VIII GRAND PRIX DE BELGIQUE
Spa-Francorchamps (B), 25 June 1939
35 laps x 14.5 km (9.01 mi) = 507.5 km (315.3 mi)
Richard Seaman's last race. A sad victory for Lang and Mercedes-Benz.
by Hans Etzrodt
This race will forever evoke sad memories because of Dick Seaman's fiery crash while leading on a rain-soaked track. He died the same night from the severe burns. It was a true rain-race
with 13 cars at the start when Müller (Auto Union) held the lead for eight laps and the close pursuer Lang (Mercedes-Benz) could not pass through the Auto Union's foggy spray. When Müller
stopped after lap nine, Seaman (Mercedes-Benz) passed Caracciola and Lang to take the lead. He and Lang were both in tremendous form. The wet road was very slippery and old masters like
Caracciola and Nuvolari fell prey to the treacherous conditions, skidding off the track to retire. Meier's Auto Union also spun off the slick circuit, ending his race. Seaman was still
leading on lap 22 when his car skidded at Club corner, hit one of the many trees with the driver trapped in his broken car, when it caught fire. Hermann Lang inherited the lead and eventually
won this difficult race. This win made it five in a row for Lang and Mercedes-Benz, if Tripoli and the Vienna Mountain Race are included, an unparalleled achievement in the history of motor
sport, comparable only to Nuvolari, who in 1932 with the Alfa Romeo cleaned up the European Grands Prix. Hasse, winner of the 1937 event, finished second with the Auto Union, and
von Brauchitsch came third. Sommer (Alfa Romeo) finished fourth, followed by the Delahayes of Mazaud and Gerard. The race saw the last appearance of the 3-liter works Alfa Romeo.
The first Belgian Grand Prix for grand prix cars was held 1925 at Spa, won by Antonio Ascari. After five years, grand prix cars raced again in 1930 and 1931. After a one-year break, followed
consecutive Grand Prix races in 1933, 1934, and 1935, also in 1937. 1939 was the eighth time for grand prix cars at the Spa circuit and it was the first race counting towards this year's
The AC of Belgium and its sports commission with men like Baron Nothomb and Mr. Langlois van Ochem had taken care of the organization for years. Spa was one of the fastest and most difficult
road circuits with fast sweeping bends and trees bordering most parts of the narrow course. When it was wet, the surface became very slippery and made the course dangerous. Since the 1937
race, the Spa circuit had been shortened to exactly 14.500 km or 9.010 mi. Now, after the start, instead of turning left after the Eau Rouge bridge, a new wide right-hand turn was leading
up the hill. The old right-hand Frontier hairpin just past the left Eau Rouge bend was left out, shortening the course by 364 meters. This year, 35 laps had to be covered to make up the 500 km
minimum distance required for the Belgian Grand Prix. This ignored the decision made by the AIACR in October of 1938 that Grand Prix races were to go only over a 300 km distance, but the
French Grand Pix, however, was to go over a 500 km distance.
Five different makes competed, with a total of only 14 cars. Alfa Corse entered an improved 316, unlike last year's model. It had a newer version of the V-16 440 hp engine, a less wind resistant
exhaust system, and smother body work. This Alfa Romeo, assigned to Giuseppe Farina, was the only halfway serious competition the Germans had. It was also the last time the Italian team entered
a 3-liter grand prix car.
Auto Union arrived with five type D cars for Tazio Nuvolari, Rudi Hasse, H.P. Müller, and Georg Meier. Hans Stuck was not present, instead he raced the same day in Bucharest, where he won an uneven
contest against sports cars. Thus, team manager Dr. Feuereisen included again the new man, Georg Meier. This was the Bavarian's second try with a Grand Prix car, after the Auto Union's practice
breakdown at the Eifelrennen. Meier was an experienced motorcycle champion and besides driving for Auto Union, he was also contracted for 1939 with BMW, winning the senior TT that year amongst
Daimler-Benz entered four W154's for Rudi Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Hermann Lang, and Dick Seaman. The cars were equipped with M154 engines, the heavier M163's were not used for this race.
For the first time all engines were outfitted with two-stage supercharging, delivering a peak power of 475 hp at 7500 rpm instead at a higher 8000 rpm, as had been the case with the old version.
The rest of the drivers had no chance to win under normal circumstances. The fastest of them was the wealthy French private entrant, Raymond Sommer, with last year's 295 hp Alfa Romeo 308.
Adolfo Mandirola, a Swiss privateer, entered his very old and heavily modified 3-liter 8CM Maserati giving at best 240 hp. Another Swiss, young Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried, in an old 6C34 Maserati
with 3-liter engine, did not show up. The week before, Frenchman Louis Gerard had just come second with a Delage in the tragic 24 hours of Le Mans. Now he brought his 3.5 liter six-cylinder 160 hp
Delahaye 135 Competition and privateer René Mazaud showed up with the same model, both cars had no superchargers.
Wednesday, 21 June was the first practice day for the Belgian Grand Prix during rainy weather. Richard Seaman was the fastest driver in 5m10.8s at 167 km/h average speed with his Mercedes. Müller
with the Auto Union was second fastest in 5m12.4s, followed by his teammates Hasse 5m21s and Meier 5m23.9s. Hermann Lang drove 5m24s and Brauchitsch 5m25.2s. Nuvolari and Caracciola did not drive
at full speed, as generally practice on the first day was to sort out the spark plugs,
|Müller (Auto Union)||5m12.4s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||5m21.0s|
|Meier (Auto Union)||5m23.9s|
|Nuvolari (Auto Union)|
Thursday, 22 June was the second practice day, again with a thunderstorm on the race course of Spa, so that the times were below those from Wednesday. Only late in the evening at 7:00 p.m. the first
laps were driven. Lang was fastest with 5m21.5s at 173.3 km/h - 162.363 km/h average speed ahead of Seaman 5m24s, Müller 5m30.8s, Hasse 5m26s, Nuvolari 5m40s, Caracciola 5m42s, Brauchitsch 5m43.8s
and Farina 5m51.3s. Farina practiced for the first time with his new 16-cylinder Alfa Romeo and drove one after another seven laps, leaving an excellent impression. Caracciola and Nuvolari were again
very slow and it appeared that they had no desire to drive fast practice laps, as the starting order took place not by the fastest lap times but was decided by drawing lots. For Friday practice the
two Maseratis and Delahaye were expected.
|Müller (Auto Union)||5m30.8s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||5m26.0s|
|Nuvolari (Auto Union)||5m40.0s|
|Farina (Alfa Romeo 16-cyl)||5m51.3s|
Friday, 23 June was the last practice with early thunderstorms that moved away with the weather improving. Finally in the evening hours faster laps were recorded. Lang was again fastest with 5m03.2
at 172.163 km/h, Seaman did 5m03.3s, Brauchitsch 5m03.6s and Caracciola 5m07.1s. Next followed Meier with the Auto Union in 5m08.2s, Hasse 5m09.3s and Nuvolari 5m13s, which Müller did in a starting
lap. Müller's racing engine got damaged. Was it possibly the persistent crankshaft problem? Team Manager Dr. Feuereisen had blamed Müller's hard driving style and him not being sensible enough
towards his engine. Müller received a practice engine for the race. Meier, had good circuit experience from two previous motorcycle races on this circuit. Farina reached 5m16.5s with the 16-cylinder
and Sommer 5m44s. The Delahaye of Mazaud needed more than six minutes. For Friday practice already thousands were present and for Sunday many visitors never seen before were expected.
|Meier (Auto Union)||5m08.2s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||5m09.3s|
|Nuvolari (Auto Union)||5m13.0s|
|Müller (Auto Union)||5m13.0s|
|Farina (16-cyl Alfa Romeo)||5m16.5s|
|Sommer (8-cyl Alfa Romeo)||5m44.0s|
On race day low hanging clouds covered the Ardennes Forest with intermittent rain showers. It rained on one side of the Spa circuit and not on the other. Track conditions changed continuously and
were unpredictable. A corner which was dry one lap could be wet and slippery the next. This would make driving difficult. Müller's Auto Union had the oil cooler, placed in the lower third of the
radiator grill, covered up because of the cooler weather. It was raining hard when the cars, protected by tarpaulins and umbrellas, were rolled to the grid. The Belgian King Leopold III, very much
interested in the Grand Prix cars, greeted the drivers at the starting grid.
