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Back in 1999 when I went online with my site the 1938 season was not included. I then added that season in a rather rush to get my site complete. Now, twelve years later, the 1938 pages are being completely redesigned with full entry lists and results included even for the minor races. Also, I don't have to worry about limited web resources any more, but can concentrate on getting the reports and results tables correct and complete, including race speeds and track lengths. The page will follow the format already seen on the 1931-1933 and 1939 pages.
Leif Snellman


The new formula for the 1938 - 1940 seasons was announced in October 1936. The main requirements of this formula were:
1. A minimum engine capacity of 1000cc and a maximum capacity of 4500cc for cars without
2. A minimum engine capacity of 666cc and a maximum capacity of 3000cc for cars with supercharger.
3. A minimum weight of 400kg to 850 kg on a sliding scale depending on the engine capacity.
4. Free choice of fuel.
    The weight excluded fuel, engine oil and water.
The same formula was used in the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the Indycar Championship 1938-1956.

Supercharged Piston Displacement and Minimum Weight:
Increasing by 1.928 kilograms / 4.25 pounds per 10 cubic centimeters/ 0.61 cubic inch of displacement
      666 cc   40.639 cu. in.   400.000 kg     881.840 lbs.
      700 cc   42.714 cu. in.   406.555 kg     896.291 lbs. 
      800 cc   48.816 cu. in.   425.835 kg     938.795 lbs. 
      900 cc   54.918 cu. in.   445.115 kg     981.300 lbs. 
    1,000 cc   61.020 cu. in.   464.395 kg   1,023.805 lbs. 
    1,100 cc   67.122 cu. in.   483.675 kg   1,066.309 lbs. 
    1,200 cc   73.224 cu. in.   502.955 kg   1,108.814 lbs. 
    1,300 cc   79.326 cu. in.   522.235 kg   1,151.319 lbs.
    1,400 cc   85.428 cu. in.   541.515 kg   1,193.823 lbs. 
    1,500 cc   91.530 cu. in.   560.795 kg   1,236.328 lbs. 
    1,600 cc   97.632 cu. in.   580.075 kg   1,278.833 lbs. 
    1,700 cc  103.724 cu. in.   599.355 kg   1,321.338 lbs. 
    1,800 cc  109.836 cu. in.   618.635 kg   1,363.842 lbs. 
    1,900 cc  115.938 cu. in.   637.915 kg   1,406.347 lbs. 
    2,000 cc  122.040 cu. in.   657.195 kg   1,448.852 lbs. 
    2,100 cc  128.142 cu. in.   676.475 kg   1,491.356 lbs. 
    2,200 cc  134.244 cu. in.   695.755 kg   1,533.861 lbs. 
    2,300 cc  140.346 cu. in.   715.035 kg   1,576.366 lbs.  
    2,400 cc  146.448 cu. in.   734.315 kg   1,618.870 lbs. 
    2,500 cc  152.550 cu. in.   753.595 kg   1,661.375 lbs. 
    2,600 cc  158.652 cu. in.   772.875 kg   1,703.880 lbs. 
    2,700 cc  164.754 cu. in.   792.155 kg   1,746.384 lbs. 
    2,800 cc  170.856 cu. in.   811.435 kg   1,788.889 lbs. 
    2,900 cc  176.958 cu. in.   830.715 kg   1,831.394 lbs. 
    3,000 cc  183.060 cu. in.   849.995 kg   1,873.898 lbs. 
Non-Supercharged Piston Displacement and Minimum Weight:
Increasing by 1.285 kilograms / 2.833 pounds per 10 cubic centimeters/ 0.61 cubic inches of displacement
    1,000 cc   61.020 cu. in.   400.000 kg     881.840 lbs.    
    1,100 cc   67.122 cu. in.   412.850 kg     910.169 lbs. 
