to produce an atmosphere which is unique, and which brings racing enthusiasts together from all parts of Europe. After five months of hibernation the sport is once more in full swing, familiar cars and drivers again take the course, while new types often make their first appearance on this hardest of testing grounds.
Fagioli’s success in the Grand Prix de Monaco was no surprise to those who had seen the German cars in action. After the terrific laps set up in practise by Caracciola and von Brauchitsch these two drivers were also expected to figure prominently in the final order, but fate decided otherwise. Caracciola was beaten in fair fight, while Brauchitsch was eliminated right at the start, and as for the two drivers of the Alfas which were second and third, Dreyfus has already revealed himself as a pilot of the highest class, and Brivio’s unhurried skill at Monaco shows that he is a force to be reckoned with in the races which are to follow.
The weather was unsettled on Easter Sunday, and a little rain fell, but next morning conditions were ideal, with the sun lightly veiled with cloud and a pleasant breeze. Dense crowds surged round the circuit, and inspected the corners, already black with the brake marks of the practise mornings, but at half-past eleven the course was cleared and shortly afterwards the racing cars roared up in groups and took their places in front of the pits, which are situated half-way down the Quai de Plaisance. The red painted cars of Italy were in the majority, with the Ferrari Alfas, tended by mechanics in spotless blue overalls at the first pit and the Maseratis at the other end of the line. The German cars with the low-hung dart-shaped bodies panelled in aluminium and with numbers in red had an attraction of their own, and there was something a little uncanny about the bulbous grilled radiator guards, the long louvered bonnets and the carefully faired axles. Lord Howe’s Bugatti, beautifully kept like all his cars, was painted dark-green, while Villapadierna’s Maserati was striking with its canary-yellow bodywork. Only one car carried the blue of France, Sommer’s Monoposto Alfa, for Lehoux’s Sefac has yet to make its appearance.
At Monte Carlo the cars are lined up for the start in alternate rows of three and two. The positions are decided by the times put up by the various drivers during the period of practise. The three fastest laps had been set up by the German cars and they were the first to be pushed down the course towards the starting line, only to be greeted by terrific whistles and cat-calls from the crowds on the hill ; Frenchmen find it difficult to forget their nationality.
The derisive noises gave place to cheering when Nuvolari and Chiron were sighted with their Alfas, and Etancelin was also greeted with terrific applause.
The cars then formed up on the Boulevard Albert I, the order being Fagioli, von Brauchitsch and Caracciola, Nuvolari and Dreyfus, Sommer, Chiron and Brivio, Farina and Etancelin, Soffietti, Earl Howe and Zehender, and finally Villapadierna and Dusio, the first-named in each group having the outside position.
The engines were started two minutes before the start and everything was dominated by the wail from the superchargers of the three Mercédès-Benz, which literally made one’s scalp creep, and completely drowned the exhaust notes of the other twelve cars. The veteran Charles Faroux raised his flag, the cars in the front two rows rocked on their wheels as the drivers ” felt ” their clutches, and as the Tricolour touched the road Fagioli was away, followed closely by Caracciola, Dreyfus, Nuvolari, and then Etancelin, Chiron and Brivio, who was driving the car allotted to Trossi, with the rest of the field strung out more or less in their starting order. Villapadierna lost half a minute through stalling his engine, but was soon in pursuit of the rest.
A short pause then while the spectators got their breath back, and then the howling mob appeared again from the tunnel. The two silver-coloured cars were still in the lead, with Fagioli in the first one and both of them already starting to pull away from the Alfas and Maseratis. Dreyfus was running strongly and we noticed that his car which was fitted with normal front suspension was much steadier than Nuvolari’s, which snaked as it entered the Quai Albert. The other three in the first group remained the same, with Brivio in close pursuit of Chiron.
A couple of laps and the field was stringing out. Some of the drivers who had been badly placed at the start were trying to improve their positions, amongst them Dusio, who kept close on Soffietti’s tail, but was unable to pass him. In his efforts to get by he swung out too wide on St. Dévote corner, and the tail of his car slide right round and struck the sandbags. Petrol spurted from the tank and the driver tumbled out, climbing along the sacks to a place of safety. Luckily Fagioli and the other leaders were on the other side of the course and were flagged down before they reached the scene of the accident. The car was quickly removed. Almost at the same time came the news that von Brauchitsch had retired at the pits with a stripped gear-wheel.
Fagioli’s first lap, which was made, of course, from a standing start, was accomplished in 2 mins. 2.2. secs., and his time for the first five was only a fraction over ten minutes. This meant that he was running at a speed close on the record lap speed of previous years, which stood at 1 min. 59 secs. Caracciola was then 34 secs. or about 150 yards behind. Dreyfus was hanging on gamely but was quarter of a mile to the rear.
There seemed little chance of the German cars being caught, especially as Fagioli continued to open out, his speed for the 6th lap being 1 min. 58.6 secs. or 60.08 m.p.h. There was plenty of excitement going on amongst the Alfas, however, for by the 5th lap both Etancelin and Brivio had displaced Chiron who was evidently having an off-day, and the fiery ” Fifi ” was close on Nuvolari’s heels. There were squeals and blue smoke from the tyres of the Maserati every time it accelerated away from the Gas Works corner, and though Nuvolari had closed considerably on Dreyfus, Etancelin passed Nuvolari on the 18th lap and pressed hard on Dreyfus who was lying third.
Modern racing conditions try the brakes to the utmost and the Alfas and the Maseratis were bouncing up and down and jagging and juddering as they slowed for the hair-pin. The hydraulic ones on Nuvolari’s car proved particularly troublesome, and the near-side front wheel locked every time he came up to the corner. Zehender was at the pits adjusting his about the same time, while Maseratis suffered another loss when Farina’s 6-cylinder car dropped out with fuel stoppage.