The organization left a lot to be desired, since the line up for the starting grid was not in order of the achieved practice times, but instead by ballot. Lots were drawn by the teams and then the
team managers usually assigned their best drivers to the front positions. This old-fashioned arrangement, customary for Spa, brought again slower cars to the front of the grid, and the 13 drivers
lined up as follows:
The 1:30 p.m. start was not carried out with the usual flag but by an optical signal. It was raining. The starting area, situated on a downhill slope, had in the past caused cars to roll on the grid in the
last seconds before the start. This time it was Farina's 16-cylinder Alfa Romeo creeping forward. At the green light, it was Farina in the lead, followed by Müller, Lang, Nuvolari, Caracciola, Seaman, Hasse,
Brauchitsch, Meier and Sommer as they stormed away in a cloud of water. An advantage of 35 hp enabled Müller and Lang to get passed Farina's Alfa on the long climb after the start.
Lap 1 - Müller finished the first lap in the lead with an average of 145 km/h, chased by Lang, Nuvolari, and Caracciola. Farina had fallen back to fifth place, followed by Seaman, Hasse, Brauchitsch,
Sommer and Meier and the remaining field. One by one, the silver cars eventually went past the slower Alfa Romeo. Farina fell continuously back, not to play a role in the outcome of the race.
Lap 2 - Müller's average speed had risen to 150 km/h despite the slippery conditions. He had Lang glued to his tail. Regardless of the blue flag being shown, the Auto Union used the whole width of the
rain slicked road and Lang could not get by. The order remained the same for the first three laps, except that Meier passed Sommer on the second lap. Passing another car on the narrow slippery track was
Lap 3 - Caracciola overtook Nuvolari for third place while Lang and Müller carried on their battle for first. Lang's Mercedes was covered by the Auto Union's foggy spray. It was a terrible situation
for Lang. He was waiting for a better opportunity to get by, then slowed down a bit but was never more than 50 to 100 meters away. When Caracciola and Nuvolari slowed down, Seaman went passed the
Italian to take fourth place.
Lap 4 - Now Müller was chased by the Mercedes trio in close formation, Lang, Caracciola, and Seaman, then Nuvolari, Hasse, Brauchitsch and motorcycle champion Meier who drove his first race in a racecar.
Mazaud's and Gerard's Delahayes in the rear had been lapped. Despite the rain, which had become heavier at the start and finish area, the average speed had gone up to 152.3 km/h after four laps. Mercedes
team manager Neubauer had the blue flag shown to Müller, since the Mercedes pit crew had the impression that Lang was impeded.
Lap 5 - Lang, unable to pass Müller, was shaking his fist furiously. The blue flag had repeatedly been shown to Müller but Lang could not get passed him. The Auto Union stayed in the middle of the road
and Müller seemed to be quite busy with his car. It was obviously not easy for two almost equally fast cars to pass one another at 240 km/h on a 6-meter-wide road and this on a tree lined wet circuit with
fog-like spray reducing vision. Müller, later had to confront the monstrous accusation of blocking Lang and Caracciola. He assured after the race that he had no such intentions and that he could not see
anything in his dirty mirrors. It was interesting to notice, that even Nuvolari did not drive as fast as Müller, and that Müller's was indeed the fastest Auto Union at that time. He was however handicapped
by having the practice car's engine, which started to lose power early on. The order was Müller, Lang, Caracciola, Seaman, Nuvolari, Hasse, Brauchitsch, Meier and Sommer.
Lap 9 - Lang, tired of following Müller's spray, waved Caracciola and Seaman by. Caracciola then tried to go inside Müller at the La Source hairpin, but misjudged the slippery corner and skidded to the
inside grass. The car was undamaged but faced towards the hairpin with a stalled engine. Unable to get the car back on the track, Caracciola was the first one to retire and walked the short distance to the
pits. After nine laps, Müller's Auto Union was still in the lead, now chased by Seaman and Lang, then Nuvolari, Hasse, Brauchitsch and Meier.
Lap 10 - at the end Seaman crossed the line first with great applause from the crowd. Müller, who had been called in to refuel, fell back to third place. Seaman was now pulling away from Lang,
followed by Müller, Nuvolari and Hasse, Brauchitsch and Meier in seventh place.
Lap 12 - At the end of the lap, Seaman was already 30 seconds ahead of Lang and 41 of Müller, followed by Nuvolari, Hasse, Meier, and a trailing Brauchitsch who slowly reached the pits with a flat rear
tire, had it changed and added a quick squirt of fuel, which allowed Meier to gain sixth place.
Lap 13 - Nuvolari passed Müller who had fallen back with a sick engine. While passing his pits, he signed that something was not in order, probably his problematic engine.
Lap 14 - Seaman was 17 seconds ahead of Lang, 34 of Nuvolari, who was closely followed by Müller and Hasse. Seaman lapped Farina's Alfa Romeo for the first time. Meier's first grand prix race came to
an end when he passed Mandirola's Maserati at Blanchimont, the Auto Union skidded into the ditch. The car was undamaged, but he could not move it back onto the road and the Bavarian walked the few kilometers
to start and finish.
Lap 15 - Seaman was leading Lang by only 12 seconds and Nuvolari by 27. Müller, Hasse, and von Brauchitsch followed, while Caracciola and Meier had already retired. All other drivers had been lapped
by the leaders.
Lap 17 - at half time, Seaman made the first stop for gas and rear tires in 30 seconds. The lead went temporarily to Lang, until he also pitted the following lap. Nuvolari was next to stop for fuel
and a quick drink from the bottle with much applause. He did not have to change tires in this weather. On this lap Müller also stopped for the second time at the pits which moved Hasse and Brauchitsch up
to fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Lap 18 - Lang's stop took only 25 seconds, but Seaman had enough advantage to regain the lead on lap 18. Nuvolari in third place was now 40 seconds behind Seaman. After all pit stops the rain had
diminished a bit and the average speed increased, although in the stretches through the forest the road remained wet.
Lap 20 - On lap 20 the order was Seaman, Lang, Nuvolari, Hasse, Brauchitsch, and Müller. The latter made a third pit stop to cure his Auto Union engine problems. Seaman was pulling away and extending
his advantage to 30 seconds over Lang, despite the slippery roads.
Lap 21 - Mandirola in the old Maserati retired with suspension problems. At that time, it also had stopped raining. Seaman was now leading Lang by 23 seconds and Nuvolari by 52. Lang had established
the fastest lap in 5m19.9s at 163.1 km/h average speed on a drying circuit. At the end of lap 21, Seaman led with an average of 153.3 km/h ahead of Lang, Nuvolari, Hasse, Brauchitsch, and Müller. Farina,
already twice lapped, struggled in seventh place, and retired his Alfa Romeo with supercharger problems.
Lap 22 - Dick Seaman was going through Club corner, the fast left turn just before La Source hairpin. When accelerating out of the turn, the Mercedes skidded off the wet road, striking a tree with the
rear from where it bounced off into another. The car struck the second tree with full force sideways at the cockpit and consequently wrapped itself around it. The impact broke Dick's right arm, bruised a
kidney, and received a concussion. His head must have hit the tree at the impact, causing him to lose consciousness. The large connection from the forward saddle tank to the rear tank ruptured when the tree
bent the chassis. He had just refueled six laps back and now this fuel was gushing over the hot exhaust pipe and ignited immediately. Lang followed about 20 seconds behind and reaching this fast turn, he was
shown the yellow flag and slowed down. As he was approaching the exit of this blind curve, he saw what had happened. The Englishman was sitting motion-less in the flaming cockpit of his car.
