Continental Notes, September 1947

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36

by T. G. Moore.

Motor-Racing on the Continent has revived in the most amazing way during the present year, and if you look at this year’s Racing Calendar you will see that a Grand Prix of some sort was fixed for nearly every weekend from May to the end of August.

Embarras de Richesse?
For race-starved enthusiasts in England this sounds a good thing, but for drivers and organisers alike it is fast becoming a head-ache. If a driver blows his car up in a race like the Grand Prix de Rheims, no difficult thing if you put your foot down hard on that fast straight, it means a mad scramble to get the car running again for the next week-end at Albi, or some other distant spot. English drivers are worse off than their French confreres, being dependent on the spares they can carry in their trucks, and the resources of the local repair shops. As a result, many cars in this year’s races have come to the starting line in very poor condition and have retired after completing only one or two laps.

Motor-racing is a paying proposition for the towns organising them (200,000 people attended the Pau races this year, out of season), and the organisers offer very substantial starting money in order to attract the maximum number of cars. Drivers and entrants are only human and try to compete in as many events as possible in order to make their racing pay. Keen though I am on seeing the revival of motor-racing after the war, I feel that the standard of racing would improve if there were fewer races and if drivers took on a less ambitious programme.

The Formula Cars
The whole trouble, of course, is the dearth of new racing cars. The Alfettes are only produced for top-notch events, the 16-valve Maseratis are fast while they last, but are apt to be a bit spent after one long race. The earlier E.R.A.s are at least twelve years old and rather out of date, though still well capable of taking on the Maseratis when in good condition. England’s hopes are, of course, concentrated on the two “E”-type E.R.A.s, owned now by Parnell and Brooke. The cars are extremely fast and handle well, and the petrol tank trouble has been overcome. Their one weak spot is the supercharger, a single-vane Zoller, which is unfortunately the only one capable of giving the necessary 20 lb./sq. in. boost in one stage. The blowers on both cars failed at Rheims. Brooke was thinking of having special gears made by Rolls-Royce in an effort to cure the trouble, but I now hear that both cars will be running with the Roots type blower in the Isle of Man. What seems required to get full power is to fit two Roots blowers in series. This is easy on the Maserati, where there are two blower-drives on the front of the engine, but more complicated in the crowded bonnet of the “E” Type,

Unblown Models
Just before the war, when French racing prospects were at a low ebb and Bugatti alone was carrying on the struggle against the German cars, Talbot, Delahaye and Delage came in to support him, with slower but very reliable converted sports cars. Now, when the formula is 1 1/2 litres blown, 4 1/2 litres unblown, the two types are competing on nearly equal terms, the greater speed of the supercharged cars being off-set by their liability to blow-up and their greater fuel consumption. At Albi, you will remember, not one supercharged car finished, while at Nice four out of the eight finishers were unblown. In the latter race, Chiron was driving a single-seater Talbot, an advance model of next year’s racing cars, and was lying third to Villoresi and Meari on Maseratis. Unfortunately the petrol-benzol mixture on which the Talbots were running was well below its rated octane-number, and Chiron’s engine overheated and blew its gasket. It should give a good account of itself at Lyon in September.

Fiat Derivatives
One of the biggest surprises of the season’s racing has been the success of the Simca-Gordinis, and to a lesser extent the Cisitalias. Both of them are powered with a supertuned form of the four-cylinder 1,100-c.c. Fiat engine. Originally allowed into this season’s G.P. races, I should imagine, owing to the lack of bigger cars, they seem able to compete very adequately. Sommer told me he drove his car flat out all the way at Albi, and Wimille was equally successful at Nice. Gordini, of course, had been racing Fiats for years, and definitely knows something.

Both cars have tubular frames and independent springing all round, and weigh about 7 cwt. each. The Simca engine runs up to 5,500, the Cisitalia to 4,500, and, as a consequence, the Simca is about 5 m.p.h. faster; with a speed of about 114 m.p.h. The Cisitalia have a three-speed gearbox with foot-change for second and third, while the Simca has the normal four gears. Drivers say the Cisitalia is steadier on corners than the Simca, and can beat it on a really twisty course.

“Bira” and Gordini are driving Simcas in the Manx Cup, and I should not mind putting my money on the former for first place.

Bugatti Plans
The Bugatti factory at Molsheim is still standing, but is not likely to be in operation for at least a year. In spite of this, good progress is being made in the small works in Paris, and there should be some 1 1/2-litre cars racing in 1948.

The racing cars will have 16-valve two-camshaft four-cylinder engines with the blower at the front of the crankshaft, synchro-mesh gear-boxes and hydraulic brakes. Bugattis have not yet adopted independent suspension, and will use the well-tried semi-elliptics in front and reversed quarter-elliptics at the rear. About a dozen of the racing cars will be built and the first five have been ordered by private owners. The first car has already been built, but has not yet been tested at speed.

The sports car will have a four-cylinder, 1 1/2-litre, single-camshaft engine, three valves per cylinder, with a blower driven once more from the front of the engine. A Cotal electric gearbox will be used. Suspension is again the familiar semi-elliptics in front, quarter-elliptics at the rear. At present only one style of coachwork is contemplated, a streamlined saloon.

Owing to the limitations of the present small factory, work has for the moment been dropped on the interesting little 350-c.c. four-cylinder car. The engine, which will have two o.h. camshafts and a small blower, is designed to run up to 10.000 r.p.m.

These notes were written before the deeply lamented death of Le Patron was announced in August. Since he was forced to relinquish control, the active head of the firm has been Monsieur Roland Bugatti, younger brother of the late Jean Bugatti.