Some of the most intensive racing ever as a prelude to war
[Continued from September issue. The 1935 Season]
THE 1935 season opened with a bereavement for Mercédès-Benz, when Dr. Hans Nibel died of apoplexy at Stuttgart at the age of fifty-four. He had been with the house of Benz since 1904 and the design of the Mercédès-Benz racing-cars was now announced as his work. With the confirmation of Caracciola’s Class C records came information as to the exact size of the Mercédès Benz racing engines, this car being of 81.77 mm. x 94 mm. (3,946 c.c.), while the car which took the kilo and mile records at Gyon was of 82 mm. x 94.5 mm. (3,992 c.c.). The former was stated to be the normal G.P. car. This led to a rumour that Dr. Porsche was cleverly concealing the size of the Auto-Union engine by only claiming world’s records, for which the car does not have to be stripped and measured, but this was somewhat offset when the Auto-Union later used for records at Lucca was given as having a V16 engine of 4,953 c.c. Another rumour that has not been fulfilled right up to the present time was that coupe tops were to be fitted to the cockpits of the German cars for road-circuit racing. Yet other rumours spoke of steam-cooling on the Auto-Unions, based on complaints about hot cockpits said to have been made by some of the drivers. What apparently was true was the device registering peak-revs, attained by the Auto-Union engines, in an aperture on the side of the car, Dr. Porsche having the one and only key! The political significance of racing was emphasised early in 1935 when Mussolini, annoyed that Varzi was still with Auto-Union and Fagioli with Mercédès-Benz, ordered Nuvolari to drop the plans he had as an independent and sign up with the Scuderia Ferrari to drive an Alfa-Romeo.
Auto-Union had an onslaught on some of the Mercédès-Benz records early in the year. Stuck cut short his winter-sporting at Arosa and went to Gyon with Varzi. The road was covered with snow and Hans thought it hardly long enough for the Auto-Union to reach its fullest speed, so, after a terrific pheasant-shoot in Czechoslovakia, they took the train to Milan. Walb and Stuck decided on the Florence-Viareggio autobahn after a careful investigation, Stuck deciding that the Brescia-Bergamo road had too many tiny undulation at side turnings and a surface unsuited to his 1 mm. tyre treads. The authorities concerned were bitterly disappointed—a nice reflection on the Continental attitude towards racing! Stuck, by the way, had a remarkable escape when his Horch left the road and rolled down a steep embankment on the way to Gyon. He took the Auto-Union which had completely faired-in rear wheels, cowling behind the front wheels, a covered cockpit and an almost completely blanked-off radiator—out in a strong side wind, over a 7 kilo stretch at Altopascio. The well-cowled nose of the body alone was said to result in a speed increase of over 3 m.p.h. Thus Auto-Union beat Mercédès-Benz in respect of the Class C mile record by 2.233 m.p.h. The mile was covered at 318.331k.p.h. against Caracciola’s 316.678 k.p.h. The kilo record was then attacked but plug trouble set in, although one run had been done at 326.975 k.p.h. Another attempt was then made on the flying start mile record and the figure set at the astounding speed of 199.018 m.p.h. Further attempts on the kilo record were spoilt first by trouble with the timing apparatus and then by fuel-feed maladies.
At the Berlin Show the record-breaking Mercédès-Benz Rennlimousin was exhibited on a raised dais. As racing drew nearer, Herr Neubauer, Caracciola, Kohlrauch, Lang and Geier arrived with two cars from Stuttgart and put in several days practising at Monza, Caracciola very fit after winter sporting at St. Moritz with Hans Bernet and film-star Luis Trenker. The 1935 Mercédès-Benz were better streamlined and hand-timing credited them with a lap speed at Monza 2 secs. better than that of the Auto-Unions. Meanwhile Auto-Union spoke of testing at Montlhery, and Varzi had his first drive at Avus, attended by Willie Walb, when he handled both the record car and the open racing-car, with Chiron and Leiningen also present, braking and road-holding experiments being held. Stuck was on holiday at Cannes where his Horch, entered as an Auto-Union, won its class in the Concours d’elegance.
The first photograph of an Auto-Union chassis had reached England, and was reproduced in MOTOR SPORT. In Germany the scope of the O.N.S., the body controlling motoring sport under Korpsführer Hühnlein, was dealt with in a book bearing the high-sounding title of “Der Kraftfahrsport im neuen Deutschland,” published in Berlin for the equivalent of 4/8. Meantime, at Pau, where the Germans did not run, Nuvolari won at 52.17 m.p.h. with an Alfa-Romeo.