It must have taken over half a minute before Dick was saved out of this inferno. The few spectators at the corner did not dare to go near the burning car from which emitted three cones of fire. The first on
the scene was a Belgian soldier, who was not familiar with the mechanism and could not release the catch of the detachable steering wheel to free the trapped unconscious driver. Two marshals, running up from
La Source hairpin to the burning car, helped the soldier to finally pull the driver out of the flames. By this time Dick had received third degree burns on legs, arms, hands, upper body, and face. Georg Meier,
who had retired eight laps earlier, on his walk back to the pits said, he saw the accident happening about 300 meters ahead of him. He ran and by the time he reached the scene, Seaman had already been placed
on the grass with red cross people present.
Lap 23 - Lang stopped very briefly at his pits to inform the team about Seaman's accident. Thus, Dr. Gläser, the German racing doctor for Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, and some mechanics ran to the
scene of the accident not far away from the pits. Lang pulled back into the race but was so shook up after having witnessed Dick's fateful crash that he would have rather not carried on. One after the other,
drivers passed the pits with strained faces, pointing towards the scene of the accident. No official announcements were made. Lang was 45 seconds ahead of Nuvolari and 1m37s ahead of Hasse, followed by
Brauchitsch, Müller, Sommer, Mazaud, and Gerard.
In the meantime, Dr. Gläser had arrived in short time at the scene of the crash where he gave Seaman some injections but they were not effective in relieving the terrible pains. Richard Seaman was rushed to
the Spa hospital where everything imaginable was done by the doctors to save his life.
Lap 26 - Müller pulled in the pits after this lap and retired his backfiring Auto Union with a broken valve. Now the German cars were down to four, with the Auto Unions of Nuvolari and Hasse laying
between the Mercedes of Lang and Brauchitsch.
Lap 28 - Nuvolari, who had come steadily closer to Lang, skidded off the course at slippery Stavelot turn, hitting a fence. Several laps later he arrived slowly at the pits and retired with a damaged
steering knuckle. The field was now reduced to six cars with Lang 2m17s ahead of Hasse in second place, then Brauchitsch another two minutes behind, followed by Sommer, Mazaud and Gerard.
Lap 34 - Lang at an average speed of 153.2 km/h was two minutes ahead of Hasse, with another gap of two minutes to Brauchitsch. Sommmer's Alfa Romeo was in fourth place but four laps behind, followed
by the two Delahaye drivers. Near the end of the lap Lang's engine suddenly started to cut out. He realized that he had not received enough fuel at his stop and therefore the tank had to be empty. When racing
on a wet circuit, it was preferred not to fill the tank to the top since a tail-heavy rear would slide around easier. Lang had about two kilometers to go to the pits and was very easy with the throttle. His
car started to sputter. Then, at La Source hairpin the engine stalled. Fortunately, from there to the pits, the road went downhill. As the car rolled silently towards the pits, Lang was continuously hitting
the fuel tank cap with his right hand. After the excitement about Seaman's crash, Lang's crew had not ordered him to the pits for fuel.
Lap 35 - Lang took enough fuel for one lap. They were not allowed to use the electric starter motor, so the mechanics had to push the car, it caught once and stalled again as air was now in the fuel
lines and carburetor.
The mechanics kept pushing Lang further downhill to Eau Rouge trying to push start the car but the engine would not fire. Then the second placed car, Hasse's Auto Union, roared past the pits, just seconds
behind Lang. At the last moment, just before Lang came to a stop at the beginning of the new right hand uphill corner, his Mercedes finally fired up. Now, he chased in earnest after Hasse who had just
passed him. Lang was able to not only get passed the Auto Union but at the finish was 17 seconds ahead to a cheerless victory. Von Brauchitsch came third, almost two minutes behind his winning teammate,
followed by the Sommer, Mazaud, Gerard, three, five, and six laps back respectively.
After this hard, sorrowful race it had become evident that the circuit was not suitable for these speeds. It would be necessary to remove trees, widen the narrow circuit, and put a rougher surface down.
Richard Seaman - this time after the race, there was no party for the Mercedes team. Instead, afterwards they went to the hospital. Dick's head and whole upper body were completely wrapped up in white
bandages. When Dick regained full consciousness, he was able to speak both German and English to his wife and friends. He was able to explain what had happened and told Neubauer that the crash had been his
own fault. Dick lapsed into unconsciousness and died of his burns soon after midnight.
This regrettable accident had everybody deeply moved. The loss of the 26-year-old, popular Dick Seaman was a shock to all and hardened men were crying. Sports-manlike persuasion was for him a natural form
of life. A true gentleman, reserved, modest in appearance, displaying camaraderie, Dick was well liked everywhere. He was mourned in England as well as in Germany. England had lost their best driver
|1.||22||Hermann Lang||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||35||3h20m21.0s|
|2.||4||Rudolf Hasse||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||35||3h20m37.9s||+ 16.9s|
|3.||24||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||35||3h22m14.0s||+ 1m53.0s|
|4.||12||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 308||3.0||S-8||32||3h23m13.0s|
|5.||14||Robert Mazaud||R. Mazaud||Delahaye||135CS||3.6||S-6||30||3h27m39.8s|
|6.||18||Louis Gerard||L. Gerard||Delahaye||135CS||3.6||S-6||29||3h26m24.9s|
|DNF||2||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||28||suspension|
|DNF||6||Hermann Müller||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||26||broken valve|
|DNF||26||Richard Seaman||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||21||fatal crash|
|DNF||10||Giuseppe Farina||G. Farina||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 316||3.0||V-16||20||supercharger|
|DNF||28||Adolfo Mandirola||A. Mandirola||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||19||suspension|
|DNF||8||Georg Meier||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||13||spun off|
|DNF||20||Rudolf Caracciola||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||8||spun off|
Fastest lap: Hermann Lang (Mercedes-Benz) on lap 21 in 5m19.9s = 163.2 km/h (101.4 mph) |
Winner's medium speed: 152.0 km/h (94.4 mph)
Weather: intermittent rain showers.
Honoring the heroes of Dick Seaman's accident: : - It must have taken over half a minute before Dick was saved out of this inferno. The few spectators at the corner did not dare to go near the burning
car from which emitted three cones of fire. The first on the scene was a Belgian soldier, his name was Lieutanant Haumann of the 1st Belgian Lancers, who was not familiar with the mechanism and could not
release the catch of the detachable steering wheel to free the trapped unconscious driver. Two marshals, running up from La Source hairpin to the burning car, helped the soldier to finally pull the driver
out of the flames. The two track marshals were 44-years-old Jacques Léon Orban and 51-year-old Alexandre Joseph Cokaiko both from Liege. Jacques Orban was also driving in the 24-Hours at Francorchamps in
1929, 1930, 1931 and 1933. This research was done thanks to Hugo Boecker, Adam Ferrington, Reinhard Windeler and Marc Ceulemans.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Deutsche Sport-Illustrierte, Stuttgart
General-Anzeiger Duisburg, Duisburg
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Motor Post, Berlin
Special thanks to:
1 July 1939: Mays (ERA 2 litre) wins the Crystal Palace Cup at Crystal Palace track in London.
COUPE DE LA COMMISSION SPORTIVE
Reims-Gueux (F), 9 July 1939
38 laps x 7.816 km (4.86 mi) = 297.0 km (184.6 mi)
|2||"B Bira"||"B Bira"||ERA||C||1.5||S-6||DNS - crash|
|4||Alfa Corse||Alfa Romeo||158||1.5||S-8||DNA - Italian boycott|
|6||Alfa Corse||Alfa Romeo||158||1.5||S-8||DNA - Italian boycott|
|8||Alfa Corse||Alfa Romeo||158||1.5||S-8||DNA - Italian boycott|
|10||Allen Pollock||A. Pollock||ERA||A||1.5||S-6|
|12||Robin Hanson||Mrs. M. E. Hall-Smith||ERA||B||1.5||S-6|
|12||Raymond Mays||ERA Ltd||ERA||E||1.5||S-6||DNA - had left team|
|14||Arthur Dobson||ERA Ltd||ERA||E||1.5||S-6||DNS - engine|
|16||Amédée Gordini||Equipe Gordini||Simca||T8||1.1||S-4|
|18||Marcel Contet||Equipe Gordini||Simca||T8||1.1||S-4|
|20||Leonhard Joa||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4|
|22||Heinz Dipper||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6|
|24||Secondo Corsi||S. Corsi||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||DNA - Italian boycott|
|26||George Abecassis||G. Abecassis||Alta||1.5||S-4|
|28||Roger Loyer||R. Loyer||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6|
|30||Raymond Sommer||Ecurie Baston||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6|
|30||Louis Gerard||Baron de Graffenried||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||DNS - alternative driver|
|32||Joseph Paul||Equipe Gordini||Simca||T8||1.1||S-4|
|34||Luigi Platé||L. Platé||Talbot||700||1.5||S-8||DNA - Italian boycott|
|34||John Wakefield||J. Wakefield||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||Race number re-allocated|
|36||Luigi Soffietti||L. Soffietti||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||DNA - Italian boycott|
|36||Armand Hug||Scuderia Torino||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||Race number re-allocated|
Work teams are withdrawn, Bira & Wakefield are out of luck but Hug scores
In 1939 Automobile Club de France was staging a voiturette race, to be known as the Coupe de la Commission Sportive, before the French Grand Prix.
Unlike the Grand Prix the voiturette race was open to privateers as long as they had the approval from their car manufacturer.
The event was expected to be the voiturette race of the year, surpassing even Tripoli. Already in February Peter Berthon had promised two, if not three E type ERAs to the organizers and
they also expected works entries from Maserati, Alfa Corse and Mercedes.
Alfa Corse initially entered three Alfettas but due to Mussolini's decision that Italians should not race in France, the Alfa entry was withdrawn and that should also have been the reason
why Secondo Corsi's Maserati and Luigi Plate's Talbot never turned up. Maserati never entered any cars and Mercedes put all their efforts into the Grand Prix class instead.
ERA Ltd. finally entered two cars for Mays and Dobson but at the time of the race Mays had already split with the team. So Dobson was the sole works driver, planning to give the new ERA E
type its race debut. Mays was replaced in the entry list by privateer Hanson's R6B while Allen Conn Pollock entered the old ex -Embiricos' R2A. With the Italian teams missing the race,
Bira, in his Zoller blown ERA R12C "Hanuman", had become one of the main favorites for the victory.
Among the private Maseratis were Wakefield in his 4CL (#1569) and Hug with his 4CL 16 valve engined 1938 type 4CM (#1555). Germans Dipper and Joa entered their Maseratis and French driver
Roger Loyer had another Maserati. Sommer tried to get Alfa Corse to lend one of the Alfettas but without success. Instead he hired a Maserati 6CM initially entered under the Ecurie Baston name
for Louis Gérard. The entry name remained the same under the new driver.
George Abecassis had entered his silver colored Alfa with independent suspension.
Finally, Gordini had entered three light blue two seat Le Mans type Simca sports cars. They were in fact Fiat 508C's made in Italy with a 1.1 liter un-supercharged engine and heavy rebuilt with
streamlined bodies and had really no chance against the race cars. It seems probable that the organizers used them just to fill up the field a bit.
The Maseratis and the E type ERA had to do a pit stop while the old ERAs were just able to do the race non-stop if care was taken to save fuel.
During Thursday practice Dobson in the new ERA was fastest with a time of 2m53.3s.
Practice continued in Friday afternoon. The weather was cool and windy.
Dobson was fastest, lowering his time to 2m52.1s, rumoured to do 150 mph on the straight from Garenne to Thillois. But the works ERA team was in trouble as inadequate louvres on the car
made the pressure build up on the bonnet on the fast sections of the track, creating over-heating.
Bira, who had not been present during Thursday practice, did a time of 2m52.3s and Wakefield did a 2m52.7s. No other driver managed to do a time under three minutes.
Practice continued on Saturday at 8 a.m. Bira did a lap about 2m52s but then, trying to snatch the fastest time away from Dobson, he had a bad accident in the high speed left hander before
Virage de la Garenne. Bira lost control and slide backwards into a sandbank, just missing a tree, but "Hanuman" rolled over and became a wreck. Luckily Bira, who had been thrown out of
the car, walked away from the wreck with a cut in the hip and he was sent away for an anti-tetanus injection and x-raying.
The ERA works team had to withdraw their car as the overheating had burnt out three exhaust valves and no fast repairs were possible, so suddenly the event had lost its two fastest entries.
That left the field open for Maserati drivers Wakefield and Hug
Information is a bit messy but it seems Hanson had taken over a works spare car (R7B?) after a main bearing had disintegrated on his own car.(Note 1) But it seems that the spare car had an engine
problem as well and Hanson started on 1/3 full tanks, just hoping to do a few laps to be able to get the starting money.
The field was down to nine race cars and three sports cars, a far cry from the initial expectations.
The grid was a bit odd, with the top trio obviously being the ones with the fastest times, but looking at the Grand Prix race itself, the pole position was to the right of the grid.
In this race it seems to be on the left side for some unknown reason. As the rest of the field also seems to be in rather random order, practice times have not
been included here.
When the flag dropped Armand Hug was first off, followed by Wakefield, Hanson and Dipper. Pollock in fifth position was taking it easy, his only chance for a top score being to try to make
the race non-stop. At the end of the first lap Wakefield had taken over the lead from Hug and he held it for the next laps.
Abecassis and Loyer were early retirements and Sommer was in trouble with his Maserati.
On the fifth lap Pollock's plans to cruise through the race failed as he had to retire with a broken gearbox. Wakefield was now leading by five seconds, but his brakes started to fail and
on the sixth lap he went wide in the Thillois curve and then immediately entered the pit for fast repairs. He was soon back into the race but continued to struggle so that Hug easily could
build up a huge lead. Joa and Sommer retired as did Hanson in third position as the car run out of fuel on lap 13!
Hug was leading Wakefield by one and a half minute when the duo came in for their fuel stop on lap 19. Both did slow stops and Wakefield had problems with restarting the engine, making his
stop to last another 25 seconds as the regulations forbade push starts. Still the two drivers were able to keep their first and second positions.
Hug could cruise home to an easy win. Wakefield was second, distanced by almost two minutes, and Dipper was third in his silver Maserati, two laps down. The Gordini Simca/Fiats had been
slow but reliable and cruised home in the next three positions, six and seven laps down.
Reims would be winner Hug's last race as just a week later a bad crash at Albi would end his race career.
|1.||36||Armand Hug||Scuderia Torino||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||38||1h58m21.6s|
|2.||34||John Wakefield||J. Wakefield||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||38||2h00m18.4s||+ 1m56.8s|
|3.||22||Heinz Dipper||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||36|
|4.||16||Amédée Gordini||Equipe Gordini||Simca||508C||32|
|5.||18||Marcel Contet||Equipe Gordini||Simca||508C||31|
|6.||32||Joseph Paul||Equipe Gordini||Simca||508C||31|
|DNF||12||Robin Hanson||Mrs. M. E. Hall-Smith||ERA||B||1.5||S-6||13||out of fuel|
|DNF||30||Raymond Sommer||Ecurie Baston||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||10|
|DNF||20||Leonhard Joa||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||38||crash|
|DNF||10||Allen Pollock||A. Pollock||ERA||A||1.5||S-6||5||gearbox|
|DNF||28||Roger Loyer||R. Loyer||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||1|
|DNF||26||George Abecassis||G. Abecassis||Alta||1|
Fastest lap: John Wakefield (Maserati) in 2m56.2s = 159.7 km/h (99.2 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 150.6 km/h (93.6 mph)
Pole position speed: (Wakefield) 162.9 km/h (101.2 mph)
1. Motor Sport Sep 1940, reprinted in ERA Gold Portfolio, p42
Main sources: Chula Chakrabongse's Blue and Yellow , ERA Gold Portfolio, Venables' Racing Five-Hundreds, Sheldon Vol 4.
