Parting Shot: Isle of Man, 1957
Bob McIntyre tackles the Governor’s Bridge hairpin ahead of John Surtees on his way to…
THE MCE GRAND PRIX. WINS GRUELLING RACE IN INTENSE HEAT AT 65 m.p.h. BRIAN LEWIS (ALFA-ROMEO) FINISHES SIXTH. NUVOLARI (MASERATI) THE HON.
THE Grand Prix of Nice was run last year for the first time, and on that occasion the programme consisted of three heats and a final, all over short distances. This year the Committee decided to give the race the status of a genuine Grand Prix by having a single event of 305 kilometres, open to any type of racing car.
This alteration was abundantly justified when the list of entrants was published, for it included such stars as Nuvolari, Campari, Lehoux, Earl Howe, Dreyfus, Fagioli, Varzi and Etancelin. An enormous amount of work was put into the preparation of the course, which was formed by La Promenade des Anglais, l’avenue de Verdun, la place .Massena, l’avenue des Phoceens, and le quai des Etats-Unis. Altogether there were eight corners per lap ; two hairpins, four right angle bends, and two faster curves. Eleven special grandstands were erected, in addition to the natural vantage points of the hotels such as the Ruhl, the Gambetta and the Etats-Unis. Finally there were the usual promenoirs and elouses, protected from the road by straw barricades, and 13 loud speakers and a huge score board completed the arrangements for the public.
The first practice was fixed for Thursday morning, between 6 and 7 o’clock in the morning. Following the example of Monaco and Nimes, the starting order in the race was to be determined by the fastest practice laps, so naturally everyone was out to do his best. This did not apply to the Bugatti drivers, Varzi and Dreyfus, who were content to drive quietly. Fastest time was made by Etancelin (Alfa Romeo) in lin. 47s., followed by Lehoux (Bugatti), lin. 49s.; Moll (Alfa Romeo) and Wimille (Alfa Romeo) lrn. 51s. ; Earl Howe (Bugatti) and Sommer (Alfa Romeo) lin. 52s.; Zehender (Maserati) and Jellen (Alfa Romeo) 1m. 56s.
On the next day Etancelin’s time was not beaten, the Rouennais contenting himself with lm. 48s., a time which was equalled by Wimille, both driving Alfas.
Race organised by the A.C. de Nice et Cote d’Azur.
Run on August 6th, over 95 laps of the 3.214 metres circuit; total distance 305 kms. 330. Previous winner: 1932, Chiron (Bugatti).
Moll (Alfa Romeo) showed great skill in reducing his time by 2 seconds to lm. 49s., this figure also being recorded by Varzi (Bugatti) without apparent effort. Dreyfus (Bugatti) did no better than lm. 50s., Sommer (Alfa Romeo), Fagioli (Alfa Romeo) and Lehoux (Bugatti) all did 1w. 51s., Brian Lewis (Alfa Romeo), lin. 52s. ; Jellen (Alfa Romeo), lm.. 53s. ; and Felix (Alfa Romeo), lm. 54s. After this excitement spectators paid scant heed to the weary and travel-stained competitors in the Alpine Trial, who arrived at Nice that evening.
As usual, Nuvolari and Campari did not arrive until the last day of practice, and the former promptly took out his single seater Maserati and equalled Etancelin’s record lap (1m. 47s.) of the first day. Other times were Etancelin, lin. 47s. ; Sommer and Wimille, lm. 48s,; Lehoux, Dreyfus and Fagioli, irn. 49s. ; Campari (Maserati), lin4 51s. ; Minozzi, lm. 52s. Lehoux did many laps with his new Alfa, but as the car was not quite up to concert pitch he decided to run the Bugatti in the race itself. Moll, Varzi and Felix did not go out at all, while Howe, Lewis and Zehender merely toured round.
Long before the race was due to start on the Sunday, 4.15 p.m., a vast crowd Invaded Nice and took up its place round the course. What nearly turned into a stampede occurred when the crowd got impatient at the delay in crossing the foot-bridge from the corner of the Hotel Ruhl to the Jetee Promenade, in order to reach the tribunes on the far side of the road. People swarmed into the hotel, trying to reach the footbridge at the top instead of waiting their turn, with the result that the bridge became hopelessly jammed and many were being crushed by the pressure.