    1,200 cc   73.224 cu. in.   425.700 kg     938.498 lbs.    
    1,300 cc   79.326 cu. in.   438.550 kg     966.827 lbs.    
    1,400 cc   85.428 cu. in.   451.400 kg     995.156 lbs.      
    1,500 cc   91.530 cu. in.   464.250 kg   1,023.485 lbs.    
    1,600 cc   97.632 cu. in.   477.100 kg   1,051.814 lbs.      
    1,700 cc  103.724 cu. in.   489.950 kg   1,080.143 lbs.    
    1,800 cc  109.836 cu. in.   502.800 kg   1,108.472 lbs.       
    1,900 cc  115.938 cu. in.   515.650 kg   1,136.801 lbs.    
    2,000 cc  122.040 cu. in.   528.500 kg   1,165.131 lbs.      
    2,100 cc  128.142 cu. in.   541.350 kg   1,193.460 lbs.      
    2,200 cc  134.244 cu. in.   554.200 kg   1,221.789 lbs.       
    2,300 cc  140.346 cu. in.   567.050 kg   1,250.118 lbs.       
    2,400 cc  146.448 cu. in.   579.900 kg   1,278.447 lbs.       
    2,500 cc  152.550 cu. in.   592.750 kg   1,306.776 lbs.      
    2,600 cc  158.652 cu. in.   605.600 kg   1,335.105 lbs.       
    2,700 cc  164.754 cu. in.   618.450 kg   1,363.434 lbs.      
    2,800 cc  170.856 cu. in.   631.300 kg   1,391.763 lbs.      
    2,900 cc  176.958 cu. in.   644.150 kg   1,420.093 lbs.     
    3,000 cc  183.060 cu. in.   657.000 kg   1,448.422 lbs.      
    3,100 cc  189.162 cu. in.   669.850 kg   1,476.751 lbs.     
    3,200 cc  195.264 cu. in.   682.700 kg   1,505.080 lbs.      
    3,300 cc  201.366 cu. in.   695.550 kg   1,533.409 lbs.    
    3,400 cc  207.468 cu. in.   708.400 kg   1,561.738 lbs.     
    3,500 cc  213.570 cu. in.   721.250 kg   1,590.067 lbs.    
    3,600 cc  219.672 cu. in.   734.100 kg   1,618.396 lbs.      
    3,700 cc  225.774 cu. in.   746.950 kg   1,646.725 lbs.    
    3,800 cc  231.876 cu. in.   759.800 kg   1,675.055 lbs.    
    3,900 cc  237.978 cu. in.   772.650 kg   1,703.384 lbs.      
    4,000 cc  244.080 cu. in.   785.500 kg   1,731.713 lbs.      
    4,100 cc  250.182 cu. in.   798.350 kg   1,760.042 lbs.      
    4,200 cc  256.284 cu. in.   811.200 kg   1,788.371 lbs.     
    4,300 cc  262.386 cu. in.   824.050 kg   1,816.700 lbs.      
    4,400 cc  268.488 cu. in.   836.900 kg   1,845.029 lbs.     
    4,500 cc  274.590 cu. in.   849.750 kg   1,873.358 lbs.     
Tables supplied by Don Capps

The object was to give small cars a chance to compete on equal terms but it soon turned out that all went for maximum capacity and maximum weight. The constructors compensated for the loss of engine volume by increasing the engine revs and developing the superchargers. The new cars became extremely hungry on fuel demanding huge tanks and several pit stops.
      The new formula was a hard blow for the French attempt to re-enter GP racing. The French manufacturers, who during the 750 kg era had turned to sports car racing and had 4.5 litre engines ready, estimated that a ratio of 1 to 1.75 (i.e. 2.5 litre / 4.5 litre formula) was needed between supercharged and non supercharged engines to give the latter a chance at all, even with restrictions to normal fuel.

The championship
The AIACR continued to hold the European Championship for drivers. The French, German, Swiss and Italian Grand Prix were included in the championship. See the 1938 European Championship table.