XXV GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB
Reims-Gueux (F), 9 July 1939
51 laps x 7.816 km (4.86 mi) = 398.6 km (247.7 mi)
H.P. Müller with Auto Union wins French Grand Prix, Meier second
by Hans Etzrodt and Leif Snellman
At the 1939 French Grand Prix, seven teams entered their cars over 51 laps at Reims, which after extensive improvements was now the fastest circuit in Europe. Nuvolari (Auto Union) and Lang (Mercedes-Benz) had a most
exciting close battle for 8 laps when Nuvolari retired, his car broken down. Lang then held the lead ahead of Müller (Auto Union), the Mercedes of Brauchitsch, then Stuck and Meier (Auto Union), the Talbots of Etancelin
and Le Bègue, followed by Sommer's Alfa. Caracciola had crashed in the first turn while Brauchitsch broke a piston on lap 17. Then Lang's Mercedes was the only one left, leading the Auto Unions of Müller, Stuck and Meier,
then the two Talbots and the Alfas of Sommer and Chinetti ahead of "Raph" and Dreyfus in Delahayes. At mid-race the cars made refueling stops, all Auto Union were overfilled and Meier's car caught fire which was quickly
snuffed out. Despite Meier having burned his arm, he jumped in the car, the crowd howled applause, he shot off again. Lang's engine seized on lap 36, stranded on the circuit. Müller led the last 16 laps, Meier with a
painful arm finished 2nd, Le Bègue came 3rd, Etancelin 4th, Sommer 5th, Stuck 6th, Dreyfus 7th, Chinetti 8th and "Raph" last.
The 33rd Grand Prix de l'ACF took place on the 7.836 km Reims-Gueux road-circuit over 51 laps, a total of 398.616 km. As in the previous year, great thank was due to in the instigator, Paul Marchandeau, French Minister
of Finance, and Mayor of Reims, and his directors, the active leaders of l'Automobile Club de Champagne and, especially its devoted Secretary General, Raymond Roche - Toto Roche. The Grand Prix de l'Automobile
Club de France was again endowed with 200,000 francs of prizes in cash with 100,000 to the winner.
L'AUTO described the Gueux circuit which had roughly the shape of a triangle whose three sides take the RN 31 and the CD 26 and CD 27. It develops along a total length of 7,836 meters including 2,412 meters on
the RN 31, 3,214 meters on the CD 27 and 2,210 meters on the CD 26, these lengths being measured along the axes of the three lanes; however, the normal development of the circuit covered during the events is
only 7,815.70m, due to the reduction in distance due to bends.
The longitudinal profile, as it is currently done, is not very rugged; the gradients are small; however, in the so-called climb of the Garenne, on the CD 26 the road went uphill 10.9 meters over 242 meters
and on the RN 31 in the descent also called Garenne it went down some 21 or 22 meters over a distance of 450 meters (see the circuit section for details).
The width of the roadway is uniformly 7 meters, it is made up of a tar-macadam surfacing, either on the original tarmacked roadway, or on a widening made up of a rough rubble hedgehog. The camber of the roadway and
1/90 of its width. In addition, throughout the extent of the curves, the roadway has been raised so to present a regular transverse slope directed towards the center of the curve,
6 cm/meter (3,43°) in the 700 meter radius curve following CD 27 , 8 cm/meter (4,57°) for the other curves of CD 26 & CD 27, except at Gueux, where a similar arrangement is not possible.
Before the race fears were expressed that the speeds of 290 km/h down the long straight and 270 km/h past the stands were too high for the comparatively narrow course, and tire wear was an obvious threatening factor.
After the latest improvements Reims was the fastest circuit in Europe.
were received from eight manufacturers for only 15 cars at the start. The Spanish Civil War had ended but the French races were still to be boycotted by Italian drivers and teams.
Auto Union therefore had to get permission from the Italian authorities for Nuvolari to race at Reims. His teammates were Hans Stuck, H.P. Müller and Rudolf Hasse with Georg Meier as reserve driver. Engineer Eberan
von Eberhorst und team manager Dr. Karl Otto Feuereissen entered four type D cars powered by 3-liter, V-12-cylinder engines, now also with two-stage supercharging. Rudolf Hasse had to renounce his start, as already during
practice he had an abscess on his neck causing him much suffering. Although Dr. Gläser, the German race doctor, made a small cut in the night, Hasse decided to give up the start to Georg Meier.
Daimler-Benz team manager Alfred Neubauer entered four Mercedes-Benz W 154 cars with 3-liter, V-12-cylinder engine with the new two-stage supercharging for Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang
with an additional car for Richard Seaman who had died two weeks earlier at Spa. There was no driver for this car.
Talbot entered two "Monoplace Decalee" Type MD in lower chassis for Philippe Etancelin and René Le Bègue with 6-cylinder 4.5-liter un-supercharged engines. A new "Monoplace Centrale" type MC with the same engine was
entered for Raymond Mays.
Delahaye cars were entered by Ecurie Lucy O'Reilly Schell (ex Ecurie Bleue) with two-seat type 145 Delahaye with un-supercharged 4.5-liter V-12-cylinder engines for René Dreyfus and "Raph".
S.E.F.A.C. dated back to 1934 with the car still shrouded in great security. The car entered again for Jean Trémolet did not appear.
Alfa Romeo entries were now taken over by Christian Kautz to avoid any future problems with the Italian authorities. Kautz entered three ex-Alfa Corse type 308 Alfas for Raymond Sommer, Luigi Chinetti, and Yves Matra,
with Kautz as reserve driver.
Maserati was supposed to show up with the type 8 CTF for Carlo Felice Trossi and Achille Varzi but they did not appear. After Trossi had retired the 8 CTF at Tripoli, the grand prix cars remained in the factory.
July 5 - Wednesday afternoon under grey skies was the first official practice session. Only Mercedes and Auto Union were on the track. The circuit had been considerably improved since 1938 and was now much faster which was
proven when Hermann Lang suddenly pulled out a fast lap and slammed round the circuit at record speed, shattering the previous practice record completely. Lang made many laps, the fastest in 2m27.7s at 190.497 km/h, Caracciola
at 184.985 and Nuvolari at 181.780 km/h.
July 6 - Thursday early morning Mercedes was present with Caracciola, Brauchitsch and Lang. Auto Union practiced with Nuvolari, Stuck, Müller and Hasse. Chris Kautz arrived with his two newly bought ex-Alfa Corse Alfas.
Kautz did a few laps and then handed over to Chinetti, while Matra drove the second car. Kautz decided not to drive on Sunday. Nuvolari made the fastest lap in 2m29.2s at 187.701 km/h average speed.
|Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||2m32.1s - 2m32.2s|
|Nuvolari (Auto Union)||2m34.3s - 2m34.7s - 2m34.8s|
|Stuck (Auto Union)||2m40.3s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||2m46.7s - 2m46.9s|
July 7 - Friday afternoon practice happened with a stiff wind. Caracciola in 2m29.6s at 188.078 km/h average speed was fastest. Most drivers were now faster as they were getting used to the altered short leg of the circuit.
|Nuvolari (Auto Union)||2m29.2s - 2m29.9s - 2m29.8s|
|Müller (Auto Union)||2m36.9s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||2m36.9s|
|Stuck (Auto Union)||2m37.8s - 2m40.5s|
|Le Bègue (Talbot)||2m48.0s|
|Etancelin (Talbot)||2m52.2s - 2m52.1s|
|Kautz (Alfa Romeo)||2m55.1s|
|Dreyfus (Delahaye)||3m01.0s - 3m01.1s|
|Matra (Alfa Romeo)||3m25.2s|
July 8 - Saturday was the 4th practice session. Nuvolari did not practice. Out of regard for the engines which were needed in the race, record laps were no longer established.
|Müller (Auto Union)||2m31.7s|
|Stuck (Auto Union)||2m39.2s|
|Le Bègue (Talbot)||2m46.5s|
|Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||2m58.7s|
Scrutineering and weighing the cars took place Saturday afternoon.
|Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||2m34.0s - 2m34.2s|
|Stuck (Auto Union)||2m35.0s|
|Hasse (Auto Union)||2m40.5s|
|Le Bègue (Talbot)||2m49.5s|
|Chinetti (Alfa Romeo)||2m58.4s|
|Matra (Alfa Romeo)||3m01.3s|
After a marvelous Saturday, the weather turned threatening on Sunday with a stiff wind blowing and heavy rain clouds around the flat landscape. Before the Grand Prix at 8:30 to 10:00 a.m., motorcycle races were held with
some small rain. Thereafter at 1:00 p.m. the voiturette race for the Coupe de la Commission Sportive was won by Hug in a 1500 Maserati. A rain shower doused the course before the race was started.
