OUR GERMAN VISITORS
OUR GERMAN VISITORS
THOSE who have kept in close touch with the sport during October of this year have the satisfaction of knowing that they have witnessed the greatest
show ever staged in this country I am referring not to Earl’s Court, great exhibition though that will undoubtedly be, but tO an exhibition of extreme thoroughness in motor-racing, staged so magnificently by the visit of the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams to compete in Mr. Craner’s Grand Prix at Donington on October 2nd. Magnificent is the correct word ! First of all, there was the arrival of the Mercedes drivers by air from Munich ;list before 8 p.m. on that dismal, wet evening of September 27th, under the care of the great Herr Neubauer—all save Caracciola, who doesn’t trust aeroplanes and who came by boat and train. That so few people were present to meet the 7.50 p.m. tri-motor Lnft Hansa Junkers as it landed, a few minutes late, in the floodlights at Croydon, made me very sad. Charlie Martin, who had landed about half-an-hour earlier by D.H. Express, stayed with Mrs. Martin and some friends who had met him in his Aprilia Lancia, Tommy Wisdom was there, in spite of his story in The People that the drivers had arrived the day before, and I had gone out to meet several planes beforehand with John Eason-Gibson, as the Mercedes-Benz people in Park Lane could not, or would not, tell us when the team was due. I suppose one cannot hope that the British public will Show the enthusiasm or curiosity for racing aces that they do for long-distance aviators or sex-appealing film-stars, but I do think the Mercedes racing team should have had a warmer reception on their first arrival at these shores. Apart from those just mentioned only the four drivers Of the Type 230 Mercedes-Benz cars that parked outside the Aerodrome building to convey the drivers to town—cars specially imported with the racing cars for this purpose, mark you—and two representatives from the _ London branch of the company, were thereto greet our visitors, and as they had not thought to obtain
tarmac-passes we alone could go forward to the machine as it taxied in. I do think that our Royal Automobile Club or the British Racing Drivers’ Club might have arranged some sort of official hand. shake and an escort to town—especially remembering how well our own drivers, of a far humbler capacity, are treated when they go abroad to race. The only recognition the drivers got, apart from the welcome of their friends, was the remark made, with a twinkle in his eye, of a fellow passenger, who said to the small crowd awaiting them in the Customs Hall
” Are you here to meet me? “—his way of showing his appreciation of the team’s arrival. Also, the ‘,lift Hansa pilots shook hands and had a brief talk with eaeh driver as he left the Hall. Seaman was the last driver, I think, to step from the aeroplane. He has never looked fitter, and anyone meeting him would say, in all sincerity, what a charming young man he is. His great achievement, By OUR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE that of being the only British driver to drive officially for a. great Continental racing-house, has left him entirely un spoiled. Dick has a cheery smile and acknowledgment for everyone he knows or remembers and there is not a trace of affectation in anything he says or does. He is the very finest ambassador that Britain could wish to have in all the many countries that he visits and where he is very much in the public eye. Lang, too,
looked extremely well and cheery, and Von Brauchitseh was in extremely good spirits, even to performing a little dance out in the rain before taking his place in one of the waiting cars. Herr Neubauer joked with the Customs officers, called to his drivers as to children to bring their luggage forward—he calls them by their surnames, very clearly—and afterwards, coatless and ignoring the heavy rain, did not enter his cabriolet until he had seen every driver safely and comfortably accommodated with Ins baggage in the waiting cars. After which these four U nobtrusive black and chrcnnium Mercedes-Benz, three identical saloons and cabriolet, all bearing German registration marks and plaques, were driven through Streatham and over Clapham C01111110n to the Dorchester, spread out at first, later in a most imposing line-ahead formation. No cheering crowds lined the route, our police did not urge the drivers to greater efforts to please masses of hysterical enthusiasts, indeed only when the four cars halted together at traffic lights did passers-by regard them with any interest, and then. only on account of. their dignified similarity and foreign numbers. If they gave them any further thought at all they probably associated them with that other great exhibition—at Earl’s Court. Vet one bank-holiday mass lined this same route all day to catch a glimpse of Amy Johnson . . . It should be recorded that the cars were driven well within the legal limit, the only incident being when one driver— perhaps the Englishman who was sent to show the way—passed on the wrong .side of an island along Purley Way, causing a coach-driver who was emerging from a side street to stall his big engine in horror. Or maybe it was one of the German chauffeurs not yet accustomed to two-track by-passes and tram-lined city streets after his native Autobahn. So the Mercedes-Benz team had arrived, and their very arrival was impressive, as reflecting how seriously they regard
motor-racing. They did not seek any publicity from this, as is obvious from the secrecy surrounding the time of landing and the fact that only one Pressman and one motor-scribe were present, and they, I think, chiefly from personal enthusiasm. That only added to the impression created and made one regret all the more the lack of official reception. Our Opel alone followed them as far as its destination. Yet Charlie Martin, who has been described as “rugged,” was excited as any schoolboy over the whole show, declaring it as the ” greatest thing that happened shire the Flood.” If news had been properly circulated as to the time of arrival British enthusiasts themselves would doubtless have staged a fitting welcome. On the following day, at about 1 p.m., a dozen or more Auto-Union engineers and the assistant engineer arrived at Croydon in another Junkers. They were
met by Herr Hermann of Auto-Union Sales, Ltd., one Fleet Street cameraman who didn’t know whether they were drivers or directors let alone to which team they belonged, the Evening News motor-man and our humble selves. Confusion was rife in the Customs, but at last their luggage was piled into a
Schenkers Ltd. lorry and they waited for the arrival of the drivers, who were due at 2.20 p.m., but whose Sebena Junkers did not touch down until 2.55.
