Motor SportJuly 1933
THE LE MANS 24 HOUR RACE
Alfa-Romeos take first three places in Grand Prix d'Endurance.
Aston Martin a close second for 9th Rudge-Whitworth Cup.
AFTER a spirited four-sided battle, from which Chiron was later eliminated, the Alfa-Romeo driven by Sommer, last year's winner, and Nuvolari, ace of Grands Prix, won the Grand Prix d'Endurance at a speed of 81.39 m.p.h., a record speed for 24 hours on the road. Chinetti, co-driver last year with Sommer, was only 10 seconds behind with Noel Rees's car entered by Arthur Pox and driven by the Hon. Brian Lewis and T. E. Rose-Richards third. British prestige was maintained by the next four finishers, headed by the Riley driven by Peacock and Van der Becke. 29 cars started and 14 finished the course, and of these all but one completed their set distances and qualified for next year's Rudge-Whitworth Cup.
The week of practice passed without any great surprises, the four 2.3 Alfas driven by Sommer, Chinetti, Lewis and Chiron showing little difference in speed. On the Friday night (there is no official practising during the day) Chiron, whose car had a low axle-ratio, went very fast and beat the lap record put up last year by Sommer. All was quiet at the garage Lenoir, where the Astons were kept, and the British competitors generally seemed content with their lot. Not so the crew of the somewhat decrepit Austin, who complained of clutch trouble.
The supercharged Bentley driven by Gas and Trevoux also developed clutch trouble on the eve of the race, but by dint of superhuman effort of the crew, aided by Chassagne, the car was got ready in time.
Alim (B.N.C.) leads Quinault (Tracta) on the "Esses".
The course was the same as that used last year, a wide new road protected by embankments and palisades leaving the Pontlieue road just after the Grand Stands and cutting across to the beginning of the Hippodrome straight. Half way along, following a steepish descent, there is a tricky S bend, and the corner at which the new road joins R.N. 158 is also unpleasant if taken fast, since the superelevation of the corner is only carried half way across. The surface of the circuit was on the whole very good, but near Arnage it had deteriorated and the dust made driving difficult.
The arrangements of stands and pits had not been altered, but owing to the fact that the fuel came from elevated tanks each supplying three pits, cars were grouped according to the fuel they used. The first group all used pure benzol, and comprised Norman Black's M.G., and the Alfas of Fox and Sommer, Chiron was down near the end next to Ford's M.G. and the Austin, while the Aston-Martins were together in the middle.
An interesting car was Czaykowski's 1500 c.c. Bugatti, which was simply a 2.3. with suitable crankshaft and pistons. He mentioned that he was bringing over his record-breaking 4.9 to Brooklands for the B.E. Trophy, but admitted he was a little perturbed at having to meet John Cobb's Napier.
Rain was falling heavily on Saturday morning, 17th June, and drivers were checking over visors and spare goggles, and perhaps secretly envying Andre Rousseau, who was driving a roomy 2-litre Alfa-Romeo saloon. However, the skies brightened by midday, and by four o'clock the sun was actually shining. As in other years, the cars were ranged diagonally in front of the pits with the drivers lined up on the other side of the road.
The starting flag was held by Colonel Lindsay Lloyd, the R.A.C. delegate, since Lord Howes' eye, which was injured in the French Grand Prix, prevented him from officiating. Before the loud-speakers had counted out the final seconds the drivers were crossing the road, but in spite of not having "cheated" Brian Lewis was first away, followed by Chinetti and Sommer, all on Alfas, likewise Moll and Chiron.
By the time the cars passed the stands again, Sommer was in the lead, with Chiron close behind. Chinetti and Lewis came up the new road almost abreast, with the advantage a lap later to the English driver. Bussienne, on the only 4.9. Bugatti which started, was ahead of Prince Nicholas of Roumania, whose high blue-painted Duesenberg seemed difficult to hold. The supercharged Bentley driven by Gas was close behind, and soon afterwards overhauled the Duesenberg.
Mottet on the air-cooled S.A.R.A. pursuied by Baumer (M.G.).
They are on the corner leading into the "Hippodrome" straight.
Towards the end of the first hour, Chiron's car sounded less healthy. Sommer and Chiron had both completed ten laps in this time, but the blue car was over 10 minutes behind the leader. Lewis and Chinetti had covered 9 laps, only seconds separating them.
