THE COMMINGES GRAND PRIX VICTORY FOR LEBEGUE (DARRACQ) AFTER GREAT DUEL WITH WIMILLE (BUGATTI) AMD SOMMER (DARRACQ)
AFEW years ago the Comminges Grand Prix used to be quite an important event in France, being first of all a real Grand Prix and later a
race for sports-cars. Then, possibly owing to the fact that the place is not far from the Franco-Spanish frontier, on the other side of which the civil war was being waged, the race was allowed to lapse.
Now, after an interval of two years, it has been revived, and a very successful affair it turned out to be on Sunday, August 6th. The circuit is callea after the town of St. Gaudens, and is situated in admirable scenery, at the foot of the Pyrenees, which rise to their highest point thereabouts. It is not so long as it used to be, but even to-day it is some 7 miles round, with some very fast stretches.
For some reason or other there was a strong rumour in Paris barely a week before the race-day that the event would not take place owing to lack of entries and other difficulties. Fortunately this turned out to be no more than a rumour, and all the leading French sports-car drivers—which nowadays means French racing drivers—turned up. The regulations said that the race would be over 40 laps, or 272 miles, and that it would be open to cars up to 4f-litres, with special prizes for the leading cars of under 2flitres. The prize money was modest : 20,000 francs for the unlimited winner, and 5,000 francs. for the 2.5-litre leader. The sight of twenty-three starters must have thoroughly confounded the scare-mongers, particularly as it was only decided to hold the race at fairly short notice. Sommer and Lebegue, on Darracqs made the best start and were leading from Wimille’s Bugatti at the end of the first lap. The last-named had made a poor start, but he soon began to warm up and passed Lebegue on the fourth lap. Then he went after Sommer, caught him, was re-passed, and the two of them carried on a terrific duel until well after distance, when both had to stop ; Wimille for water, as a stone had made a puncture in his radiator, and Sommer for a plug change. Meanwhile Lebegue been trailing along behind them, to see whether they would blow up. He now went into the lead, but not for long. Witnille passed Sommer, whose car was definitely wilting, and then
Lebegue. But .the gallant little had got the bit between his teeth, hung on to the tail of the Bugatti. Sommer’s bolt was now shot, and so it was a straight fight between two cars. On the very last lap Lebegue made a mendous effort, and shortly before finish he managed to slip past and by the extraordinarily narrow of of a second. The excitement, can well be imagined, was immense. It transpired that on the last lap Lebegue had beaten the previous record of 100.89 m.p.h. established Louis Chiron with an Alfa-Romeo, a new speed of 101.47 m.p.h. He’s a
little driver, that Lebegue. His for the whole race was a record, too, being 97.88 m.p.h. as compared with 94.81 m.p.h. recorded by Wimille in 1936. Sommer, in spite of his ailing car, a comfortable third, being actually laps ahead of Louis Gerard’s Delage Levegh’s Darracq. Then came Delahayes, driven by Biolay and
Another Delahaye, driven by Joseph Paul, had a sensational crash from which the driver was fortunate to escape with manifold, but slight injuries.
The under-2-litre class was won inevitably by Amedee Gordini with his miraculous Simca-Fiat, who averaged the astonishing speed of 79.33 m.p.h. Debille, on another Simca, was second, and Brunot’s smart blue Riley was third.
As a curtain-raiser, there was a repetition of the special Ladies’ Race which was tried out at Permute earlier this season. All the competitors were mounted on 8 h.p. Renault saloons, which were alleged to be identical in specification and performance. In the race, however, Mlle. Helle-Nice fairly walked away from the rest, which was no doubt largely due to her racing experience. She went on to win by 50 seconds from Mme. de Forest, and there was a most exciting dead-heat for third place between Mme. Seligman and Mme. Anne Itier, now happily recovered from her nasty spill at Le Mans. Mme. de Forest, incidentally, was only one second ahead of these dead-heaters. Mme. Desgres finished fifth, Mme. Maury sixth, and there was actually another dead-heat for the seventh place between Mme. Roger and Mlle. Renaud.
After the race a protest was lodged against Mlle. Helle-Nice on the allegation that her car had a special camshaft. At the time of writing this protest has not yet been allowed, and it is doubtful whether it ever will be. Mlle. Helle-Nice was quite the fastest driver in the race, and there seems to be no reason why she should not gain 50 seconds in the course of an hour’s motoring, solely on that account.