MONACO GRAND PRIX RUN OFF IN POURING RAIN
A WIN FOR CARACCIOLA (MERCEDES-BENZ) AT 5I.68 M.P.H. A FIVE-FOLD ACCIDENT AT THE” CHICANE”
Easter Monday on the Riviera dawned hopelessly, with the rain falling steadily from a leaden sky in Marked contrast to the summery weather that had been enjoyed during the past few days, including that for the Prince Rainier Cup on the Saturday. Nevertheless, thousands upon thousands of holiday folk from all parts of Europe made their way to their selected vantage points round the Monaco circuit, crowding into hotel balconies and stands or getting such shelter as they could beneath umbrellas. As the hour of the start at 1.30 p.m. approached, the rain showed no signs of abating and the spectators were apprehensive, for a wet course is the last thing in the world over which to run an event like the Monaco Grand Prix. Taking part were eighteen of the fastest racing cars in existence, all of them Grand Prix formula cars weighing under 15 cwt. each, and propelled by engines developing anything up to 200 b.h.p. But the drivers showed no outward concern. The faces of Caracciola, Nuvolari, Trossi, Chiron and the rest looked calm enough. They merely wandered about protecting themselves. with raincoats hung carelessly about their shoulders, while mechanics kept the cars covered with huge tarpaulins. The
Mercedes-Benzes, now with even more
beautifully-polished al urn in i urn bodies, had fitted short mud flaps behind the front wheels to keep some of the spray from the face of the driver. The AlfaRotneos, all with independent four-wheel suspension and looking less beautiful than the older cars and slightly top heavy in appearance, clapped neat rain excluders over the air scoops on their brake drums. Meanwhile the crowds continued to pour into every nook and cranny round the circuit. Shortly before 1.30 p.m., Prince Birabongse, as the winner of the 1,500 c.c. race, set out to open the circuit in his beautiful ” Bira Blue ” open 34-litre
Bentley. He was accompanied in the passenger seat by M. Francois Dureste, president of the organising committee, and the crowd showed by its cheers that it had taken a fancy to this little driver of an English car.
When he returned, the cars on the starting grid were uncovered and engines were started up. Positions were determined, as usual, by practice times, and in the front row were the MercedesBenzes of Caracciola and Chiron and the Alfa-Romeo of Nuvolari. Here it is interesting to recall that
when Von Delius crashed during the last session of practice in the spare Mere. (he sustained only slight cuts although the car overturned and was badly damaged), Neubauer, the Mercedes-Benz team manager, took advantage of a lull in the practice and sent his cars out for fast laps. The result gave two of them front rank positions to the exclusion of the Auto-Unions.
In the race, therefore, were the four Mercedes-Benz cars driven by Caracciola, Chiron (making his first appearance with the Germans), Fagioli and Von Brauchitsch ; three Auto-Unions handled by Stuck, Varzi and Rosetneyer; the AlfaRomeos, all with the large engines and driven by Nuvolari, Farina, Tadini and 13rivio, and another and older monoposto Alfa, entered and driven by Sommer as an independent. In the Maserati stable were Count Trossi, Ghersi and Siena, with Etancelin as an independent. The radial-engined Trossi was a non-starter. It seemed that the rain had eased for the actual start, but the course was still saturated. Charles Faroux raised his starting flag and the bark of the 16cylinder rear-engined Auto-Unions could be heard even above the agonised whine of the Mercedes-Benz superchargers. And
then they were off, Caracciola pulling slightly to the front but Nuvolari getting through by the time the first corner was reached. Up the hill tore this howling mass sliding sideways slightly as throttles were opened and wheels spun all the way. It was one long car that appeared to be snaking up to the summit rather than an assortment of international rivals. Tadini alone was rather detached from the mass and, unknown to himself and certainly to the rest, he was already penning the headlines to the next chapter of motor racing history.
As he gathered speed round the circuit, a broken oil pipe was laying a narrow trail of lubricant and at the chicane, a whole pool of oil remained behind him as he limped to the pit.
