BLIGATTI GAINS THE DAY AT FRANCORCHAMPS RENE DREYFUS AND ANTONIO BRIVIO TAKE THE FIRST TWO PLACES, WITH SOMMER’S THIRDCHIRON AND BENOIST HAVE MIRACULOUS ESCAPES FROM DEATH.
THE organisation of a Continental motor race is a most anxious business for the officials. First of all the entry of the leading cars and drivers has to be obtained, but even then their actual participation in the rate cannot he assured. This is what happened in the Belgian Grand Prix, where entries. from Ferrari, Bugatti, Mercedes and Auto Union gave the hope that the race would be one of the finest of the season. Fortyeight hours before the event, however, two telegrams came from Germany., the Mercedes factory saying that their cars could not be prepared in time, and the Auto Union directors stating that they wished to give their drivers a rest ! This followed on some trouble about the Belgian Customs people demanding 180,000 francs duty on 3,000 litres of special fuel from Germany. Fortunately there was just sufficient interest left in the remaining entries to make the race worth watching. There were the two Ferrari champions, Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi, driving brand new monoposto Alfa-Romeos ; Brivio, Benoist and Dreyfus at the wheel of the “
works” Bugattis, now enlarged in size to 3,500 c.c., Raymond Sommer on a 3-litre Maserati, and Monter driving a specially built VS Ford–the Smallest field for any Grand Prix race this year. Just before the flag fell a slight drizzle set in, and the drivers were ‘faced with an unpleasant 3 or 4 hours of handling their tremendously fast cars over the tricky Francorchamps circuit. The start was given at 1 o’clock, and Chiron made his usual lightning getaway to take the lead. Dreyfus was close behind, followed by Varzi and the rest. At the end of the first lap Chiron was leading Dreyfus by 2 seconds who in turn was 4 seconds ahead of Varzi. From a standing start Chiron had beaten Nuvolari’s flying lap record of last year. A hint Of the troubles that were going to beset the Bugattis was given when Brivio pulled into the pits and changed a plug. On the following lap he stopped again, and was joined by Benoist, who was also troubled by Misfiring. To cap matters, the third Bugatti driven by Dreyfus swung into the pit
area on lap 3, also smitten with faulty plugs. Altogether Brivio stopped 3 times, Dreyfus 3 times and Benoist Once.
Chiron and Varzi now :settled down to collect the prize money for first and second places on behalf of the Ferrari coffers, which are already reputed to be filled with money of various currencies to the value of E80,000. Sommer was lying fourth, with the Bugattis in the next three places, and Monter last. Benoist was the first Bugatti driver to get his car ,going well, and soon passed Sommer, and the half way mark was reached in this order.
Then came the refuelling period. Chiron drew up first, and then Varzi, and when they got going again there was a gap of 54 Seconds between them. On the other hand the Alfas wereno less than 10 minutes ahead of Dreyfus and Benoist. Quite suddenly the whole aspect of the race Was changed. Chiron had intended to take up his shock absorbers at the pit stop, but this was not done. He got into a skid just past the hairpin bend of L’Ean-Eouge, and had to go on to the grass verge in order to correct the movement of the rear wheels. Unluckily one of them struck a large rock, and in a trice the red Alfa-Romeo had turned right over. By amazing good fortune there was a deep gulley at the point where the cockpit came in contact with the ground, and Chiron was uninjured. He lept to his feet and shook his limbs to Make Sure no hones were broken, _after which he walked back to the pits unassisted. Varzi now led the field in a State of advanced isolation. There was no need for him to hnitv, for the next man was still many minutes astern. On the other hand the fastest lap so far stood to Chiron ‘s credit, and Varzi decided to break his team-mate’s figure before easing up for the rest of the rate. Chiron’s time was 5 mins. 47 secs. and Varzi succeeded in clipping a clear second from this. On the following lap, however, the cockpit suddenly filled with ominous blue smoke. Everyone suspected a broken piston, but the Ferrari pit gave out that a fractured oil-pipe was the cause. And :so, quite
unexpectedly, the Bugatti team found themselves in the lead, with Sommer’s Maserati as their only rival. Dreyfus was in front, with Brivio two minutes behind. Benoist had been delayed for 10 minutes with .a broken accelerator pedal.
The excitement was not at an end, for Benoist had a spectacular escape from death a few laps before the finish. Aftcr the corner of Burnerville there is a long descent on which high speeds are possible. Benoist approached this at his usual gait of 130 m.p.h. only to find that a local shower had fallen and that the surface was extremely slippery. He immediately raised his “accelerator foot,” but the back of the car swung round beyond his control and he found himself in the disconcerting position of travelling backwards at 110 m.p.h. The goddess who takes tare Of racing drivers was in a beneficent mood that day, for although the road was edged on one side by a high bank and by a ditch followed by a mound on the other, his Bugatti chose to leave the road at a point .where the ditch and the mound were smoothed out for -a distance of about 10 yards. The result was that the car did not turn over, and merely came to rest without apparent damage. Benoist restarted his engine, got back on to the road, and drove back to the pits for a wheel change.
The ‘Monter-Ford finished a long way behind the rest, but the driver had gained the respect of everyone by giving plenty of room to the faster cars and generally behav°ino in the proper manner. Before the end Brivio succeeded in bringing the lap record down to 5 mins. 45 secs., which gives an idea of the general performance of the Bugattis when functioning satisfactorily. Next year Will no doubt see the 3.5-litre Bugattis among the list of regular winners in Grand Prix racing.
MY LT. 00 laps. 596 kilometres.)
.1..R. Dreyfus (Bugatti, 3,500 ex.), 4h. 15m. 3.8s., 139.861 k.p.h.
2. A. Brivio (Bugatti, 3,500 .c.c.), 4h. 16m. 54.8,s.
3. R. Sonuner (Maserati, 3,000 c.c.), 39 laps in 4b. 18m. 27.2s.
4. R. Benoist (Bugatti, 3,500 c.c.), 37 laps in 4h. 20m. 32s.
5. :guiltier (Muntier-Ford), 30 laps in 411. 27th. 25s.