Cannes, April 16th.
While driving from Sicily to Pau, for the Grand Prix on Easter Monday, it was possible, by straining the schedule a bit, to arrive in Cannes at the same time as the competitors in the Rallye Soleil-Cannes and to spectate at the final tests. The rally had begun on April 12th with each competitor covering two laps of the Montlhèry outer-circuit from a standing start and with a flying finish, and among those who were outstandingly fast were a three-cylinder D.K.W., driven by Mantzel and Hopfen, which soundly trounced all the Dyna-Panhards, O’Hara-Moore’s Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash and de Galea with a Jaguar XK120. Leaving Montlhèry the competitors then drove to scheduled speeds down through France and the Alps Maritime to Cannes, and while this road section called for consistent driving of a high standard to maintain the schedule, it was well within the capabilities of most of the competitors and few failed to arrive on time.
On April 14th a manoeuvrability test was held on the sea front and consisted of a standing-start sprint for 200 yards, the execution of a figure eight round two pylons, a return along the 200-yard straight to finish astride the starting line. Failure to execute the figure eight was to result in a penalty of 1,000 points, while the fastest time in each class received a “0” mark and all other competitors lost five points per fifth of a second slower. Everyone was allowed a practice run and was free to choose on which side the first pylon was taken, the space in which the figure eight was to be made being limited by straw bales. It was surprising how many drivers lost their way and how few really knew the limitations of their steering lock. On this practice run, Gatsonides in a red TR2 Triumph, executed the prettiest of skid-turns at the second pylon, by using the handbrake and throttle, which left him in a position to accelerate hard through the remainder of the “eight” with little or no steering to be done, whereas most competitors were still winding away at the steering long after leaving the “eight” area. On the timed run he tried to repeat the manoeuvre but failed miserably and was beaten by the other TR2 Triumphs of Tracey and Taylor, the latter making f.t.d.
The whole entry took the test, starting with the standard touring cars of up to 1,000 c.c. The numerous Dyna-Panhards swept round the pylon at varying angles, most of them with one back wheel well in the air and a healthy beating from their flat-twin engines. In direct contrast the D.K.W. saloon hummed like a turbine and looked a lot safer. The next class consisted entirely of Simca-Aronde and Peugeot 203 cars and the Peugeots showed a marked superiority in handling, while some of the crunches from the Simca gearboxes, as drivers, both male and female, grappled with the steering-column lever, were ear-splitting. A row of 1,900 Alfa-Romeos, with the modifications of more powerful engines, large air-scoops on the front brakes and lighter wheels, all showed terrific acceleration and braking, but were not handled terribly well through the “eight.” In this class was a lone Ford Zephyr, driven by an American driver, and though its little tyres shrieked and screamed Campbell handled it very cleanly and smoothly. Another car that screamed to high-heaven as it swayed from lock to lock was K. N. Hutchison’s Mark VI Bentley, and it made its driver work hard at the wheel for the turning area became very small for such a lot of motor car. With the exception of a vast Delahaye saloon, the Gran Turismo class consisted entirely of Porsches, from pathetically standard ones to exciting ones that must have sailed very close to the limits of the regulations. The Frenchman Olivier was outstanding through the “eight,” as was the Belgian girl Gilberte Thirion. The sports classes provided more noise, but not necessarily any improvement on driving, and Gendebien, the Belgian, with an open 2-litre Ferrari was vicious and untidy, while O’Hara-Moore had difficulty in seeing over the scuttle of his Frazer-Nash, so low did he sit. Von Faulkenhausen drove the Targa Florio Frazer-Nash that Motor-Sport road-tested during the winter, and Tracey and Taylor were neat and swift with their Triumphs. Impressive was Clermont with a Siata 8V coupé, his acceleration being very good. Of the unlimited class of sports cars, the Jaguar that had gone so very fast at Montlhèry lost 1,000 points for losing its way between the pylons and a French-owned Austin-Healey driven by Lalisse showed clearly that these cars need either higher-geared steering or a cutaway door to allow the driver some elbow room. Guigou with a large Talbot-Lago saloon was most competent and limited space for such a large car did not bother him at all.
The next morning competitors were allowed a practice run of 1/2 kilometres in length up a winding hill out of Cannes, and in the afternoon the official timed climbs were done. Much of the form shown in the figure eight test was again apparent, the little D.K.W. whining its way up the hill in a most impressive manner. The amount of power developed by the 1,900 Alfa-Romeos was phenomenal and they all had more trouble with wheelspin out of the hairpins than most of the sports cars. In spite of theoretical handling difficulties most of the Porsches were very rapid and Olivier just won the class from Mlle. Thirion with 1 min. 17.8 sec. Naturally the sports category produced the fastest times and the Ferrari, the two Frazer-Nashes, the Le Mans model now driven by J. Gott in place of O’Hara-Moore, and the Siata 8V all got within decimal points of 1 min. 14 sec., victory going to the Siata with 1 min. 13.8 sec. The best Triumph was Tracey’s with 1 min. 18 sec., while Galea in the XK120 did an excellent 1 min. 16 sec., showing complete knowledge of his car’s handling capabilities. Remarkable were the two 1,900 Alfa-Romeo saloons of the French drivers David and Deroux, who recorded 1 min. 19 sec. and 1 min. 18 sec., respectively. Gatsonides earned himself a special prize for presence of mind when he spun his Triumph through 180 degrees on the last hairpin and, finishing up only 15 yards front the finishing line, engaged reverse and completed his climb backwards in 1 min. 22.2 sec. Once again the fastest in each class received a “0” mark and all the others lost five points per fifth of a second slower than the leader. To qualify for the comparatively large cash prizes competitors had to complete all the tests and the class had to have at least five finishers. This rule put many competitors out of the money as five of the ten classes had fewer than five starters. As a result of completing the course and having negligible opposition, in each case one other car, both Hutchison and Ringgenberg (Porsche) finished up with points, i.e., no penalties, together with Mantzel and Hopfen in the little three-cylinder D.K.W. As the Germans had beaten six other cars in their class they were acclaimed the moral victors, but as prizes and cups went only by classes and not on general category this did not affect the issue at all. But for his bungling of the figure eight, Galea, with his Jaguar, would also have finished the rally with points, instead of which he was last in his class with 1,000 points lost. Among the Porsches, Olivier and Mlle. Thirion tied with 20 points lost and the class went to Olivier as ties were decided on the times in the hill-climb. However, the Belgian girl won the Ladies’ Class by over 300 points.
As is now fashionable, protests were made throughout the rally, and the results given below are open to any change within the next three months as the F.I.A. have been asked to sort things out. Professional interest in motoring is a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. Viva le sport!
VI Coppa Toscana
As further practice for the Mille Miglia, both Lancia and Ferrari entered works cars for the National Tour of Tuscany, which took in quite a stretch of the Mille Miglia course during the circuit of 760 kilometres. Villoresi and Castellotti were in Lancias and the brothers Marzotto, Gianino and Paolon were supported by Piero Scotti. Both Lancias retired after having taken the lead at various times and Scotti came home the winner.