The curious French racing politics continued. The Fonds of Course committee ignored the winning Delahaye team and preferred to support Talbot and Bugatti instead with a further million francs, thereby almost guaranteeing that the French should remain a second class nation in GP racing. Delahaye answered by boycotting the French GP.

Rosemeyer's fatal accident on 28 January put a shadow over the whole 1938 season, just as Clark in 1968, Villeneuve in 1982 and Senna in 1994. Mercedes was to dominate the races. Auto Union started off the season in confusion and it was not until September that they got their act right.

The 1500cc Voiturettes continued as before and 1938 was a landmark in the motor racing as Alfa Corse introduced the classic type 158 Alfetta.

Cancelled events:
The political situation put its own marks upon the season. It was the year of the Anschluss and the München crisis and the Spanish civil war continued. Gone from the calendar was the Tunis GP scheduled for 8 May. The Vanderbilt Cup planned for 4 July clashed with the French GP so only the Schells would have entered from Europe. The Roosevelt Field circuit was bankrupt by April. The Eifelrennen organizers decided to cancel their race, planned for 12 June, because only Mercedes would have entered as Auto Union was not ready. The Hungarian GP at Budapest scheduled for 19 June was cancelled for economic reasons as was the Monaco GP scheduled for 7 August that would have included a Coupe Rainier for sports and touring cars. The Masaryk GP at Brno scheduled for 25 September was cancelled as well. The Donington GP was delayed for three weeks while Hitler and Chamberlain held their discussions and the German Mountainclimb championship was actually held in Austria for propaganda reasons.



After tests with both 4.5 and 3 litre engine variants Mercedes-Benz finally decided to build a 3 litre supercharged V12 engine for the 1938 season. The W 125 chassis was used with only smaller changes but the engine was mounted in at an angle and the driver sat alongside the propeller shaft. That enabled the new W 154 car body to be extremely low. To compensate for the smaller engine the gears were increased to five. Mercedes did much testing with the positioning of the fuel tanks, building two different body shapes. Just in case that the 4.5 litre cars would turn out to be superior, Porsche was assigned to start the construction of a 24 cylinder 4.5 litre engine.
      The team continued with their usual driver lineup consisting of Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang with Richard Seaman as junior driver. Walter Bäumer replaced Kautz as reserve.

Auto Union
When the season started the Auto Union team was in real confusion. Stuck had been sacked, head designer Porsche had left the team to work on the Volkswagen and Rosemeyer had died in a terrible accident during a world record attempt in January. The new designer Eberan-Eberhorst had constructed a 3 litre supercharged V12 engine for the new formula.
      The team started the season with Rudolf Hasse and Hermann Müller as drivers and Christian Kautz, moving from Mercedes, as junior driver with Ulrich Bigalke and Ewald Kluge as reserves. Later in the season the team signed on Tazio Nuvolari and re-employed Hans Stuck.

Alfa Romeo
On 1 January 1938 Scuderia Ferrari was dissolved. Racing was now handled by the Alfa Corse works team based at Milan with Enzo Ferrari as team manager and Spaniard Wilfredo Ricard as head designer. Alfa Romeo built a new car resembling the 1937 12C-37 but with a much improved road-holding. The company built no less than three new 3.0 litre engines for the car, a straight 8 cylinder, a V12 and a V16. That was just too much and the development programs suffered.
      Tazio Nuvolari was to be the leading driver for the team but he resigned after the first race to join Auto Union. Brivio had retired so the Alfa Corse team had Giuseppe Farina, Mario Tadini and Carlo Pintacuda as drivers with Clemente Biondetti, Eugenio Siena, Emilio Villoresi and Raymond Sommer to jump in occasionally. Halfway through the season Jean-Pierre Wimille also joined the team.

In early 1938 the Maserati factory was taken over by the wealthy industrialist Adolfo Orsi and moved to Modena. Adolfo's son Omer Orsi became the new managing director. The Maserati brothers continued in the team on a 10 year contract. The works team made its comeback to GP racing with their new 3 litre 8CTF car. The new car proved to be extremely fast and able to challenge the Germans on equal terms but sadly the car also proved to be very fragile. As drivers functioned Count Trossi, Goffredo Zehender, Luigi Villoresi and Achille Varzi.