On board were Hasse and Muller, with Dr. Feuereissen, Rosemeyer having decided
to catch a later connection. Hasse, looking for all the world like a student, with neat overcoat, soft hat, hom-rim spectacles and stubby black shoes, told us Varzi would not be coming. And we had heard the previous even
ing from Martin of Stuck’s removal from the team. In the Customs Hall Hasse had his hat bashed in and everyone cheered up considerably. When Hasse, Muller and the Assistant Engineer posed for our camera they demanded three marks payinent and were vastly amused when told we had no English money. At last they all left in a Leyland Coach of Imperial Airways, save for the surplus who went in Hermann’s car. The other passengers had to be hastily transferred to an antiquated Daimler and probably blessed the Auto-Union invasion. Then, fifteen minutes late, the Contin ental boat-train steamed into Victoria, at 4.35, bringing Rudolf Caracciola and his charming lady. They were met once more by ourselves, by the MercedesBenz representatives, a Press cameraman, and by A. C. Hess as sole representative of the B.R.D.C. Caracciola, in heavy coat and soft hat, walked lame and seemed tired, though he posed several times for
the cameras. He brought so much luggage that it overflowed from his Mercedes-Benz big luggage container onto the back seat—the car was one of the leftdrive saloons with German registration-. letters, and a remarkably likable car. Roserneyer arrived in a Dutch
Air Lines Douglas at Croydon at 9.50 p.m., alone, in rather a dour mood, we thought, and a truly wonderful hat. He was met by Herr Hermann and conveyed to London in a closed D.K.W., to leave St. Pancras at 8.30 a.in on the Wednesday for the course—by train. Mercedes were certainly the more thorough in their travel organisation.
it is indeed difficult to write of “the training” in the space at my disposal. because it leaves one breathless and more
than a little shaken. The ot.tstanding impression after arriving at Donington Park in the Opel at 8.30 a.m. and watching the whole of Thursday’s activities is one of profound respect for the thorough way in which Germany goes about this series business of motor-racing–and that, in turn, reflects very favourably on the entire outlook of the Germany of to-day. We had heard already of the extremely careful preparation of the cars, of the intensive training undertaken when a new circuit is visited, and had gained some conception of what motor-racing means to Germany when those five big Mercedes-Benz lorries, the big Diesel workshop lorry and six private cars were
unshipped in this country. But it is only after seeing Mercedes and AutoUnion preparing that one grasps the extent of their organisation—and, having seen, one is left with an admiration for their methods that defies expression. It is not only the small details, such as the boxes of sparking plugs for each engine, the Mercedes method of testing for loss of compression with a gauge applied in turn to each cylinder while an electric motor turns the engine, the batteries of watches used to time practice laps, or the use of a flag to show a driver his position at the pit-counter every time he
is called in. Above and beyond such details is the wonderful manner in which each team goes about its work. There appears to be an expert for each section of the organisation, who has authority over the work in his care.
All the German mechanics work with calm efficiency. They are a remarkably contented lot of men, who never “fool about,” and seem to have only one desire —to serve the team in their particular capacity, as fully as possible. One only had to notice how one man would lend a hand to another without being asked to help, to see the look of child-like happiness on the face of those who were pushed off in one of the racing cars on a trial lap—a responsibility entrusted, it seemed, to any Mercedes mechanic— and the splendid relationship existing between Neubauer and each of these blue-overalled engineers, to have the profoundest admiration for the person who found these men, for the person who organises their work and for the engineers themselves. If you were at Donington for the training and saw these things, you will know why Germany wins Grand Prix races and is supreme in this sphere of activity. It was the same with Auto-Union. ‘ The cars were always brought from the garages and parked before the pits in formation, reversed into line, tails to the counter, at an angle. The cars were spotlessly clean and had their own. numbers neatly painted on. An astounding supply of tyres was stacked in one garage ; a wheel-balancing machine was erected outside. A mechanic would instinctively sweep the floor of a garage without instructions from his superiors. Instructions were taken with a smile ; mistakes corrected without any show of ill-feeling. I could write a lot more about this German organisation that wins motor-races. The very first thing that we saw on arrival was Herr Neubauer and his be-spectacled chief engineer seated at a table in the yard of the barn at Coppice Farm where Mercedes were stabled, taking careful written notes of the proceedings. There was a typewriter in use at the pits, telephone calls came through from Berlin, both teams retained sump-drainings, presumably for analysis on their return, nearly every mechanic carried his own notebook and used it frequently, and at
the end of the day Neubauer lectured a group of mechanics, who departed laughing happily—just a few glimpses of this organisation that makes such a deep impression on a British onlooker. I only wish I could feel that it would start a seed of enthusiasm germinating amongst the big motor-magnates in this country. Alas, it may be that the task will now seem too great for us ever to enter into it, even given the cars. When one turns to the practice lappery itself, again it is very difficult adequately to express one’s enthusiasm. Those of us. who saw the German cars in action for the first time, sceptical of the talk of those who were there on the Wednesday, were soon almost raving with enthusiasm and astonishment. Over the brow of the hill up from Melbourne Corner the Mercs. and Auto-Unions would leap feet into the air, land snakily and pass the pits much faster than cars ever passed the Donington pits before. To see them Continued on page 442
snake down Hollywood Hill and leap the bump at Hairpin Bend, taking the whole road to corner and somehow fight straight before shooting the narrow stone bridge at Starkey’s, was—well, a sight worth many, many times the 1/3 that Mr. Craner charged the public to see it. Truly, it was magnificent. The German mechanics tried hard not to smile when the first British driver came past and someone facetiously suggested that Mr. Craner should have constructed cyclepaths for the British competitors.
