THE PRINCE RAINIER CUP RACE
E.R.A.’S DECISIVE VICTORY OVER MASERATIS
In the 1,500 c.c. race run over 50 laps of the Monaco ” round the houses ‘ circuit on April 11th as a prelude to the Grand Prix on Easter Monday, the British E.R.A. marque scored a great triumph. ” B. Bira,” which name no longer cloaks the identity of Prince Birabongse, won the event and in so doing brought himself to the front rank of our English drivers, for such we may regard him since he lives here and was educated at Oxford.
E.R.A. machines were successful, too, in that they secured the second, third and fifth positions as well and might even have appeared more prominently in the list had not Pat Fairfield been excluded for a technical breach of the regulations.
It was no easy victory and the British cars, of which there were only seven, including six E.R.A.s and one Alta, had to combat no fewer than nine Maseratis as their most serious rivals with an Amilcar and a Bugatti also in the field and not to be overlooked. The sky was overcast with a threat of rain as the eighteen cars in the race were positioned on the starting grid. Absent from the official list were Seaman, winner of the Empire Trophy at Donington, whose rebuilt Grand Prix 1926 Delage could not be prepared in time. Trevoux, of Monte Carlo Rally fame, who should have paraded with an E.R.A., and Kohlrausch, the German driver, with his M.G. •
Earl Howe had succeeded in putting in the fastest lap during practice and therefore took a front-line position and with him were Raymond Mays (E.R.A.) and Tenni, , who was the Italian favourite. Actually three drivers had tied with practice times and as the result of a draw, the two just mentioned gained the favoured positions, Zehender’s Maserati taking the second row with Bianco on a sister car.
Fairfield and ” Bira ” with E.R.A.s and Villoresi (Maserati) formed a third row ; Kautz (Maserati) and Embiricos (E.R.A.) were in the fourth with Rovere and Ruesch (Maseratis) making the fifth.
The extent to which the nationalities were thus mixed gives a clue to the closeness of the speeds of the various cars during the official practices, and still further behind in the sixth, seventh and eighth rows were Lehoux (E.R.A.), Cormack (Alta), McEvoy, the Australian, with another Maserati, Villeneuve’s Bugatti and Mestivier with the Amilcar, which seemed to be in good heart notwithstanding that it cannot be a very recent production. Shortly after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a large crowd occupied various ventage points in windows and in the numerous tribunes arranged round this sinuous circuit of 1.98 miles. They lacked the numbers that usually throng to see the world-famous Grand Prix on this circuit but were, no doubt, composed
of the keener type of spectator, and therefore meant to enjoy every moment of the race that was to follow. As the starter raised his flag the engines raised their voices until the whole eighteen of them were nearing peak revs, and proving that the big Grand Prix cars have no monopoly of bark and snarl. The flag fell and the pack catapulted itself towards the corner by the church of Ste Devote, Howe, Mays and Tenni arriving in that order
and tearing away up the hill nose to tail with the rest of the field lost in a haze of blue smoke. During that first lap Tenni pushed his Maserati past Mays’ E.R.A. but Howe maintained his position at the front of
the field, Tenni clinging to his heels all the way. A blanket could have covered them as they shot into the brilliantlylighted tunnel under the rock and so down to the chicane which leads onto the quay. Howe drove fast but steadily round the corner of the harbour and
Tenni kept close but could make no better progress as they sped past the pits, round the gasworks hairpin and so back along the brief straight to Ste Devote corner again. Mays was bare yards behind in third place, Zehender was fourth with the Maserati and Villoresi and •Bianco, also on the Italian cars, were in fifth and sixth places with Fairfield and ” B. Bira ” lying seventh and eighth at the end of the first lap. It was an almost continuous stream of cars screaming round the circuit with seldom a few yards of road visible between one vehicle and the next, every driver fighting to hold his position rather than to improve it, and none yielding an inch to the other.
For two laps the order remained practically unchanged, although it might have been vastly different had Lehoux who seemed very untidy at this stage, plugged the pallisading on the harbour corner just a little harder than he did. Next lap he went wider, only to brush the opposite flank and subsequently surprised the spectators and possibly himself by emsrging successfully from a rather rude encounter with the corner of the chicane. On the third lap and before the cars had strung out to any practical extent, one of the Maseratis, which was probably Bianco although no one seemed definite on this point, got into difficulties near
the Casino. Fairfield swung wide to avoid him and nearly succeeded. Nevertheless he suffered a damaged wheel and lost a lot of valuable time because he could not explain to the French spectators what he wanted to do to get going again. Kautz joined the party here and Cormack and Lehoux managed to wriggle through as did Rovere and ” Bira.” Fairfield came into the pits and the wheel was changed in commendable fashion. Then it was found that the starting handle was bent eight underneath the car, necessitating a push start. As this method of starting from the pits was contrary to the regulations, the car was then technically out of the race although Fairfield was not aware of the rule and continued in the race.