The O'Reilly-Schell's Ecurie Bleue functioned as a semi-works team. Delahaye started to develop a new 4.5 litre V12 engine and a new monoplace car, the Type 155. Meanwhile the team continued to use stripped Type 145 sports cars in GP racing. The driver lineup included René Dreyfus and Gianfranco Comotti.
During the season Ecurie Bleue came into a bitter fight with the French automobile club over subventions, the end result being that the team moved its base to Monaco and boycotted the French GP.

During 1937 the team received 400,000 francs from the Fonds de Course committee for further development. Bugatti constructed a supercharged 3 litre variant of their Type 50B engine for GP racing. The engine was put into the old Type 59 chassis and the combination was called Type 59/50B3. Jean-Pierre Wimille continued as works driver.

Early in 1938 Tony Lago declared that Talbot should develop a 3 litre V16 engine for GP racing and immediately got a 600,000 francs subvention from the Fonds de Course committee. No V16 engine was ever seen but the team used an enlarged 4.5 litre variant of their 4 litre sports car engine for GP racing. Talbot also started the construction of two new car models, the MC 90 and the MD 90. Meanwhile the 4.5 litre engine was put into a variant of the T150C sports car chassis.


Alfa Romeo
On 7th August 1938 Alfa Romeo returned to Voiturette racing with their new 8 cylinder Type 158 "Alfettas". The cars were entered by the Alfa Corse works team and raced during the rest of the season by Emilio Villoresi, Clemente Biondetti, Francesco Severi, Raymond Sommer and test driver Attilio Marinoni.

After the takeover by Adolfo Orsi, Maserati concentrated on both GP and Voiturette racing. The team entered new variants of their 4CM and 6CM cars with improved suspension and bodywork. As works drivers the team entered Aldo Marazza, Count Trossi and Giovanni Rocco. Luigi Villoresi raced in the beginning for Scuderia Ambrosiana but later moved to the works team.
      Other top Maserati drivers during the year were Paul Pietsch with his white works/semi-works 6CM and Swiss driver Armand Hug, whose fine season included two victories. British driver Johnnie Wakefield also started the season with a Maserati before changing to ERA.

During the 1938 season ERA was working on their GP project. The new car took most of the little company's resources and soon it became clear that ERA never would have a chance to compete with the Germans. So in autumn 1938 the decision was made to finish the GP car as a Voiturette, known as the ERA-E type. For the team's Voiturette racing the GP project proved fatal. There was money only for upgrading one C type car to what was to be called the D type. For works drivers Raymond Mays and Earl Howe the 1938 was a season with little success and much disappointment.
      After the terrible Delage adventure the White Mouse Stable bought an ERA-C for the 1938 season for "B Bira" Other ERA privateers included Arthur Dobson and Reggie Tongue and later also Johnnie Wakefield after having destroyed his Maserati.