It was noticeable that even after a few laps at speed the drivers were perspiring freely, and appeared tired, drawing coats around their shoulders while adjustments were made. This was something new to us, and our pride only slightly recovered when three Rolls-Royce-engined R.A.F. fighters power-dived Over the pits ! Incidentally, the R.A.F. petrol-bill must have been very heavy that week, judging by ‘planes which spectated. Verily, these German aces take their medicine, lifting the throttle-foot only occasionally, and then momentarily, when the cars look quite out of control. Watching an AutoUnion sliding from a bend, rear wheels dithering wildly, one regular spectator at English fixtures was heard to remark to his companion : “I’ve a new hobby now—watching motor-racing.”
Here I would just like to say how proud we should all be of Richard Seaman. So many moneyed young sportsmen have bought a racing-car, partly to take up motor-racing and partly to have a lot of fun attending races in various parts of the world, when they are frequently outclassed, and so often the fun they have detracts from their giving of their best. Seaman might so easily have followed in their footsteps. Instead, he took his well-deserved place in the Mercedes-Benz team, submitting himself to the rigid discipline -and long periods away from home that such a move necessitated-proof positive of his overpowering love of motor-racing. In addition to which his charming personality makes one glad that it is this particular young Englishman who carries our racing colours abroad. The day was full of high spots. Ex citement, when Muller’s Auto-Union stripped its off rear tread after a few fast laps, and repeated the process in the afternoon. Amusement, when Neubauer argued that he timed cars so much better than Frau Caracciola and was confirmed by King-Farlow’s official times. Interest, when Neubauer had a long, earnest talk with Von Brauehitsch, whose car leapt higher than anyone’s at the bumps by the pits and who is an
inveterate dicer.” Though Seaman told us this jumping was due to which uneven surface. was struck and did not imply a much faster car.
At lunch time the Mercedes drivers sat down together in the historic hall, Seaman beside Neubauer. Caracciola with Frau Caracciola, Lang with his wife. Only soft drinks were partaken of, Brauchitsch preferring glasses of milk, though the drivers were allowed to smoke. It was an orderly party and Seaman derived much amusement from assisting Neubauer to settle the bill. Auto-Union had blanked off their radiators considerably, I noticed, and
Mercedes not only used thermometers to estimate required tyre-pressurs, but also a gauge to discover to what extent treads were wearing down. A group of mechanics once lifted Seaman’s car onto its jack. Brakes could be seen to smoke visibly, those on Seaman’s car needing
adjustment. The Mercs. had 5.50″ x 19″ Continental tyres on the front wheels, and 7″ x 19″ on the rear. Down the straight both cars were timed at about 169 m.p.h. on the Wednesday. But we humans get used to anything in time and on Thursday morning the flag-marshal at Red Gate had recovered sufficiently to desert his. post to take photos. For the training Muller wore bright blue overalls and helmet, Rosetneyer, changing in full view of onlookers at the pits, a shirt and pullover, but no jacket, Lang white overalls and helmet, Hasse likewise and Seaman his customary blue kit. Caracciola wore dark-lensed goggles. A complete spare engine unit was noticed in the Auto-Union depot. Even before the race was run we had oten a great exhibition of how motorraces are won and had formed a very high opinion of modern Germany. And that Mercedes publicity is run on quite as thorough lines as their racing was evident to those who attended the tea-party given at the Dorchester on the eve of the race. Let us hope—futile hope that it may be—that one day Britain may, by grace of its Government or one of its big manufacturers, send out to compete on level terms with the Mercs. and AutoUnions a team of racing-cars Conducted with equal thoroughness and tended * with equal enthusiasm. Mr. Craner, who staged for us this great exhibition, deserves the highest possible commenda tion
On the Thursday beforehand he spoke in very unreasonable terms of the Press in general and the Motor Press in particular, but we hope this can be put down to excitement at what he had brought about and that next season, with Press co-operation, he may stage another International Grand Prix at Donington, under the new formula, which will be even better attended than was the race On that historic date—October 2nd. 1937.