Racing is almost back to pre-war intensity on the Continent, so let us look around a bit and attempt to depict the form. It all began at Paris last year, of course, when Jean-Pierre Wimille’s 4.7-litre Bugatti won the Coupe des Prisonnieres from Raymond Sommer’s unblown Talbot-Darracq and Chaboud’s 3 1/2-litre Delahaye, Wimille also doing quickest lap. What has happened since then? Well, in the races of Grand Prix calibre, Sommer, Chaboud, Grignard, Ruggeri, Louveau, and Wimille seem to have done most of the racing, and Raymond is right out in front. At Nice, driving a Type 308 3-litre Alfa-Romeo, he finished 2nd to Villoresi, and made fastest lap. Then, himself changing to a 16-valve Maserati, he won at Marseilles, again making quickest circuit, and won again at Forez. Since then, however, his showing has deteriorated, for at Boulogne his Maserati could not better 7th place, in the Belgian Sports Car race his Darracq was 3rd, at Perpignon he broke a piston, had blower trouble at Albi, and could not get higher than 8th at Geneva. Not so good, Raymond! However, he won at St. Cloud, and three wins and a second place set him way out ahead up to now.
Wimille ranks next in merit, for he drove his 3-litre Alfa-Romeo to victory at Boulogne, doing best lap at 74 1/2 m.p.h., also winning and fastest-lapping at Dijon with one of these cars, and winning yet again with the 3-litre at Perpignan. At St. Cloud (baby Alfa) his gearbox came asunder, but at Geneva he was right on form, being again given a place by the not-so-friendly Italians in the Alfette team. He proved faster than Farina, and it was when he was sitting behind awaiting pit signals, that the oil-patch (some say Nuvolari) got him and he ended up by finishing 3rd. But Jean-Pierre had already set fastest lap at 68.76 m.p.h. and had won the first heat at 59.15 m.p.h. If he stays in the Alfa-Romeo team he should hold his high position.
Who next? Well, Louveau has come on splendidly. He had never raced, it appears, before the Paris picnic of 1945, where he was victor of the 1 1/2-litre race. This year he commenced by being 10th at Nice, as always using a 16-valve Maserati. At Forez he was 2nd, at Boulogne 4th, at Perpignan 2nd, and 2nd again at Albi. No mean record for a “cadet.” Louis Chiron has not so good a record. All he can show so far is 6th at Nice, 2nd at Boulogne, and 2nd, making fastest lap (at over 71), at St. Cloud. But then he has raced an unblown Talbot-Darracq against the blown machinery and, even if it is a single-seater, that isn’t so easy.
But Chaboud has, in fact, rather a better record than the veteran Chiron, and he, too, has used big unblowns. His pet mount has been a 3 1/2-litre, six-cylinder Delahaye, but with a very fine streamlined body, putting its maximum up some eight m.p.h. above that of other cars of its kind, to 126 m.p.h. At Nice Chaboud was 3rd, the same at Forez. and at Boulogne 6th. Then he won the Belgian (sports car) G.P., establishing fastest lap. At St. Cloud he brought out his V12 Delahaye for a change, but when a piston came to bits he recovered his special “six” from Giraud-Cabantons and brought it home in 6th place.
Really, all the rest of the boys rank as “also-rans,” just about. True, Tazio Nuvolari won at Albi in a 16-valve, 1 1/2-litre Maserati; and before that he won his heat and made best lap therein at Marseilles, beating Sommer, only to have a valve break in the final. His Maserati fell out at Boulogne and St. Cloud. At Geneva he managed 4th place in the final and 3rd in heat 2, with a second-best Maserati. If only they would give him an Alfette!
Grignard was 4th at Nice, With a Delahaye, 3rd at Marseilles, 4th at Brussels, 7th at St. Cloud, 4th at Perpignan, and 2nd at Dijon. Less frequent but of greater import, Villoresi won at Nice in a small Maserati, and, back from 7th at Indianapolis for Maserati, did fastest lap at Albi, but piled-up at Geneva. There really is not much else of merit. The veteran Ruggeri brought a 1,500-c.c. Maserati into 5th place at Nice, was 4th, driving for, the Italian Scuderia Milano, at Marseilles, 3rd at Boulogne, and 4th at St. Cloud, retiring at Albi.
Gigi Platé was 2nd to Sommer at Marseilles in a 1,500-c.c. Maserati, but has not been placed since; Gerard, of T.T. fame, seems to have run only at Dijon, where his Delahaye retired; Schell crashed a big Maserati in the straw-bales at Nice, where Etancelin retired, driving a small Maserati. De Graffenried was 5th at both Marseilles and Geneva, Levegh was 2nd of the big sports cars at Brussels, and 5th at Boulogne, driving Darracqs, while Trillaud was 5th at Brussels and 9th at St. Cloud, but at Dijon his fuel leaked away. Garland’s first big race was Brussels, and he netted 6th in a Delage. Flahaut, pinning his faith to some form of 2 1/2-litre Amilcar, was 3rd at Dijon and 10th in the Belgian affair. Perhaps the picture brightens just a little when we consider Pozzi (lovely name!), “Raph,” successful before the Occupation, and Trintignant. Pozzi was 8th in a Maserati at Nice, and, changing to a Delahaye, he managed 6th at Marseilles, 11th at St. Cloud, and 4th at Dijon. “Raph” was 3rd at both Perpignan and Albi, on Maseratis. And Trintignant scored 10th at St. Cloud, 5th at Perpignan. Otherwise the rest are only just in the picture – Wormser (Maserati) 4th at Albi, Achard (Maserati) 6th at Albi, Veret 7th at Nice with an old “2.3” Alfa-Romeo, Bianchi 9th in the same race in a “2.3” Bugatti, Mazaud 3rd at St. Cloud, but non-finisher at Nice, Seylair (Deluge), Lascot (Alfa-Romeo), Villeneuve (Delahaye) 7th. 8th and 9th respectively, in the Brussels sports car dice, Verkade 9th at St. Cloud with an Alfa-Romeo, and Steinbach 2nd at Chimay in a sports Alfa-Romeo, where Adant was 3rd in an unsupercharged Bugatti.