Meanwhile, Caracciola had taken the lead from Nuvolari and Rosemeyer put his Auto-Union into third place with Varzi fourth on a sister car and Fagioli fifth on his Mercedes-Benz. In the course of the second lap Tadini’s dramatic act, which any film producer might have been glad to stage, took its victims. Approaching the chicane where the road dives abruptly onto the quay, Chiron found his goggles obscured by oil. Instantly he shot straight ahead into the protecting barrier of sandbags forming the chicane. Farina also skated at speed on the oil and crashed head first into the sandbags and Von Brauchitsch rammed him squarely from behind, disabling both cars and almost blocking the course. . Then Brivio joined the party with his Alfa whilst Trossi slid into the already besprawled mass with his Maserati. The two latter
got away after a time, excited officials meanwhile trying to slow all the approaching cars, blue flags waving everywhere and workmen endeavouring to extricate the cars that were too badly damaged to continue. It presented an amazing sight to which more fuel was
added as Rosemeyer’s Auto-Union arrived on its next lap and spun helplessly like a slowing top, but escaped disaster by inches and went on. Efforts were made to erect the remains of the chicane and quantities of petrol
were poured onto the course in an attempt to clear away the oil. The rain continued in torrents and the cars that were left treated the spot with extreme respect. Instead of the 40-50 m.p.h. at
which this point was negotiated in practice, the drivers crawled through at a bare 12 m.p.h. Even so the oil made them slide perilously near the far-side wall and drivers twisted the steering wheel this way and that with little or no response in the form of front adhesion. Gradually the menace was removed and the race continued in more normal fashion, but how the position had changed At the end of the fourth out of the 100 laps that had to be done, only thirteen cars remained of the eighteen
proud vehicles that started a few minutes before. The order of passing was Caracciola (Mercede.$), Nuvolari (Alfa-Roineo), Rosemeyer, Varzi and Stuck (Auto-Unions), Fagioli (Mercedes), Wimille (Bugatti), Etancelin (Maserati), Soinmer (Alfa-Romeo), Brivio (AlfaR omeo), Ghersi (Maserati), Williams (Bugatti) and Trossi (Maserati).
Tadini had retired his car at the pits because of its broken oil pipe and the others were eliminated by the pile-up !
The caution with which everyone was now driving may be judged from the fact that the lap speed was about 2 minutes 30 seconds, whereas the fastest practice laps were as low as 1 minute 53 seconds.
Conditions were appalling for the drivers. Nuvolari hung grimly onto the tail of the Mercedes, only a bare yard separating them. The little man tried raising his tiny screen but could not see through it so he lowered it again. Others stuffed handkerchiefs into their mouths and endeavoured to wipe their visors or goggles with wet and muddy hands that could only make matters worse. On the 10th lap Fagioli got into a spin, at the same fatal chicane, where sand had now been spread, crashed into
a wall and retired. Caracciola found himself, at one-tenth of the total distance, the sole survivor of the MercedesBenz marque. just to equalise the score Rosemeyer’s Auto-Union swerved luridly on the approach to the Hotel de Paris, finally mounting the pavement and crashing tail first half way through the brickwork where it remained suspended on the edge of a deep drop. Rosemeyer got out unhurt, shrugged his shoulders and walked off with a piece of the masonry as a souvenir of his visit. Significant, perhaps, that it was his 13th lap and the date, April 13th.
Meanwhile, Nuvolari had never left Caracciola’s heels and on the 10th lap managed to pass him, establishing a lead ot 2 seconds. Varzi and Stuck were third and fourth in their Auto-Unions, keeping very close company. Wimille had moved into fourth place since Rosemeyer had crashed and Brivio was seventh with the Alfa-Romeo, Trossi being eighth with the Maserati.
Brivio came in for plugs on his 12th, and Farina, his own car crashed in the early stages, took over from him, but the stop had cost two places. Nuvolari began to get going in his inimitable style but the crowd knew that
he was a worried man because of the illness of two of his children. They cheered him on although the thunder of his car and the misery of the drive must have drowned any sounds from without. He was lapping in about 2 minutes 20 seconds now and managed to get a lead of about 10 seconds over the Mercedes. As the little Italian emerged from the tunnel, the German slewed his car round the corner after the Viaduct. As the red car shot the tricky corner on the quay before the pits, Caracciola was screaming into the chicane, and tearing after him, spray from the wheels literally hiding the car from view the moment it had passed. The crowd forgot how wet it was for this was the. battle that they had come to see. Neither did they seem to
care which man won, all questions of International politics being in the background and only two rather remarkable human beings sustaining their interest. But after the 20th lap, Nuvolari seemed to be rather more unhappy about his brakes, and ominous clanking noises could be heard as his car went round. Caracciola began to close on him and the gap between them had narrowed to one of only 3 seconds by the 25th lap. On the 27th lap he closed on the red Alfa-Romeo and waited his chance. It came at the gasworks hairpin after the pits, where Nuvolari went a little wide and, wet or no wet, the Mercedes driver put his foot down and snaked past, to gain the corner of Ste. Devote, leader in the race. Gradually the German became
complete master of the situation. He began to demonstrate his supernatural ability on wet roads and his foot was being put hard down between the corners. Yet the car remained true as an arrow on its course, where others were obviously treating the accelerator pedal with great respect. His lead began to
widen until he was some 20 seconds to the good on the 35th lap. Trossi retired about this stage in the race with a broken timing pinion and
Etancelin put yet another Maserati out of the conflict when he had covered a number of laps losing petrol all the time. finally retiring with a split tank. The Auto-Unions of Varzi and Stuck continued to lap with great regularity almost nose to tail all the while, and Sommer, although outclassed on his smaller and older Alfa-Romeo, was driving a beautiful race. Wimille and Williams. too, were driving steadily on the smaller engined Bttgattis and were giving way to the faster cars the moment they were overhauled. Farina had taken the Alfa-Romeo round the circuit to such good effect that he had
worked it back to sixth place by the end of 40 laps, with Sommer in seventh place. Ghersi, on the other remaining Maserati was eighth and Williams ninth on the Bugatti. Thus only nine cars, or 50 per cent. of the starters were left at this stage in the contest.
