MOTOR SPORTSeptember 1932
THE ALPINE TRIAL
COUPES DES ALPES WON BY TALBOT AND RILEY.
17 GLACIER CUPS WON BY BRITISH CARS.
WORLD'S MOST SEVERE TRIAL PROVIDES CONVINCING PROOF OF BRITISH CARS' ROAD-WORTHINESS UNDER ARDUOUS CONDITIONS.
FOR some years after the War the great Alpine Trial, organised jointly by the Automobile Clubs of Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany and France, was almost exclusively the province of Continental cars. This to a certain extent was accounted for by the Six Days Trial over here being sufficiently arduous to provide competitors, especially manufacturers, with a searching test for their machines. When, however, manufacturers' teams were banned from taking part in reliability trials in Great Britain, it was only natural that other means of proving to the public the capabilities of their products were sought.
The way was shown by individual competitors, such as the Hon. Victor Bruce, who entered for the great annual Alpine Trial, and it was not long before enterprising British manufacturers, such as Talbot, Invicta and Riley, realised that in this trial could be found a more than adequate substitute for our own lamented Six Days Trial.
This year the number of British entries surpassed all other years, for out of a total entry of 107 cars, no fewer than 43 were of British manufacture. These were made up as follows :—Talbot 3, Invicta 3, Rolls Royce 1, Humber 1, Armstrong Siddeley 4, Bentley 1, Lagonda 2, Standard 1, Alvis 1, Frazer Nash 2, Aston Martin 2, Wolseley 4,
M.G. 5, Swift 1, Riley 9, Triumph 1, Singer 2.
Cars parked on the tennis court of the Grand Hotel at St. Moritz, before leaving for Stresa.
The premier awards for the Trial were as follows: A Coupe des Alpes for the team (or tearns) classed first in the various
groups, and a Glacier Cup for the individual (or individuals) classed first in each group. Two British teams were competing for Coupes des Alpes, the three Talbot "105s" entered by Messrs. Fox & Nicholl, Ltd., that enthusiastic concern well known for their Talbot entries in races, and a team of three Riley "Gamecocks," entered by the famous Coventry firm who have so steadfastly demonstrated the wonderful qualities of their cars in events of this nature. The remainder of the 43 were private entries.
Against the British cars were pitted 32 German, 8 American, 7 French, 4 Italian, 7 Austrians and 6 Czecho-slovakian cars, but of these 6 German and 1 Austrian failed to start. The only British absentee was A. H. Pass, who was prevented by business from bringing his Rolls-Royce to the start. And so, for the first time in the history of the Trial, there was a preponderance of British entries. What has become of the French and Italian manufacturers?
The start of the Trial took place at Munich on July 29th, and for several days competitors arrived from all parts of Europe at all times of the day. After a final "look over" by anxious drivers, the cars were parked in the Parade ground
the Old Barracks, on the outskirts of the city, where they were left in the open until Thursday morning. A certain of consternation was caused by stories of some of the passes being snow-bound, but in spite of this everyone seemed in the best of spirits.
On the first day the distance to be was 350 miles, and the route included the Tauern Höhe, the Katschberg and the Giovo Pass, finishing at Merano. Zero hour was 4 a.m. from the Barrack Square, which lay outside the city and involved a very early rising hour. Rain fell as the first driver was sent off, and caused the undoing of E. Urlwin-Smith (Aston Martin) who got into difficulties in attempting to pass A. G. Gripper's Frazer Nash, and crashed into a taxicab. Retirement No. 1, within a mile or two of the start!
After an easy run to Salzburg, crossing Austro-German frontier at Saalbrucke the first real test of the day was reach the Tauern Höhe, which was overcome successfully by all competitors. Soon after came the much dreaded Katschberg, which took its toll of the weaker competitors. "H. Tourneur" on a Darracq and H. Kidston (3 litre Bentley) both failing to reach the top under their
own power, while Porter Hargreaves (Alvis) stopped several times on the way up with fuel starvation trouble.
Over the Italian frontier at Arnbach, the route lay by easy country to the final hill of the day, the Giovo Pass which rises to 6,900 feet above sea level, and is
12 miles in length. No failures were reported, however, and many competitors found themselves ahead of time outside Merano, notably the Talbot, Wanderer and Ford teams, the Armstrong Siddeleys, the Invictas and H. J. Aldington (Frazer Nash) who throughout the day had been showing Alpine Passes that they trouble him as little as Beggar's Roost does.
A halt at the top of the Stelvio —A.G. Gripper (Frazer-Nash) and W.M. Couper (Lagonda), both of whom made fastest time
in their respective classes.
And so to Merano, where it was found that in addition to the retirements of Kidston, Urlwin-Smith, and "Tourneur," Miss Young had fallen by the wayside, and T. A. W. Thorpe's Midget arrived so late that he was penalised to the extent of 138 points. The teams were all intact, and everyone felt well pleased with himself (or herself) and turned in early to prepare for the run of 254 miles the next day.
