Classic Car Catalogue

I Grand Prix de Marseille

Marseille Grand Prix
25 September 1932
Circuit de Miramas


Use 'Shift' key to select multiple columns.
Entries and results:
No. Driver: Car: Model: Engine: Entrant: Position: Class: Category:
2 Benoît Falchetto Bugatti T35B 2.3 B. Falchetto dnf    
4 Louis Chiron Bugatti T51 2.3 L. Chiron dnf    
6 René Dreyfus Bugatti T51 2.3 R. Dreyfus dnf    
8 Luigi Fagioli Maserati V5 5.0 Officine A. Maserati 6th    
10 Pierre Félix Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3 P. Félix dnf    
12 Michel Foucret Mercedes-Benz SSK 7.1 M. Foucret dnf    
14 Jean Gaupillat Bugatti T51 2.3 J. Gaupillat 5th    
16 "Mlle. Hellé-Nice" Bugatti T35C 2.0 "Mlle Hellé-Nice" dnf    
18 Marcel Lehoux Bugatti T51 2.3 M. Lehoux dnf    
20 Jean de Maleplane Maserati 26M 2.5 J. de Maleplane dnf    
22 Tazio Nuvolari Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 2.6 S.A. Alfa Romeo 2nd    
24 Amedeo Ruggeri Maserati 8C 3000 3.0 Officine A. Maserati dnf    
26 Raymond Sommer Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3 R. Sommer 1st    
28 Hans Stuber Bugatti T35B 2.3 H. Stuber dna    
30 Achille Varzi Bugatti T51 2.3 A. Varzi dnf    
32 Goffredo Zehender / Toselli Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3 G. Zehender 4th    
34 Guy Bouriat Bugatti T51 2.3 G. Bouriat dna    
36 Max Fourny Bugatti T35C 2.0 M. Fourny dna    
38 Louis Braillard Bugatti T35B 2.3 W. Braillard 7th    
40 Guy Moll Bugatti T35C 2.0 G. Moll 3rd    
Jean-Pierre Wimille Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3 J.P. Wimille dna    
Motor SportNovember 1932

