Continental Notes and News, September 1938

The New Alfa

Undoubtedly the most important event of the month has been the long awaited appearance of the new 1,500 c.c. Alf aRomeo. At Livorno, where they won, the cars never gave the slightest trouble, but at Pescara, where they lost, they developed a vast appetite for plugs. This was due, I believe, to the varied conditions found on the circuit, the long straights requiring different plugs from the hilly and twisty bits. However, the trouble is not insurmountable, and the cars will be formidable competitors in the 1,500 c.c. field from now on.

They are tremendously quick. At Pescara in practice, for example, Emilio Villoresi lapped in 11 mins. 43 secs., compared with Nuvolari’s 11 mins. 26 secs. on an Auto-Union. During the race itself, after innumerable pit-stops for plugs, Seven i did the flying kilometre at 189.53 m.p.h.

The Von Brauchitsch Affair

Reverting to Livorno, Von Brauchitsch’s disqualification caused a considerable hullabaloo. The whole affair was very badly handled, because he was allowed to finish the race and to be presented to the Contessa Ciano as the winner. It was not until hours afterwards, at the hotel in the town, that the word was passed round that the finishing order had been changed, and the ensuing scramble by the Press for the only two available telephones had to be seen to be believed. Incidentally, no news or bulletins whatsoever were given to the Press throughout the race, which drew devastating comments from the G.O.M. of French motor-racing correspondents. Here is an eye-witness account of the incident which led to Von Brauchitsch’s

disqualification. As Von Brauchitsch and Lang passed the pits to enter the long right-hand fast bend which follows, they were almost bonnet to bonnet. The former drew level and Lang eased up slightly, but at the same moment Von Brauchitsch decided that it would be wiser not to pass after all. He changed his mind, however, when Lang definitely slowed, accelerated too much and got into a slide, turning right round and finishing up against the straw bales. As is the way with Italians, the crowd at that point got wildly excited, rushed onto the road and before the driver could say them nay had pushed the car back onto the course. He took the disqualification extremely well, confining his comments to : “Well, Mercedes won, and that’s the main thing!”

Lang, on the other hand, had a face like thunder at the finish. He had had a good lead until two laps from the finish, when his tyre went, and it was a very angry man indeed who was presented to the Contessa. The unfair part of the disqualification was that exactly the same thing happened to two Italian-driven Maseratis in the small-car race, and at exactly the same spot, but they were not disqualified. It -was Furmanik who was responsible for Von Brauchitsch’s disqualification, and 1 understood that he acted against the wishes of the R.A.C.I. officials. There waS talk of a Mercedes protest, to the A.I.A.C.R. in Paris, especially after they secured some photographs of the incident showing Von Brauchitsch trying to keep the crowd off, but I think they would be wise to let well alone. The fact remained that the car was pushed, and that is against the rules ; whether the driver condoned it or encouraged it does not matter.

Livorno Notes

The centre of interest at the practising, apart from the new 1,500 c.c. Alfas, was Trossi’s Maserati, which made fastest time of all on each day. His best time of 2 mins. 26.1 secs. compared with Von Brauchitsch’s 2 mins. 29 sees.; Lang and Caracciola doing 2 mins. 26.4 secs., and Farina 2 mins. 27.4 secs. In the race he lay back for three laps, and then in one terrific rush overtook both Lang and Caracciola to take the lead. The crowd nearly went mad ! It was a pity that he was not content to leave it at that. Instead, he continued to drive at an amazing pace, leaving the Mercs. well behind, with the result that his engine

complained. Zehender ‘s Ma.serati, which was intended to trail along behind Trossi’s as a reserve, blew up on the second lap. Varzi was present, but not well enough to drive. Caracciola’s Mercedes, incidentally, was of the very latest type, lighter than the previous models. Herr Uhlenhaut tried out this car during the practice for the German G.P., but this was its first appear

ance in a race. As you know, it retired, for what reason I do not know. The Alfa Corse cars seemed to have found a bit more power. Farina’s twelvecylinder car was particularly good, and got a place in the front row at the start through its fast practice times. In the race Farina was superb, using his head well and well deserving his ultimate second place. By the way, he now owns the most marvellous Alfa coupe for road work, and he told me that it can do its 320 m.p.h. Wimille was driving his first race for Alfa Corse, but he was suffering from kidney trouble and had to hand ova his twelve-cylinder car to Biondetti

when lying fifth. However, he will undoubtedly do well later on. The car finished third.

