GREAT RACING MARQUES. IX.-LORRAINE-DIETRICH. By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
LA Societe Lorraine des amiens etallissements de Dietrich et Cie de Limeville a Argenteuil, is the full name of the manufacturer of the LorraineDietrich car, and in it is contained some fact of history. De Dietrich et Cie of Limeville in Lorraine were a wellknown engineering firm long before the era of motor cars, and when they decided to embark on the construction of them, they moved into French territory and started a factory at Argenteuil near Paris. At first, however, their cars were riot well known until that most famous of all races from Paris to Madrid which ended at Bordeaux, was run in 1903 and rendered them famous.
In those days cars of all types were entered for races, many of them quite ordinary touring cars, which had no hope of winning, and which were entered by their owners who wished to see the contest. There were several de Dietrich cars entered for this race, but all the hopes of the firm were centred on the three big cars which were to be driven by the three Englishmen, Charles Jarrot, Lorraine Barrow and George Stead. These racers had been largely designed by the French engineers, Turcat and Mery and their appearance strikes a curiously modern note. The bonnet was brought to a vertical knife-edge just behind the radiator, which consisted of an enormous gilled tube repeatedly doubled back on itself, and swelled gradually to the driver’s seat, behind which was a beautiful streamlined tail ending in another vertical knife edge. The driver sat much lower than was usual at that time, so that only his head protruded above the streamlined body.
The de Dietrichs were only completed just in time for the race, and no one therefore thought that they would do much good ; but although only one finished at Bordeaux, the others did not fall out through mechanical failure. The number of smashes in that race is famous, and the de Dietrichs did not escape. Stead, while travelling at 80 m.p.h., was cut down by another car and capsized, its driver being killed ; and Barrow hit a dog which deranged his steering, his car charged a tree, and he too was so badly injured that he died soon afterwards. In the meantime, however, Jarrot, who had started first, had made third fastest time to Bordeaux, covering the 348.13 miles in 5 hours 52 minutes, at an average speed of 59.34 m.p.h.
After this performance, the reputation of the de Dietrich was made, and the next year a team was entered for the Eliminating Race to decide on the cars to represent France in the Gordon Bennet Cup, One designed by Turcat and Wry was driven by Rongier, while the other three had Jarrot, Gabriel, who had won the ParisMadrid race, and the Baron de Forest as their drivers. Of these Rougier on the Turcat-Mery-de Dietrich finished third, with Gabriel fourth, while de Forest was put out by a broken clutch, and Jarrot by a leaky radiator. Rougier’s car was, therefore, one of the team which represented France in the race which was held over the Saalberg course near Homburg, and after a magnificent race, he finished fourth. Three de Dietrichs were again entered for the Eliminating Race in 1905, and of them two finished, with Duray
in third place. The 130 h.p. de Dietrich therefore carried the firm’s colours once more in the most important race of the year. Duray finished the first round in fourth place and after keeping well up with the leaders, finally finished sixth, averaging 42.1 m.p.h. over the difficult Auvergne circuit. In 1906 the Gordon Bennet cup was replaced by the Grand Prix, the first race being run at le Mans. Three 120 h.p. Lorraine-Dietrichs—as the car was now called— were entered for it, and had Gabriel, Rongier and Duray as their drivers. It is interesting to note that Gabriel and Duray are still racing, while Rongier appeared as recently as 1923, when he drove a Voisin in the Grand Prix. The 120 h.p. de Dietrich had a four-cylinder
gearbox. Rougier, too, dropped out of the race after a series of troubles, not the least of which was that the hot water could not be prevented from shooting out of the radiator cap into the driver’s face. Gabriel, however, kept on steadily and finally finished fourth. For the 1908 race, the fuel consumption limit was abandoned, and instead, the bore of the cylinders was limited to 155 rams. Under these conditions the Lorraine-Dietrichs were built with one of the longest strokes in the race-175 mms., their capacity therefore being 13,014 c.c., and the engines now had overhead valves set at 45°. This year Gabriel drove for Bayard-Clement, and the other two members of the de Dietrich team wee therefore joined by the Italian Minoia, who is nowadays
engine with a bore and stroke of 185 x 160 (17,2100 c.c.), a low-tension magneto, four-speed gearbox and final drive by side-chains. Their performance in the race, however, was not brilliant for some cause or another. But later on in the year Duray scored a notable win on the 120 h.p. de Dietrich. The great Belgian race of those days was the Circuit des Ardennes, and in this event in 1906, Duray came in first, averaging 66 m.p.h. for 373 miles. The 1907 Grand Prix was run at Dieppe on a limited fuel consumption basis, cars having to average about 10 m.p.g. Three Lorraine-Dietrichs were entered, but this time their engines were rather smaller, the bore and stroke being 180 x 150 mms. (15,274 c.c.), while they had the same drivers as the year before. Duray took the lead at the beginning of the race, hotly pursued by the Fiats, and then while leading comfortably he went out within two laps of the finish with a seized bearing in his
well known as a driver of Bugatti and O.M. cars. At the end of the second lap Duray and Minora appeared in fifth and sixth positions, but on the next circuit Duray dropped out of the race for good. On the fourth lap Minoia too retired, and about the same time Rongier found his clutch would not disengage at the critical moment on a corner, his de Dietrich left the road, hit a tree and was placed hors de combat.