An air of ceremony was given to the preliminary proceedings by the ” presentation” of each driver to the crowd over the loud speakers, the popular Philippe Etancelin receiving by far the greatest ovation. Then the cars were lined up facing the tribunes in the following order : 1st row, Nuvolari (Maserati 2,998 c.c.), Etancelin (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), Wimille (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.) ; 2nd row, Sommer (Alfa Romeo 2,600 c.c.), Lehoux (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.) ; 3rd row, Fagioli (Alfa Romeo 2,600 c.c.), Varzi (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.), Moll (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.) ; 4th row, Dreyfus, (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.), Campari (Maserati 2,000 c.c.) ; 5th row, Minozzi (Maserati 2,998 c.c.), Lewis (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), Jellen (Alfa Romeo 2,600 c.c.) ; 6th row, Felix (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), Zehender (Maserati 2,998 c.c.) ; 7th row, Earl Howe (Bugatti 2 300 c.c.).
The signal to start was given by Felice Nazzaro, the famous Italian driver, and as the cars shot away from the line it seemed as though Etancelin showed a slight advantage over Nuvolari. At the end of lap 1, Nuvolari was in the lead, followed by Etancelin, Lehoux (who had passed Wimille), Varzi, Wimille, Dreyfus, Moll, Campari, Fagioli, Sommer, Lewis, Minozzi, Jellen, Howe and Felix. For five laps this order was more or less unchanged, and then a tremendous cheer greeted the sight of Etancelin in front of Nuvolari. Poor Varzi had the misfortune to release prematurely the oil in his auxiliary tank, with the result that he was forced to make frequent stops for plugs.
All eyes were on the Nuvolari-Etancelin duel, and.on the 7th lap the former once again assumed the head of affairs—only to be repassed by Etancelin on the following lap. Spectators told themselves that Nice was to be a repetition of Monaco, with a slight alteration in the dramatis personae. But the other competitors were by no means idle, and Lehoux drove with such brilliance that he was soon on the heels of Nuvolari and Etancelin.
The fast pace began to show up weaknesses, and the first retirement was announced when the Austrian driver, Jellen, withdrew his Alfa Romeo with a broken petrol pipe. Varzi was constantly at the pits ; Zehender came in to adjust his brakes, and had great difficulty in restarting his Maserati by the starting handle ; Earl Howe’s Bugatti was stationary for some time while the mechanic tried to mend a broken oil pipe ; and then Sommer retired with a broken rockerarm. After a few more laps Howe retired as did Zehender with an overheated engine, and so the field was reduced to 11, for Varzi was really out of it. Nuvolari and Etancelin continued their neck and neck duel, there being a constant exchange of places, until the Italian driver had to call at his pit for a rapid brakeadjustment which took 20 seconds to complete. Indeed, judging by the verve with which most of the competitors were driving, none of the cars would have any brake linings left at all by the end of the
race. This violent application of the stopping devices of the cars resulted in a wild gyration on more than one occasion, especially when the corners began to be cut up by the tyres. Fagioli was particularly spectacular, as was Brian Lewis. both getting away with it without hitting anything or anybody. Nuvolari’s brief stop was sufficient to let Lehoux into second place, 25 seconds behind Etancelin and 34 seconds ahead of Nuvolari. The Italian soon reduced the Bugattis lead, however, and when Lehoux skidded right round on a corner, Nuvolari was once more in second place. Dreyfus, carrying the burden of representing officially the Bugatti factory, was driving a
brilliant, steady race, and had worked his way into fourth position, ready to take command should the leaders crack up.
By a few seconds every lap Nuvolari cut down Etancelin’s lead. The latter, realising that he was being caught, made great efforts to keep ahead but in his enthusiasm lost control of his blue Alfa Romeo in taking a corner, and turned completely round. Before he could get going again Nuvolari had dashed past and once more occupied first place. By this time the leaders were finding that their brakes were losing their efficiency, and Lehoux profited by the Bugatti method of changing linings with the wheels to fit a completely new set of brakes in a rapid pit-stop. So far the fastest lap had been covered by Nuvolari in Im. 478., a time equalled by Etancelin in practice. When 45 out of the 95 laps had been .1•7•• covered the order of the cars was as follows :