The season really commenced at Monaco, with the intense round-the-town race. Again Auto-Union considered their cars too long for the corners, but Mercédès entered Fagioli, Caracciola and Brauchitsch. A reserve car was handled during the training by Geier and Lang. In the first day’s practice Nuvolari did 2 mins. 2 secs. and Brauchitsch tied with Dreyfus on his first attempt with 2 mins.3 secs. On the second day Fagioli equalled the lap record of 1 min. 59 secs., and on a truly hectic run Brauchitsch set a new record of 1 min. 57 sees. On the last day Fagioli did 1 min. 57.3 secs. and Caracciola set a new record of 1 min. 56.6 secs. on a quite steady run. Cat-calls greeted the German cars as they came to the start. Incidentally, a special wireless station down the course broadcast the race to Germany. As the flag fell Fagioli and Caracciola shot off and after a lap the two Mercédès were already pulling away from the Alfa-Romeos. After two laps Brauchitsch retired with a stripped gear wheel. Fagioli’s standing lap occupied only 2 mins. 2.2 secs., and his initial ten laps close on 10 mins. His sixth lap was done at 1 min. 58.6 secs., equal to 60.08 m.p.h. By 30 laps he led Caracciola by 24 secs. Fagioli and Caracciola eased up, likewise Etancelin, whose Maserati was third. Now Etancelin was signalled to hurry, and after an immense drive he closed with Caracciola and passed him on the inside of the Gas Works hairpin on the 49th lap. However, “Caratsch” opened up again, and snaking up the Avenue on lap 56 he again led, only to show definite signs of overheating on lap 60 and to retire the Mercédès with a broken valve on lap 61. The Maserati, too, suffered in the duel, dropping back to fourth place. With a clear minute over Dreyfus’s Alfa Fagioli refuelled on lap 60 in 35 secs. He ran on to win by 32 secs. at 58.17 m.p.h., after a drive lasting 3 hrs. 23 mins. 49 secs., which beat by over 1 m.p.h. the race record set by Varzi’s 2.3 Bugatti in 1933. Dreyfus was second and Brivio third, both on Alfa-Romeos, of 3.2 and 2.9 litres respectively, compared to the Mercédès-Benz’s 4 litres.
So to Carthage for the G.P. of Tunis. A strong wind made the course difficult for Formula cars, especially as a chicane was removed so that the cars went past the stands at maximum speed. Varzi drove the Auto-Union with which Stuck had taken world’s records at Avus. He got the lead at the start, and Nuvolari retiring with lubrication trouble, the lone German car was in a very strong position. Wimille’s works 3.3 Bugatti was second but could make no impression on the Auto-Union, and Etancelin, in third place with the Maserati, was hampered by losing top gear after 15 laps. H.R.H. The Bey of Tunis arrived in the grandstand at half-distance. Varzi went on to win by 3 mins. 49.6 secs., in 3 hrs. 5 mins. 40.2 secs. at 101.75 m.p.h, making fastest lap on lap two in 4 mins. 28.4 secs., or 105 m.p.h. Wimille was second, Etancelin third.
Tripoli was the next round, over that amazing road course which is the fastest in the world. Varzi and Stuck took the Auto-Unions, Caracciola, Fagioli and Brauchitsch the Mercédès-Benz, and the sensational new twin-motored Alfa-Romeos—Ferrari’s reply to Germany— were driven by Chiron and Nuvolari, with Dreyfus, Brivio, Pintacuda and Tadini on more normal Alfas. Practice saw Stuck make fastest time on both days. Twenty thousand persons packed the tiers of the concrete grandstand, and M. Marcel Peyrouton, Governor-General of Tunis, arrived in a Panhard, greeted by the “Marseillaise,” and the late Marshal Balbo dropped the flag. Fagioli got a clear lead in the getaway, but it was Caracciola who led him after the first lap, Nuvolari third. Nuvolari passed Fagioli on lap two and went after the leading Mercédès, which, however, speeded up in response, and the 6.4-litre Alfa needed new tyres on the next lap. On lap five Caracciola stopped for tyres and Varzi, who had come up steadily, now took the lead from Fagioli. The Mercédès had experienced valve trouble in practice and Brauchitsch retired early. Nuvolari needed more tyres by lap seven, and Caracciola was in for the same reason on lap eight. Stuck was second after 10 laps, 2 secs. behind Varzi. Stuck stopped for tyres on lap 11, Varzi on lap 12, but Fagioli had not yet come in. Fagioli stopped, however, a little later, Varzi had his second change, and Stuck had a narrow escape when the Auto-Union lit-up out in the country, the damage being extensive. When Fagioli, now second, had his second tyre stop, Caracciola took this position, 1 min. 22 secs. behind Varzi. Nuvolari was seriously hampered by tyre stops, but, given the “all-out” signal at the end, he fairly swept past Fagioli and Caracciola and got right on Varzi’s tail, although “Caratsch” was himself closing nicely with the lading Auto-Union. Excitement was intense but Varzi stayed ahead and a lap later, the bimotore Alfa again stopped for tyres. Came drama on lap 35, for Varzi had a tyre go as he passed the Stands, and he had to crawl round eight miles to the pits, what time the wheel was buckled and the tortured rubber very hot. Mechanics fought the jammed wheel, and, as the new wheel went home, came the siren-scream of Caracciola’s Mercédès. Varzi went after it in an icy fury and by lap 39 was a mere 2 secs. behind. Alas, another tyre went and instead of an intense finish, Caracciola won by 67 secs., at 122.03 m.p.h. He broke the lap record on lap 38, at 137.6 m.p.h. Fagioli was third, Nuvolari fourth. Signor Gaetano Giacomini, a tax official from Rome, drew Caracciola in the famous sweepstake and won 6,000,000,000 liras, A great race!