We have left out Trossi, Varzi and Farina. True — but they did not get cracking with the 1 1/2-litre straight-eight Alfa-Romeos until Geneva. At St. Cloud Farina’s clutch packed up. If they continue as they ran there, they look like finishing ahead of everyone when the 1946 total placings come to be assessed, especially if the rear-engined, flat-12 cars come up to expectations. Farina, of course, won the second heat of the G.P. des Nations at 62.8 m.p.h. from Trossi and Nuvolari, and the final at 64.1 m.p.h. from Trossi and Wimille. He also made fastest lap of heat 2, at 64.79 m.p.h. He was assisted, of course, by having a two-stage-blower Alfette, whereas Trossi had one of the less-young cars. Varzi, like Trossi having the benefit of two-stage supercharge, was 2nd, ahead of Villoresi’s special Maserati, and behind Wimille’s Alfette in his heat. In the final he was 7th, held back by some sort of fuel-feed trouble.
On the foregoing showing, British drivers, handicapped before they start by playing “away,” have done extremely satisfactorily. They show up, that is, by no means sadly. Brooke was victor at Chimay in the old E.R.A. and 5th at Albi. “Bira” was 6th at Chimay in the 3-litre Maserati and 6th at Geneva in his E.R.A. “Romulus.” Mathieson covered 22 laps at Boulogne before his 2-seater, 3-litre Maserati packed it in, and was 5th at St. Cloud and 6th at Perpignan. Parnell’s 16-valve Maserati was 7th at Albi, and in the G.P. des Nations Parnell was 4th in heat 1, with “Bira” 5th, and in heat 2 of that race Mays (E.R.A.) was 5th, Abecassis (Alta) 6th, Connell (E.R.A.) 7th, Hampshire (Delage) 8th, and Gerard (E.R.A.) 9th, ahead of Schell’s Maserati. In the final, Mays lost his oil, Parnell stalled in avoiding the Villoresi crack-up, and Abecassis had a carburetter float fail.
That, gentlemen, about places the aces in the first-line races — as far as the rather sketchy reports reaching these shores allow. Now, as a further exercise, let us analyse the showing, of drivers in the lesser continental races. Things will be considerably simplified, don’t you agree, if we only worry ourselves about the first three placings in each race? Right! Recalling 1945, Gordini, continuing pre-strife form, won the Robert Benoist Cup race in his 1,100-c.c. Simca-Fiat at 59 m.p.h., lapping at 60 1/2. Second was Brunot’s Riley — a British bolide, my masters — and 3rd, Bouchard’s Salmson. On the same day Louveau, as already mentioned, won the Coupe de la Liberation from Veuillet’s K3 M.G. and Lescaut’s Amilear.
This season, at Nice, Scaron’s Simca won the 89.8 mile Casino Cup race, which let in unblown cars up to 2 1/2 litres. Gordini’s Simca blew up, Brunot’s Riley repeating its Paris form to take 2nd place, with Kneppert’s unblown Bugatti 3rd. Martin’s 328 B.M.W. made fastest lap before clouting a straw bale. Gordini and Scaron, on subsequent showing, are just about equal. Gordini won the small car affair at Forez, it is said in a blown, 16-valve Simca, Bonnet’s Citroen-engined D.B. being 2nd. Then in the Coupe Municipal de St. Cloud Gordini overdid it in the monoposto Simca and retired, but at Brussels he was 2nd in his class in spite of a crash, and at Dijon, where he estimated he made 750 changes of ratio, he won. Scaron was 1st after his team mate vanished at St. Cloud, driving a streamlined 2-seater Simca, and 3rd in the 1,100-c.c.. class at Brussels, 3rd again at St. Cloud. Bonnet, with his D.B., netted another 2nd at St. Cloud, where he was only 8.6 sec. behind Scaron. Bertini has shone with some brilliance — 1st in the 1,100-c.c. class at San Remo sports car race, driving for the Scuderia Stranguellini, in a Fiat, and again class winner in a Fiat at Brussels. At Brussels, of course, St. John Horsfall (2-litre Aston-Martin) and Leslie Johnson (328 B.M.W.) really unfurled the flag, finishing 1st and 2nd in the 2-litre Seaman Cup race, Johnson taking the Winston Churchill Cup for the fastest lap.
There really isn’t much else to enthuse over. Leoni’s 500 Fiat of the Scuderia Stranguellini won its class at San Remo, Minetti (Lancia Aprilia) taking the 1 1/2-litre class, de Cortanze get himself a 3rd place at St. Cloud in a car called a Darl ‘Mat Peugeot, and Waeffler’s B.M.W. was 2nd at Dijon, and 3rd, behind Leslie Johnson, at Brussels. Finally, in a sports car race at Modena, which really let in big cars, Cortese did fastest lap and won the final on handicap, in a Lancia Astura, Ermini’s Alfa-Romeo being 2nd, and to come back to the small stuff, Bertini’s 1,100-c.c. Fiat 3rd.
With Liège (sports cars) and the Circuit of Turin on September lat, the Paris G.P. on September 8th, Circuit of Milan on September 29th, Rio de Janeiro G.P. on October 6th, San Paolo G.P. on October 20th, and Pena Rhin on October 27th, to complete the International Calendar for 1946, further changes will doubtless happen before the final assessment can be made.