SEQUEL TO “PERSONALITIES IN ENGLAND PUBLISHED LAST MONTH
IN a repent article I wrote of the different personalities which I had come across in five years Of association with British motor racing. As I also saw a certain amount of the wellknown drivers of the Continent, I shall now try to give you some brief sketches of their varied personalities.
The first time I accompanied my cousin ” Bira ” to a race abroad was at Dieppe in 1935. The first Continental driver we came to know there was the Frenchman, Pierre Veyron, veteran driver of a “works” Bugatti. In the later stages of the race, ” Bira,” who was driving our E.R.A. “Romulus ” for the first time, had a great struggle with Vcy it and snatched second place from hint a few laps before the end. Although the l,’,.R.A. had greater speed, Veyron’s experience of road racing was immense, while ” Bira’s ” was then nonexistent, hence the achievement attracted much notice, at the time. No one was warmer in praise than Veyron himself, who predicted for ” Bira ” a great future. Pierre Veyron was a tall, heavily built man with fair hair and blue eyes. He was almost in every way different from the traditional Frenchman. He spoke quietly and slowly without any gesticulation. It was rumoured in 1935 that for the following season Bugattis were going to bring out a new 1 i-litre machine for Veyron to drive. That combination would certainly have provided -strong competition for the many E.R.A.s, Maseratis, and Dick Seaman’s lone Delage, which held the 1,500-c.e. stage in 1930, as Veyron Was still able to hold his own against the earlier E.R.A.s in the previous year with the old-type eight-cylinder Bugatti. The project, unfortunately, never materialised, and Veyron suffered an eclipse for the lack of a car. As he was such a good driver, I was pleased to see him as cowinner with Wimille in the 1939 Le Mans race.
At Dieppe we also met the Italian, Giuseppe Farina, then still in the 1,500-e.c. class. Farina was also fair-haired and one would net take him at first sight for an Italian. He spoke quite good, but very slow, French, so it was easy to converse with him. Farina was desperately keen on motor-racing and nothing else seemed to exist for him. He said he would go ski-ing for the whole winter, but only to keep himself fit for racing in the summer. Farina’s family ran a coach-building firm in Turin, and young Farina actually designed some of their modern streamlined bodies. He was a trained engineer and was responsible later for a complicated form a coachwork design for Alfa Romeo. Farina was a fervent admirer of Nuvolari, and he once told me that to follow Nuvolari for a few laps in a race was the best lesson one could have. As a pupil is often apt to exaggerate his master’s characteristics, so Farina, when driving, always looked to me as if he overdid the Nuvolari style of driving with arms outstretched. Knowing his abilities, I was not surprised when I heard that he had been engaged to drive for the official Alfa-Romeo team, but whenever By H.R.1-1. Prince Chula of Thailand ‘Author of Dick Seaman—Racing Motorist,” etc.]