Sommer was not content with his lead and drove with ever-increasing speed. The 11th lap was completed at the record speed of 88.48 m.p.h., thus beating Birkin's record lap in 1932, and followed it up with others at 88.78 and finally 89 m.p.h. on his 20th circuit. The rules of the Grand Prix d'Endurance provide that no re-fuelling should take place before 24 laps have been covered. When that distance had been covered, the leading car would be taken over by the even fierier Nuvolari. Could a sports car withstand the demands he usually puts on his mounts? Sommer had evidently had some doubts about this in practice and wanted to limit the Italian's driving time, with consequent friction. Eventually a "formulie" was arrived at and the two took more or less equal turns at the wheel.
Leaving the stands and following the course, not without some difficulty, as the farmers of the Sartlie are rather liberal with their barbed wire, we arrived eventually at White House Corner. No accidents were experienced at his point this year, the drivers treating it with considerable care. Here, as on the other corners, the short wheel-base cars of Sommer and Chiron were at a considerable advantage as against the more normal tourers of Lewis, Chinetti and Moll. The short or 1000 mile type cars also had large petrol tanks, allowing them to run an extra 20 minutes without refueling.
Old times were recalled by the impressive supercharged Bentley, which was lying 6th at the second hour, but on its first lap after the change of drivers it crashed into the sand banks at Mulsanne, and limped back to retire with a damaged front axle. The Riley driven by Jean Sebilleau, the actual car on which Whitcroft won the T.T. last year, was also in trouble and retired at the pits with a seized tappet, an occurrence never before known on these cars.
By the third hour Sommer had established a lead of more than a lap, and Alfa-Romeo No. 8, now driven by Varent, had forced its way into second place. Fox's Alfa, now driven by Rose Richards, continued third, closely followed by Moll. Then came the Duesenberg. Chiron who had been into the pits several times, the 4.9 Bugatti, the closed 2-litre Alfa and the Aston-Martin driven by Driscoll and Penn-Hughes.
The evening was fine though somewhat chilly, and it was not until 9.30 that headlamps were ordered to be lit. Just before this the disqualification of the Duesenberg, which had not completed its second period of 24 laps before re-fueling, was announced. This was due solely to bad pit management, for 28 laps had been covered before the first stop, so that the tankage was quite sufficient for completing 24.
The order of the first three cars remained the same, but Cortese, who had relieved Chiron, was driving in masterful fashion, putting up a record lap of 89.54 m.p.h., and brought his car back to 4th place.
Order at the 6th hour.
Sommer-Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo (2.3), 60 laps, 5h. 54m. 7s.
Chinetti-Varent (Alfa-Romeo (2.3), 58 laps, 5h. 55m.
Lewis-Rose Richards (Alfa-Romeo (2.3), 58 laps, 5h. 55m. 18s.
Chiron-Cortese (Alfa-Romeo (2.3), 57 laps, 5h. 55m. 18s.
Bussieune-Despres (Bugatti (4.9), 54 laps, 5h. 59m. 31s.
Moll-Cloitre (Alfa-Romeo (2.3), 54 laps, 5h. 59m. 29s.
Behind them were Mme. Siko (Alfa (2-litre) ), 40 laps; Driscoll (Aston Martin), 49 laps; Czaykowski (Bugatti 1½-litre), 48 laps; and Bertelli (Aston Martin), 48 laps.
In a short time this list was altered with the retirement of Moll and Czaykowski, both with battery trouble. The English small cars showed up well against their French rivals, for besides the Astons, the Riley, Ford and Baumer's M.G. Midget prepared and entered by themselves, the J.3. driven by Parker and Hendy and the Singer all gave excellent accounts of themselves. Metchim's Austin looked a little pathetic, with headlights here and there and an unsafe-looking body, but yet contrived to average 58 m.p.h., which would have allowed it to qualify comfortably for the Rudge-Whitworth Cup. Clutch trouble caused its retirement.
115 m.p.h.! Rose-Richards (Alfa Romeo) passes the "Hippodrome Café".
As will be seen, Lewis was level with Chinetti at quarter-distance, and after a ding-dong battle was actually 2 minutes ahead at 11 p.m. Sommer was once more at the wheel of No. 11, and was maintaining the two lap lead. The J.3. Midget came in sounding rather weak, and refused to start again. After much time had been lost the trouble was traced to a dry carburettor piston caused by using neat benzol, and the car was soon off o.k. Lewis came in and had considerable difficulty in restarting.
Bertelli's Aston had been smoking badly for some time, and it was found that the scavenge pump was not clearing the sump properly, but this was overcome. The Aston pit was a model of efficiency, the most interesting thing being the position chart. An intelligent use of this enabled the cars to keep going at a speed no higher than was necessary, and must have been a great help towards their success in the Rudge-Whitworth Cup.
