By Hans Etzrodt
The 1928 World Championship started out with seven races which the AIACR had reserved on their calendar and ended with just two events held. This was one too few since participation in three races was obligatory and consequently the World Championship did not receive AIACR approval at season's end.
These few words explain what happened but evidently there was much more to it. The AIACR was determined to stage the World Championship for the fourth time in 1928 despite the noticeable lack of interest by the manufacturers during the 1927 season [13]. So, it was no wonder that the expectation for 1928 was accompanied by apprehension [13]. The AIACR and their CSI (International Sporting Committee) determined in the September 1927 meeting [1, 2] at the premises of the ACF in Paris [4] that seven Grandes Epreuves would decide the 1928 winner. On October 13 [3, 4, 6] the AIACR finalized [6] the following events:
                      May 30, Indianapolis 500 [1, 2, 10, 13]
                      July 1, French Grand Prix [1, 2, 13]
                      July 15, German Grand Prix [1, 2, 10, 13]
                      July 29, Spanish Grand Prix [1, 2, 10, 13]
                      August 12, Belgian Grand Prix [1, 2, 10, 13]
                      September 2, Grand Prix Italy [1, 2, 10, 13]
                      September 22, European Grand Prix (Brooklands) [1, 2, 10, 13]
The General Secretary of the AIACR, Lieutenant-Colonel Péron, announced that regardless of the number of entrants, the European Grand Prix would take place since this race was obligatory [7]. It was left to the individual clubs to organize the other national Grands Prix [7]. The CSI decided at their March 17 meeting [16, 17] that the 1928 European Grand Prix was no longer restricted solely to manufacturers but now also accepted independent cars with approval by the manufacturers [16, 17]. This ruling was a concession towards the lack of interest in Grand Prix racing [16, 17] and opened the door for the independent drivers. This implied that only manufacturers could enter the first six races, but the Brooklands race was open to allcomers. The international sporting regulations were changed when the unpopular 1.5-liter formula was replaced [5] by a free engine formula but limited by weight between 550 - 750 kg [5].

The Rules
  • The 1928 World Championship was for manufacturers, not for drivers.
  • A free formula with no restrictions on engine capacity.
  • Minimum weight 550 kg and maximum weight 750 kg - 1212 and 1653 lb.
  • Minimum body width 80 cm - 31.5 inch, measured at the seat area for a height of not less than 25 cm.
  • Riding mechanic barred but a driving mirror was obligatory as was the mechanic's seat.
  • Single-seat bodied cars allowed as long as the body showed a minimum width of 80 cm. (This implied that the 2-seat cars had to have an empty second seat while a single-seater did not have to have one.)
  • The series consisted of seven races: Indianapolis 500, French Grand Prix, German Grand Prix, Spanish Grand Prix, Belgian Grand Prix, Italian Grand Prix, European Grand Prix (Brooklands).
  • Participation at the European Grand Prix (Great Britain) was obligatory, and at least two other of the above mentioned races. Non-compliance would exclude entrant from the Championship.
  • Minimum race distance 600 km - 372 mi.
  • In each race the manufacturers would receive the lowest point score earned by one of its cars.
  • The manufacturer with the lowest points total would be awarded the Championship. In 1925 from 100,000 FF prize money, 30,000 had been invested in the trophy and 70,000 were in cash, something not mentioned in 1928 reports.
  • Points Score: 1 point   = first place
                          2 points = second place
                          3 points = third place
                          4 points = all other finishers (who completed the total distance).
                          5 points = all other starters.
                          6 points = non starters

For the first time the series consisted of seven events but some of the previous participants decided to abstain. Most manufacturers had lost interest and had withdrawn, which lessened the appeal of grand prix racing. Delage, the 1927 World Championship winner, declared that it would not race at all in 1928 [13]. The French Talbot factory could no longer afford to develop their grand prix cars and dissolved their racing team in the fall of 1927 [13]. Emilio Materassi from Florence, Italy, bought all three cars including spare parts for his Scuderia Materassi. Salmson and Amilcar were building 1100 cc models, which would not be competitive due to their small engines [13]. Mercedes-Benz announced that they would not compete in races organized for racecars. Fiat and Alfa Romeo were not racing [13]. Bugatti was the only manufacturer which was eager to race. They sold many race cars as did Maserati in Italy, albeit on a smaller scale.
      Comically, during the summer of 1928 Ettore Bugatti organized a Grand Prix, which was exclusively restricted to cars of his own construction [13]. Maserati were in their second season of racing. Organizing an international Grand Prix during 1928 did not seem to be such an inviting endeavor, considering the disinterest displayed by the manufacturers.