FOR many years now there has not been a race on the track at Miramas, near Marseilles, indeed track racing is not in public favour in France today. It was in the nature of a speculation, then, when the Automobile Club de Marseille decided to hold a 400 kilometre event for unrestricted racing cars.
As it turned out, the meeting was a great success from start to finish. September 25th dawned fine and clear, and as the time of the start drew near, the heat increased to an almost tropical intensity. And the crowd! Right round the track they clustered in tens of thousands, the car parks were full to overflowing, and the attendance was far beyond the wildest hopes of the overjoyed organisers.
The 17 starters were composed of Benoit, Chiron, Dreyfus, Gaupillat, Mlle. Helle-Nice, Lehoux, Varzi, Braillard and Moll, all on Bugattis; Felix, Nuvolari, Sommer and Zehender on Alfa Romeos; Fagioli, de Maleplane, and Ruggeri on Maseratis; and Foucret on a Mercedes-Benz. Guy Bouriat was originally down to drive a Bugatti, but had to be operated on for appendicitis a few days before the race. Other non-starters were Wimille, whose Alfa Romeo had not recovered from its accident at the Circuit of Garoupe, and Max Fourny, the Bugatti driver.
After M. Albert Rousset, the President of the Club, had given the start at 2.30 p.m., it was no surprise to see Nuvolari come round in the lead on the first lap, for the Italian champion had been easily the fastest in practice and had done several laps at an average of 200 k.p.h. But the Alfa Romeo driver was not to have things all his own way, and a terrific struggle ensued immediately between Nuvolari, Varzi, Dreyfus, Fagioli, Lehoux, Zehender, and Gaupillat. Chiron retired early in the race.
Varzi succeeded in passing Nuvolari, who was immediately challenged by Fagioli, and the duel between the "monoposto" Alfa Romeo and the 16 cylinder Maserati was continued with the same intensity that had characterised it at the Monza meeting a few weeks earlier. Fagioli got ahead of Nuvolari and then both drivers passed Varzi, but the fiery Tazio again took the lead, so that at the end of the 10th lap, or 50 kilometres, the order was:
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo), 16m. 43s.
2. Fagioli (Maserati), 16m. 44s.
3. Varzi (Bugatti), 16m. 45s.
4. Lehoux (Bugatti), 16m. 46s.
5. Gaupillat (Bugatti), 16m. 46s.
5. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 16m. 49s.
7. Zehender (Alfa Romeo), 16m. 51s.
8. Sommer (Alfa Romeo), 17m. 11s.
9. Benoit (Bugatti), 17m. 25s.
10. Felix (Alfra Romeo), 17m. 42s.
The race was a magnificent spectacle, for as can be seen only 3 seconds separated the first five cars, which roared past the stands at 125 m.p.h. in a compact mass. The hot pace began to tell, and several retirements were announced, the Maseratis of Ruggeri and de Maleplane, the latter with lubrication trouble, Varzi, with a broken spring on his Bugatti, and Dreyfus (Bugatti) after bursting a tyre at high speed. Zehender made a spurt, and put in one wonderful lap at 193 k.p.h., a record for the track, and at 20 laps the young Alfa Romeo driver was in third position, behind Nuvolari, who had once again lost the lead to Fagioli. Another driver who was making a wonderful show was the amateur Gaupillat, with his very well-tuned Bugatti.
Mirainas track, like Indianopolis, is only slightly banked, and with its rough concrete surface, is very heavy on tyres. This state of affairs was aggravated by the intense heat, and all the pit managers were prepared for at least two stops for a change of wheels. As some cars came in for their first stop the order became confused, so that at half distance, 200 kms., the order was:
1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo), 1h. 7m. 13s.
2. Sommer (Alfa Romeo), 1h. 8m. 34s.
3. Gaupillat (Bugatti), 1h. 9m. 57s.
4. Fagioli (Maserati), 1h. 10m. 53s.
5. Moll (Bugatti), 1h. 12m. 6s.
6. Zehender (Alfa Romeo), 1h. 17m. 13s.
7. Lehoux (Bugatti), 1h. 18m. 51s.
The reason for Zehender's drop in position was that he was unable to restart his Alfa Romeo after his refuelling stop. Mlle. Helle-Nice retired after a fine drive, and soon afterwards Toselli took over Zehender's car.
By this time the crowd, which was kept back for a hundred yards on the slightly banked corners, had encroached to such an extent that the actual track was rimmed with people, an extremely dangerous state of affairs, as was revealed when Zehender had to go wide in order to avoid a competitor who was skidding in front of him, and his Alfa Romeo went within inches of the heads of the over-enthusiastic spectators. The danger was accentuated by the fact that all the cars took the turns in a long crabbing skid, which threw an unwonted strain on tyres, wheels and suspension systems, and in the event of the breakage of any of these vital parts a serious accident involving many deaths would have been unavoidable. However, we learnt that next year greater precautions are to be taken to ensure that spectators are kept away from all danger points.
When Nuvolari made his first stop he was under the impression that he had thrown off his nearest rivals, and that he had the race well in hand. In actual fact, however, he was only 1m. 20s. ahead of Sommer, and as the Italian driver made no effort to hurry, changing plugs and tyres, refuelling, having a drink and generally taking his ease, his pit stop of 3 minutes lost him the lead. Sommer made a quick stop, and set off at the same time as Nuvolari, who thought that he was at least a lap ahead of Sommer. Actually he was a lap behind!
For some time the official Alfa Romeo équipe, under Signor Giovanni, did not realise the true state of affairs, but when they at last found out they hung out all the "go faster" signs in the pit-but the confident Tazio Nuvolari made no effort to obey. Frantically the pit staff urged him to increase his speed, but Nuvolari was in no hurry, and all the while Sommer was piling up his lead by 5 seconds per lap. Then Nuvolari came in to find out "what was the cause of the bother."
He was told. Nuvolari's changed from one of confidant enquiry to one of intensified energy, and he set off in pursuit of the flying Sommer. His daring was a sight to behold. Holding his car in the series of lightning which is so characteristic of this driver's methods, he lapped at a pace, and immediately set up a new record at 199.741 m.p.h. In an astonshingly short space of time he had Sommer's lead to pieces, and with some distance to go he was within striking distance of victory.
Then came the coup-de-grace. A tyre burst, and the unfortunate Nuvolari ran into his pit. With an alacrity born desperation, the wheel was changed in less time than it takes to tell, and once again he took up the chase. But the delay has widened the gap to an irrevocable degree and in spite of the most valiant efforts on the part of Nuvolari, Sommer secured a well-deserved victory by the narrow margin of 46 seconds.
Immediately the first two cars had crossed the line, the vast crowd, which had become more and more uncontrollable as the meeting wore on, broke their bounds and invaded the track, on which five cars were still lapping at high speed. Thanks to the great skill of the drivers concerned disaster was averted, but for a moment the situation was very dangerous.
A word of praise is due to a nwecomer, the Algerian driver Moll, who took third place and was the first Bugatti driver to cross the line on an old Bugatti once owned by his fellow-Algerian, Lehoux.
After the race, Signor Giovanni lodged an appeal with the authorities, on grounds that the time keepers had made mistake, and that Nuvolari was really lap ahead of Sommer at the finish. On the next day, however, he was given opportunity of examining the time keeper's sheets, and he declared satisfied with the final placings.
1. R. Sommer (Alfa Romeo), 2h, 17m. 58 2/5s. (Average speed 109.75 m.p.h.).
2. T. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo), 2h. 18m. 44 3/5s.
3. Moll (Bugatti), 4 laps behind the winner.
4. F. Zehender (Alfa Romeo), 4 laps behind winner.
5. J. Gaupillat (Bugatti), 5 laps behind the winner.
6. Fagioli (Maserati), 5 laps behind the winner.
7. Braillard (Bugatti), 9 laps behind the winner.
Sommer's Alfa Romeo was equiped with Dunlop tyres. The fastest laps made by 1, Nuvolari (1m. 30 3/5s.), 2, Gaupillat (1m. 31s.), 3, Fagioli and Varzi (1m. 32s.), 4, Dreyfus (1m. 33s.), Lehoux, Sommer and Zehender (1m. 34s.).