During the small car race enormous crowds were streaming to the course, an estimated over 60,000 spectators were present. A last-minute change was made when Hasse, who was ill, decided not to start and was replaced by Meier
who had not recorded a practice lap in his name.
Half an hour before the 3.30 p.m. start, the speaker introduced the drivers walking slowly alongside their cars in a celebrated parade while the crowd applauded, the cars being wheeled to their places on the starting grid
where they lined up in order of the best practice times.
With 15 seconds to go the engines roared at incredible thunder. With a short delay at 3:38 p.m. Raymond Roche lowered the checkered flag, when Nuvolari took off like a bullet into a good lead, followed by Müller,
Caracciola and Lang to the earsplitting exhaust notes of the 15 cars. The noise was beyond description. The pack howled out of sight down to Gueux where at the right turn Nuvolari came round first, his car skidding
45 degrees, the Mercedes skidding all over the place. Caracciola got into a slide, crashed the tail into a brick wall of a house and burst its tank. The driver was unhurt but with fuel gushing out it was impossible
to proceed and he pushed the car away around a corner. Down from Garenne to Thillois they beat it at 295 km/h with Nuvolari showing the way. Lang passed Müller at Thillois turn and started a wild hunt after Nuvolari.
After the 1st lap Nuvolari led seconds ahead of Lang, Müller, Meier, Brauchitsch and Stuck, further away but easily leading the rest, Etancelin and Le Bègue in the Talbots, then Mays, the Delahayes and the Alfas that
might have been in a different race.
On the 2nd lap Nuvolari drove a new lap record in 2m36.5s at 179.786 km/h which Lang answered with a lap in 2m34.2s at 182.457 km/h. The two fastest drivers at that time were fighting an epic duel.
After three terrifying laps, Nuvolari with a lap at 182 km/h still led Lang by a length and both were several hundred meter ahead of the field, with Müller in third place nine seconds behind. Brauchitsch passed Meier
for fourth place, then came Stuck and after a long pause Etancelin ahead of Sommer.
On the 4th lap the duel Nuvolari - Lang carried on, followed about 200 meter behind by Müller, Brauchitsch, Meier, and Stuck. They drove a separate race, likewise the French with their cars and then the three red
Alfa Romeo. At this time there was a drizzle of rain, just to wet the course and then ceased, but the speed remained unchanged.
On the 5th lap already Raph in the tail had been lapped and then Stuck passed Meier for fifth place. Lang hunted down Nuvolari on the long straight and pulled out at Thillois hairpin, drew level with Nuvolari as they
howled down the straight, and passed, next to each other, at 250 km/h just before they reached the pits - an extraordinary sight. Lang recalled, in the following long-drawn-out right turn, Nuvolari on the inside, he on
the outside, the Italian slowed and Lang took the lead. After 24.28 km, he led at 178 km/h average speed with the field in the following order after five laps:
|2.||Nuvolari (Auto Union)||13m15.2s|
|3.||Müller (Auto Union)||13m38.6s|
|5.||Stuck (Auto Union)||13m46.8s|
|6.||Meier (Auto Union)|
|8.||Le Bègue (Talbot|
|9.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)|
|12.||Matra (Alfa Romeo)|
|13.||Chinetti (Alfa Romeo)|
After six laps half the field had been lapped. After lap seven Lang had pulled away five seconds to Nuvolari, both had lapped almost all Italian and French cars with Müller 28 seconds behind in third place. Nuvolari
remained close to Lang but on the 8th lap this duel ended as Nuvolari came limping to his pit with the engine well and truly burst or with gear shift problem or broken shift lever as reported in some German reports.
The order was then Lang 38 seconds ahead of Müller second, with 3 secs ahead of Brauchitsch, followed by Stuck and Meier. Lang steadily increased his lead, and Müller surprisingly drew away from Brauchitsch. After the
10th lap, Lang had slowed a little to 175 km/h average speed and held a 45 second advantage to Müller with the field in the following order after 10 laps:
|2.||Müller (Auto Union)||27m31.9s|
|4.||Stuck (Auto Union)||27m40.2s|
|5.||Meier (Auto Union)||27m57.2s|
|7.||Le Bègue (Talbot)|
|8.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)|
On the 12th lap Lang had lapped the entire field except the German cars. On lap 13 the Talbot of Mays retired with a split fuel tank. On lap 14, Lang had established a 1-minute advantage to Müller. On lap 16, Brauchitsch
passed the pits with a heavy smoke cloud from the exhaust. He had slowed down and now Stuck visibly caught up. On lap 17, Brauchitsch, who had held 3rd place behind Müller, stopped his Mercedes and pulled behind the pits
in the dead car park to retire with piston damage. Matra's Alfa Romeo blew up on lap 18. On the same lap Le Begue in the French Talbot passed his teammate Etancelin after they had dueled for nine laps but both were two
laps behind. On the 20th lap Lang raised his lap record to 2m32.9s at 184.026 km/h average speed, to compensate for the pit stop, his race average was back to 177 km/h. The order of the German cars remained the same
until mid-race, the time for fuel stops.
After 22 laps the Auto Unions were the first to refuel and came in on successive laps to fill up. Müller first, overfilled, away very quickly in 29 seconds, then came Stuck in 31 seconds, they also fountained the
fuel all over the place and over team manager Dr. Feuereissen. When Meier stopped, they fountained the fuel again, fuel splashed over the hot exhaust pipes and ignited with the car on fire. Meier just jumped out of the
car as it burst into flames. The fuel on his overall had caught fire, he rolled on the floor to extinguish his burning overall but shoulder and right arm had received burns. Instantly the mechanics got the huge extinguishers
into action and the fire was snuffed out in seconds, the car undamaged. Meier jumped into the car and, amidst thunderous applause, he shot off again with a thumb high in the air and a great grin on the face; actually,
little time was lost. The order was then Lang, Müller, Stuck and Meier. At mid-race Lang stopped for refueling in 35 seconds. Thereafter he led by 2m15 seconds from Müller, with the field in the following order after 25 laps:
|2.||Müller (Auto Union)||1h08m21.4s|
|3.||Stuck (Auto Union)||1h09m06.9s|
|4.||Meier (Auto Union)||1h11m30.6s|
|6.||Le Bègue (Talbot)||1h13m54.7s|
|7.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1h14m27.9s|
|8.||Chinetti (Alfa Romeo)||1h17m07.4s|
Why Lang had to continue at this tremendous speed after Nuvolari was gone is hard to understand. As of lap 33, Lang's Mercedes trailed from his exhaust the blue-white smoke cloud from a sick engine. With 90 seconds
advantage he still drove as fast as before and even lapped Stuck's Auto Union who drove a regular race. But Lang's race speed average had dropped to 175 km/h.
On lap 35, Lang's engine blew up and he was stranded somewhere on the course. He walked back to the pits. Müller then in the lead was 2m15s ahead of Stuck followed by Meier. Stuck began to slow down and on lap 40 he stopped
at the pits to change plugs. In the meantime, Meier had moved into second position. At his pit stop fire he had burned his arm which was very painful, so he held it out in the wind to cool it, which made driving difficult.