Bernd Rosemeyer was killed on 28 January on the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn when his speed record Auto Union lost its downforce at 430 km/h. On 3 April during the Mille Miglia a Lancia Aprilia bounced on a level crossing and ploughed into a tightly packed crowd of spectators. Ten or eleven persons were killed, including seven children, and two dozen more were injured. Tucker Clayton was badly injured at the Brooklands Easter meeting on 18 April when his M.G. went over the banking after a crash with A. P. Hamilton's Alfa Romeo and ended up in a tree. About a dozen spectators were either injured or killed (details of the accident seems to have been suppressed) when Joăo Alfredo Braga crashed his Alfa Romeo into the crowd at the Rio de Janeiro GP on 12 June. On 7 May at the International Trophy race at Brooklands Joseph Paul's V12 Delage burst in flames, forcing Paul to lift his left hand and pull over in an attempt to leave the track. He was then hit by A. C. Lace's Darracq and both cars swerved and ran up the steep safety bank. The burning Delage went through the fence and down the other side crashing into people who were walking back along the track to the pits, while Paul jumped out and received concussion and severe burns. Spectator Miss Peggy Williams was killed and ten others persons were injured including race drivers Kay Petre, Douglas Hawkes (married to Gwenda Stewart) and Betty Haig. Famous supercharger and Austin car designer T. Murray-Jamieson died later in hospital. During the Tripoli GP on 15 May Eugenio Siena and László Hartmann were involved in two separate crashes between GP cars and Voiturettes. Siena died immediately while Hartmann broke his back and died the following day. On 30 May spectator Everett Spence was killed by a flying tire at the Indy 500. At the "Prix de Bremgarten" on 20 August Hans Gubelin (BMW) surprisingly took the lead on the last lap. The flag man failed to flag him off as winner and the driver passed the finish line at full speed only to crash fatally on the next lap. In a similar bizarre accident at the Milano GP at Monza on 11 September Aldo Marazza failed to see the chequered flag. He continued at full race speed, overturned the car in the Lesmo curve, and crashed into the woods. 26 years old Marazza had a lung pierced on a branch of a tree and died at the hospital the same evening.


Star 1 January 1938: Ugo Gobbato announced that "Alfa Corse" in the future will have the sole responsibility for Alfa Romeo racing activities. All "Scuderia Ferrari" personal and equipment was to be transferred from Modena to Portello.
Star 1 January 1938: "Buller" Meyer (Riley) wins the South African GP handicap race at East London. Click here for full results.
Star 15 January 1938: Earl Howe (ERA) wins the Grosvenor GP handicap race in Cape Town, South Africa.
Click here for full results.
Star 28 January 1938: Bernd Rosemeyer had a fatal crash during a world record attempt on the Frankfurt-Darmstadt highway. Click here for analysis of the event.
Star 12 - 19 March 1938: Auto Union held a test for new drivers at Monza with the following drivers:
	 Huschke von Hanstein
Christian Kautz was selected as junior driver for the 1938 season.
Star 12 March 1938: The March Meeting was the season opening meeting of Brooklands.
The four handicap races were won by Baker-Carr (Bentley 6.5L), K. Gammon (Riley 1.8L), Harvey-Noble (MG) and John Horsfall (Aston Martin 2L).
Star 2 April 1938: "B Bira" (ERA) wins the Coronation Trophy handicap race at Crystal Palace - London
Star 3 April 1938: The 1013 miles long Mille Miglia sports car race is held in Italy with 141 starters, 72 finihers. A Lancia Aprilia bounced on a level crossing and ploughed into a tightly packed crowd of spectators. Ten or eleven persons were killed, including seven children, and two dozen more were injured.
1.C. Biondetti/StefaniAlfa Romeo 2900B11h58m29.s
2.C. Pintacuda/MambelliAlfa Romeo 2900B12h00m31s
3.P. Dusio/BoninsegniAlfa Romeo 2900A12h37m31s
4.R. Dreyfus/J. VaretDelahaye 14512h39m53s
5.R. Carričre/R. Le Bčgue*Talbot T150C12h59m03s
6."Ventidue"/"Ventuno"Alfa Romeo Monza13h28m53s
* Some sources say van der Pijl
Star 9 April 1938: "Charlie" Dodson (Austin) wins the British Empire Trophy handicap race at Donington, England.
The works ERA team appear with the cars repainted from black to green as they plan to take part in international events in 1938.