The next sensation was the capture by Ferrari of the Auto-Union and some of the Mercédès-Benz records. Nuvolari took out the bimotore Alfa-Romeo, now equipped with Dunlop covers, on the Florence-Lucca Autostrada and just beat the Class C flying start mile and kilo records. He was 2.385 m.p.h. faster than the Mercédès and 1.776 m.p.h. faster than the Auto-Union on his first attempt, and then went out the next day and finally set the kilo figure to 200.803 m.p.h. The mile figure was at 200.789 m.p.h.
For the Avus race Auto-Union and Mercédès-Benz both entered teams of four, opposed by Nuvolari and Chiron with the now more matured bimotore Alfa-Romeos, Dreyfus’s 3.2 monoposto Alfa, Etancelin’s 3.7 six-cylinder Maserati and various independents. In practice Stuck did a staggering standing lap in 4 mins. 37 secs. (156 m.p.h.) which beat everyone else’s flying laps! The Auto-Union held 190 m.p.h. down the straight. The Mercs. did 149 m.p.h. for the lap, the Alfas only 125. On the last day Stuck set a new Avus lap record of 162 m.p.h. Leiningen and a new-comer, Rosemeyer, were handling closed-cockpit record cars in the race, which caused some comment until Dr. Porsche told the Press that new engines of greater output were now used in Stuck’s and Varzi’s open cars. Ten thousand people watched the practice and 150,000 came for the race. As the flag fell for heat 1, Stuck got clean away from Fagioli and Nuvolari. The Alfa stopped for tyres on lap two, and it was said always to throw treads at over 175 or 180 m.p.h. Rosemeyer retired and Stuck speeded up and on lap three set a new lap record of 162 m.p.h., 22 m.p.h. faster than Momberger’s old figure. Stuck won at 155 m.p.h. from Fagioli and Dreyfus. In the second heat Varzi got an immediate lead, but when he and Caracciola came in together for tyres, Brauchitsch led. Leiningen had passed both Mercédès and blown his Auto-Union up in doing so. Brauchitsch now stopped for tyres, and Caracciola, first off after the pit stop, won at 148 m.p.h. from Varzi and Brauchitsch. Huhnlein started the cars in the Final. Stuck led lap one from Varzi, who had passed Caracciola and Fagioli. Fagioli got past Varzi after a struggle, and caught Stuck on the North curve, when, although he was running easily to save his tyres, Stuck had an off rear tyre go, which took 40 secs. to change. Varzi, Caracciola, and Brauchitsch all stopped for tyres and Geier’s Mercédès-Benz retired. At half distance Varzi was only 12 secs. behind Fagioli and his great effort necessitated a third change of tyres, within 125 miles. Fagioli finished first in 49 mins. 13.2 secs., at 148.2 m.p.h., his covers through to the canvas. 1 min. 35.2 secs. later, Chiron’s Alfa-Romeo crossed the line after a beautifully smooth run, and Varzi was third with a tyre again almost through. Caracciola retired. Fagioli used the same tyres he had for the heat and he recorded the fastest speed over the timed kilo of 190 m.p.h. His victory was certainly earned.
Negotiations were started to persuade Fagioli to run at Biella, but Mercédès refused on the grounds that the French G.P. was too close. Varzi actually drove a Maserati, but Nuvolari won.