The French Grand Prix
was cancelled as early as December 1927 [8, 13]. The Sporting Committee of the ACF had asked the French constructors at a special meeting [8] and the majority decided not to participate in the Grand Prix. The Commission Sportive announced that they would not hold the 1928 Grand Prix de l'ACF [8]. Instead they organized the "Coupe de la Commission Sportive" [8] at the Comminges Circuit [10], which would accommodate the 1.5-liter formula cars in 1928 and 29 with an extension of the distance from 400 to 500 km [8]. The regulations were now: open for cars of all categories, no limits of weight or engine size, 14 kg fuel and oil for every 100 km and the distance about 500 km [8]. Incidentally, this was the content of a report, which had appeared in "L'Auto" about this meeting [8] stating, "No Grand Prix de l'ACF in 1928 but instead a sports car handicap race" [8]. The French Grand Prix was removed from the listed events on January 13 [10]. Ettore Bugatti was greatly disappointed, but still planned to win the World Championship for a second time.

The German Grand Prix
to be held on July 15 [9] was changed in February of 1928 [11, 12] when the organizer decided that no racecars would take part due to the lack of interest by the manufacturers [11, 12]. The race would still be held, but only for sports cars. Now the Championship was down to five races.

The European Grand Prix
was again organized by the RAC and was to be held on September 22 at Brooklands over 387 miles (about 600 km). The RAC would provide £1500 in prizes [2]. However, in January 1928 it was announced that the race would not be held at Brooklands, as planned, but either on the Isle of Man or more likely in Ireland, [10] though a decision had not been reached by mid-January. The CSI of the AIACR announced at their March 17 meeting [16, 17] that the British club had finally declined to hold the race due to the disinterest of the manufacturers [14]. However Italy was imperturbable and still intended to proceed with the European Grand Prix which was to take place again at Monza but on September 9 [14]. Now the Championship was down to four races.

The Indianapolis 500
on May 30 was held once more to the 1.5-liter GP formula (91.5 cu in) and was part of the World Championship. Apart from four Duesenbergs there were 25 entries all of which were Millers or Miller Specials with different names like the 2 Marmons, 3 Coopers, a Green and even a Flying Cloud, all of which were modified Millers.
      Lou Meyer won in a Miller, ahead of another six Millers or Specials, followed by a Duesenberg driven by Fred Frame in eighth place. The first 12 finishers completed the whole distance of 500 miles. The remaining cars, all Millers or Duesenbergs, were either flagged off or retired.

1928 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the Indianapolis 500
May 30July 29August 12September 9
polis 500


The Spanish Grand Prix
to be held on July 29, had gone the way of the other Grands Prix this season, meaning it was cancelled at the beginning of June [18]. Instead the event was then held for sports cars. The World Championship was now down to three races but hope was not lost for a valid championship.

The Belgian Grand Prix
planned to be held on August 12 was cancelled by the RACB possibly due to their bad experience with the 1925 race when only two cars finished or possibly they just copied the other clubs' decisions. A 24-hour endurance sports car event was held in its place. With this dilemma the seven-race World Championship had shrunk to two races and now had become an incomplete championship, that otherwise would have required a minimum of three events.

The European Grand Prix
was the last event and had been changed from the Italian Grand Prix to September 9 over 600 km of the Monza circuit. It was the only race run according to the 1928 AIACR free formula with weight restrictions between 650 - 750 kg [5]. The manufacturers were not excited about this new formula. Bugatti resisted entering his new car here. Mercedes could not participate with their winning SS model from the German Grand Prix for sports cars because even the lighter SSK model exceeded the new weight limit. Only Maserati entered two 1700 cc cars that had been designed for the new formula plus two older models as independent entries. The remaining field was comprised of independent entries including Ecurie Italienne with their five Talbots. The race was marred by a horrible accident, when Emilio Materassi lost control of his Talbot in front of the grandstand and crashed at high speed into the crowd, causing a terrible bloodbath amongst the spectators.
      Chiron won with his Bugatti, Varzi/Campari finished second in an old Alfa Romeo P2, followed by Nuvolari (Bugatti) and Drouet (Bugatti). Conte Maggi (Maserati) finished in fifth place, the last car to complete the full distance. The following cars exceeded the maximum time limit and were flagged off in this order: Ernesto Maserati (Maserati), Bouriat (Bugatti), Foresti (Bugatti), Probst (Bugatti) and D'Ahetze (Bugatti). The solitary Delage driven by Aymini retired, while the Talbots were withdrawn after Materassi's fatal crash. Points scoring had now become irrelevant because only two of the mandatory three events were held, but for the record: Bugatti had 1 point, Alfa Romeo 2 points, Maserati 4 points, Talbot and Delage 5 points each.

