THE GRAND PRIX DU COMMINGES.
ZEHENDER (ALFA ROMEO) WINS KEENLY CONTESTED RACE OVER PICTURESQUE CIRCUIT AT THE FOOT OF THE PYRENEES.
AWINDING, narrow road running beside the river Garonne, at the foot of a deep valley, followed by a long straight ” leg ” of 8 miles, with ” tribunes ” built on the side of a hill, facing the majestic chain of the Pyrenees, form the picturesque setting of the Grand Prix du Comminges.
This race has steadily added to its reputation as one of the most important events in France, and this year, with an entry of 20 Bugattis, 6 Alfa Romeos, 4 Maseratis, 4 Salmsons, 2 Rallys, 1 Amilcar, and 1 Courbin, in the hands of such drivers as Lehoux, Gaupillat, Sommer, Wimille, Zehender, Dreyfus, Etancelin and Williams, there seemed every prospect of one of the finest races ever seen on the Circuit de Saint-Gaucleng.
The circuit measures 26 kilometres, 300 metres, and with its combination of the long straight, where high speeds can be attained, and the sinuous winding of a great part of the course, demands a great amount of versatility from both cars and drivers alike.
The start took place with all the air of excitement and suspense which is so characteristic of a Continental road race, and a huge crowd lined the whole 26 kilometres of the course. When the cars were lined up in rows of three, and the starter had raised his flag, the stands were chock full of a cheering mass of people, whose shouts were drowned as the cars shot forward with a terrific roar. Indeed, the massed start of the 36 cars in the Grand Prix du Comminges was one of the most impressive sights we have ever seen. Eleven minutes later the cars appeared at the end of the first lap, and as the solid pack drew nearer we saw that Williams (Bugatti) led, followed closely by Lehoux (Bugatti), Zehender (Alfa Romeo), Wimille (Alfa Romeo), Sommer (Alfa Romeo), Etancelin (Alfa Romeo), and Benoit (Bugatti). Bugatti 1st and 2nd, Alfa Romeo 3rd and 4th-every prospect of a terrific struggle 1 Sensations quickly developed, for on the second lap Williams failed to appear, and after a few minutes’ anxiety we learnt that he had retired on the far side of the
course with petrol feed trouble. The, Bugatti hopes were quickly, revived, however, for Lehoux stepped into the lead, closely followed by Rene Dreyfus, who by dint of magnificent driving had picked up many places on the 2nd lap.
In the 2,000 c.c. class the lead was comfortably held by Count Czaikowski whose special double-camshaft Bugatti, carefully prepared for the race by the veteran driver, Friederich, was travelling splendidly. Lormand was lying second, while Dourel (Amilcar) was just in front of Veyron (Maserati) in the 1,100 c.c. class.
Dreyfus was not content with 2nd place, for on the next lap he broke the record for the course with a lap in 10m. 49 secs., taking the lead from Lehoux, and from there on a great duel developed between the two Bugattisti, while an internecine warfare was being waged in the Alfa Romeo camp between Wimille and Zehender. Then Lehoux was delayed with tyre trouble, and fell back to 6th place, but Dreyfus continued with unabated verve; lowering the record still further to 10 min. 38 secs., following this up with a lap in 10 mins., 35 secs.
The order at this point (7 laps) was : 1, Dreyfus ; 2, Wimille ; 3, Zehender ; 4, Gaupillat (Bugatti) ; 5, Etancelin (Alfa Romeo ; 6, Sommer (Alfa Romeo).
Soon after, Gaupillat and Etancelin retired, while Sommer hit a wall at Huos but was able to continue. Lehoux was driving like one possessed in order to wipe off the delay caused by his tyre trouble, and actually covered a lap in 10 nuns. 29 secs., a record which remained unbeaten for the rest of the race. And so the order remained unchanged until the very last lap, when there occurred a series of incidents which altered the whole aspect of the race. Dreyfus had appeared to have the race in his pocket, but it was not to be, and the cause of his downfall was a slight shower of rain. But let us recount these misfortunes in their chronological order. First of all Felix got into a skid on the wet road just before the stands, and finished up in the ditch at the side of the road. Happily, he was not
injured seriously, although he was unable to get out of his Alfa Romeo without assistance.
Immediately afterwards, Dreyfus appeared, and to our horror developed a series of terrifying skids on the same spot. For a moment we thought he was going to regain control, but with a sickening lurch the Bugatti crashed into a tree, which it felled, leapt into the air, and turned over, throwing Dreyfus out into the road. When he was picked up Dreyfus was found to be covered with blood, and it was feared that he VMS seriously injured. To everyone’s great relief, however, on being taken to the first-aid post he was found to be suffering only from superficial cuts and bruises. In one respect it was lucky that the car struck the tree, for otherwise it might have dashed into the crowd.
But the race was not yet over. Wimille (Alfa Romeo) was now leading, on the last lap, but adding sensation to sensation, he overturned at the foot of the COte de Valentine, without injuring himself in the least, but losing the lead to Zehender, who came home the winner of a most exciting race.
In the 2-litre class Count Czaikowski was never headed, finishing 11 minutes ahead of Lormand (Bugatti).
Veyron, driving his usual consistent race, finished first in the 1,500 c.c. class, 6 minutes ahead of Dourel (Amilcar).
OVER 2,000 c.c., 16 LAPS.
1, Zehender (Alfa Romeo 2,300 c.c.), 3h. 2m. 21s. ; 2, Lehoux (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.), 3h. 5m. 46s. ; 3, Sommer (Alfa Romeo 2,300 c.c.), 3h. 13m. 30s.; 4, Benoit (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.); 5, De Maleplane (Maserati 2,800 c.c.).
2,000 c.c., 14 LAPS. 1, Czaikowski (Bugatti), 2h. 52m. 36s.; 2, Lormand (Bugatti), 3h. 9m. 25s. ;
3, Vernet (Bugatti), 3h. 44m. 6s.
1,500 c.c., 12 LAPS.
1, Veyron (Maserati 1,500 c.c.), 2h. 35m. 15 3/5s. ; 2; Dourel (Amilcar 1,100 c.c.), 2h. 41m. 40s.; 3, Antonio (Maserati 1,500 c.c.), 2h. 44m. 9s. ; 4, Guilbaut (Bugatti 1,500 c.c.), 2h. 45m. 33s.