MERCEDES-BENZ ONE, g g TWO THREE TAT BERNE AMAZING SPEED OF 1 LITRE ALFA-ROMEOS
AT the beginning of this year there was some doubt as to whether the Swiss Grand Prix would be held. The organisation of the race is an expensive business, because it is done very thoroughly, and in the past the crowds have not been as good as they might have been owing to indifferent weather. However, the hotel and garage people in Berne got together in the way they have in Switzerland, and after a meeting with the city and cantonal authorities it was decided that the race must go on, which was undoubtedly a good thing for motor racing. Several modifications were proposed and carried out. The prices of the seats in the grandstands and of entry into the enclosures were lowered, and the Prix de Berne and the Grand Prix of Switzerland were combined into one event, run in two heats and a final. The first heat was confined to cars, and the second to Grand Prix machines ; the qualifiers running together in the final and there being special
prizes for the cars. It was also decided to have a “tote” which was introduced successfully in 1938. The meeting itself, of course, is a comparatively new one in motor racing history. It was held for the first time in 1984, when Stuck (Auto-Union) and Seaman (M.G.) were the winners of the
formula and 1 i-litre races. In 1935 Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz) and Seaman (E.R.A.) were the winners, and in 1936 the Grand Prix went to Rosemeyer (Auto-Union) and Seaman (Delage) scored a hat-trick in the Prix de Berne. In 1987 Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz) and Arthur Dobson (E.R.A.) carried off the honours, and last year the winners were Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz) and Hug (Maserati). Before the meeting last month the lap records stood to the credit of Rosemeyer (104.78 m.p.h.) and Arthur Dobson (91.88 m.p.h.) respectively. The first practice was held on the Thursday morning before the race, in glorious weather, and practically everyone turned out to take advantage of it. the sensation of the day was the speed of Farina’s 11litre Alfa-Romeo, which did a lap in 2 mins. 45.2 secs., a time which was only beaten by Lang and von Brauchitsch, who did 2 mins. 39.8 and 2 mins. 93.8 secs. respectively, and which was actually faster than Caracciola, Muller and Nuvolari. Wakefield was the fastest of the Maserati drivers in 2 mins. 01.1 sees. The next day was also fine, and Farina contented himself with a lap in 2 mins. 47.8 secs. Pietsch did 2 mins. 50.1 secs., and Wakefield 2 mins. 50.9 secs. The times for the big cars were as follows : Lang 2 : 35.2, Caracciola 2 : 86.5, von Brauchitsch 2 : 86.6, Stuck 2: 88.7, Nuvolari 2 : 89.3, Muller 2 : 39.6, Hasse 2 : 40.7, Baumer 2 : 40.9, Dreyfus 2 : 50.5, Evans 8 : 4.1, Raph 8: 17.4. Dreyfus and Raph, incidentally, were driving 8-litre Maseratis instead of their usual
Delahayes. On the final practice day Lang got down to 2 mins. 88.2 secs., which was faster than Rosemeyer ‘s record of 2 mins. 34.5 secs., but did not count as a new lap record as it was made in practice, and not in the race. Shortly after 11 o’clock on the Sunday morning, the starters in the first heat
lined up. When the flag fell, Farina darted into the lead and covered his standing lap in 2 mins. 58 secs., which was actually faster than Dobson’s old record. Rocco (Maserati) was about 2 secs. behind, followed by Pietsch (Maserati), Biondetti (Alfa-Romeo) and Wakefield. But Farina could do much better than that, and on his third circuit, he clocked the amazing speed of 98.39 m.p.h. (2 mins. 46.5 secs.). Rocco soon dropped back after his good. start—or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Farina continued to forge ahead. Biondetti, on the second Alfette, caught Rocco on the fifth lap, but by that time Farina was about half a minute ahead. The two Italian cars were now where they wanted to be, and signals were hung out for them to take things easy. But there was still third place to be contested by the three leading Maseratis, Rocco, Pietsch and Wakefield, who started in that order but who eventually finished up with the British driver in front. Meanwhile three older Maseratis, driven by Horvilleur, joa and Barbieri, had all dropped out with various mechanical troubles, and Pollock’s E.R.A. suffered gearbox trouble right at the end.