Rain came on about 11 and made the far side of the course unpleasant for the faster cars. Chiron was in just before midnight and had considerable difficulty in getting away. His starter jammed (a trouble which Sommer and Lewis also experienced), and he had to start the car by letting it run backwards in reverse. This lost him some time and he dropped back to third place, but regained it once more by brilliant driving. Chinetti was third and Rose Richards fourth, then Bussienne's 4.9 Bugatti. At 1 a.m. things were unaltered, so we ventured a walk along the new road past the "Esses." The cars had two, three or four headlights and had no difficulty in taking the corners as fast as by day. Crowds still lined the baracades, but many more were patronising the dancing floors and bars, which blazed with light amongst the pine trees. Others, weary with the day's excitement, had lain down on the bare ground and gone to sleep, and these and occasional tree-stumps made the going heavy.
Back at the pits again, everyone seemed in a stupor, the only news being that one of the steering pins in the Aston Martin driven by S. C. H. Davis had seized at the Esses on the new road. No harm was done, but the driver was delayed half-an-hour trying to get oil into the bush, since no grease-gun had been carried.
At 4 a.m. the positions were:
Sommer-Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 118 laps, 11h. 54m. 47s.
Chiron-Cortese (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 116 laps, 11h. 58m. 26s.
Chinetti-Varent (Alfa Romeo 2.3), 116 laps, 11h. 59m. 31s.
Lewis-Rose Richards (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 114 laps, 11h. 55m, 2s.
Sarenti-Mme. Després (Bugatti 4.9), 104 laps, 11h. 58m. 7s.
Mme. Siko-Sabipa (Alfa-Romeo 2litre), 100 laps, 11h. 55m. 54s.
Followed by Driscoll-Penn Hughes (Aston Martin), Van der Becke and Peacock (Riley), Rousseau (Alfa-Rome 2-litre saloon), Labric (Lorraine).
Sébilleau (Riley) gives a clear road to Nuvolari. They are seen between Arnage and White House.
Shortly after 4 we were roused from lethargy by the arrival of Sommer coming in to mend a front wing. Just as he was about to start again there was a shout from his mechanics and petrol was seen pouring from a leak in the tank. All was activity, and it was patched up as well as could be with soap, but 16 minutes was lost, and Chiron-Cortese took the lead, followed by Chinetti-Varent.
At 5 a.m. Chiron was leading by 2 minutes, with Nuvolari lying third about a lap behind Chinetti.
A crop of incidents followed, the first being the retirement of Mrs. Wisdom, driving Morris Goodall's 2-year-old Aston, with engine trouble. Then a more serious announcement: Mme. Siko, who had been going so well, had crashed between Mulsanne and Arnage, cutting down two trees and overturning the car, which caught fire. She had a miraculous escape, with nothing worse than slight burns and a broken wrist.
Meanwhile Chiron was in at his pit, and Chinetti took the lead for the first time. Chiron was soon away, and after a few laps had regained his position. Nuvolari was driving furiously too and was less than a lap behind the two leading cars. Just after 8 o'clock he raised the record or the course to the terrific speed of 90.07 m.p.h. The strain was telling on many of the leading cars, and the Lorraine disappeared with clutch trouble, and the 4.9 Bugatti by reason of a defect in the water pump. Bertelli found his front wing loose and spent a considerable time repairing it. More terrific laps by Nuvolari, culminating in one at 90.93 m.p.h. This brought him into the lead exactly at 9 a.m. An hour later, three-quarter course, he had nearly a lap in hand.
Order at 10 a.m.:
Sommer-Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo 2.3); 176 laps. 17h. 59m. 6s.
Chiron-Cortese (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 175 laps, 17h. 52m. 27s.
Chinetti-Varent (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 175 laps, 17h. 59m, 29s.
Lewis-Rose Richards (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 170 laps, 17h. 56m. 52s.
Driscoll-Penn Hughes (Aston Martin), 143 laps, 17h. 55m. 29s.
Peacock-Van der Becke (Riley), 143 laps, 17h. 56m. 44s.
Rousseau (2-litre Alfa-Romeo), 134 laps; Ford-Baumer (M.G.), 133 laps; Bertelli-Davis (Aston Martin), 128 laps; Quinault (Tracta), 121 laps.
Cortese, who had taken over Chiron's car, was doing his utmost to catch No. 11, and took the course going in to the new road in a series of skids, his front hub cap on one occasion actually grazing the bank. Finally at the Esses he overdid things, got into a terrific skid at the second corner and crashed into the bank, knocking all the spokes out of his offside front wheel and damaging the steering. He drove back to the pits and retired, leaving Chinetti, who was over a lap behind, the nearest rival to the fawn and red leader.
The last lap. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) enters the new road at tremedous speed.
