Something has got to be done about this business of racing-cars catching fire. There was a time when the fact that a racing-car occasionally flared up could be dismissed as an• accident, but the frequency with which this occurs nowadays seems to indicate that there must be a definite cause. The latest victims are Aldrighetti, who was driving a II-litre All a-Romeo when he was burnt so severely that he died, and young Brendel, who was injured while practising with a Mercedes-Benz at the Nurburg Ring. Details of the latter’s accident are hard to come by, as my informant was simply told that the car ” exploded ” as it came into the pits. Perhaps the scuttle tank was leaking slightly, and the vapour accumulated in the cockpit as the car slowed down, instead of being carried away by the draught, it became ignited. On the other hand, the car may have. been on fire already, and Brendel was trying to reach the pits when the tank exploded. Anyway, the fact remains that he was injured in an accident which was no fault of his own. The Auto-Union people have devised a complete fire-fighting apparatus with pipes leading to each pit from a central reservoir. After Muller was nearly trapped in the cockpit at Rheims, the drivers now either get right out of the car at the refuel, or else sit up on the back of the seat, with the steering wheel removed. It was only the providential glance of a mechanic, who happened to notice petrol dripping down on the mag neto from the scuttle tank that saved von Brauchitsch from a situation that might have been fatal in the German Grand Prix. Nuvolari’s Auto-Union caught fire in practice for the same race.
It is not to be wondered at, then, that this fire business is a considerable worry to Grand Prix drivers just now. .Nuvolari, in particular, has an absolute dread of it. The problem is complicated by the necessity of removing the steering wheel before a driver can leap out, and, in the case of the Mercedes-I3enz, by the fact that the driver is literally surrounded by petrol tanks and connecting tubes. A partial solution, I believe, would be for drivers to wear asbestos overalls, of the kind worn by George Eyston several years ago after he had. to jump for his life when an M.G. he was driving caught fire. The only snag is that I seem to remember that they were rather bulky, but it is possible that this has since been overcome.
Brendel’s accident is particularly unfortunate, because he is considered to be the most promising of the Mercedes cadets. His physique seems to be extraordinarily fragile for a racing driver, but he is still very young, and anyway sheer strength is not nearly so important as quick reflex action, accurate judgment and a sense of balance.
Clash Postponed The sensation of the Swiss Grand Prix
The sensation the Swiss Grand Prix was undoubtedly Farina’s 1,500 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, and the way it held second
place in the final for seven laps. What made it all the more remarkable was that the Brenigarten circuit is not slow, so that the German 3-litre cars had every opportunity to use their speed. On a really slow course, like Monaco, for instance, one could almost imagine the Alfette whaling.
The questions we are all asking ourselves now are : How much more speed, if any, have the Alfas found since Tripoli ? Would the 14-litre MercedesBenz still be faster than the Italian cars ? And, finally, how would the new E.R.A. shape against the Alfettes and the miniature Mercs. ? We are not likely to be given the answers until next year, at least according to present plans. I doubt very much whether the Germans will go to Monza, because if the Italian Grand Prix were to be confined to 1,500 c.c. cars, it could not strictly speaking be called the Italian Grand Prix, in which case the Mercedes people would not regard it as a national race. But you never know. Laws are apparently made to be broken nowadays. Another race in which one of the above questions might be answered is the Don ington Grand Prix. Mr. Humphrey Cook has definitely stated that he will run one, if not two of the new E.R.A.s In this race. The Germans, I understand, will be sending their 3-litre cars, but what of the Italians ? Personally, I would say that the Alfettes would stand a sporting chance of getting a place at Donington, if not actually winning. My reasons for saying this are as follows : The Donington circuit is much slower than Berne, and although the Alfettes might lose a little ground along the Starkey Straight and on the uphill run to the pits and Red Gate, they would probably be able to keep up with the big cars round the rest
of the course. Secondly, the race is a long one, 250 miles, and the German cars have shown a lack of stamina lately— two finishers out of nine starters in the German Grand Prix, three finishers out of seven in the French Grand Prix. And Donington is a tough circuit.
Yes, if I were in charge of Alfa Corse, I should feel strongly inclined to take a chance at Donington—in which case the Alfa-E.R.A. battle would take place this year, instead of next. You will notice that I have not mentioned Maerati so far. The reason is that I am afraid the four-cylinder sixteen valve model, fine little car as it undoubtedly is, cannot be regarded as a match for the Mercedes-Benz, the AlfaRomeo, or the new E.R.A. As far as Donington is concerned, however, the 3-litre model could be a real menace. Last year, you will remember, Villoresi was doing well until engine trouble put him out of the race, while at the German Grand Prix recently Paul Pietsch actually
led the whole field for one lap. If the Schell. people could get their new 8-litre cars going well in time, they would stand a very good chance at Millington, because Rene Dreyfus, in addition to being a masterly driver from the point of view of sheer speed, is also kind to his engine. He invariably finishes a race, and I do not remember his ever going off the road.