Along to Nurburg for the Eifelrennen! In spite of poor weather, tens of thousands camped round the circuit and 300,000 are estimated to have seen the German victory. In practice Brauchitsch was fastest, and Varzi was too ill to drive for Auto-Union. Brauchitsch made an immense start and led lap one by 22 secs. from Caracciola. Stuck got third place from Varzi on lap two and Brauchitsch gained another 2 secs. Poor Varzi came in for plugs and was obviously ill, suffering appendix trouble, but he wouldn’t give over to Leiningen. Stuck later came in for plugs and Mercédès held the first three places, Neubauer signing to Brauchitsch to ease up. By lap four he led by I min. 6 secs. Varzi again stopped for plugs, likewise Stuck, alternate sunshine and rain playing havoc with carburation. Fagioli now had the same bother, and refuelled as Rosemeyer was signalled to speed up, after much discussion at the A. U. pit, and he soon passed Chiron. He soon closed with Caracciola–feeling, doubtless, that his chance had come! A stone smashed his screen, another broke his goggles, he lost his helmet, and then two cylinders cut out. Rather than stop, Rosemeyer held Caracciola on fourteen cylinders, what time Stuck needed more plugs and Leiningen took over from Varzi, instructed to go flat out. Caracciola was closing with Brauchitsch and Rosemeyer was less than a second behind him. Then Brauchitsch over-revved in passing an Alfa-Romeo and retired and at the critical moment Rosemeyer passed Caracciola! Neubauer gave Caracciola the all-out signal, but by the last lap the Auto-Union was still 7 secs. ahead. Then, a bare kilo or so from the line, Caracciola got past, and Mercédès-Benz won by a mere 1.9 secs., in 2 hrs. 8 mins. 2.3 secs., at 73.0 m.p.h. Chiron was third, Fagioli fourth, Lang fifth, and Pietsch (Auto-Union) sixth. Rosemeyer made the fastest lap in 11 mins. 5 secs., at over 79 m.p.h., and his Skill as a car-driver was loudly acclaimed.
The French G.P. was over 40 laps of the Montlhery road course. Mercédès practised a fortnight beforehand and Caracciola equalled his best lap speed of the previous year, when no obstacles were used. Auto-Union were bothered by plug trouble, due to unsuitable fuel, hot weather and an excess of oil in one bank of cylinders. Onlookers waited over an hour by the weighbridge just to see the Mercédès. All three were a kilogramme inside the limit. The Auto-Unions of Stuck and Varzi now had 5.6-litre engines. These weighed 746 k.g. and. Rosemeyer’s 5-litre, 748 k.g. The Alfas were lightest, at 733 k.g. The “3.8” Bugatti was weighed at midnight, on arrival. The Mercs. were still 3.9 litres, but said to have a higher compression ratio, and to give 350-370 b.h.p. The Auto-Unions were better streamlined, and had transverse leaf rear suspension in place of parallel torsion bars. Nuvolari and Chiron with 3.5 Alfas and Zhender and Sommer with 3.8 Maseratis and Benoist’s Bugatti opposed the Germans. The big-engined Auto-Unions were some trouble to start. Stuck led away, but it was Nuvolari who was in front after a lap had run. Varzi was third, Caracciola fourth, but Varzi’s car misfired, stopped for plugs, and left, still misfiring. Caracciola was now second, all out in pursuit of the leading Alfa-Romeo. Nuvolari got through the chicanes without seeming to slow, much faster than anyone else, and Chiron was now third, Fagioli fourth. Varzi was in again, the sixteen plugs taking three mechanics over 3 mins. to change. By lap five Caracciola led, but the maestro was only three lengths behind, and Chiron was still third. Next lap Caracciola set a lap record of 84.59 m.p.h., but Nuvolari was only a bare length away next time round. He took Biscornes almost beside the Mercédès-Benz and actually got ahead thereafter, doing a new record lap at 85.0 m.p.h. Stuck had been to his pit and now Chiron’s Alfa stopped, crawled for another lap, and retired with the back axle gone. Varzi was in again for plugs and Stuck overshot his pit and retired with brake trouble. Auto-Union’s bolt was shot when Rosemeyer retired with oiling plugs on one bank and overheating plugs on the other. In five laps Nuvolari increased his lead over the Merc. by 4 secs. It seemed, that in speed, road-holding and acceleration the Mercédès-Benz had met its match, and if the Alfa-Romeo brakes weakened, the detachable drums would allow a quick replacement. Then, on lap 14, Nuvolari slowed right down, to retire with what appeared to be axle trouble. Caracciola slowed too, and Neubauer stifled a duel between him and Fagioli. Both refuelled in 1¼ mins. Caracciola won in 4 hrs. 0 mins. 54.6 secs. at 77.39 m.p.h. and Brauchitsch was second .5 sec. later, at 77.38 m.p.h. Zhender’s Maserati was third in spite of a damaged gearbox and Fagioli, who had to stop once for tyres, was fourth, with the Varzi-Geier Auto-Union fifth.