By way of contrast, it was grand fun to see the drivers at the fair alongside the hotel in the town, dicing with dodgem cars. Their chief object seemed to be to turn over the one which Neubauer was driving, but the Great Man is no featherweight, and kept firmly in the saddle !

Mays Fails at Albi

The danger of a marque having only one representative in a race was demonstrated at Albi last month, when Raymond Mays tried to uphold the E.R.A.

” works ” colours single-handed. A broken supercharger put him out in the first heat, after he had made the fastest lap in the race, and his retirement meant that Maseratis could justly claim to have had their revenge for previous defeats at the hands of the English cars. As usual, the race attracted a tremendous amount of public attention in the Midi, and great crowds turned out to watch the practising. The E.R.A. was giving trouble throughout, and consequently the fastest practice lap went to Bianco’s Maserati at 3 mins. 31 secs., or 93.002 m.p.h. Villoresi clocked 3 ruins. 34 sees., Hug 3 ruins. 38 secs., Teagno 3 min. 53 sees., Sofiietti 3 ruins. 58 secs., and Berg 4 ruins. 4 secs. All these were

driving Maseratis. Mays was not the only one in trouble, for Raph broke a piston on his Maserati and was faced with an all-night session of hard work to get his car ready for the morrow.

The morning of race-day was occupied with motor-cycle races, and after lunch the cars lined up for the first “heat.” Actually this is a misnomer, for the .Grand Prix d’Albi is run on the curious system of two races for the same cars, the final placings beiag determined on the aggregate times of the two events. With only nine starter* the outlook for an exciting race was not very promising, and the prospect was not improved when Armand Hug lost the filler cap of his oil tank, which emptied its contents onto the road and prevented hint from

continuing. Meanwhile, Mays on the E.R.A. had succeeded in getting ahead of Villoresi, who had led for the first lap, but the effort was too much for his blower, which cracked and put him out of the race. However, he had the consolation of lapping in 3ruins. 24 secs., at 96.193 m.p.h., before going out. The field was still further reduced when Bianco had an appalling crash. His Maserati came into :a corner too quickly, turned sideways, struck a gully, rolled over twice, and finally came up against a telegraph pole, which it chopped in half. The unfortunate Italian was removed to hospital with pretty serious injuries, but his life was not in danger,

I am glad to say.

And then Raph, who had managed to get his car to the starting line, finally gave up after eight laps with a badly misfiring engine.

With Mays, Hug and Bianco out of the Way, Villoresi had an easy run for the rest of the race, finishing a long way in front of Teagno and Soffietti. For the second heat only six cars lined up. Hug sportingly turned out, although his chance of a place in the final results was negligible. Villoresi again got off the mark better than the others, and led front Teagno, Hug, Berg and Soffietti. Villoresi covered the second lap in 3 mitts. 35 secs„ but this time was beaten by Hug on his seventh lap, with ruins. 33 secs. The Swiss driver had passed Teagno to take second place, and now he tackled the leader. Driving with fine spirit and judgment, he soon overhauled the Italian and went right

ahead. Meanwhile ‘Teagno had retired with a broken gearbox on the ninth lap, and had let Berg, the German, into third place. The latter then had the misfortune and!or misjudgment to run out of petrol on the far side of the course.

Hug continued his dashing drive, and finished one and a half ruins. ahead of Villoresi, who, however, comfortably won the Grand Prix by virtue of his good aggregate for the two races. With the race in his pocket, he could not be blamed for refusing to chase Hug and thereby standing the chance of a mechanical breakdown.