I. Nuvolari (Maserati), lb. 22m 39s.
2. Etancelin (Alfa Romeo), lb. 23m. 7s.
3. Dreyfus (Bugatti), lb. 23m. 48s.
4. Witnitle (Alfa Romeo), lb. 24m. 2s.
5. Moll (Alfa Romeo), lb. 24m. 59s.
6. Lewis (Alfa Romeo), 1h. 25m. 26s.
7. Lehoux (Bugatti), lb. 26m. 40s.
8. Campari (Maserati), 15. 26m. 44s.
9. Fagioli (Alfa Romeo), 1h. 27m. 29s.
10. Felix (Alfa Romeo). Dreyfus had passed Lehoux while the latter was at his pit, and as the former had demanded much less from his car than the ferocious Nuvolari and Etancelin, Bugatti hopes of victory were by no means dim. Wimille, Moll, and Brian Lewis, all on Alfas, were driving fast steady races, not
possessing quite the dash of the leaders, but adding greatly to the interest of the race. Lewis was lapping round about lm. 53s. Lehoux’s drop to 7th position was partly due to another tele-d-queue in front of the Hotel Ruhl, which cost him two places. Felix had skidded badly at the Beau-Rivage corner, charging the straw barricades and taking some time to extricate his Alfa Romeo. Fagioli had made frequent pit-stops in order to adjust his shock absorbers, in his usual lackadaisical way being in no hurry to get away. Then came the dramatic news that Etancelin had retired, and sure enough the order of the cars on the next lap was Nuvolari, Dreyfus, Wimille. Etancelin’s trouble was a broken brake-rod-little wonder, after his many laps of hectic cornering. As he walked back from the
Gambetta corner he received a great , ovation from the crowd. Meanwhile Lehoux and Fagioli began to wake up once more, and passed Lewis to take 5th and 6th places. Then the plucky little Algerian had to stop to adjust his brakes, and then to complete his tale of bad luck, on the following lap he had to stop once more in order to repair a petrol pipe which was on the point of breaking.
After Etancelin’s retirement Nuvolari was well ahead, and could afford to ease up. The interest of the crowd was now transferred to the struggle between Dreyfus (Bugatti) and Wimille (Alfa Romeo). Dreyfus was second, but Wimille began to overhaul him and on the 66th lap he passed the Bugatti after a great effort. For ten laps there was never more than a couple of seconds between the cars, but then the Alfa brakes began to weaken and Dreyfus once more occupied setond place By this time Nuvolari was about to lar both the cars, and was an interested spectator of the duel. Four laps later Wimille decided that a quick adjustment of his brakes at the pit would be better than having to cut out earlier and earlier for the corners, but this stop cost him third place to Guy Moll. 5 laps later Wimille retired, his car having the same defect as that of Etancelin, namely a broken brake-cable.
Nuvolari was now a certain winner, for Dreyfus was a lap behind, Moll 30 seconds behind him, while Fagioli was two laps, Lewis, Lehoux and Campari were 3 laps and Felix was 4 laps in the rear. As the end grew near the crowd grew more excited with every minute, and when Nuvolari was finally flagged home the winner of the 2nd Nice Grand Prix, amazing scenes took place.
Led by a large party of Italian sailors from a squadron in the harbour, the crowd immediately broke down the barriers and invaded the course. Dreyfus and Moll had difficulty in avoiding a wholesale massacre, but by good driving on the part of all drivers left in the race a serious accident was averted. The Italians seized Nuvolari, hoisted him aloft on their shoulders, and cheered him to the echo.
I. T. Nuvolari (Maserati 2,998 c.c.), 2h. 56m. 17 3/5s. Average speed I 03.916 k.p.h., 64.947 m.p.h.
2. R. Dreyfus (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.), 211.57m. 47 1/5s.
3. G. Moll (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), 25. 39m. 25s.
4. L. Fagioli (Alfa Romeo 2,600 c.c.), 2 laps. S. M. Lehoux (Bugatti 2,300 c.c.), 3 laps.
6. The Hon. Brian Lewis (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), 3 laps.
7. P. Felix (Alfa Romeo 2,350 c.c.), 4 laps.
8. G. Campari (Maserati 2,000 c.c. 4 laps. Nuvolarrs Maserati was equipped with Dunlop tyres.
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