Auto-Union having cancelled all engagements until the German G.P. in an endeavour to get the carburation of the new 5.6-litre engines right, the Penya Rhin G.P. was mainly a struggle between Fagioli and Caracciola with Mercédès-Benz and Nuvolari’s Alfa-Romeo. Caracciola led away with Nuvolari between him and Fagioli. Soon Nuvolari was displaced, and Caracciola took the lap record. at 69.3 m.p.h., some 3 m.p.h. faster than Chiron’s 1934 record. Nevertheless, Fagioli went ahead on lap 23. “Caratsch” got ahead for 5 laps after lap 42, but Fagioli then repassed. Nuvolari now caught the second Mercédès, although actually a lap behind. Fagioli refuelled in 52 secs., Caracciola in 60 secs. Fagioli won at 67.38 m.p.h. in 2 hrs. 27 mins. 40 secs., over 28 secs. ahead of Caracciola, with Nuvolari third, the average being 5½ mins. up on Varzi’s 1934 figure.
The Belgian G.P. constituted an extremely severe test of cars and drivers, the Spa circuit being hard at the best of times, and doubly so in the intense heat that prevailed. The onlookers were composed mainly of Dutch and Belgian racegoers. Caracciola led lap one from Brauchitsch, who had just overhauled Wimille’s 3.3 Bugatti. The leading Mercédès-Benz did the standing lap at over 99.5 m.p.h. The Mercs. looked to have things entirely their own way with Fagioli now second, until, on lap 15, Brauchitsch slowed on the up-grade after the Stands, and Benoist’s Bugatti passed him amid a cheer from the crowd. All plugs were changed, but, still misfiring, the car retired. Fagioli was rumoured to be the winner and knowledgeable folk waited for him to speed up on “Caratsch.” He had set a lap record of 102.27 m.p.h. on laps 13 and 14, beating Brivio’s 1934 record by 18 secs., and after the refuel he went in earnest after the leader, getting on his tail on lap 20. Neubauer now signalled Fagioli to give up this duel, but he paid no heed, and Caracciola speeded up likewise, to keep him at bay. Furious, Neubauer gave Fagioli the stop signal and, amid an argument, Brauchitsch took over, the officials being told that Fagioli had retired from fatigue. While the change over was made, the Alfa-Romeos of Chiron and Dreyfus went by! Fagioli certainly let the excellent Mercédès control down, as he had done before. Brauchitsch, a heavier, less polished driver, now drove hard to get the lost position back. On lap 27 he was on Dreyfus’s tail and uphill the Mercédès got clear and went after Chiron. Cornering absolutely at the limit, it took 2 laps for the cars to close, and even then Chiron held off the Merc. until right at the end of the uphill stretch. Neubauer now tried to slow Caracciola down to get a close finish, but his orders held no meaning for the excited Brauchitsch, who set the lap record to 103.53 m.p.h. on lap 31, 4 secs. faster than Fagioli. The strain of the race was seen when Dreyfus stopped at his pit and fell on the floor in complete exhaustion, as Marinoni took over, remaining laid out, fanned and given refreshment, until the race finished. Caracciola won after 3 hrs. 12 mins. 31 secs. at 97.87 m.p.h., 1 min. 37 secs. ahead of Fagioli, with Chiron third. Louis Chiron staggered to the microphone like a boxer out on his feet, his eyes shut, then, murmuring that this was the most exhausting race he had ever driven, he stretched out or the floor of the Ferrari pit. He started with incipient influenza and was completely exhausted. The French Press tried to blame the fumes from the fuel used in the Mercédès cars for Dreyfus’s and Chiron’s exhaustion, but, as we pointed out, it did not worry the Mercs. drivers, and was the same as that used at Montlhery, where Brauchitsch followed “Caratsch” for over 550 miles. Fagioli’s disobedience to Neubauer’s signals caused much comment and recalled the Nuvolari-Varzi split of earlier times.
At Kesselburg, Stuck made fastest time for Auto-Union in 3 mins. 44.3 secs. (50 m.p.h.) but was .3 sec. below his 1934 record. He beat Zanelli’s Nacional Pescara by only 3.9 secs.
Nice emphasis of the political significance of motor-racing about this time was afforded by the presentation from Il Duce to Nuvolari of the “gold medal for valour in sport,” followed up by a personal message of congratulation, in respect of the bimotore records.