After 1908 the Grand Prix was in abeyance for three years, but in 1911 the Automobile Club de l’Ouest organised at le Lans a race called the Grand Prix de France. That year there were fourteen competitors, one of which consisted of Duray on one of the 1906Gerand Prix de Dietrichs. At the end of six laps Duray held the lead with his five-year-old racer, and then on the sixth circuit he retired with a broken differential. In 1912 the Grand Prix was revived, and run over the famous circuit at Dieppe. After this pause of three
years, it was found that most of the old-time champions had decided to give up racing, and of them only Fiat and Lorraine-Dietrich brought teams to the starting line. There was no Limit to engine size in the race, and the de Dietrichs had the largest engine of all built on the lines of the veteran winners, with a bore and stroke of 155 x 200 mms. (15,101 c.c.). None of the de Dietrichs finished the race, and the honours of the contest went to the firms who for the last few years had been racing voiturettes. This defeat was too much for LorraineDietrich, and for many years after the 1912 their name was absent from the entry lists of races. In spite of their absence from races, however, LorraineDietrich continued to make fine cars, and in 1923 a race was inaugurated for standard cars only, which gave them a chance to prove it. This race is of course the Grand
Prix d’Endurance organised by the A.C. de l’Ouest at le Mans. After the war, Lorraine-Dietrich began to make a very fine six-cylinder sports model with a bore and stroke of 75 x 130 mms. (3446 c.c.), and in 1923 three of these were entered for the first 24-hour race. Their best position gained was eighth, by the car driven by de Courcelles and Rossignol. But the next year their performance was more impressive. Three cars were again entered, with de Courcelles and Rossignol, Bloch and Stalter and Stoffel and Brisson as their teams of drivers. They soon showed themselves among the fastest cars on the circuit, and half way through the race, the car driven by Bloch and Stalter held the lead by more than 20 miles. On the Sunday morning, however, it lost it to Duff’s Bentley, and then at about mid-day Stalter had to withdraw the car with broken valves. In spite of this, however, Steffel and Brisson’s LorraineDietrich was second in the race, with de Courcelles and Rossignol third. The last named drove together again on one of the cars entered for the 1925 race, Stalter and Brisson were together on the second car, and Bloch and St. Paul had
the third. Of these cars, the one driven by Stalter and Brisson was qualified for the final of the Triennial RudgeWhitworth. cup for its performance in 1923 and 1924; while both it and the one driven by de Courcelles and Rossignol were eligible for the final of the First Biennial cup by reason of their running the year before.
In the race it was soon seen that all the competition was going to lie between the French Lorraine-Dietrichs and the English Sunbeams and Bentleys. During the night, the third Lorraine, while being driven by St. Paul, left the road and turned upside down in a ditch. When he drove in the French Grand Prix in 1913, a Frenchman said of Mr. H. R. Pope, what with a name like that, le bon Dieu must be on his side ; whether he owed it to his name or not, however, St. Paul came off unscathed. In the meantime, however, de Courcelles and Rossignol had got the lead, and finally finished first, with the other Lorraine-Dietrich driven by Stalter and Brisson third behind the 3-litre Sunbeam. The first Loreaine-Dietrich, as well as winning the Grand Prix d’Endurance, gained second place on formula for the First Biennial RudgeWhitworth Cup, while the one driven by Stalter and Brisson was third in the classification for both this and the Triennial Cup.
After this victory one of the cars, driven by de Courcelles and Rossignol started in the Belgian 24-hour race over the Spa circuit, and finished second, completing its last full lap four minutes after the winning Chenard et Walcker.
In 1923 the Lorraine-Dietrichs had not been among the leaders in the Grand Prix d’ Endurance ; in 1924 two of them had finished second and third ; in 1925 they had been first and third ; but their greatest triumph was still to come. For the 1926 race three cars were again entered. Stalter and Brisson still drove together, Bloch now had Rossignol for his companion, and de Courcelles was accompanied by the new member of the team, Mongin. Their chief rivals were the Peugeots, the Bentleys and the 0.M.’s, but by half way through the race, the three Lorraine’s were first, second and sixth, and at the end of the 24 hours, the three Lorraine-Dietrichs came home solid in the first three places. Before the race there had been great discussions as to whether a car could average 100 kilometres (62i miles) per hour for 24 hours over the le Mans circuit ; and this amazing performance was achieved by two of the Lorraine-Dietrichs, while the third only fell short of it by .46 k.p.h. The winner driven by Bloch and Rossignol covered 1,585.99 miles in the
24 hours and averaged 66.08 m.p.h., a performance which has not since been equalled ; while the second car driven by de Courcelles and Mongin covered 11 miles less. Unfortunately there was some doubt as to whether the latter car, which was qualified for it, had won the second Biennial Rudge-Whitworth Cup, and each having been alternately declared the winner, it was finally awarded one of the 0.M.’s. Whether owing to this muddle or
some other cause, the Lorraine-Dietrichs were not entered for the race in 1927, but their performance in 1926 will long be remembered, and everyone will hope to see them return to the scene of their triumphs.