we met him again at races, he never changed in any way towards ” Bira ” or myself, and he was most pleased to come and be with us in the humbler 1,500-e.c. class. The 1,500-e.c. race at Dieppe was watched by these who were competing in the Grand Prix on the following day, amongst whom were Louis Chiron and Rene Dreyfus, then driving Alfa-Romeos for the official Seuderia Ferrari. After the prize-giving on Sunday night they both asked to be introduced to “
in whose driving they manifested much interest. Dreyfus and Chiron, who were great friends, were yet utterly different. The only two things they seemed to have had in common were their ability to talk Italian perfectly and their talent for Past driving. Chiron was gay and excitable, whereas Dreyfus was calm and collected. This difference was equally apparent in their driving. Chiron’s fire was matched by Dreyfus’s quiet neatness. Whereas Chiron would sometimes take risks to make up for the slow speed of his car, Dreyfus would drive only at his safest maximum, and he seemed indifferent as to where he would finish. To hear Chiron describe his experiences was like seeing them all again in a film, and a ” talkie ” at thet, for the vivid narrative was accompanied by appropriate sounds. The best of these, I think, was when he described himself going off to sleep in his bath during a Monte Carlo rally, with the gurgling noise which he had made when he was almost drowned 1 Added to his tremendous sense of fun, there was also a serious side to Chiron’s nature which was equally charming ; his readiness and keenness to help beginners. At both Monaco and the Niirl)iirg Ring he took great pains to explain the difficult circuits to “Bira.” During the 1,500-c.c. race at Monaco, which” Bira “subsequently won, Chiron took the trouble to walk to the different parts of the course to signal ” Bira ” to be careful, as a lot of oil had been dropped. Once when a slow car in front of ” Bira ” did not pull quickly enough to the side, Chiron excitedly seized a blue flag from an official and waved it so frantically that the defaulting driver almost went off the road with fright. It was at Berne in 1935 that Farina introduced ” Dim ” and myself to the maestro ‘Fazio Nuvolari. Everything and more is already known concerning his driving prowess, so I shall confine myself to sketching his personality. The first thing which struck us was his small stature ; he was actually shorter than “Bira,” Although he wore a somewhat weird and unconventional costume for racing—bright blue trousers with a canary
yelltiw shirt anti a scarlet leather helmet-his ordinary clothes were meticulously neat. Nuvolari in evening clothes was tilmost like a musical comedy star. He did not speak anv English and our conversation was usually carried on in French, his Fr( nch beint, very Italhmised and accompanied by lively gestures. As he had watched ” !lira ” race at Berne in 19:;5, I asked hint what he thought. of his driving and his future, In his usual crisp
tones, Nuvolari replied : ” (=owl. Ile does NVi-I1. I have seen him at the corners. He is good there. It is only the corners which count Any fool can go fast on the straights, for whatever speed one goes there, it is no different from driving an old taxi.” It was not till the Monaco meeting of that we ennie into vont-tot the German drivers. This N’as at the party given by the organisers on Sunday afternoon before the Grand Prix race on Allonday. ” Bira ” had won the first and, so far, only I ,500-c.c. race on the previous Saturday, and Hans Stuck was one of the first to come over to compliment him on the feat. Stuck spoke excellent English and was incrediftiv yOn th Cul-looking, for I was told that he ?V15 well in his late forties. Yet, with his white cap worn at a rakish angle and his bronze face, he looked
well under thirty. lie struck me as perhaps the most modest of the crack Grand Prix drivers. Apart from being a great hill-climb driver, what was so noticeable about Stuck Was his great staying power. tan anyone, Om had seen the feat., forget his tinishim, third at Berrie in 1936 at nearly, 100 ijt1i.with a broken collar-bone ? It was at that saute party that we met Bernt. Rosemever, the astonishing meteor whose rays so brightly lit up the fortunes of Auto-i7nilin for three brief years. His knowledge English was quite limited, but he tried so hard and his short, simple sentences were punctuated with bright boyish smiles. I-11) came up to ” I3ira ” and, raising his champagne glass, said, ” Yesterday—good.” When ” Bira ” aSked him what he thought ()I’ the AutoUnion. Rosemeyer replied with one word, ” Shnell.” No one ever looked as smart or formed such a part of those low rcarengined ears as Hoserneyer did. I shall never forget his coining silently into the pits at Pescara, shaking his head slightly as he was still 10 yards away aml waving one linger, to show that he did not require a change of whtels. Again I rcineinher him at Berne in i937, when I presented him to my youngcousin, ; nanta
King of Thailand, \hen liosemevcr saw that the King was wearing a Mereetks button-hole badge he h igned great. disappointment like a big schoolboy and presented my cousin with his own AutoUnion badge, Grand Prix racing was never quite the same again %valuta his Ilantboyant personality.
Count Felice Trossi we met at the Niirburg Ring in MG, when he had turned from Grand Prix racing to drive a 1,500-c.c. Maserati. Tall and fair-haired, he, too, looked inure Nordic than a Latin.