The German G. P. was, perhaps, the most enthralling race of 1935. Throughout at least two days and nights the people of Germany streamed to the Nurburg Ring, even people from beyond the borders, from France and Switzerland came and camped out in the pine woods on the edge of the course and charabanc loads of elderly people were no uncommon sight. The total was estimated at 250,000. Mercédès-Benz had eight cars at the Ring and were running four, and Auto-Union also had an entry of four. Neubauer was present and correct early on the Wednesday morning, and Hans Stuck’s Horch was there at 6 o’clock that evening. Rosemeyer, in shorts, lapped very fast on the Thursday and Pietsch, the reserve Auto-Union driver, was practising quietly. Caracciola was “ticked-off” for arriving two hours late. Hitler was rumoured to be coming to the race, but it was not fulfilled. The race commenced in heavy rain. Stuck, in the front row, stalled his engine, and so did. Pietsch—modern G.P. cars are not easy on the take-Off. Caracciola led lap one, 12 secs. ahead of “Nuvers,” Fagioli third and Rosemeyer fourth. By lap two, Nuvolari had fallen to sixth place, and Rosemeyer was second and Brauchitsch third. Rosemeyer closed to within 4 secs. of Caracciola by lap four, and the Mercédès driver hurled his goggles at his pit as he screamed past at 125 m.p.h. Stuck cut his lap time by a whole 22 secs. on this lap. Three Alfa-Romeos were out by lap five, Chiron with gearbox trouble. On lap six Rosemeyer called at his pit for a wheel change, clods of earth falling as it was hauled off, for the Auto-Union had hit the bank early in the race, slightly damaging the rear axle. Now all eyes were on Nuvolari, sole Alfa-Romeo representative, who lapped in 10 mins. 57.4 secs. and came up to third place, the first driver to lap below 11 mins. Rosemeyer responded, however with 10 mins. 55.1 secs. Then, on lap 10, Nuvolari passed Caracciola, to lead the race! For two great laps he led and then came in to refuel. Caracciola, Rosemeyer and Brauchitsch were in also, the pits a hive of activity. The times were as follows: Brauchitsch 47 secs.; Stuck 49 secs.; Fagioli 51 secs.; Geier 52 secs.; Lang 55 secs.; Caracciola 67 secs.; Varzi 72 secs.; Pietsch 72 secs.; Rosemeyer 75 secs. In the Ferrari pit a terrible muddle ensued, Nuvolari wild with excitement and stationary for 134 secs.! Brauchitsch came out the leader but by lap 13 Nuvolari, driving the race of his life, was second, having come up from sixth place after the pit stop. Fagioli, Rosemeyer, Caracciola, Stuck—his 3.8 Alfa-Romeo had passed them all. Moreover, the Italian car sounded quite fit after such treatment. Brauchitsch, fully alive to the danger, set Rosemeyer’s lap record up to 10 mins. 30 secs., nor did Neubauer signal him to use restraint! Rosemeyer had to stop while a broken fuel line was repaired and Fagioli for rear shock-absorber adjustment. Thousands of watches timed the Nuvolari-Brauchitsch duel. On lap 13 Tazio was 69 secs. behind, on lap 14, 86 secs.; on lap 15, 87 secs.; on lap 16 only 77 secs. By lap 17 the gap had closed to 63 secs., to 47 secs. on lap 18, 43 secs. on lap 19, 32 secs. on lap 20 and to 35 secs. as they commenced. the final lap. Obviously, the Mercédès-Benz would win. Then came the dramatic news that von Brauchitsch was missing! Nuvolari came into sight and the red Alfa-Romeo was flagged the winner. Stuck carne home in second place, followed by Caracciola, then by Rosemeyer. Only then did Brauchitsch come limping in, the Merc’s. near rear wheel quite devoid of a tyre . . . . Manfred drove slowly on; beyond the sympathetic crowd in the pits and he was weeping as his brother, who did his timing, led him away. Nuvolari deserved his victory, for he had driven magnificently; proved himself still the master. On that home ground he had beaten the Germans by 1 min. 39 secs., after a drive lasting 4 hrs. 8 mins. 39 secs., at an average of 75.75 m.p.h. Fagioli was sixth, Geir seventh, Varzi eighth, Pietsch ninth and Lang retired.
The next dash was the Coppa Acerbo, attended by special train-loads of excited race-goers from all over Italy. The Alfas would have liked a wet course, and sunshine would have worried Auto-Union, who experienced tyre trouble in practice, but it was cool and dry for the race, which made “Nuvers” look very worried. Nuvolari led away but was soon passed by Varzi ‘s Auto-Union, which did the standing lap at 89.3 m.p.h. Varzi did 90.9 m.p.h. on his second lap, beating the previous record by 10 secs. Rosemeyer, who had been third, came in with both rear tyres flat and a dent in the tail, having skidded into a wall. He was off in 30 secs., last nevertheless. By lap seven he was again third and was ordered to keep behind Nuvolari, who had eased up somewhat. The Maseratis retired early and the other Alfas came in for plugs, Chiron seemingly still unwell, Varzi, Rosemeyer, and Brivio (Alfa-Romeo) needed new rear tyres at the refuel. Varzi was away in 65 secs., against Nuvolari’s 63 secs. “Nuvers” now went very earnestly after the Auto-Union and gained perceptibly, but after three great laps he had to retire with a broken valve. Varzi went on to win comfortably at 86.6 m.p.h. in 3 hrs. 43 mins. 45 secs., 3 mins. 22 secs. ahead of Rosemeyer. Brivio was third and Alfas-Romeo held the next three places, the transmission trouble seemingly overcome. Timed over a kilo, Rosemeyer did 172 m.p.h., Varzi 164.3 m.p.h. and Chiron, with the fastest Alfa, 157.4 m.p.h.