René Dreyfus - DelahayeR. Caracciola / H. Lang - Mercedes-BenzGianfranco Comotti - Delahaye


Pau (F) 10 April 1938
100 laps x 2.769 km (1.721 mi) = 276.96 km (172.1 mi)


2René DreyfusEcurie BleueDelahaye1454.5V-12
4Gianfranco ComottiEcurie BleueDelahaye1454.5V-12
6Rudolf CaracciolaDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW 1543.0V-12
8Hermann LangDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW 1543.0V-12DNS - broken oil pump
10Jean-Pierre WimilleAutomobiles E. BugattiBugattiT50B3.0S-8DNA - did not appear
12Tazio NuvolariAlfa CorseAlfa RomeoTipo 3083.0S-8DNS - fire
14Emilio VilloresiAlfa CorseAlfa RomeoTipo 3083.0S-8DNS - withdrawn
16René Le BčgueLe BčgueTalbot150C4.0S-6DNA - did not appear
18"de Maris"A EmbiricosTalbot150C4.0S-6DNA - did not appear
20"Raph"Scuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
22Antonio NegroScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
24Dioscoride LanzaD. LanzaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
26"Daniell""Daniell"Delahaye135S3.6S-6DNA - did not appear
28Maurice TrintignantM. TrintignantBugattiT35C/512.3S-8
30Yves MatraY. MatraBugattiT512.3S-8
32Francis BayardF. BayardBugattiT512.3S-8DNA - did not appear