At the 20th lap Etancelin was seven seconds behind Dreyfus, and though the latter had pulled up seven seconds on Caracciola by the 25th, Etancelin would not be denied, and by the 13th had succeeded in passing this leading light of the Ferrari stable. As will be seen from the order at the 30th lap, Brivio had by then overtaken Nuvolari. Positions at the 30th lap :
1. Fagioli (Mercédès-Benz), 1h. 0m. 02s. Speed 59.25 km.
2. Caracciola (Mercédès-Benz), 1h. 0m. 24.2s.
3. Etaneelin (Maserati), 1h. 0m. 52.7s.
4. Dreyfus (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 0m. 58.7s.
5. Brwia (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 01m. 19.7s.
6. Nuvolart (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 01m. 28.2s.
Shortly after this Lord Howe, who had been running consistently on the Bugatti, and had worked his way up into ninth place charged the barrier at the Chicane at the top of the harbour, through a brake locking, and was compelled to give up. Lord Howe himself was unhurt, and jumped out in disgust to inspect the damage. Exactly the same thing happened later on to Villapadierna, the Spanish driver, and he also retired.
Fagioli was a safe winner, barring accidents, and had slowed down his lap speed to 2 mins. 2 secs. Caracciola, however was slowing too, while Etancelin had dropped back 10 secs between the 35th and the 40th lap. However, at this point he received a signal from his pits, and started driving full bore once again, a real picture of a driver ” hurrying,” with intent face, his cap back to front, and shirt half open, and every time he roared up the Avenue de Monte Carlo, the crowds rose and shouted encouragement. Although Caracciola speeded up to 2.2, the red car gained on the corners down by the station, and on the 49th lap, to the crowds delight, Etancelin tore round the harbour a couple of lengths behind the Merc., nipped inside at the Gas Works hairpin, and passed his rival.
The Maserati gained steadily, first three and then five seconds, but Caracciola wasn’t finished yet, and got his foot firmly down, taking a far-from-straight course up the Avenue to pass Etancelin on the 56th lap. The effort proved too much for the Mercedes, however, and though ” Carratch ” retained his second place until the 60th lap, steam could be seen issuing from the bonnet louvres and he retired at the pits a lap later, with a broken valve. Etancelin’s car had also suffered from the duel and the driver complained of low oil-pressure and weakened brakes. He was compelled to slow down considerably and dropped to fourth place, which he retained to the finish of the race.
At the 60th lap Fagioli had over a minute in hand, and stopped at his pit for re-fuelling, which was carried out in 35 secs, When Etancelin dropped back second place was taken by Dreyfus, who had driven consistently and steadily throughout the race. At the Station hairpin he and Brivio were quite the neatest, in contrast to Etancelin, who worked like a demon to get his car round, though admittedly his brakes were failing when we watched him. Fagioli took it all as a matter of course, Caracciola seemed a little flustered by the pursuing Etancelin, while one of the neatest of the newcomers to the course was Sommer on the Alfa-Romeo, who worked his way up to 6th place in the 70th lap and stayed in this position.
Of the other Alfa drivers, Chiron seemed discouraged throughout the whole race, and kept making disparaging signs with his hands as he drove along, and the only time he really got going was after being twice lapped by Fagioli. He then decided to chase the German car, and maintained his distance behind it for several laps. With two laps to go he had a final bout of misfortune, when his car conked out in front of the stands with fuel shortage, but after frenzied conversation with Marinoni, who had run along from the pits, and much work with the hand-pump, he was able to continue.
Nuvolari handed over his car to Trossi at the 39th lap, and after the latter had given some hectic displays at the corners, notably at St. Devote, the car was withdrawn. Evidently the hydraulic brakes are not yet completely ” au point.”
Zehender who was driving the Maserati with the new independent front springing, also called at the pits three times for brake adjustments and nearly came to grief at the Station through their locking on. The car in any case did not seem very quick, so there was no chance of seeing the advantages if any of the new system.
The race ended uneventfully, with Fagioli half a lap ahead of Dreyfus, and Brivio 400 yds. behind. The other cars were flagged in, the enormous bouquets of red and yellow tropical flowers were produced and presented to the first three drivers, the German National anthem was played repeatedly and was duly broadcast to Germany from the special station which had been set up down on the circuit. Then the Italian anthem was played for Fagioli’s own benefit and after being presented to the celebrities in the Royal Box, the slightly embarassed winner was allowed to go away with his friends.
Though less exciting than many of the previous events held on the Monte Carlo circuit, the 1935 race does seem to show that drivers are still half the battle. Without being pressed Fagioli beat by four minutes Varzi’s record of 57 m.p.h., set up in 1933 on a 2.3-litre Bugatti, and if Germans had two more men of the same calibre it might easily have been a 1, 2, 3, victory.
Time and experience can make a racing driver, but it seems that genius in this direction is the monopoly of the southern nations.
1. L. Fagioli (4-litre Mercédès-Benz), 3h. 23m. 49s. Speed, 58.17 m.p.h.
2. R. Dreyfus (3.2-litre Alfa-Romeo), 3h. 24m. 21s.
3. L. Brivio (2.9-litre Alfa-Romeo), 3h. 24m. 56.2s.
4. P. Etancelin 1 lap behind (3.7-litre Maserati).
5. L. Chiron (2.9-litre Alfa-Romeo), 3 laps behind.
6. R. Sommer (2.9-litre Alfa-Romeo), 6 laps behind.
7. F. Zeltender (3.2-litre Maserati), 7 laps behind.
8. Soffietti (3-litre Maserati), 9 laps behind.