The 1927 British Grand Prix
THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX. A Triumph for Delage.
CONTRARY to almost universal expectation the much vaunted R.A.C. Grand Prix went off in the manner of the proverbial wet squib—in more senses then one.
• Preliminary disappointments included the early scratching of the new 12-cylinder Fiats and the American Duesenberg, while at the last minute a defective oil pump eliminated Harvey’s Alvis—a car on which many British were relying, to uphold the national prestige. The reason given for the Fiat failure was that the works had been too occupied in preparing the Schneider Cup seaplanes to spend any time on the motor cars, while the Duesenberg gearbox was still suffering from the complaint developed at Monza.
These unfortunate occurrences at once robbed the race of much anticipated interest and a day of gloomy drizzling rain served to still further damp the ardour of ” race-fans.”
At 12 o’clock sharply, the eleven competing cars, which had previously been lined up at the beginning of the railway straight, were dispatched on their 325 mile journey. The actual start was difficult to see from the paddock, but at the end of lap one no little interest was aroused when Emilio Materassi brought his Bugatti round in the lead, being followed by Bourlier’s Delage and Campbell’s Bugatti. However it was not expected that this order was to be maintained, as the Delage team were known to be considerably faster than their rivals ; it was not surprising therefore when the three low built French cars appeared in the lead, Divo, borrowed from Talbots being followed by Bourlier and Benoist. A mild thrill occurred quite early when Purdy, driving the Thomas Special, executed the most lurid skid of the race. Unfortunately this car, which might have put up a really good show suffered severe trouble through oiled plugs—it belched smoke continuously and stopped three times in the first nine laps for new plugs, and then retired with transmission trouble. This was particularly disappointing in view of the fine performance of this car in recent straight-away races at Brooldands. The other Thomas Special, driven by W. B. Scott was also withdrawn at about the same time, the driver complaining of insufficient speed. His car was unsupercharged. Thus British hopes were completely dashed before even
the leaders had been announced for the first ten laps. The order for the first 30 laps—approximately quarter distance—remained fairly constant, the first six at 30 laps being :— 1 Diva (Delage) 4 Count Conelli (Bugatti) 2 Bourlier (Delage) 5 Chiron (Bugatti) 3 Benoist (Delage) 6 Campbell (Bugatti)
Diva had averaged 86.08 m.p.h.
Prince John Ghica was driving very well but his car seemed to be lacking in maximum speed and after 28 laps he was forced to retire with a faulty induction pipe washer. After a similar number of laps Materassi who was perhaps the most dashing driver in the race was delayed by a leaky radiator and subsequently had to stop frequently to replenish his water supply. After 44 laps
Diva stopped to fill up with petrol and oil, thus dropping to third place so that at half distance the leaders were : 1 Bourlier (Delage) 4 Conelli (Bugatti) 2 Benoist (Delage) 5 Chiron (Bugatti) 3 Diva (Delage) 6 Campbell (Bugatti)
The leaders’ average speed had now risen to 87.05 m.p.h., while it was reported that the Delages were covering the flying kilometre at about 102 m.p.h. and the Bugattis at 90-95 m.p.h. These figures, however, do not represent the maximum speeds of which the cars were capable as the timed section was entered comparatively slowly.
Depot Stops. Just after half distance most drivers stopped for replenishments, Bourlier shed his mackintosh at 69 laps, thus givinac’ the lead to the Delage ” Ace ” Benoist, but still keeping ahead of Diva. The float needle on Con.elli’s Bugatti stuck, causing the car to
run out of petrol on the 65th lap. The unfortunate count, who was running 4th, pushed the car two-thirds of a lap ; it was then refuelled and Williams, the reserve driver, continued.
Chiron refilled at 63 laps but as a result of Conelli’s trouble moved up a place, as did Malcolm Campbell. Eyston had approximately 8 stops for plugs in the first half of the race, after which S. C. H. Davis relieved
him at the wheel and seemed to continue with less trouble than Eyston, though he stalled his engine for a few moments at the first sandbank turn on his first lap.
Benoist refuelled, changed tyres and adjusted brakes after 72 laps, and in so doing was passed by Diva and Bourlier once more. The race continued monotonously, without any thrills, if we except Materassi’s rather violent braking for the first bend with locked front wheels and a very occasional slight error of judgment on the part of one or another driver. Diva stopped to examine his tyres at 89 laps but at three quarter distance the order was :—
1 Divo (Delage) 4 Chiron (Bugatti) 2 Bourlier (Delage) 5 Campbell (Bugatti) 3 Benoist (Delage) 6 Materassi (Bugatti)
The leader’s speed was 851 m.p.h. As previously mentioned the cars of Materassi, Williams And Davis had all been delayed earlier in the race, but were now being driven in very fine style in the hopes of retrieving lost ground. That their hopes were vain was due entirely to the superb reliability of the Delage team, none of whom suffered any involuntary stops throughout, but the three Bugatti men were able to pull up a place when Campbell’s car of the same make began to require more than the usual number of plugs. Campbell finally disappeared on his 98th lap, and Davis was
unfortunately delayed by a temporary engine seizure at about the same time though he was still many laps behind. At 120 laps, with 5 laps to go the order was : 1 Benoist (Delage) 4 Chiron (Bugatti) 2 Bourlier (Delage) 5 Materassi (Bugatti) 3 Divo (Delage)
Benoist, evidently according to plan had now taken the lead and very soon finished first at an average speed of 85.59 m.p.h. for 325 miles in drizzling rain, the other two Delages finishing just behind. The first four to finish were therefore :
Z R. Benoist (Delage).
2 E. Bourlier (Delage).
3 A. Divo (Delage).
4 L. Chiron (Bugatti).
E. Materassi, the car driven by Count Conelli and Williams and that driven by G. E. T. Eyston. and S. C. H.
Davis, all Bugattis were still running in the order named but were flagged to stop after the first four had finished.
Benoist thus won his fourth big race this season, a remarkable tribute to his own skill as a driver and to the technical ability of the Delage racing staff.
GRAND PRIX NOTES. to
At about one quarter distance it was remarkable to notice that for lap after lap the three Delages came round in a group, while separated from them by about half a lap a covey of five Bugattis were lapping in close formation.
Divo on thp Delage was probably the neatest and fastest comerist in the race, though Materassi and Conelli in a more spectacular style were very fast. Materassi appeared to stop his engine accidentally several times when negotiating the paddock turn while Eyston overshot once the mark and had to reverse, at this spot. Benoist nearly missed the turn, sliding up to it sideways with locked rear wheels towards the end of the race.