The sun was shining brightly on Sunday, but the crowds were not as great as on the first day of the race. The field was reduced to 16, and the race had apparently settled down to a monotonous finish. The drivers of the fast cars found it far from monotonous, however, for a puffy side wind on the straight past the Hippodrome Café made steering difficult. The leaders were doing over 120 m.p.h. along this part of the course, Sommer's Alfa and the one driven by Rose Richards were steady in spite of their speed, but Chinetti seemed unhappy and cut out for the bumps. Meanwhile the leading car was in trouble, a rivet in the petrol tank had come adrift, and Chinetti in spite of his slower speed was gaining. Nuvolari took over, but not having any means of stopping the leak, could do nothing but come in often to replenish. Suddenly one noticed that the entire staff of Arthur Fox's pit were chewing away for dear life. Their rival had not thought to include chewing gum amongst the spares carried on his car, but somehow or other the Fox equip, conveyed the "adhesive" to their rivals without being detected by the watching commissaire, it was duly stuck in place, to such effect that the Italian was able to increase his distance without filling up. Some sportsmanship!
Lewis came in just afterwards and was unable to start, a trouble which had beset the Alfas on several occasions. Eventually it was traced to a loose bus-bar in the battery, which was jambed in position.
The final struggle between Nuvolari and Chinetti promised to be electric. Nuvolari came in at 2.10, was told to go all out, and roared away with a Satanic grin. An hour before the finish he had only 2 minutes in hand, at 3.45 half a minute. For 4 laps this continued. No. 8 was gaining slightly, then the leader had to come in for petrol, and was passed. Off he went again like a rocket, caught up Chinetti in four laps, and the latter came in for a few seconds. At it again, Chinetti gained rapidly and was only 20 yards behind. With ten minutes to go, Chirtetti took the leading place, but Nuvolari managed, however, to get past again at Arnage. Chinetti could not catch him, and next time round Nuvolari flashed in to win 10 seconds ahead of his rival.
A regular competitor at Le Mans, A. C. Bertelli (Aston Martin) who finished seventh.
A number of records were smashed in this year's race. In the first place, the three leading Alfa-Romeos beat the record of Sir Henry Birkin of 3017 km. set up in 1931 on an Alfa. The next four cars, Riley, Aston Martin, M.G. and the second Aston all beat the 1500 c.c. record of 2348.8 km., also of course where it applies the 750 c.c. and the 1 litre records.
English drivers and cars showed to great advantage. The Hon. Brian Lewis and T. E. Rose-Richards drove a fast and steady race, slightly handicapped by their slower car. The loose battery connection lost them 52 minutes in all, or about 6½ laps. They were only about 7 laps behind the leader. The Riley which had only intended in the first place to qualify for the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, and which lost a front shock absorber early in the race, enjoyed a no-trouble run and thoroughly deserved its place. The Astons improved nearly 10 m.p.h. on their last year's record speed, though the one driven by Bertelli and Davis was delayed somewhat by oil pressure trouble and wings which came adrift. Ford and Baumer's M.G. surprised everyone by its consistent fast running, while the 8 Singer maintained a steady pace sufficient to qualify for the Rudge-Whitworth Cup. This year's final was won by Sommer's Alfa-Romeo, with a figure of merit of 1.32; second, Driscoll's Aston Martin, 1.27; and third, the Alfa-Romeo entered by Arthur Fox 1.17.
1. R. Sommer and T. Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo, 2338 c.c. S.), 3144km. .Average seed 81.39 m.p.h.
2. Chinetti and Varent (Alfa Romeo, 2357 c.c. S.), 3143.6.
3. Hon. Brian Lewis and T. E. Rose Richards (Alfa-Romeo, 2340 c.c. S.), 3043.4.
4. Peacock and Van der Becke (Riley, 1091 c.c.), 2581.5.
5. Driscoll and Penn Hughes (Aston Martin, 1496 c.c.), 2548.7.
6. Ford and Baumer (M.G., 746 c.c. S,), 2385.
7. Bertelli and Davis (Aston Martin, 1496 c.c.), 2352.3.
8. Rousseau and Paco (Alfa-Romeo, 1742 c.c. S.), 2250.7.
9. Quinault and Pedrault (Tracta, 999 c.c.), 2180.4.
10. Vernet and Vallon (Salmson, 1092 c.c.), 2155.9.
11. Alin brothers (B.N .C., 1087 c.c.), 2047.
12. de Gavardie brothers (Amilcar, 1066 c.c.), 2007.2.
13. Barnes and Langley (Singer, 972 c.c.), 1900.9.
All the above qualify for the final of the 10th Rudge-Whitworth Cup.
The S.A.R.A. was still running, but had not covered its minimum distance.
Rousseau's car was a saloon. It was delayed considerably by ignition trouble.