Varzi was reported to be dissatisfied with the handling of the Auto-Union and contemplating a return to Maserati, and Loof, a motor-cyclist, was recruited to the Auto-Union team. The cars were now reported to have 6-litre engines developing about 480 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., better brakes, and improved roadholding, again by torsion bars at the rear. At Friburg, before 40,000 spectators, Stuck climbed in 8 mins. 24.1 secs., at 53 m.p.h., fastest time of the day, but some 2 m.p.h. slower than his 1934 record, and only .6 m.p.h. faster than Seaman’s E.R.A. And at the Stelvio, Tadini, with an Alfa-Romeo, clocked 14 mins. 15.54 secs., beating his own record by 45 secs. Nuvolari was second, and Dusio’s Maserati third. Varzi, with the Auto-Union, was thoroughly miserable, having to reverse at five of the hairpins, and so demonstrative did the crowd become that an appeal was broadcast for order and sportsmanship.
In the Swiss G.P. over the Bremgarten circuit the Mercédès-Benz outclassed the Alfa-Romeos. In practice Geier completely wrote off a Mercédès in a crash in which he suffered a broken skull and other injuries. In the race Etancelin, Hartmann and Chiron all crashed, the last-named while duelling with Brauchitsch. The Mercédès blew up shortly afterwards, and Caracciola won a rather wet race in 3 hrs. 31 mins. 12 secs., 36 secs. ahead of Fagioli, at 89.97 m.p.h. Rosemeyer’s Auto-Union was third, Varzi’s Auto-Union fourth, Nuvolari fifth, and Lang sixth. Mercédès tried out a lower, slimmer car, prelude to the 1936 design, which was some 8-10 m.p.h. faster than the older cars.
The Italian G.P. at Monza was expected to be a really tremendous race. Mercédès-Benz was a hot favourite, although Varzi’s Auto-Union did the fastest practice laps. Still the new twelve-cylinder Alfa-Romeo had not appeared. Caracciola did his first lap in 3 mins. 9 secs. and led from Stuck and Varzi. The leading Mercédès was certainly wound-up, for it did its second lap in 2 mins. 58 secs. 0n lap three Stuck clipped off 3 secs. (88.5 m.p.h.) and took the lead. Varzi did a lap in 2 mins. 53.5 secs. and was second on lap five. These laps were very fast considering the full tanks. Varzi speeded up and passed Stuck, and Fagioli’s Mercédès-Benz retired with a back brake out of action. Nuvolari was fourth at 10 laps. Varzi showed that no criticism of Auto-Union road-holding was justifiable by a great drive, but on lap 13 the car lit-up due to a broken piston, and retired. Stuck opened up to make his lead secure, lapping in 2 mins. 52 secs. Nuvolari, on the new 4-litre 8-cylinder Alfa-Romeo, was gaining on Caracciola. Rosemeyer retired after damaging his rear axle in a skid, and Pietsch handed him his car on lap 21, the stop costing only 20 secs. As “Caratsch” was ordered to speed up, Stuck replied with a record lap. Etancelin had seriously crashed his Maserati when the throttle jammed, the Bugattis were in trouble, and only Nuvolari fought with the Germans. On lap 27 he speeded up to 2 mins. 54 secs., then to 2 mins. 53 secs. Stuck and Caracciola both opened up, but in four laps the Alfa-Romeo made up 34 secs. on the Mercédès-Benz. Brauchitsch was fourth. Nuvolari now did two laps in 2 mins. 52 secs., cheered all round the course, and on lap 33 he clocked 2 mins. 49.8 secs., or 91.3 m.p.h., surpassing Stuck’s record by a whole second.
He then slid right round at a chicane and lost 14 valuable seconds. At the refuel, the Mercédès equipe was not up to its usual standard. Caracciola changed two wheels and refuelled in 104 secs, and Fagioli took over. Stuck had the same job done in 45 secs., likewise Rosemeyer. Nuvolari lost 77 secs., brakes being adjusted as well. After the stops Stuck led from Nuvolari by 58 secs. with Dreyfus third. That the Mercédès were inferior to the Auto-Unions was evident when Brauchitsch took a chicane too fast on account of failing brakes and spun round three times before leaving the road, and Fagioli retired with damaged transmission. Lang, too, retired with engine trouble. Nuvolari seemed slowed by the full fuel tank and retired with a broken piston before really resuming his struggle with Stuck. He took over Dreyfus’s car, and made a last great effort, but a valve broke, leaving him to run home on seven cylinders 1 min. 41 secs. after Stuck had won his first race with an Auto-Union, at 86.2 m.p.h., in 3 hrs. 40 mins. 9 secs. The Pietsch-Rosemeyer Auto-Union was third.