Some idea of the immense speed of the new Alfas can be judged by the fact that Farina actually lapped Ansell’s E.R.A. after seven laps, which means that he made up nearly five miles in a distance of about forty miles At the end of the 20-lap heat Farina was 37 seconds ahead of his team-mate, Biondetti. The heat for Grand Prix cars took place at 2 o’clock, after the crowd had refreshed themselves with luncheons of various kinds. The start was notable for the fact that Muller was caught unprepared, not having his steering wheel fastened, and this caused some pretty phenomenal avoiding on the part or the other drivers. As was expected, Lang was leading at the end of the first lap was 5 seconds from team-mate Caracciola, with von Brauchitsch third—three Mercedes out in front. The challenge was taken up by Nuvolari, who got in front of von Brauchitsch, but only just, and at half distance the order was Lang, Caracciola, Nuvolari, von Brauchitsch, Stuck and Hartmann (who was driving instead of Brendel, owing to the latter having been injured while practising at the Ring). A couple of laps later Nuvolari lost his third place, and the three Mercedes drivers carried on until the finish holding the first three places. On the very last lap Caracciola made a tremendous effort to catch Lang, who had never been more than a few seconds in front, but in spite of a wonderful lap in 2 mins. 36 secs. (104.32 m.p.h.), he failed to do
so by 4.8 seconds. This, incidentally, proved to be the fastest lap of the heat and of the day, which seems to show that Caracciola’s hand has lost none of its skill. Less than an hour later, at 8.40 p.m. to be exact, the start of the final was given. After his astonishing lap-speeds in practice, everyone was on tip-toes to see how Farina would get on against the big cars, and some people even talked of his being placed. “The Doctor” did not disappoint his admirers, and he made
a beautiful start. Once again Muller boggled, this time his engine not having started when the flag fell. When at last it did fire he stepped on the accelerator so hard that the car spun round in a complete circle—thoroughly embarrassing other drivers in the vicinity and giving an illuminating sidelight on the care necessary to get these powerful cars away In a straight line, even on a dry road.
Hardly had the crowd recovered from this excitement than Lang was round at the end of his first lap. And then a a great shout went up, for in second place, only 5 seconds behind Lang and ahead of all the rest of the German cars, came Farina’s astounding little AlfaRomeo, going like the wind. Then came Caracciola, Nuvolari, von Brauchitsch, Hasse, and Biondetti on the second-string Alfa. This was terrific ! The extraordinary part was that Farina’s effort was not just a flash in the pan, He clung on to Lang with grim determination, although the German driver was increasing his lead by about a couple of seconds per lap, and Caracciola was gradually closing in on him astern. Even so, it was not until the seventh lap, after forty miles, that Caracciola’s 3-litre Mercedes-Benz caught the
Then the battle between Lang and Caracciola started all over again. Driving superbly, the veteran of the Mercedes team closed in on his young rival, cutting down the latter’s lead from 12 seconds at the 20th lap to just over six on the 26th lap. But he was not gaining fast enough, and Lang eventually flashed across the line with a margin of 8.1 seconds in hand over Caracciola, who was over a minute ahead of von Brauchitsch. Muller made up for his bad start by being the first of the Auto-Union drivers home, in fourth place, with Nuvolari fifth and the amazing Farina sixth. The latter, of course, was an easy winner of the 1,500 c.c. class, being over a lap ahead of Biondetti, who in turn was two laps ahead of Wakefield, the leading Maserati driver. Farina, incidentally, actually beat Hartmann’s Mercedes-Benz and. Stuck’s Auto-Union, but it must be admitted that the latter had engine trouble almost within sight of the finish and pushed his car across the line—a stout effort. The other English drivers, Evans (2.0-litre Alfa-Romeo) and Ansell (E.R.A.) both drove steadily, finishing 11th and 13th. Pollock, on another E.R.A. did not start in the final after his gearbox trouble in the first heat.
1. Lang (Mercedes-Benz), flu. 24m. 47.6s. 96.019 m.p.h.
2. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), lh. 24m. 50.7s.
8. Von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz), Th. 35m. 57.6s.
4. Muller (Auto-Union), lh. 27m. Is.
5. Nuvolari (Auto-Union), lh. 27m. Ss.