On Friday, July 29th, the route comprised a tour of the Dolomites, including the following hills, the Sella, the Pordoi, the Falzarego, the Rolle, and the Costalunga, returning to Merano at the end of the day. The chief difficulty lay in the fact that the Passes were so close together that there were no easy sections on which to get ahead of schedule for a rest, with the result that the drivers were hard at it all day.
This need for a certain amount of hurry resulted in much minor damage to mudguards, wing-stays, etc., through an excess of zeal on corners, among the sufferers being H. Hinterleitner (Wanderer) and A. C. Lace (Invicta), who both left the road completely, fortunately without serious damage to their cars, and C. M. Needham (Invicta) who skidded into a milestone. Others who experienced troubles of various description were Miss Allen, with a broken spare wheel bracket on her Wolseley Hornet, Porter-Hargreaves, with a continuation of his fuel trouble, and C. D. Siddeley (Armstrong Siddeley), with a puncture, ignition trouble, and a broken fan belt. By far the greatest tragedy of the day, however, occurred when Mrs. Gripper found the complete clutch housing of her Wolsley Hornet coming adrift, the trouble at first being thought to be a loose flywheel.
At the end of the day it was found that all the teams were still intact, not having
lost a point, while of the British individual cars only the following had been penalised, A. Grosch (Lagonda) 1, Henry Wynmalen (Wolseley) 7, and T. A. W. Thorpe (M.G.) 138.
Competitors left Merano on the third day with mixed feelings, for before them lay the piece-de-resistance of the whole
Trial, the timed ascent of the Stelvio, 17 miles long with 49 hair-pins, up which the large cars had to average 20 m.p.h . and the smaller cars just under 19 m.p.h. The total distance to be travelled was 211 miles, finishing at St. Moritz.
From this day's run emerged the extremely gratifying fact that the fastest time up the Stelvio in all categories was made by British cars, and as further proof of the amazing consistency of the British entries, only 3 out of the 38 still running were penalised for being late at the top of the highest road in Europe. Of the larger cars, the fastest climb was made by the invincible Donald Healey, who brought his 4½ litre Invicta up in the record time of 23 min 43 3/5 secs., a truly wonderful performance, while both the other Invictas made very fast climbs, not having
to reverse on any of the hair-pins. The Armstrong-Siddeleys climbed well, though W. F. Bradley must have been considerably worried before he reached the top, for at the foot of the hill the fan-belt broke and cut into the honeycomb of the radiator, so that the whole climb was made with a practically dry radiator! The
Talbots and Wanderers went up in racing style; the Standard "20" driven by the Austrian "A.B." made a faultless ascent, while Porter-Hargreaves reached the top in spite of continued fuel difficulties. In group 2, W. M Couper (Lagonda) made the best ascent in 34 mins. 41 secs., having to reverse four times, and being baulked once by a slower car ahead.
The British light cars showed the world that in this field we have nothing to fear in comparison with the products of any nation. Fastest of all in the 1,500 c.c. class was A. G. Gripper, whose Frazer Nash roared up in the wonderful time of 27 mins. 43 secs. Aldington on the other Nash was not much slower, and both cars seemed to revel in the long climb, their high power-to-weight ratio giving them real acceleration between the bends, and
their high indirect gear-ratios keeping the temperature of the engine well below boiling point throughout the climb.
The Rileys all made faultless climbs, not one of the nine cars competing in the Trial losing a single mark on the hill, while Jack Hobbs' 4-seater made fastest time in the 1,100 c.c. class, climbing in 29 mins. 51 4/5 secs. This list of consistently good performances by British cars was completed by the Wolseley Hornets, Miss Allen handling her car particularly well, the two little Singer Nines, which made light of the ascent, and three out of the four M.G. Magnas. A particularly fiery climb was made by the Swiss, R. Zust, who skidded his Magna round corners in true Grand Prix fashion.
The day's work was not finished, for two more passes had to be traversed, the Fluela (7,835 ft.) and the Julier (7,503 ft.) but the only exciting incidents were that Morgan's Humber Snipe, which had put up a very good show on the Stelvio, caught fire on the Julier, but soon got going again; Kirchlechner's Austro Daimler leapt down a 6ft. embankment; and Hill crashed into the wall of a mountainside tunnel and put the front brakes of his Aston Martin out of action.
Sporkhorst had retired at the foot of the Stelvio, so that the team of 8 cylinder Fords was no longer complete. Of the others the Talbot, Wanderer, Riley and Hanomag teams were still intact, not having lost a point, while the Tatra and D.K.W. teams had lost 8 and 78 points respectively. Besides the Ford and Kirchlechner's Austro-Daimler, "Richard" (Bugatti), Porter-Hargreaves (Alvis), and Max Klinke (Mercedes-Benz) had retired during the day.
Many competitors were thankful that the next day was Sunday, so that while the cars were parked in the tennis courts of the Grand Hotel, the crews took their ease in the brilliant sunshine and clear mountain air.
By this time all competitors were on the most friendly terms, the drivers of the Wanderer, Hanomag and Tatra teams in particular being extremely pleasant people, displaying great interest in the British cars, especially the Frazer Nashes.