Mercédès-Benz returned to form in the Spanish G.P. at San Sebastian. During the training Varzi lapped in 6 mins. 8 secs., Caracciola was next in. 6 mins.22 secs., and Wimille’s Bugatti did 6 mins. 23 secs. .Fourteen cars started on a wet course, and Auto-Union was favourite, although Pietsch’s was withdrawn. Stuck got off very well and led Rosemeyer by 6 secs. after the first lap, Fagioli third. On lap two, Varzi came in, his face streaming blood, for a stone had smashed his screen. Pietsch took over for a while and on lap three Rosemeyer was in for adjustments, giving Fagioli second place. Neubauer signalled Fagioli and Caracciola to get after Stuck, but Stuck was signalled to keep 15 secs. ahead, which he did by lapping in the record time of 6 mins. 11 secs., going past the Stands at 145 m.p.h. Brauchitsch was ordered to pass Chiron, but only a great scrap resulted. Poor Nuvolari retired after eight laps, when his Alfa-Romeo had broken parts of the suspension. Caracciola passed Fagioli, lapped in 6 mins. 9.6 secs., and got within 3 secs. of Stuck. Varzi, back again in the driving seat, now put in some immense laps, finally clocking 5 mins. 58 secs. Caracciola appeared to have Stuck taped and the Auto-Union came in for transmission attention and fuel, which put the Merc. into a comfortable lead at half-distance. Wimille was driving splendidly to be in third place with his Bugatti. Brauchitsch passed Wimille and the Mercédès-Benz ran line ahead for the second half of the race, Caracciola winning in 3 hrs. 9 mins. 9.1 secs., an average of 102.5 m.p.h., some 6 m.p.h. faster than Fagioli’s 1934 average. Fagioli was second, 1 min. 32.9 sees. behind, and Brauchitsch third. Wimille was fourth, ahead of Rosemeyer. Varzi’s best lap beat Stuck’s old record by 22 secs.
A busy season concluded with the Czechoslovakian G.P. at Brno, in which Mercédès-Benz did not run, Rosemeyer’s Auto-Union winning at 82.39 m.p.h. from Nuvolari’s Alfa-Romeo and Chiron’s Alfa-Romeo.
At Feldburg hill climb Stuck made best time with the short-chassis, twin-rear-tyred Auto-Union, in 6 mins. 22.3 secs., at a venue strewn with vindictive notices aimed at Hans, because he had married a Jewess !
The “overall” score for 1935 was thus:— Mercédès-Benz: nine firsts, five seconds and three thirds. Auto-Union: four firsts, four seconds and three thirds. Alfa-Romeo: one first, four seconds and six thirds. Maserati: two thirds. Bugatti: one second. It must be emphasised that this applies only to those races in which Mercédès or Auto-Union, or both, competed. Lots of other important races were held, largely dominated by Alfa-Romeo, and in those races described there has been no space in which to refer to much interesting matter concerning the French and Italian marques—we are mainly concerned with Mercédès-Benz and Auto-Union. Caracciola was awarded the 1935 Championship of Europe, by the A.I.A.C.R. in Paris, with 16 points, runners-up being Fagioli (22 points). Brauchitsch (31 points), Dreyfus (35 points), Stuck (37 points), Nuvolari (37 points), Chiron (40 points) and Varzi (40 points). The cars had remained much as before, except for the alterations mentioned in the course of this review, Mercédès-Benz still using 4-litre engines, while Auto-Union contrived to use 5½-litre engine s and keep within the 750 k.g. weight limit. The German teams can be said to have dominated 1935 racing by combined tactics and performance, but it is interesting to note that in a number of instances the monoposto Alfa-Romeos, Bugattis and Maseratis proved to have performance of almost as high an order. Caracciola came to England to attend a tea-party at the Park Lane premises of Mercédès-Benz, when one of the racing cars was put on show. He was interviewed by MOTOR SPORT and some extremely interesting information resulted. He said the Mercédès-Benz engine as a 4-litre unit running at 6,600 r.p.m. definitely required factory maintenance for its successful operation and replacements were frequent. He estimated each car to cost £8,000, and quoted the Mercédès racing expenses for 1935 as £200,000, of which the German Reich contributed £80,000. It is hard now to believe that the Mercédès Co. stood £120,000 worth of racing expenses in a year. They were, however, said to have asked starting money to the tune of £400 to race at Donington. Ten miles per hour was said to have been added by using faired headrests, and Caracciola put the maximum at about 205 m.p.h., Auto-Union a fraction faster but less easy to brake and hold, the 4-litre Alfa-Romeo capable of 190 m.p.h. the new Maserati 187 m.p.h.
[To be continued]
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