Naturally this contretemps near the Casino made vast changes in the positions although Howe continued to lead Tenni for another lap and ” Bira ” was moving almost unnoticed from the eighth position towards the front. Tenni took the lead on the fourth circuit with Howe behind now, but the latter was already giving indications of misfiring and was obliged to come in on his seventh lap. His chances of achieving any material success faded immediately because no driver can afford even a brief stop in a 50-round contest on this circuit. Mays had already been obliged to call in for plugs on his fourth lap and the engine refused to respond to the winding of the handle. Other tricks were tried but in a last desperate effort the exhausted mechanics pushed the car off and it fired reluctantly. Carburetion was obviously giving trouble and the car was, in any case, technically out of the race in the same way as Fairfield’s,
although Mays, too, continued until the end, unaware of his misdemeanour. With Howe badly set back by his stop, Tenni continued to pull tway from the rest and after ten laps he had a lead of 25 seconds from Villoresi. ” Bira ” had, however, come into third place only 1i seconds behind and Embiricos had quietly pushed himself forward notch by
notch, as it were, until he was already fourth some 50 seconds behind ” Bira.” Tenni was driving like a demon to get away from the pack, his face already blackened from his close company with Howe’s exhaust pipe during those early laps, and Villoresi, unable to leave
4 4 Bira ” on the short straights, was flinging his Maserati into the corners and sliding this way and that to the delight of himself and the crowd. Meanwhile the Amilcar called in and
changed a wheel and also released most of the contents of the radiator which was boiling. heartily. The Bugatti, too, contineed to lap with quantities of steam coming steadily from the forward end but not seeming of sufficient seriousness to justify investigation. Before twenty laps, Villoresi had suffered two stops for plugs and lost his
place to a serious extent; Bianco had retired his Maserati because the oil pressure had failed, Mestivier had gone out with the Amilcar, as had Durand with another Maserati. ” Bira ” took Villoresi’s place as second in the race and Embiricos was
third. British hopes began to warm to the occasion although the score-board, on a yacht in the harbour, continued to hang a variety of numbers in its rigging and could never make up its mind for more than a few minutes as to who was in the first three places. Lehoux on his E.R.A-., had settled down and was treating the corners round the harbour with profitable respect. So much had he improved that he was now In fourth place. Cormacic had been going well and had worked his Alta into seventh place at the end of twenty laps. Later, however, he retired with a broken cranksh aft. Tenni lead ” Bira ” now by 41 seconds, both beginning to go quicker and pull further away from Embiricos. Rovere, who originally decided not to drive but changed his mind at the last moment, was motoring round quickly in his Maserati and had already achieved the fast e,t lap of the race at a speed of
in p. h. He, like Villoresi, looked extremely happy and smiled. all the while. Tenni’s expression could not be discerned beneath the road grime which he, more than anyone else, seemed to be collecting. He looked fierce indeed. ” Bira ” was serious of countenance but his every move appeared one of confidence in himself and his car and Lord Howe was trying hard to make up some of the time lost. by his pit stop, although his engine seemed to be suffering from misfiring whenever he tried to accelerate away from the corners.
At half distance Tenni had improved his lead over ” Bira ” to one of nearly a minute and Rovere had replaced Embiricos in third position, passing Lehoux as well, the last mentioned now being fifth.
Ruesch, with the rather ugly Maserati with independent suspension, could get no better than sixth and already Lord Howe and Fairfield had come back into the seventh and eighth places although Fairfield was officially not in the race at all. The scoreboard continued to change its mind and no one believed it in any
case. The race was getting intensely interesting because the pace of Tenni was beginning to show in his brakes, and ” Bira ‘ was still running beautifully and happily, waiting to pounce should the leader falter. ” Bira’s ” chance came when Tenni rammed the sandbags at the gasworks and retired with damaged steering before the 35th lap. Zehender had taken over Rovere’s Maserati and was now striving to make an impression on the leaders but his end came just as he was ascending the hill. A connecting rod shot its way through the crankcase and a pool of oil remained on the road. Ruesch found the oil a moment
or two _ later and spun right round, crashing into the kerb. Although damaged he continued and then McEvoy’s Maserati did the same thing but failed to respond to the starting handle and retired where it was, by the roadside.
Villoresi was now going for all he was worth, almost setting fire to the surface at the corners, so fiercely did he hurl his little car this way and that. Approaching the corner at Ste Devote, he welted the sandbags and shot several feet into the air only to grin more broadly as he brought the car back to normal in masterly fashion. ” Bira ” was, however, no longer within the reach of the others and with Rovere’s car out of the race and also Tenni, Lehoux came into second place at forty laps. So well had ” Bira ” maintained his place that he led at this stage by 2 minutes 8 seconds and Embiricos was within striking distance of Lehoux,
a difference of only 5 seconds separating these two cars.
Kautz profiting to some extent by the misfortunes of the others and also by a recovery from his unfortunate loss of time in the second lap at the Casino, had moved up gradually and was likely to be a finisher. Fairfield was going like the wind, disputing with an Italian car who he maintained stole a corner from him.
Arid so to the end of the fifty laps when “.Bira ” came under the chequered flag first, followed by Lehoux and I.,:rnbiricos. Fairfield was, in feet, the fourth car to be placed but the position was officially awarded to Kautz, with the Maserati. Earl Howe was placed fifth which was a good show considering the trouble that he had.