At midnight, they set off once more on the 4th stage of the trial, a night section of 215 miles to Stresa, taking in the Bernina, the Splungen, and the San Bernardino Passes. No retirements took place throughout the entire section, but only a miracle saved Luttgau from disaster when his Ford charged over a precipice, leapt through space, and landed on the approach to the hair-pin below. Morgan had to work on his Humber Snipe before leaving St. Moritz, fitting a new battery, but reached Stresa on time after an eventful run.
A lazy day.
Stresa being reached in time for breakfast, the competitors had the rest of the day to themselves, and many took advantage of the invitation thrust into their hands on arrival to cruise round Lake
Maggiore on a steamer. Followed swimming, sun-bathing and a lazy day, before an early start next morning at 5 a.m. for the longest run of the Trial, 320 miles to Grenoble, via the Petit St. Bernard Pass, the Col du Calibier, and the Lautaret.
As it happened, this was the most strenuous day of the Trial, and accounted for more lost marks than any other day. There had been a severe rain-storm over the Petit St. Bernard Pass, with the result that the surface became treacherously slippery, wheel spin and front wheel skids taking a heavy toll. In addition, the large cars had to average 23.61 m.p.h., the 2 litre class 22.99 m.p.h., the 1,500 c.c class 22.37 m.p.h. and the 1,100 c.c. class 21.75 m.p.h. In quick succession we passed the O.M. driven by Adorno and the Amilcar handled by Couchet, both well and truly ditched, while many cars lost marks through being unable to maintain their scheduled average speed in the exceedingly difficult condition prevailing. Major Lago suffered from wheelspin and stopped, but the Talbots and Invictas and the other Armstrongs all coped satisfactorily with the Pass. Of the small cars fastest time was made by the Frazer Nashes, which were entirely controllable on the treacherous surface, and as a whole the smaller cars seemed easier to handle than their larger rivals, and so the Petit St. Bernard Pass, very like Porlock on a wet day, only very much larger, caused many a clean sheet to be lost, thereby consoling Signor Mercanti for the lack of rain on the previous night stage.
Nearing the end.
The last part of the run, over the Col du Galibier, not being a timed climb, presented no difficulty, although the surface of the road at the top, owing to repairs being carried out, was appallingly rough.
And so to Grenoble, where after a rest, competitors were sent off on the last lap, 262 miles to San Remo, the finish of the Trial.
At the start Bradley was in difficulty again with his Armstrong Siddeley, the radiator having developed a series of irritating leaks since the fan-belt snapped on the Stelvio. After removing the radiator, soldering the leaks, and refitting, it was found that the cylinder head
gasket had blown, with the result that he had to finish the rest of the trial on 4 cylinders, which by a gallant effort he succeeded in doing.
The Col d'Allos, in spite of its terrifying lack of retaining walls, presented no real difficulty to the competing cars, and after a glorious "blind" along the coast from Ventimiglia, San Remo was reached in good time by all. One of the major tragedies of the Trial occurred here when Cremetti and Lanfranci, who had driven throughout the Trial without the loss of a single mark, miscalculated their correct time of entry into the last check and arrived 22 minutes early—very bad luck indeed!
Magnificent British Performances.
Of the performance of the British cars competing in the Trial it is difficult to speak too highly. The Talbots, jointly with the Wanderer team, won a Coupe des Alpes, a greatly coveted honour of which any firm may be justly proud; the Invictas, all individual entries, came through splendidly without penalty, thereby winning Coupes des Glaciers, while only one of the 4 Armstrong-Sindeleys failed to do likewise. In group 2, W. M. Couper, playing a lone hand against 3 Mercedes Benz, was the only competitor to secure a Glacier Cup; Frazer-Nashes added still further to their magnificent trials reputation by winning two Glacier Cups with two entries, and their speed and controllability were a source of admiration throughout the Trial; the two Wolseley Hornets driven by Miss Allen and Mrs. Martin both secured Glacier Cups, in addition to winning jointly the Ladies Cup, a great tribute to these splendid little cars, so smooth and fast, and to their very competent drivers; Watkinson's Magna likewise was a Glacier Cup winner; Rileys, in addition to winning a Coupe des Glacier, a marvellous effort, secured 4 Glacier Cups for private owners, the performance of all cars being simply splendid, and an adequate testimony to the value of Trials; last but by no means least, the little Singer "Nine," the most inexpensive British car in the Trial, secured a Glacier Cup.
We offer no excuse for praising first the performance of our own cars, which have so long been held to be unsuitable for Alpine—and therefore Colonial—conditions. None the less, equal credit must be given to the other winners of premier awards, and we offer our congratulations to the Wanderer team on a wonderfully consistent performance; to the Tatra team, for the remarkable efficiency of their little air-cooled 4 cylinder engines; and likewise to the 8 cylinder Ford team, the Hanomag and the D.K.W. teams.
Finally, the organisation of the Trial, in the able hands of Signor Mercanti, of the Italian A.C., could not have been improved upon, while the way in which customs officials and police cleared the way for fast average speeds to be maintained, had to be seen to be believed.
One thought predominated in the minds of all British competitors at the end of the event—to make the Alpine Trial a fixture for future years !