Meanwhile I have it on the highest authority—indeed it can be taken as a fact—that Auto-Unions have been carrying out trials with their new 1,500 c.c. cars at the Nurburg Ring. That much I know, hut no more, which is extremely tantalising. No one knows whether the car has the engine at the front or the rear, nor how many cylinders it has. Here is a guess, which is as good but no better than yours : I think we shall find that the car will have a V8 engine at the rear. Then it can be taken as certain that Bugatti also is building some new If
litre cars. To what extent the tragic death of Jean Bugatti will affect these plans I do not know at the moment. He was, of course, in complete charge of the car side of the factory. It is to be hoped that M. Ettore will not decide to abandon the racing cars, but if he should do so, we must accept his decision with the sympathy that he deserves in his sad bereavement.
There is little to add about Jean’s death except that the testing of racingcars on public roads is always bound to have an element of danger in it which no amount of precautions can eliminate. In this case the hour of midnight was chosen so that the roads would be as free from other traffic as possible; mechanics were stationed at two junctions to warn any cars that might appear— and. yet a. cyclist emerged from a farmtrack at the very moment that Jean was passing. It was sheer bad luck, a horrible coincidence, but it would not have happened at Montlhery, for example. Ort the other hand, it is too much to expect a firm which is only running one racingcar to make a 600-miles journey to Paris and back every time they want to test it.
And so the German Grand Prix has been held at the Nurburg Ring for the last time. Next year it will take place on the new Deutschland Ring, near Dresden, which is already complete as a racing track, except for the grandstands. The chief attraction of the new Ring, I understand, is that it is so much easier to reach than Nurburg, which is tucked away in the Eifel Mountains miles from anywhere. The Deutschland Ring will be accessible from all parts of Germany by Reichsaulobahnen, an important point when the Volkswagens get into proper circulation. Another advantage is that it is much shorter and faster than Nurburg, being only 6.2 miles long, instead of 14-i miles, with the results that the cars will pass the spectators much more frequently. Three quarters of the track is in view of the stands, and the whole place has beet designed to make the race a better
spectacle. I have an idea, too, that next year’s race may be in heats and a final, as this provides three massed starts, three finishes, and keeps the excitement at a more sustained pitch than one long race.
The demands of printing and distribution make it impossible for a report of the Liege Grand Prix to be included in this issue, as it is held on the 27th of August. It sounds as though it will be a good show, with Lord Selson’s V12 Lagonda doing its stuff against Dreyfus and Raph on V12 Delahayes, Mazaud’s 3f-litre Delahaye, Chinetti and Levegh on Darracqs, Monchero’s Bugatti, and possibly Farina and Biondetti’s V12 All a-Romeos. The course consists of
two curving ” straights ” joined by sharp bends, about four miles in all, and the race will be over about 180 miles. It is being held, of course, in connection with the International Liege Exhibition. Another exhibition, the Swiss National one, has also been made the reason for holding a motor race—in fact two races for cars and two for motor-cycles. This meeting will be at Zurich, on October 8th, and Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union have already entered four cars apiece, as well as Dreyfus and Raph on 3-litre Maseratis. In the 1,500 c.c. event Tongue will be there with his Maserati, and I understand that Mays, ” Bira,” Maclure, and Lord• Howe (with his new blown two-stroke) may also make the trip. They will have against them the usual Maseratis from Italy, and possibly the Alfettes. The race will be held on the
Schwamandingert Circuit, which is just short of 3 miles in length.
Then on September 3rd, the day after the British Tourist Trophy, the 11th Grand Prix de la Baule will be held on the sands at that French seaside resort. The race is only open to people who ran at Le Mans, and British drivers include Clark’s H.R.G., and Walker’s Delahaye.
Lang sprang a surprise on Stuck, the acknowledged hill-climbing “king,” when he won the Grossglockner hill-climb by 4 secs., averaging 46.5 m.p.h. for his two
runs. Muller, who was placed third, actually made the fastest individual climb at 52.73 m.p.h. The weather was appalling, heavy clouds and rain, but about 30,000 people turned up all the same. Rocco won the 1,500 c.c, class with a Maserati.