First Heat :

1. Villoresi (Illastrati), 20 laps In lh. 12m. 31.2s. Speed 00.194 m.p.h.

2. Teagno (Maserati), 19 laps in lh. 12m. 488.

3. Soffietti (Maserati), 19 laps in lh. 13m. 53e.

4. Berg (Maserati), 18 laps in lh. 12m. 49s.

5. Platt (Talbot), 15 laps in lh. 14in. 208. Fastest lap : Mays (E.R.A.) in 3m. 24s., 96.103 m.p.h. Second Beat:

1. Hug (Maseraii) 20 laps in 7h. 13m. 5.4s. Speed 89.494 m.p.h.

2. Villoresi (Maserati) 20 laps in lb. 14m. 388.

3. Sollietti (Maserati) 20 laps in lh. 16m. 55s.

4. Platt (Talbot) 17 laps in lh. 14m. 33s. Fastest lap : Hug (Maserati) in 3m. 33s., speed 92.128 ni.p.h. General Classification :

1. Villoresi (Maserati), 40 laps in 2h. 27m. 9.2s.

Speed 88.99 m.a2. Softietti (Maserati), 39 laps in 217. 30m. 48s. 3. Plate (Tbot), 32 laps in 211. 28m. 53s.

Both winners of the heats, Villoresi and Hug on Maseratis, ran on Dunlop tyres.

Pescara Postscript

Practising for the Coppa Acerbo was notable for the manner in which Nuvolari seems to be mastering the different ” feel ” of the rear-engined Auto-Union. On the first day he was 9 seconds faster than Caracciola and Lang, and yet he didn’t seem to be trying hard, being cool

and -absolutely unflurried. He didn’t even slide, much. On the second day he again made fastest time, but this time the Mercedes did not turn out, as there was a thunderstorm at the beginning. Luigi Villoresi was given his first run on the big Maserati, and did 12 ruins. 23 secs., as compared with Nuvolari’s 11 ruins. 26 secs. In the race, however, when Trossi handed the car over to him at half-distance, Villoresi did amazingly well, lapping in 10 ‘nips. 57 sees., the fastest lap of the day 1 He followed this up with the second fastest lap in 10 mina. 59 secs., so the first one wasn’t a fluke. His old fireworks are now nicely blended with judgment, and I believe he will be in the very front rank of G.P. drivers before long. It is certainly about time Italy found some promising youngsters. This fastest lap of the day also augurs well for the future of the Maserati, which has only to find a little more reliability to become a real menace to the Germans. There was a little mystery about the Auto-Union’s trouble. Nuvolari’s retirement was officially stated to be due to a broken differential, but he himself was heard to say that it was petrol

pressure, or the lack of same.. Then Muller’s ” running out of petrol ” sounds very unlike A uto-Union staff-work, and it looks as though he May have had fuel starvation as well. But if so, why not say so ? The crowd kept up a continual demand that Nuvolari should take over Hasae’s car. or :Muller’s. The former was driving a French G.P. car, which Nuvolari has not tried, and the latter was just going to oblige when he ran out of petrol, or something.

Muller, incidentally, is definitely a coming man. His career so far has not been unlike Rosemeyer’s, and I should not be at all -surprised to see him win a G.P. race before long and suddenly emerge as a real ” ace.” Farina deserved his second place, for the second week-end in succession. He knows that his twelve-cylinder Alfa is slower than the other* but he also knows

it is more reliable than most, so he jogs along and waits for the others to blow up, which they generally do. He told me that the sixteen-cylinder Alfa will not be ready until the Italian G.P. at Monza. The Ecurie Bleue Delahayes, although. outclassed in Italy, were admired for their sporting performance. The singleseater has been held up with suspension trouble, and the necessary new bits have been delayed through the French factories closing down during August. Schell thinks the car will be ready early in September. The Dreyfus-Comottit incident was most unpleasant. For some time Schell thought that Dreyfus was signalling that both he and Comottii were being balked by Belmonda, in his independent Alfa, which was ahead of both of them. Schell actually complained about Belmonda to the R.A.C.I. officials, and it was only later that he found out that the real culprit was Comotti, who did not want to have anything to do with

team tactics in Italy. As a scrap, of course, it was terrific, a real needle affair with both drivers doing all they knew. Dreyfus broke his gearbox in an effort to get past, and Comotti ran off the road, but got back again. For this he blamed the brakes, but Schell had them examined afterwards and found them perfect. The result of it all was that Comotti’s contract was cancelled on the spot. Altogether the Coppa Acerbo was a most successful race, and it attracted a crowd of 100,000 which was the most enthusiastic I have ever seen, even in. Italy, which is saying something