By half distance, or fifty laps, the Mere. had increased its lead over Nuvolari to 1 minute 21 seconds and Stuck had passed Varzi, possibly by arrangement, and was now third with the Auto-Union, 41 seconds behind Nuvolari. Stuck was signalled to go faster and began to make appreciable inroads on the safety gap that Nuvolari had endeavoured to keep and was only 2 seconds behind on the 56th circuit, passing him in front of the pits on the .next lap.
A stop for fuel by the Italian still further disappointed the crowd because their favourite driver was showing signs Of tiredness and although he was away again in 15 seconds, Varzi had passed by and was now third. Farina, too, was beginning to back up on his team mate in the Alfa and at three-quarter distance the order was Caracciola, Stuck, Varzi, Wimille (to whom all praise is due for his car was far from fast by comparison), Farina, Sommer, Ghersi and Williams.
Stuck was going faster than ever and brought the lap record down to 2 minutes 11 seconds and N.latzi also speeded up, gaining a few seconds on Stuck on every lap and taking the fastest lap of the race to 2 minutes 8 seconds. The rain redoubled its efforts and came down in sheets, no wetter than it had been all the time, but just a little harder. Still the speeds went up and still Caracciola steered round after round with unfailing precision. The only scrap of colour visible WAS a series of iridescent circles on the murky waters of the harbour where the oil from the course had seeped through the paving stones into the sea itself. Varzi, knowing that Stuck must soon stop for fuel and also expecting that he would have to do likewise, closed in on
his team mate and after a lap or so in close company, he moved into second place on the 83rd lap. Stuck pulled in but was away again in 18 seconds with enough fuel for the remainder of the distance. Varzi delayed his own stop until later and lost about an equal time but still retained his position.
And so, at ninety laps, the order was the same as at three-quarter distance, with Caracciola safely in the lead and bound to win unless he or his car made a mistake. But the howl of the Mercedes supercharger was as keen as ever it was and the driver was still master of his craft and of the circuit. The engine had, in any case, net been stressed and all it had to do was to continue for the balance of this uncomfortable journey.
At the finish, the Mercedes brought its colours home in a time of 3 hours 49 minutes 20.4 seconds, or a speed of 51.68 m.p.h. This, owing to the shocking weather, was considerably slower than that of ” Bira ” with the E.R.A. in the 1,500 c.c. race two days before.
Caracciola deserved the cheers that greeted him. Not only had he run nonstop in a faultless race where so many had fallen victims of the tricky and slippery course, but he had carried all the hopes of the Mercedes equippe for ninety laps or so out of the 100 with no team mate to back him up should he need assistance He is, indeed, among the best of the world’s great racing men.
1. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz) 100 laps. 3h. 49m.
20.4s. Speed 51.95 m.p.h. .
2. Varzi (Auto-Unlon) 100 laps. 3h. 51m. 9.5s.
3. Stuck (Auto-Union) 99 laps. 3h. 49m. 21.28.
4. Nuvolari (Alfa-Borneo) 99 laps. Sh. 49m. 54.6s 6. Farina and Brivio (Alfa-Romeo) 97 laps. 31i. 49in. 59.93.
6. Wimille (Bugatti) 97 laps. 311. 51m. 14.93.
7. Sommer (Alfa-Romeo) 94 laps. 8h. 51m. 17.4s. 8. °berg (Maserati) 87 laps. 3h. 50m. 6.8e;
9. Williams (Bugatti) 84 laps. 3h. 50m. 48.8s.
In accordance with Continental custom, all cars were flagged off when the winner had completed the course, and other positions were assessed.