The order was then Müller, Meier and Stuck followed by Etancelin, Le Bègue, Sommer, Chinetti, Dreyfus, and Raph. Stuck passed slowly the pits, his car still not in order but he had a one lap advantage to the French cars.
On lap 42 Müller made a refueling stop in 22 seconds and kept the lead, 20 seconds ahead of Meier. Stuck was a slow third, followed by the two Talbots. At this time, it began to rain again, first a thin drizzle, which
became a heavy shower. The race speed dropped to 173 km/h average. In the next four laps Meier closed on Müller about a second per lap, to 16 seconds after 46 laps. On lap 45 the limping Stuck was passed by the two
Talbots and fell from third to 5th place. Only two German cars were running properly, and one of these had been on fire. The Talbots were still running beautifully, and had not stopped at all, keeping their race average
speed of over 156 km/h. The French crowd cheered on their favorites every lap. During the rain, Müller continued to draw away from the injured Meier. After 48 laps, he was one lap ahead at 169 km/h average speed. On the
same lap Stuck stopped again at the pits and on the following lap the front hood flew off at the village of Gueux but Stuck could carry on much slower now. When Sommer passed him, he had fallen to sixth place. The next lap
Stuck passed the pits driving without the front hood.
As the sun came blazing out from behind the clouds, the race finished after 51 laps, Müller won his first big race after 2h21m11.8s at 169.381 km/h. Meier was second, one lap behind, in the second race he had driven for
Auto Union. Le Bègue (Talbot) was third, Etancelin (Talbot) fourth, both 3 laps down. Sommer (Alfa Romeo) came fifth, 4 laps down. Stuck (Auto Union) finished sixth, also 4 laps behind, Dreyfus (Delahaye) seventh, 6 laps
behind, Chinetti (Alfa Romeo) eighth and "Raph" (Delahaye) ninth, 7 laps behind.
As Müller got out of the car, the German was vigorously applauded. But the cheers redoubled when Le Bègue and especially Etancelin finished the race in turn. Bravos burst and women seated in the stands threw flowers to the
two French drivers. The German anthem resounded, followed by La Marseillaise which the spectators listen to respectfully. At the end of the Grand Prix the distribution of the prizes took place and the presentation of the
trophies to the winners. Müller was awarded 100,000 fr., Meier 50,000 fr. and Le Bègue 23,000 fr. During this ceremony, Mr. Marchandeau, Deputy Mayor of Reims, presented the Cross of the Légion d'Honneur to Mr. Raymond Roche,
Secretary General of the A.C. de Champagne, a major driving force in motorsport in the department of Marne.
|1.||12||Hermann Müller||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||51||2h21m11.8s|
|2.||14||Georg Meier||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||50|
|3.||36||René Le Bègue||Automobiles Talbot-Darracq||Talbot||MD||4.5||S-6||48|
|4.||34||Philippe Etancelin||Automobiles Talbot-Darracq||Talbot||MD||4.5||S-6||48|
|5.||2||Raymond Sommer||Christian Kautz||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 308||3.0||S-8||47|
|6.||10||Hans Stuck||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||47|
|7.||30||René Dreyfus||Ecurie Lucy O'Reilly Schell||Delahaye||145||4.5||V-12||45|
|8.||4||Luigi Chinetti||Christian Kautz||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 308||3.0||S-8||45|
|9.||32||"Raph"||Ecurie Lucy O'Reilly Schell||Delahaye||145||4.5||V-12||44|
|DNF||20||Hermann Lang||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W 154||3.0||V-12||34||engine|
|DNF||6||Yves Matra||Christian Kautz||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 308||3.0||S-8||17||engine|
|DNF||18||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W 154||3.0||V-12||16||engine|
|DNF||38||Raymond Mays||Automobiles Talbot-Darracq||Talbot||MC||4.5||S-6||10||split tank|
|DNF||8||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||D||3.0||V-12||8||gearbox or engine|
|DNF||16||Rudolf Caracciola||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W 154||3.0||V-12||0||crash|
Fastest lap: Hermann Lang (Mercedes-Benz) on lap 20 in 2m32.9s = 184.0 km/h (114.3 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 169.4 km/h (105.3 mph)
Pole position speed: 190.5 km/h (118.4 mph)
Weather: hot, sunny, intermittent rain.
Fastest laps of the 9 finishers published by L'Auto (speeds counted with a circuit length of 7815.67m)
|1.||12||H.P. Müller (Auto Union)||2m34.2s|| (182.467 km/h)|
|2.||14||Georg Meier (Auto Union)||2m37.3s|| (178.871 km/h)|
|3.||36||René Le Bègue (Talbot)||2m51.6s|| (163.965 km/h)|
|4.||34||Philippe Etancelin (Talbot)||2m50.9s|| (164.637 km/h)|
|5.||2||Raymond Sommer (Alfa R.)||2m53.7s|| (161.983 km/h)|
|6.||10||Hans Stuck (Auto Union)||2m38.8s|| (177.182 km/h)|
|7.||30||René Dreyfus (Delahaye)||2m57.8s|| (158.248 km/h)|
|8.||4||Luigi Chinetti (Alfa Romeo)||2m59.0s|| (157.187 km/h)|
|9.||32||"Raph" (Delahaye)||3m03.7s|| (153.165 km/h)|
Practice times and some intermediate times differed now and then between the sources. We believe to have selected the correct times. Only the best practice times achieved were shown for the starting grid, which
was arranged as reported and seen on photographs.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Gazzetta dello Sport, Milano
IL Littoriale, Milano
Kölnische Zeitung, Köln
La Vie Automobile, Paris
Le Figaro, Paris
Le Miroir des sports, Paris
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Special thanks to:
GRAND PRIX DE L´ALBIGEOIS
Les Planques - Albi (F), 16 July 1939
2 heats of 20 laps x 8.9 km (5.53 mi) = 178.0 km (110.6 mi)
Wakefield dominates, but Hug's crash casts a shadow over the event
The Albi race, run in two heats with results added together, was overshadowed by talent Swiss Armand Hug's huge practice crash that made him permanently invalidized.
The E type ERA led first heat but crashed. Mays retired when a wheel came loose. Wakefield on a one stop strategy won the first heat from Tongue and an ill Bira,
who however had decided that he had to race as soon as possible after his Reims crash. The same trio was at the top in the second heat and in the overall results.
The seventh Albi Grand Prix, run to the voiturette formula, followed its earlier format of two 20 laps heats with the aggregate results deciding the overall victor.
Mussolini was still boycotting France so of course there were no Italian teams at Albi.
Cook had entered the new E-type ERA for Arthur Dobson. After having to withdraw the car from the "Coupe de la Commision Sportive" Cook decided that he had to withdraw from Albi as well and do testing at Montlhéry instead.
However, the Montlhéry tests proved so encouraging that the team changed their minds and decided to go to Albi anyway.
Bira was back after his Reims crash with R4B "Romulus", which had been in France as a spare car, and Mays entered his usual R4D.
Tongue's and Wakefield's 4CL's (#1567 & #1569) were the fastest of 12 Maseratis in the entry list, the other 10 being the usual mix of older four and six cylinder cars driven by French Contet, Horvilleur, Loyer &
Sommer (in Louis Gérard's car), German Pietch, Dipper & Joa and Swiss Hug and de Graffenried. Delorme's Bugatti, Herkuleyns' M.G., Abecassis´ Alfa and Brooke's Alta-engined Brooke Special completed the field.
Practice opened up on Friday with Dobson going fastest with the new ERA, doing 3m25s with Mays and Hug being one second slower. (Note 1)
Saturday practice was badly disturbed by rain that continued into the afternoon. An anti-tetanus injection at Reims had given Bira a bad painful rash, he had had problems to sleep and his head was so swollen he could hardly
see, but he was determined to race to get himself over the Reims crash. Wakefield in his Maserati was fastest with a time of 3m29s followed by Dobson's 3m30s. The other drivers were much slower. However, the practice was
totally overshadowed by the accident of Armand Hug. The Swiss driver lost control of his Maserati and crashed into a telegraph pole. Hug was thrown out and hit the road head first, fracturing the base of his skull. H
e was sent to hospital in unconscious condition.