Berne Gossip

The 1,500 c.c. and Grand Prix races at Berne brought up the old problem as to whether very slow cars should be allowed to run against the fast stuff. In the big face there were five cars, driven by local amateurs, which were lapped in four laps by the leaders, and at the end they were twelve to fifteen laps behind 1 The point is that their presence is neither an addition to the spectacle nor an assistance to the other competitors, but on the other hand it obviously seems unfair and unwise to stifle the amateur element altogether. In the small race some amazing cars turned out, and one of them did its fastest lap in practice at just under 60 m.p.h. I Incidentally, there were two English drivers who did not exactly create a favourable impression as regards rapid driving. These two seemed to have an uncanny desire to look anywhere but at the road ahead, and where they ought to be on it. They looked at the spectators, at the scenery, at the view behind the car, but only occasionally at

the road. And then, I suppose, they wonder why their lap times compare so badly with those Of people like ” Bira,” Villoresi„ Pietsch, and Lord Howe! The answer is that the latter drivers concentrate On the job in hand, which is to get round the circuit as quickly as possible. The Swiss national race was marred by the terrible accident to Gubelin, which was almost identical to that which occurred to Geier, the Mercedes driver, a few years ago. The car turned several somersaults before crashing into the pits, and two other cars collided in trying to avoid the

hurtling projectile. Actually this race does not seem to be a very good idea, with 1,500 c.c. racing Maseratis on the same circuit (and a tricky one, at that) with standard American saloons and even baby Fiats. Only a few spectators watch it, in any case, and the Grand l’rix drivers all stand several hundred yards away when the race begins ! As for the Prix de Berne, ” Bira ” had really bad luck to retire on the first lap of his heat, and so did Mays with the final apparently in his pocket. On the other hand, no one begrudged Armand. Hug his victory, partly because he is a Swiss, and partly because he is a really good driver. He took his win very modestly, and immediately celebrated in a mild way with his mechanics. His car was tuned by Ruggeri, a man from the works at Bologna, who was delighted at unexpectedly getting the better of seven E.R.A.s. The most surprised man of the day, however, was Bianco, who thought he was an ” also ran” and could not believe that he was second 1 In the Swiss G.P. the duel between Caracciola and Seaman was magnificent. Their driving in the torrential rain was simply wonderful, and how they managed to pass the slower cars in those clouds of spray was uncanny. It was the rain which let Caracciola pass Seaman in the first place, for the ” Regenmeister ” was

in his element (literally). But Seaman clung grimly to his tail, and was only 24 seconds behind at the end. Everyone is agreed that Seaman is now as good as any driver in any team, and he has got the present ‘Mercedes absolutely “taped.” Brauchitsch did not seem quite at home at Berne, while Lang was hit in the eye by a stone. He went to a clinic on the Monday after the race, and I am glad to report that his injury is not serious. Baumer is still taking things easily until he gets thoroughly used to the big cars, and very wisely, too ! But one day he will do great things, I am sure.

The Alfa Corse team couldn’t expect to win with their slower cars, but Farina finished fifth. “The Doctor” has been extremely consistent this year, and indeed he is one of the most polished drivers in the game. Wimille had his second drive for Alfa Corse and was very fast in practice. But he did not like the rain in the race, and was fairly subdued. He was actually beaten by Taruth on an eight cylinder Alfa, which he handled superbly.

Berne was en fete for the races. Outside the station the 270 m.p.h. Mercedes was on view, and a huge board with the chief practice times was displayed beside it every day. Every hotel had a practicetime notice-board, and it was a great pity that the rain spoilt the attendance figures so badly. It is to be hoped that the Swiss people will not become disheartened and. give up the race in the event of their having made a financial loss. I would like to add my word of praise to M. Huber, the organiser, who gets through an enormous amount of work without fuss or bother.