STATIONS” AT DI ” MANIF 4P
RANDOM JOTTINGS OF AN ENJOYABLE WEEK-END WITH SOME DETAILS AS TO THE CIRCUIT.
THERE is something rather stimulating about a trip to a foreign country, even if it only lies on the other side of the English Channel, and with the spectacle of a Continental road-race thrown in, the prospect becomes doubly attractive. The Grand Prix de Dieppe attracted comparatively little attention in England until last year, when Lord Howe won the 1,500 c.c. class and came third in the general classification, on his Delage. This year the event attracted quite a large number of well-known Continental drivers, of whom the most famous were Chiron and Bouriat, driving 2.3 litre Bugattis. Williams, Gaupillat and Fourny, all amateurs, were almost equally well known, and as everyone had entered on their own account, there was every prospect of a good scrap. Against them were ranged four Alfa Romeos which were of the two-seater type which ran with such success in the Targa Florio and other races before the introduction of the ” monoposto.” They were to be driven by Sommer, the victor of Le Mans, Zehender, who won the Grand Prix de Dieppe last year also on an Alfa, Felix, and Wimille. Prince Nicholas of Roumania, who had entered a 4,980 c.c. Styer, never arrived on the course, just as well perhaps, as large cars are not very suitable for the narrow roads.
The Dieppe Rally.
On the last day of the practising, in which Williams made fastest time, the arrivals for the Dieppe Rally were coming in. The only English competitor was Major Douglas Morris on a Hornet Saloon, who had started from Perigueux, probably with some reluctance as that is the place of manufacture of the famous truffle pies ! On Friday the Rally competitors went through a series of tests on the promenade, for starting, acceleration, braking and reverse driving. The exact point of the latter was lost on us, unless driving conditions in the big French towns sometimes demand a speedy withdrawal. The acceleration test was carried out over a 360 yard course, with 40 yards in which to stop, and almost all the competitors managed to make their tyres smoke in their efforts to stop. In one or two cases the transmission brakes were used to such effect that one of the wheels actually went astern, a phenomenon usually confined to comic pictures at the cinema. The reversing caused a good deal of amusement, a man on a large sports Delage being especially fierce. At the same time the readiness with which most of the cars responded to the rough treatment was a great tribute to the sturdiness of the Continental machine.
Saturday being market day, the Circuit de Dieppe, which runs along two of the Routes Nationales leading to the town, was not available for official practising, so we took a taxi to the start, and set off to explore the course on foot. The first leg of the course follows Route Nationale 27, a typical French highway
bordered with lopped off poplars and dead straight for 3 kilometres. The road rises for half this distance, then slopes down to Val Gosset, the first corner. Here the course turns right at right angles, dropping steeply from the high cambered main highway on to a subsidiary road. A tricky corner this, for anyone going too wide on the corner would miss the favourable camber close in, and would either have to take the slip road or the safety sandbank. The road then follows what might easily be a Sussex combe, a high slope clothed with beech woods bordering the road on one side and unfenced cornfields on the other. The ground falls quite steeply, and provides a series of fast bends which demand one’s full attention. Two kilometres further on, the road narrows and runs downhill between high hedges, the width for some distance being under 12 feet. A sharp drop with another right angle corner at the bottom and we have reached St. Aubin. The road back to the Start is wider, but winds up the side of the valley, with a hundred foot drop on the outside. The winding produces the famous” Eases” a series of five corners which caused a tremendous pileup two years ago. The examination of these corners was rendered more exciting by the passage every so often of Eminante on his Bugatti. Fortunately Chiron, who was out earlier in the morning, had gone home. From the ” Esses ” the road rises for another kilometre to rejoin Route Nationale 27 at La Fourche. This acute bend brings us back to the finishing line and the pits and stands, the total length of the course being 8.15 km., or about five miles.
These particulars of the course have been given not only for the better understanding of the account of the race, but to show that if we have road races in England, the 28 foot minimum which is sometimes suggested is quite unnecessary. The fastest stretch on the course, from the Stands to Val Gosset is only 21 feet wide, yet the fastest cars were able to reach 130 m.p.h. along it. 18 feet was about the average width from Val Gosset on the southern leg of the course, which the last half mile or so was about 12 feet wide. Admittedly, as Lord Howe semarked, the slightest inattention means trouble on these narrow roads, but after all racing should be something of a test and not just a blind round a perfectly kept autodrome. Let us hope the organisers of motor-racing in England will not spoil the fun by laying out arterial road circuits.
On Saturday afternoon a Concours d’Elegence was held at the Casino. The entry list was not very big, no British entries excepting Major Douglas Morris’s Hornet taking part. In view of the ease of getting to Dieppe from England, this Concours seems a golden opportunity of spending time in Dieppe when waiting for the race, with the possibility of a free holiday on the strength of the prize money. Lord Howe was to have been one of the judges, but we learned that he had Qaked
to be excused in view of the work of preparation. We found him in a garage kept by two Englishmen, surrounded by his stable of racing cars, with the Commer as guardian angel and portable workshop.
The car he was running at Dieppe was not the one on which he won the Gold Star last year, but the one which Senechal drove in last year’s French Grand Prix. It had had a good deal done to it since then and was in fine fettle. The back axle ratio had had to be lowered for the Circuit, necessitating the removal of the tank and various other fittings at the real end of the chassis. Along the straight it was capable of 7,200 r.p.m., but Lord Howe kept it down to about 6,800130 m.p.h. or so—in the interests of safety. The straight was not sufficiently long to allow the geared-up fifth. speed to he used. Besides the back axle adjustment, the tappets had required to be reset. Not such a simple task either, for on the Delage the clearance is adjusted by removing the thimbles on the valve stems, filing them down, and then rehardening.
As runabout Lord Howe employed the Alfa which he drove in the 1,000 mile race, and in another lock-up we found his 2.3 litre Bugatti. This was destined for the Klausen Hill• Climb, which was to take place in Switzerland on August 6-7. Lord Howe had hoped to have had a shot at breaking the Mountain Record at Brooklands on August Bank Holiday, but the track authorities were unable to fit this in.
Sunday was race day, and we were roused at 6 a.m. by the fruity sound of a Norton exhaust under our window, suggesting for a moment that we had crossed the Irish Sea to the Island instead of La Manche to France. We managed to go to sleep again in spite of the growing din under our windows, and got up in comfortable time to reach the Start before any of the cars arrived. The motor-cycles were just finishing, Crabtree, who had won the 500 c.c. class last year having fallen off early. Monneret on an Escoffier won at 66.9 m.p.h., which seemed rather slow compared with last year’s car times. Williams and Monneret shared the same garage at the Hotel des Voyagers at St. Aubin. We wondered if this was a good omen.
On the next page we give an account of the Grand Prix, but before going on to it we would like to thank M. Hamiaux, secretary of the Moto Club de Dieppe, and his fellow officials, for the helpful, way in which we were treated. Any Englishman who goes to Dieppe for the Rally or the Race can feel sure of a hearty welcome at their hands. Not the least pleasant part of the ” Manifestations ” was the banquet which took place on Sunday evening, and we left Dieppe with most beneficent feelings towards all concerned, and a firm determination to come back next year, and if possible to take part in scam) a the motoring activities which terminate in this hospitable town.