THE MONT VENTOUX HILL-CLIMB DISAPPOINTING FIELD 1N THE FAMOUS FRENCH EVENT
THE Mont Ventoux hill climb is one of the oldest events of its kind in the motor racing calendar, being beaten in point of seniority only, I should think, by the la Turbie ; and the fact that this year it was given the added interest of being the French event counting for the Mountain Championship, made it all the more disappointing that the entry list was extremely short and included none of the famous continental aces. The reason, however, is not far to seek, for by what appears to be an extraordinary piece of mismanagement, the Tatra hill-climb in Poland which also Counted for the Championship, was run on the same day. Competitors had, therefore, to choose which event they should start in on the 24th August, and in view of the fact that Mont Ventoux is not only one of the most difficult climbs in the world, but also its organisers had not got the financial resources either to subscribe towards the competitors’ expenses or to provide substantial cash prizes, it is hardly surprising that the drivers chose the easier and more remunerative Tatra event. All the same it is a great pity, as French races are not meeting with that success nowadays which one might expect, and its more thoughtful members are realising the incalculable harm which is being done to the French industry by its eclipse in the sporting field. The course of the Mont Ventoux climb starts from the village of Bedoin and rises for 131 miles with an average gradient of 9% to the summit of this outlying spur of the French Alps where is placed one of the best observatories in the country. Fastest time of the day this year was.made by Pierre Rey on a 2-litre Bugatti, who climbed in 17 minutes 38 seconds, but who failed to beat the record of 16 minutes 45 1/5 seconds set up by Lamy, also on a Bugatti in 1928. One of the best performances of the day was made by the veteran Bablot, the wizard of the Mont Ventoux, who first captured the record for the hill in 1908, improved on his own performance in 1909, and again made fastest time in 1921. This year he drove a rigidly standard 6-cylinder Fiat saloon in the 3-litre class, and succeeded in averaging over 37 m.p.h. over this difficult course. The final results were as follows :
1100 c.c.-1, Lepicard (Donnet), 19m. 27 4/5s. ; 2, Jacomin (Amilcar), 23m. 55s.
2-litres.-1, Parker (Bugatti), 18m. 57 3/5s.
3-litres.-1, Bablot (Fiat), 23m. 11 1/5s. ; 2, Champion (Bugatti), 23m. 19 2/5s.
5-litres.-1, Valabregue (Fiat), 22m. 12s.
84itres.-1, Gautruche (Graham-Paige), 23m. 10 3/5s.
750 c.c.-1, Ferreol (Rosengart), 21m. 33 4/5s. 1100 c.c.-1, Lapeyre (Amilcar), 28m. 1 2/5s. 2-litres.-1, Rey (Bugatti), 17m. 38s. (Fastest time of the day. Average speed 45.9 m.p.h.) Although the fame of the Mont Ventoux is at present somewhat under a cloud, its day will assuredly come again, and a brief outline of its history is therefore of
considerable interest. The first event of the series was run in 1902, and the fastest climb was made by Paul Chauchard on a 70 h.p. Paris-Vienna Panhard et Levassor, which had a 4-cylinder engine of 160 x 170 min, bore and stroke, and which as a result of the new weight restrictions had about the highest power-weight ratio then achieved by a motor car. Chauchard’s time was 27m. 17s., while the fastest light car was Voulatum’s 20 h.p. Clement-Bayard, which had a 4-cylinder engine of 75 x 110 mm. and which took 43m. 35s. for the climb.
In 1903 the record was broken by Dangeau on a special hill-climbing Richard-Brasier, fitted with a 50 h.p. 4-cylinder engine of 130 x 130 mm. bore and stroke, (which incidentally was by way of being a light car), and which climbed in 25m. 25s. The next year, 1904, was one of the great years for the Mont Ventoux, for the entry list included most of the great drivers of the day such as Duray, Rougier, Achille and Maurice Fournier (who drove a Wolseley Beetle), Le Blon, Baras, Hemery and Lancia. As was to be expected the record was again broken, this time by Rougier on a 100 h.p. Gordon Bennett Turcat-Mery, who clocked 21m. 12 3/5s., this time being closely approached by Hemery on a light 40 h.p. Darracq with an. engine of only 130 x 140 mm. bore and stroke, who only took 22m. 26s.
Rougier’s record was again broken in 1905 by Cagno on one of the 110 h.p. Fiats which so nearly won the Gordon Bennett race of that year, and which reduced the time to 19m. 30s., a record which was to stand until 1908. Fastest time in 1906 wzs made by Colomb on a Rochet-Schneider who, however, took 24m. 40s., and although Rangier again made fastest time in 1907,this time on a 120 h.p. Grand Prix Lorraine-Dietrich, he too was unable to beat Cagno’s record. It remained, therefore for Bablot to achieve the honours, which he did in 1908 by setting up a new record of 19m. 8 4/5s. on a 120 h.p. Grand Prix Brasier, with a 4-cylinder engine of 155 x 160 mm. bore and stroke. Not content with this performance, however, he took the same car up in 1909, and succeeded in lowering his own record to 18m. 41s.
In 1910 there came a dramatic change, for although the record was not broken, fastest time was made not by a giant racer, but by the famous Georges Boillot on a Lion Peugeot racing Voiturette who took 21m. 30 2/5s. for the climb. The onslaughts of 1911 also failed to lower Bablot’s record, fastest time being made by Deydier on a Cottin et Desgouttes, and it was not until 1912 that the old record was improved upon, Georges Boillot making another attempt and clocking 17m. 46s. with a Grand Prix Peugeot. Like Bablot, however, Boillot was not content with his own performance, and in 1913 with a Grand Prix Peugeot of that year, he improved his time to 17m. 38s. The 1913 event concluded the pre-war series, and it was not until 1921 that the famous climb was again held ; and it was fitting that the first post-war event should be won by the veteran Bablot, who although
he did not beat Boillot’s record, made the fastest time of 20m. 27 3/5s. on a Voisin. Boillot’s record was indeed destined to stand for some time, fastest time in 1922 and 1923 being made by Rene Thomas on the Delage hill-racer in 18m. 59s. and 18m. 18s. respectively. Then came the turn of Albert Divo, who in 1924 with the 12-cylinder 2-litre Grand Prix Delage made fastest time of 18m. 17 4/5s., and in 1925 with a car of the same type succeeded in beating Boillot’s record which had stood for a dozen years by clocking 17m. 23 1/5s. In 1926 the long series, hitherto only broken by the war, was again interrupted and it was not until 1927 that the next event was run off. That year Louis Chiron started a hot favourite, but he was put out by crashing half way up, and fastest time was made by Jourdan (Salmson) in 19m. 52 3/5s. Thus it was left to Lamy on a 2-litre Bugatti to set up the new record of 16m. 45 1/5s. in 1928, which remained unbeaten in 1929, when Lanciano made fastest time of 18m. 38 2/5s.,
and again this year. Let us hope, therefore, that next year a really imposing list of entrants including von Stuck, Chiron, Caracciola and Nuvolari will all make the attempt on lowering Lam.y’s remarkable record.