Mr. A. M. Conan Doyle, a son of the lamous novelist and himself a writer of some note, was this year present with his brother at the German Grand Prix by invitation of Baron von Oertzen, Managing Director of the Auto-Union company. Such ‹an occasion was an exceptional opportunity of seeing behind the scenes, and Mr. Conan Doyle’s notes and impressions fill in some of the background which makes an important Grand Prix race such a strong combination of cars and drivers, excite*rent and noise.—Ed.
The Nurburg Ring—the very name .conjures up a vision of pine woods and mountains frowning down upon a twisting ribbon of black road abotinding in unexpected bends and abrupt corners where man and chassis are strained to the limit under the ” split-record ” stress of an International Grand Prix. It is indeed a most fantastic course and, by virtue of its natural hazards, a worthy setting for the great fight that was to come. I say great fight because the rivalry between the different Marques seemed to be intensified by the fact that Auto-Union and MercedesBenz were both equally determined to win and this determination was not lessened by the entry of the much-discussed new Meseratis, the always-to-be-reckoned-with Alfas and Taruffi on a 3.3 Bugatti. ” Germany must win,” said the AutoUnion supporters, ” but it must be the `P’ wagon which triumphs!” “The Fatherland
will win,” said others. ” And, by the Fatherland, we mean the Mercedes ! ” A Formidable Car Three points struck us immediately about the Auto-Union. In direct cpposition to the Mere, it has a very deep and vibrant exhaust note, so that the ground seems to shake as the car approaches in the same manner as the vibration set up by a heavy locomotive. The second point was the totally erroneous impression of weight, for this car appears to be very much more sturdily built than any of its rivals. Lastly, the amazing cleanliness and polish on the engine. I examined a oar which had just come in from practice and the state of that engine was a most welcome change from the oil-splotched appearance of the average British racing power-unit. Incidentally, the Auto-Unions seem to be very much more easy to control than the Mercs, the drivers of the latter giving an appearance of ” fighting the wheel ” in contrast to the smooth passage of the ” P ” wagons. However, it is a different tale when it comes to cornering. Stuck told me that, owing to the weight of the engine in the rear, exact judgment must be shown in the placing of the car
for any corner. The slightest mis-judgment will cause the tail to swing round and, once starter!, it is exceedingly hard to pull the machine straight again owing to the rear weight. Therefore, it will be readily understood that these cars are especially difficult on the Nurburg Ring where the surface on many of the corners is none too good. Tyres last from three to ten laps on an average with the ” P ” wagon except in the case of Stuck. This driver, through his exceptional skill and precision in cornering, doubtless acquired in his numerous ADRIAN CONAN DOYLE
hill-climbs with his Mercedes-Benz S.S.K. and Austro-Daimler, generally manages to cover 12 or more laps before the covers need to be changed.
480 H.P. for 14i cwt.
The Auto-Unions were developing 480 h.p. at roughly 5,000 revs, and this represents an improvement of 100 h.p. over last year’s models. A small point—the cars are fitted with copper-rimmed hub caps. Incidentally, I was interested to hear the many promising remarks concerning the future of Rosemeyer, the new and talented recruit to the Auto-Union Team. They say that he is the man to watch, a second Hans Stuck in the making. And, as though to put a seal upon these predictions, he made, unofficially, the fastest
lap during practice. Time-10 minutes
35 seconds—a new record.
Time to Leave
A curious fact that I noticed is the removal of the steering wheels from a car before the driver can get in or out. It is a quick-acting affair working by a catch on a splined shaft. Talking about getting out of an Auto-Union reminds me of Stuck’s nerve-racking experience at Tripoli when his car caught alight. He tells me that when the car caught fire he was travelling at considerable speed and, unbeknown to him, the flames burnt through the oil pipes leading to the hydraulic brakes To make matters worse, the car that he was driving at the Tripoli Grand Prix was the enclosed model which is exceedingly difficult to get out of in a hurry. When the flames began to creep into the cockpit, he applied his brakes with ro result and it was not until then that he realised the true seriousness of his position. He changed down to 3rd, then 2nd and finally to 1st, and as the speed of the car
dropped to a crawl, flames began to glare around his driving seat, and creep up the bodywork. However, a quick-witted official, seeing his unenviable predicament sprinted like a madman alongside the burning car and sprayed it with the contents of fire extinguishers as he ran. Smart work, which undoubtedly saved Stuck from an unpleasant end.