1928 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the European Grand Prix
May 30September 9
polis 500

Alfa Romeo628

Total Point Score
1 = for 1st place
2 = for 2nd place
3 = for 3rd place
4 = other finishers classified
5 = non finishers
6 = non starters
None of the manufacturers competed in the
mandatory three races and the 1928 World
Championship could not be ratified.

Statements appeared in publications that Bugatti had won the 1928 World Championship [19] and Chiron had become European Champion [21]. The latter is complete nonsense since these World Championships were for makes, not for drivers. However, at the traditional ACF Banquet des Champions, Louis Chiron received from Charles Faroux the "Grand Prix de 'Automobile 1928" [26]. At the September 12 AIACR meeting in Paris the 1928 World Championship title could not be recognized as such since none of the manufacturers had fully complied with the terms of the Championship regulations [20, 22, 23, 24, 25].
      There is the possibility that additional rules existed but absolutely no evidence was found to support it. Such additional rules would in any case not have affected the final outcome of the World Championship.
      The significance of the word 'unofficial' in 'World Championship Unofficial Standings' means that the tables were constructed from the best understanding of the championship regulations, but they do not represent official standings, since these were not issued by the AIACR. Shown are merely the computed points results based on possibly incomplete information about the regulations.

In retrospect
Another look by Tony Kaye: The Championship was to comprise seven races, but six of them were either cancelled or run for cars which contravened the championship regulations. That left one genuine race and only one manufacturer, Maserati, with only two cars to compete for the Championship. It's incredible, two cars of only one make competing in just one race for the World Championship! The officials of the governing body in Paris must have been completely out of touch with the sport, and not for the first or the last time. Presumably they did not contact the national clubs or the potential manufacturers before designing their Championship; too much trouble or simply too aloof? At the time, the press seems to have shown as little interest in it. As a result, the 1928 World Championship faded into historical obscurity and it was not until this research, that the pathetic truth emerged.

[1] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1927 #73 p5 Sep-13 - CSI Paris meeting: 1928 calendar, 7 races for World Championship.
[2] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1927 #19 p51 Oct-1: CSI meeting, 7 races for 1928 World Championship.
[3] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1927 #80 p16 Oct-7 - AIACR Paris meeting on Oct-13, the international calendar.
[4] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1927 #81 p16 Oct-11 - AIACR Paris meeting on Oct 10-16 and 13th for calendar.
[5] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1927 #83 p8 Oct-18 - Formula Libre 650 - 750 kg.
[6] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1927 #21 p28 Nov-1 AIACR meetg Oct-13 min. racecar weight rule dropped.
[7] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1927 #90 p10 Nov-11 - 1928 European GP plus the other Grandes Epreuves regulations.
[8] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1927 #24 p18 Dec 15 - GP de l'ACF in 1928 but instead sports handicap race.
[9] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928 #01 p15 Jan-7 - German GP preview as part of World Championship.
[10] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #4 p5 Jan-13 - No French GP; World Championship 1928 down to 6 races.
[11] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #12 p6 Feb-10 - German GP now for sports cars, not accepting racecars.
[12] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928#06 p24 Feb-11 - German GP for sports cars preview.
[13] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1928 #5 p9-10 March-1 - World Championship depletion (it is diminishing).
[14] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #27 p5 March-23 - CSI & AIACR meeting; European GP changed from England to Italy.
[15] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928#12 p16 Mar-24 -European GP changes from England to Italy.
[16] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #28 p2 Mar-26 - AIACR March-17 meeting: allowing now also independent drivers.
[17] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928#13 p14 Mar-31 - European GP, allowing now also independent drivers.
[18] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #48 p7 June-5 - Spanish GP cancelled; Belgian GP preview.
[19] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1928 #18 p52 Sep-15 - Italian GP: Bugatti wins the 1928 World Championship.
[20] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #78 p3 Sep-17 - CSI Paris meeting; no World Championship; CSI special committee.
[21] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #78 p14 Sep-17 - Chiron became European Champion with Bosch magneto.
[22] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928#38 p14 Sep-22 - Sep-11 CSI meetg: No World Championship awarded.
[23] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Wien) 1928 #19 p41 Oct-1 - Sep-12 CSI meeting: No 1928 World Championship.
[24] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #86 p3 Oct-12 The 1928 European Championship could not be carried out.
[25] - Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung (Berlin) 1928#43 p11,15 Oct-27 - The 1928 World Championship was not declared.
[26] - AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1928 #105p3 Dec-18 - Louis Chiron received the "Grand Prix de 'Automobile 1928".


© 2013 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 09.05.2013