The Grand Prix De Pau
Fangio Wins for the Second Time!
[by our Continental Correspondent.]
The mere fact that Juan Fangio won the Eleventh Grand Prix of Pau on Easter Monday an average speed higher than the lap record set up by Carraciola speaks for his ability as a driver than any description. Add to this finishing in front of Villoresi and Sommer, on “single-stage” Ferraris, with a 4CLT Maserati, and some idea of this Argentino’s driving can be gained.
Run under perfect weather conditions, the 110 laps of the 2.769 kilometre circuit over which the Grand Prix was run provided just over three hours of intense interest to the spectators.
Taking the lead from the two Ferraris on the 15th lap, Fangio stayed in front until the finish, but after the fuel-stop Villoresi closed to within three seconds of the Maserati and finished only 30 seconds behind. The highlight of the whole race was undoubtedly the duel between Fangio and Sommer, which lasted until they began to lap the tail end of the field, during which time Sommer lost ground which he could not make up. For lap after lap they went, round corners virtually side by side, and a more exciting example of continental drivers really trying for the lead one could not wish to see. Until his pit-stop, Sommer was firmly in second place, but, having lost many seconds refuelling with poor organisation, he dropped to fourth place, where he finished. The most impressive demonstration of the whole meeting was that of Louis Rosier, who, driving non-stop in most unruffled and exact manner, finished in third place. His driving of the big Lago-Talbot on this twisty and narrow circuit was a really wonderful sight and one could not help feeling that, given a Maserati or Ferrari, he would be among the best.
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Of the 14 entries only one failed to arrive for practice, this being Bonetto, whose Maserati had broken in Italy. Ferrari’s had three cars, two 1½-litre single camshaft, single supercharger models, driven by Luigi Villoresi and Raymond Sommer, and one unsupercharged 2-litre car driven by Alberto Ascari. This was the new lengthened chassis, GP1/49, with the de Dion rear suspension with integral ZF differential and four-speed gearbox, against the earlier car’s five speeds, springing both front and rear being by leaf springs. The engine was the V12 with single camshafts and three downdraught Weber Type 36 carburetters mounted in the Vee. A fuel pump on the front of the near-side camshaft drew from the rear tank and an extension from the pipe feeding the float chambers led to a pressure gauge in the cockpit. A reserve oil tank feeding direct into the sump was mounted by the near side of the driver’s seat. The steering arrangements differed from the 1½-litre by having only one change of direction, by universal joint, in the actual column, it running from the centre of the bulkhead at an angle across the engine, to the steering box mounted at the front on the off side. The 1½-litre cars had a universal joint immediately in front of the wheel, taking the column to the off side of the bulkhead and another universal joint directing it to the steering box mounted as on the 2-litre car.
The single Roots-type supercharger was mounted on the front of the engine and oil from the casing was drained back into the sump by a flexible pipe. An air duet from the radiator cowling directed cold air on to the fuel pump mounted on the off-side camshaft. The 2-litre unblown car was being run purely for experimental purposes, although Ascari was trying very hard with it in practice, cornering most beautifully past the pits. In the race it was put out very early with a broken transmission universal joint.
The Argentine drivers, Fangio and Oscar Gonzalez, had their bright yellow and blue 4CLT Maseratis with two-stage supercharging and two twin-choke downdraught carburetters. Fixed starting handle shafts had been mounted with the front end on an outrigger bracket inside the radiator cowling. They arrived in a very large double-decker F.I.A.T. lorry painted in the Argentine colours, as were the electric starters and quick-lift jacks.
Etancelin, Rosier, Pozzi and Levegh were all driving Lago-Talbots, Etancelin’s car having an air funnel on the scuttle with a rubber pipe directing the cold air on to the driver’s clutch foot. He also had a tin full of sliced lemons beside his seat, while Chiron’s 4CLT Maserati had a feeding-bottle in the cockpit. On the way back to his garage from practice Chiron had a collision with a Renault 4CV and had to have the front cowling beaten out. Completing the field were three Gordini-Simcas of 1,490 c.c.
In the first practice period Sommer showed the sort of pace to be expected for the race by breaking the Mercédès-Benz record of 1938, and the following day Fangio replied by putting it even higher. During the race he broke it four more times, finally leaving it at 96.968 k.p.h., an improvement of over 3.5 k.p.h.
In the race it was interesting to watch the Ferrari sit down at the back when the throttle was opened, and from some of the faster corners the whole of the back of the car got into a bouncing motion whilst accelerating. Up the hill from the station the supercharged Ferraris were much faster, and on one occasion Villoresi and Fangio were duelling for the corner when Luigi waved the driver by and then repassed comfortably as he accelerated from the corner. Rosier’s driving was delightfully unflurried and he was keeping up with Gonzalez on the 4CLT with ease, until the latter retired with terrible noises under the bonnet.
Many drivers were suffering front locking brakes and two or three times Fangio nearly came unstuck when a front wheel locked under braking. One of the most impressive drivers in moments of panic was young Robert Manzon on one of the 1,400-c.c. Simcas. On many occasions he arrived at the hairpin after the tribunes with locking wheels and calmly sat and waited for the car to sort itself out before attempting to get round the corner, and demonstrated most convincingly that he could still control the direction of the car even though the front wheels were not revolving!
The pit stops were most interesting to observe, Villoresi’s being an absolute model of efficiency. Cutting the engine clean as he came to rest, Luigi sat motionless in the cockpit, not even raising his goggles. One mechanic filled the tank with a pressure hose while another had a quick look round the brakes and then inserted the electric starter ready for the “off.” Meanwhile Ascari stood by in helmet, goggles and gloves ready to take over if necessary. In barely 30 seconds the Ferrari was back in the race, having won 32 seconds over Fangio, who had had a lengthy pit stop. His mechanics filled up with fuel and oil, the fuel pressure was cut off before the tank was full, causing much shouting and commotion, and before leaving there was a great deal of fiddling about with goggles. Fortunately Fangio’s driving was able to cover up his mechanics’ inefficiency. In contrast to Villoresi’s quiet and cool stop, Sommer and Chiron caused complete confusion, the former jumping out of the car for new goggles and a drink and not being ready for restarting, and the latter having too many people round his car and having to fight his way to the pit-counter, actually knocking one man to the ground, and when ready to start the electric starter was at the wrong end of the car. In addition to the confusion Sommer drove off in an unnecessary flurry, ignoring marshals’ flags, right into the path of Rosier’s Talbot, causing him to have an anxious moment. Although at times Sommer was driving brilliantly, if somewhat fiercely, he was not using his head, for having slowed down after his pit stop he seemed quite unable to gain on Rosier’s Talbot, but when Villoresi lapped him about 12 laps before the finish he hung on to Luigi and on one lap even got past him, which seemed quite pointless, especially as Villoresi was trying hard to catch the man from the Argentine.
Of the Simca’s, Manzon was by far the best, outpacing his team-mates and keeping ahead of Etancelin’s Talbot until it retired. Charles Pozzi was driving the Talbot of Georges Grignard, who took over just before the end. Pierre Levegh ran right through to the end, as did the three Simcas.
When they arrived at the finish the Ferraris of Villoresi and Sommer had water and oil temperatures of 78 deg. C. and 100 deg. C. and 70 deg. C. and 90 deg. C., respectively.
Fangio won this year at, an average speed of 94.041 k.p.h., which was 10 k.p.h. faster than his speed of last year.