Attacking Cobb’s Records
With so many events on the International Calendar, the Auto-Union people have little time for side-lines such as record attempts, but Stuck was determined to get his records back from the NapierRailton and, as he covered 100 kilos at 149 m.p.h. during the Avus Race, it looks as though he will be successful. He hopes to also cover over 150 miles in the hour. Incidentally,. Stuck was touching 203 m.p.h. during the Avusrennen and he
reckons the maximum speed of the new cars to be 218 m.p.h. Two famous figures in the Auto-Union pit were, of course, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the designer, and Willy Walb, the team manager. The former made a quaint picture curled up most of the time on the pit counter, timing his drivers and wearing a pair of old bedroom slippers. Walb, a large and genial individual, was equally solicitious of his cars and drivers. He made a point, whenever it was possible of driving his cars back to the Team
head-quarters himself. I would like to take this opportunity to express on behalf of my brother and myself our appreciation of the warm and courteous welcome and hospitality which we received from Baron von Oertzen, his fellow-Directors and the members of the Auto-Union Team.
How Nuvolari Does It
One of our most interesting experiences in Germany was a little private lunch with Nuvolari. We found him a most pleasant , (Continued on page 487.) and unaffected man, in sharp contrast to many lepser known drivers: During uncli, he talked at considerable length about physical strength in relation to the
modern Grand Prix car. He says that when he first started motor-racing, he found that with his slight build, he had not the physical strength to ” manhandle ” a racing-car on bend or corner and therefore he decided to let the machine always enter a corner at a ” natural ” speed, in other words, let the natural smoothness and balance of the car control the man. He has brought this act to perfection, a superb co-ordination of man and machine. I should think that while first trying out his experiments, his good luck mascot must have been working overtime. His mascot, by the way, is a :mall ivory elephant hanging on a gold wrist chain. Chiron joined us after lunch and in the course of conversation, this charming and deservedly popular driver spoke of the marvellous balance of the Alfas. He gave an illustration of this which like Stuck’s experience, took place during the Tripoli race. It appears that Chiron entered a ” flat-out ” bend at 155 m.p.h. on the heels of another car. The other machine suddenly burst a tyre and, like a flash,
broadsided in front of the Alfa. Chiron locked the wheel over, shot over the bank, and car and man literally ” took off ” Chiron told me that he just had tirne to think of one word-” Finis ” then, the car landed, leapt high in the air again and after two smaller leaps, shot down the bank on to the road once more. As he truly says, a car which will remain the right way up in the air at 155 m.p.h. is a well-made machine !
From far and wide, throughout the last two days and nights, the people of Germany have been streaming to the Nurburg Ring. Charabancs of elderly people (can you imagine that at Brooklands I), droves of men, women and children on cycles singing their, way through the darkness as they pedal along. Line upon line of cars jostling and accelerating with glare of lights and the continual blowing of horns, their mud-stained number plates showing that they come from every part of Germany and even beyond the borders from France and Switzerland. Every hotel, large and small, within a radius of 35 miles is cornpletely filled, and, in Adenau, whole families are sleeping on the pavements. Near Altenahr a regiment of Nazis are resting
and eating around their cookers. They. have marched :350 miles to see the race I As I scribble I am sitting in the pine woods on the edge of the Karussel curve and dawn is just breaking through the sky to the east. The Nurburg Ring lies deserted, but all around is the glimmer of camp fires and lines of huddled sleeping forms are grouped around the boles of the trees. All honour to the Germans for their wholehearted support of a great sport in direct contrast to the apathy of England in matters motor-racing.