EASY FOR MERCEDES-BENZ
HERMAN LANG WINS THE PAU GRAND PRIX, FIRST BIG RACE OF THE 1939 SEASON
THE Pau Grand Prix has come to be recognised as the annual curtainraiser for the Grand Prix season. This year it promised to be a really good race until Mussolini forbade Nuvolariand any other Italian driver-to take part in the race. The result was that Auto-Unions scratched, and any chance of Alfa Corse competing completely disappeared.
This left Mercedes-Benz, with three cars, in opposition to two 4i-litre unsupercharged Darracqs, four 81-litre unblown Delahayes, Sommer on a 2.9-litre Alfa, De Graffenreid with a 3-litre Maserati, a couple of 2.3-litre Bugattis, and the Sefac.
From the start then, it was going to be an easy Mercedes victory, but we were all interested to see how the new Darracqs would shape up, especially as this particular chassis is later to have the sixteencylinder 3-litre blown engine installed in it.
The Pau course is of the type we used to know as ” round-the-houses,” and is only 1.6 miles long. Like Monaco, it includes quite a good hill, and lots of very awkward bends and curves. As a matter of interest, the race was won last year by Dreyfus (Delabaye) at a speed of 54.64 m.p.h., beating the MercedesBenz which were having their first race. The weather didn’t look too good at the start on Sunday morning, April 2nd. It had been raining hard all night, but the sun had managed to break through by the time the flag fell. The Mercs. were in the front row, of course, and Caracciola got away like the proverbial
stag to lead from his team-matcs Von Brauchitsch and Lang, with Carriere (Darracq) some way behind. Then came Raymond Sommer, hard pressed by Phillipe Etancelin on the second Darracq.
This was obviously going to be the rough order, based on form, and the first retirement came when De Graffenreid, the Swiss driving under American colours, fell out with a faulty gearbox after half a dozen laps. He was not the only one in trouble, however, for the Sefac was an early visitor to the pits.
With the German cars going round in procession, interest turned to the terrific duel being waged between Sonnner and Etancelin, in fifth and sixth places. On lap 15 the fiery Etancelin scraped past his rival, who promptly got in front again on the next lap. And. so it went on.
Then came a sensation. The leader, Caracciola, pulled into the pits after a third of the race with oil streaming out under the engine. At first we feared the worst, but it turned out to be broken oil pipes, and after what seemed an interminable delay the car was sent away again, well behind the leaders. A lap later a similar trouble befell Carriere’s Darracq, which up to now had been going extremely well, displaying acceleration more like that of a blown car. However, Etancelin was still there to uphold the team’s colours. All this meant that at half distance the lead was held by Von Brauchitsch, who had a three seconds advantage over Lang on the second Mercedes-Benz. Then came Sommer, nearly two minutes astern,
Etancelin, Mazaud, Paul, Biolay and the rest.
It looked as though it was going to be a comfortable win for Von Brauchitsch, when suddenly he pulled in for a quick stop at the pits. As he got away again, Lang roared by into the lead. Sommer and Etancelin were still hotly contesting every inch of the race, lying third and fourth respectively, when the Alfa ran out of petrol with 15 laps to go. This let the grinning ” Fifi ” into third place behind the two Mercedes, in which position he was very pleased to finish the race. Sommer lost three laps before resuming the race, but even so he finished fourth, ahead of the three remaining 3f litre Del ah ayes.
Altogether, it was quite an interesting affair, with the lead held in turn by all three Mercedes drivers, and a stirring battle being waged for third place. No doubt the Germans learned quite a bit from this dress rehearsal for the racing season proper, while, as for the Darracqsthey impressed everyone by their brisk acceleration at the lower range of engine revolutions.
RESULTS 1. Lang (Mercedes-Benz), 100 laps (276.96
Idioms.) in 3h. 7m. 25.28., speed 88.66 k.p.h.
2. Von Bmuchitsch (Mercedes-Benz), 100 laps In 3h. 7m. 42s.
3. Etancelin (Darraeq), 98 laps in 3h. 9m. 578.
4. Sommer (Alfa-Romeo), 95 laps.
5. Fan! (Delahaye), 92 laps.
6. Mazaud (Delahaye), 92 laps.
7. Biolay (Delahaye), 88 laps.
Also ran Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), Carriere (Darraeq), Contet (Delahaye), De Graffenreit (Maserati), Trintignant (Bugatti), Balsa (Bugatti), and Tremonlet (Sefac).