I think it is correct to say that Trossi had a somewhat high opinion of his driving ability, but it was more than justified. Many Italians told me that Trossi was the best Italian driver after Nuvolari, while many others went so far as to rate him as an equal of the maestro. Trossi himself told me that he enjoyed nothing, better than a real scrap with Nu volari, and there were quite a few occasions when Trossi actually passed him with another Alfa-Romeo ; it was well known that Nuvolari considered Trossi his most serious Italian rival.
Quite dill( rent was Taruffi, who was modesty personified. although he had made a great name as a racing motorcyclist, as well as having much experience as a car driver. When we were at the Niirburg Ring and ” Bira ” organised miniature car races in the hotel, Tannin took it all as seriously as if it had been re-al rain, although the event was won brilliantl, by Trossi. 11:xcellentt drivers were the brothers Villoresi. and although I think the younger brother, Emilio, was the better of the two, Luigi was thc more seriously interested. lie showed it most childish delight in doing well, and his disappointment at being passed at the post by Dob) for second place at Cork in 19:i7 NN:ts quite poignant to observe. Luigi NV:i s7,4 )1 I I( ‘What wild in his driving methods in his earlier years, Imt he calmed down a great ileal subsequently. while the tragic death of Emilio while trying out a new Alfa -Romeo was an unexpected vala.mity. I remember both brothers for theirv. I
iarming manners. Emilio’s friend Alarazza was also nn. delightful person. and had he not succumbed to an early death be, too, would have made a great name driving ” works ” Maseratis, as he had clearly shown definite promise. Indeed, if there had not been a war the future of Italian racing would have been seriously jeopardised hy the loss of razza and young Emilio Villoresi, The two most prominent Swiss drivers, Hans Hoesch and Armand Bug, were utterly different They were from different parts of t he country, the former being a German-speaking Swiss, while the latter spoke English. Although Rueselt was quite friendly at heart, his somewhat abrupt manners, both in the race and in
personal contact, as well as his readiness to protest against other competitors, reacted in his disfavour more than he deserved. Hug, on the other hand, was charmingly polished arid gentle in his ways. I Tntil he had a disastrous accident at Albi in .1939, from which he is apparently still suffering, Bug was about to enjoy great fame. yet he continued to be modest and retiring. Another highlv able French driver was undoubtedly Jean-Pierre 1Vimille, lately the chief driver for Hugo t tis. Yet Out of the car he was the most ill-looking person imaginable, with a pale amt. sallow complexion and unhealthily bright eves. It Always seemed a miracle to me that he could drive so well and last out those long races. Ills great rival, especially ui tire French hrtiupiorislrip. v” Sommer. Although I had sit ii him for long from afar, I did not get to know Sommer
until he and ” Bira ” shared the wheel of a ” works ” Alfa-Romeo at Le Mans in 1939. Sommer was a wealthy ” Society ” man who raced purely for love of the sport. Next to his love of an Alfa-Romeo in any shape or fornn. Solumer liked to work on his car bine:elf before and during a race, and he possessed a bag of exceptionally beautiful Loots. Like Jean Borotra in the lawn-tennis world, Sommer was perhaps rightly accused of too Much playing up to the gallery, when ‘he would lals.mr away indefinitely at his defective car, to get a roaring applause as he departed from the pits without any hope of even finishing the race, sometimes to retire round the corner.
There were so many more of these famous drivers that it is not possible to include them all within the space of one article. Readers may notice that I have not mentioned the Mercedes drivers, Cniraen-iolnt, Von BIT uchitsch. or Lang. The truth is we came so little into contact with them. The last passed his time more amongst his former friends, the mechanics. Thc first two seemed rather reserved and kept much to themselves, due probably to shyness, and perhaps even More to the fact that Caraeciola did not speak any other language I iut German. Anyhow, those were five intensely vital and entertaining; years for me. The most noticeable feature which I found amongst the drivers of the different nationalities was the fact that none a them seemed to have been aggressively nationalistic. If the rest of the world showed as much reasonable patriotism and good fellowship as I found in international motor-racing the world would probably have been a happier place.