It was heavy rain again on Sunday morning but in the afternoon the sun appeared and the weather turned hot. The Albi event once again proved to be popular and there were a huge number of spectators waiting for
the 15 cars to line up and the first heat to begin.
As the flag dropped Dobson, in the sleek light green ERA, took the lead followed by the two 4CL Maseratis of Wakefield and Tongue, width Bira's and Mays' ERAs in fourth and fifth position. Even with Mays not pushing,
the old "Romulus" with its ill driver was no match for the Zoller blown D type ERA, and after the second lap Mays went past Bira while Dobson in the lead had opened up a four seconds gap to the Maseratis. The situation
remained the same for the next four laps but as Mays passed the pit after six laps the pit crew noticed to their horror that a hub cab was missing. There were no means of warning the driver but when the wheel went off
Mays luckily was able to stop the car without crashing. Bira was now back to fourth with Abecassis fifth.
Dobson's engine started to misfire and as the trouble got worse the pit decided to call the car in immediately. Trying to spare the car another lap ERA racing manager Mayne hurried to the corner before the pits to signal
the driver. Dobson noticed the signal, braked hard and then lost control. The ERA spun into the straw bales damaging the tail and splitting the tank, forcing it to retire on the spot.
That meant that Wakefield was now leading from Tongue and Bira. Further back in the field Brooke, to the cheers of the spectators, was doing some fearless driving, putting his car into some wild slides and passing car
after car. On lap 12 he overdid it and spun in the corner before the pit but he managed to continue the race.
Even with Wakefield doing a short pitstop for fuel the order in the top remained the same until the end of the heat. Wakefield took the victory before Tongue and Bira. Those three where the only unlapped competitors. All together
12 drivers managed to take the flag.
Notable is that now when heat times were to be added and when it would have been convenient to get as many cars as possible to finish all the 20 laps, the often seen practice of the prewar era to let the race go on for
some time was for some reason not used. Instead all cars were flagged of as soon as possible after Wakefield had taken the flag.
|1.||32||John Wakefield||J. Wakefield||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||20||1h10m22s|
|2.||22||Reggie Tongue||R. Tongue||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||20||1h11m52s||+ 1m30s|
|3.||16||"B Bira"||"B Bira"||ERA||B||1.5||S-6||20||1h13m42s||+ 3m20s|
|4.||30||George Abecassis||G. Abecassis||Alta||1.5||S-4||19||1h11m47s|
|5.||4||Heinz Dipper||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||19||1h11m48s|
|6.||38||Leslie Brooke||L. Brooke||Brooke-Alta||Spl||1.5||S-4||19||1h12m22s|
|7.||6||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||18||1h10m41s|
|8.||24||Emmanuel de Graffenried||Ecurie Autosport||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||18||1h11m14s|
|9.||34||Marc Horvilleur||M. Horvilleur||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||18||1h12m11s|
|10.||36||Marcel Contet||M. Contet||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||18||1h13m47s|
|11.||28||Harry Herkuleyns||H. Herkuleyns||MG||K3 Magnette||1.1||S-6||16||1h13m28s|
|12.||26||Jean Delorme||J. Delorme||Bugatti||T51A||1.5||S-8||14||1h10m47s|
|DNF||14||Arthur Dobson||ERA Ltd||ERA||E||1.5||S-6||9||/13? crash|
|DNF||18||Raymond Mays||R. Mays||ERA||B||1.5||S-6||6||lost wheel|
|DNF||8||Roger Loyer||R. Loyer||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||0||mechanical|
Fastest lap: Arthur Dobson (ERA) on lap 4 in 3m22s = 158.6 km/h (98.6 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 151.8 km/h (94.3 mph)
Pole position speed: 156.3 km/h (97.1 mph)
The cars lined up in the finishing order of the first heat:
Wakefield, again starting on low fuel load, immediately took control of the race, pulling away fast from Tongue, who in turn pulled away from Bira.
The only real excitement proved again to be Brooke, who challenged Dipper and managed to pass the silver colored Maserati for fifth position on lap 8. He then caught Abecassis on the next lap but at the same
moment Abecassis' engine seized solid and Brooke, unable to react, crashed straight into the slowing down Alta at high speed. Brooke's car overturned and rolled several laps but amazingly both drivers were able
to walk away from the accident. On lap 15 Wakefield did his fast pit stop and after some problems with getting the engine to restart he came back out still holding the lead with Tongue now 14 s behind.
The situation remained the same till the end of the heat. Wakefield lapped third positioned Bira not far from the chequered flag.
As the second heat had the same top three result as the first one that was of course also the final combined result with Wakefield taking yet another victory with the Maserati 4CL with Tongue as convincing
second while an ill Bira was glad for finish third in his slower spare car.
After being unconscious for several weeks at an Albi hospital, Hug was finally transported to his home in Lausanne by air. Having damaged the spinal cord Hug never fully recovered but remained a semi-invalid.
After the race examining the E type ERA it was found that one of the exhaust valves that had created problems already at Reims had failed, forcing Dobson to pit with the known result.
|1.||32||John Wakefield||J. Wakefield||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||20||1h10m58.8s|
|2.||22||Reggie Tongue||R. Tongue||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||20||1h11m18s||+ 19.8s|
|3.||16||"B Bira"||"B Bira"||ERA||B||1.5||S-6||19||1h11m02s|
|4.||4||Heinz Dipper||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||19||1h12m29s|
|5.||6||Raymond Sommer||Ecurie Autosport||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||19||1h14m15s|
|6.||24||Emmanuel de Graffenried||Ecurie Autosport||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||18||1h12m21s|
|7.||28||Harry Herkuleyns||H. Herkuleyns||MG||K3 Magnette||1.1||S-4||15||1h11m44s|
|8.||26||Jean Delorme||J. Delorme||Bugatti||T51A||1.5||S-8||15||1h15m05s|
|9.||34||Marc Horvilleur||M. Horvilleur||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||14||1h12m01s|
|DNF||38||Leslie Brooke||L. Brooke||Brooke-Alta||Spl||1.5||S-4||9||crash|
|DNF||30||George Abecassis||G. Abecassis||Alta||1.5||S-4||9||crash|
|DNF||36||Marcel Contet||M. Contet||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||2||mechanical|
Fastest lap: John Wakefield (Maserati) in 3m22s = 158.6 km/h (98.6 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 150.5 km/h (93.5 mph)
|1.||32||John Wakefield||J. Wakefield||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||40||2h21m10.8s|
|2.||22||Reggie Tongue||R. Tongue||Maserati||4CL||1.5||S-4||40||2h23m10s||+ 1m49.2s|
|3.||16||"B Bira"||"B Bira"||ERA||B||1.5||S-6||39||2h24m44s|
|4.||4||Heinz Dipper||Süddeutsche Renngemeinschaft||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||38||2h24m17s|
|5.||6||Raymond Sommer||Ecurie Autosport||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||37||2h24m56s|
|6.||24||Emmanuel de Graffenried||Ecurie Autosport||Maserati||6CM||1.5||S-6||36||2h23m35s|
|7.||34||Marc Horvilleur||M. Horvilleur||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||32||2h24m12s|
|8.||28||Harry Herkuleyns||H. Herkuleyns||MG||K3 Magnette||1.1||S-6||31||2h25m12s|
|9.||26||Jean Delorme||J. Delorme||Bugatti||T51A||1.5||S-8||29||2h25m52s|
Winner's medium speed: 151.1 km/h (93.9 mph)|
1. 3m26s exactly corresponds to the 96.65 mph mentioned in Chula Chakrabongse's "Blue and Yellow". However, the grid in Sheldon's "A Record of Grand Prix and Voiturette Racing, Vol. 4" gives Mays a time of 3.27s.