Dreyfus' remarkable victory at Pau with Delahaye

by Hans Etzrodt and Leif Snellman
The 1938 Pau Grand Prix over 100 laps was a minor event. From 16 entries only eight cars made it to the start. After Nuvolari's Alfa Romeos caught fire and burned out, the second Alfa was withdrawn. Next, Lang's Mercedes was pulled out Sunday morning due to an over-oiling problem. That left the Mercedes of Caracciola and the two Delahaye of Dreyfus and Comotti as the fastest cars while the remaining three 1500 Maserati and two older Bugatti had no chance of winning. Caracciola took the lead ahead of Dreyfus, who in turn held first place for 10 laps from lap 7 to 16. Thereafter the Mercedes stayed again in front, just seconds ahead of Dreyfus. Pau was a slow circuit and Mercedes could not use their power to proper advantage when the road surface turned slippery. As the Mercedes fuel consumption was ferocious, Caracciola had to stop for fuel midrace when Lang took over. Dreyfus did not have to stop, as the Delahaye's consumption was half of Mercedes. So, the Frenchman gained the lead, never to lose it for the last 48 laps, winning by 1m51s to Lang. Comotti was third, 6 laps behind, further down were Raph 15 laps, Trintignant 17 laps and Lanza 19 laps.
The Automobile Club Basco-Béarnais organized an event with a remarkable participation for the first race of the new season and also first race to the new international formula which went into effect in 1938. Everyone in the motor sport community was waiting for the outcome with great expectations as the new cars of France, Italy and Germany were entered for the first time. The Basco-Béarnais AC had made considerable improvements to the 2.769 km road course over 100 laps, a total of 276.9 km. The rather narrow circuit was leading through the town with many slow turns, including ups and downs, comparable to the Monaco circuit, allowing passing only on few places.
      The first Pau Grand Prix was held in 1933 on a shorter 2.649 km circuit over 80 laps with Lehoux (Bugatti) the winner. The second race in 1935 went over the 2.769 km circuit of 80 laps, won by Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo). 1936 was the third event over the same circuit length but 100 laps and was won by Etancelin (Maserati). The fourth event was held in 1937, but was a sports car race over 80 laps, won by Wimille (Bugatti) while 1938 was the fifth running. This race was endowed with 10,000 francs from the National Federation of CAF. In addition, prizes were awarded by the AC Basco-Béarnais at 30,000 fr., 20,000 fr., 8,000 fr. and 3,000 francs.
There were 16 entries listed but half of the cars did not make it to the start. Bugatti withdrew its only car, which could not be completed in time due to the strikes. The car was to be driven by Jean-Pierre Wimille who had won the previous year and he attended now as spectator. Both Talbot drivers, René Le Bčgue and De Maris withdrew their entries as the new cars could not be completed in time due to the strikes in Paris. Likewise, the Bugatti of Bayard was withdrawn as the car could not be made ready in time. Then the third Delahaye driven by Danniell was withdrawn. On Saturday practice, Nuvolari's car suddenly caught fire and burned out, the driver escaped with leg arm and facial burns. Such an accident was then being feared on Villoresi's Alfa Romeo which caused the withdrawal of his car. On Sunday morning the Mercedes of Lang was withdrawn due to an over-oiling problem.
      However, Delahaye and Mercedes were present on an official basis, also the independents representing Bugatti and Maserati. Ecurie Bleu, managed by Laury and Lucy Schell in Paris, entered two Delahaye 145 types with 4.5-L, V-12 engines, not supercharged. This was the car, built to the 1938 Grand Prix formula, with which Dreyfus end of August 1937 won the one-million-franc prize of the French Government. René Dreyfus and Franco Comotti were the drivers.
      Daimler-Benz was present with two of the new supercharged W 154 Mercedes-Benz for a shakedown at the beginning of the 1938 season with Rudolf Caracciola, and Hermann Lang as drivers. Richard Seaman was standing by as reserve - much to his distaste. The W154 Mercedes had covered exhaust pipes inside the bodywork.
      During March of 1937 SA Alfa Romeo acquired 80% of the share capital in SA Scuderia Ferrari, on the basis that Enzo Ferrari's functions remained as before. Peter Hull wrote that as of 1938, SA Alfa Romeo works controlled the racing department under the name of Alfa Corse with Enzo Ferrari still in charge of the new set up. Racecars and equipment were moved from Modena to Milan and designer Vittorio Jano left for Lancia. Gioachino Colombo and Luigi Bazzi worked under Wilfredo Ricart designing the new cars. Alfa Corse entered two red Alfa Romeo type 308, supercharged 3-liter 8-cylinder cars, initially for Tazio Nuvolari and Giuseppe Farina. But since Farina had slightly injured himself in an accident at the Mille Miglia one week earlier, Emilio Villoresi would drive the second car.
      The independents comprised three supercharged 1500 6CM Maseratis. One was entered by Scuderia Sabauda for Antonio Negro, another by Scuderia Torino for "Raph" and a third one by Dioscodide Lanza. Two 2.3-liter 8-cylinder supercharged Bugatti T51 were entered by Yves Matra and the other by Maurice Trintignant.
April 8 - Friday, was the first day of official practice from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. It took place in superb weather in presence of a large crowd. The best time was achieved by Nuvolari with an Alfa Romeo in 1m48s at an average speed of 92.320 km/h. This time beat by far everything that had been done so far.
Friday times
Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)1m48s
Dreyfus (Delahaye)1m50s
Lang (Mercedes-Benz)1m53s
Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)1m53s
Villoresi (Alfa Romeo)1m55s
Lanza (Maserati)2m00s
Comotti (Delahaye)2m02s
Matra (Bugatti)2m12s
Trintignant (Bugatti)2m17s
April 9 - Saturday, was the second practice day. Dreyfus and Caracciola were the fastest during the session. Negro left the road immediately after the stands and his car was damaged when hitting the straw bales. Nevertheless, Negro thought he would start on Sunday.
      George Monkhouse recalled in his book, 1948 Ed.: "Nuvolari was in simply wonderful form in one of the new 8-cylinder Alfa Romeos, and was motoring round in one long broadside with a colossal grin on his face. During the final practice Nuvolari was seen to go past the pits with petrol pouring from his under-tray, and a little further round the circuit the car suddenly went up in flames. Nuvolari managed to jump out just before the car came to rest on a grass verge, where it burned out for some time in the bushes. Caracciola jokingly asked Tazio, "Why he hadn't driven the car into the lake just to cool it off!" The trouble on Nuvolari's car was eventually traced to the saddle petrol tank rubbing on the scuttle, [causing a leak] and in consequence Villoresi's sister car was withdrawn since Alfa Corse naturally feared a repetition of the trouble. Nuvolari was badly burnt about the legs, [also arms and face], and rumors were rife that he was going to give up motor-racing for good ". [He was transported to the Pau Clinique Larrieu, where he was surrounded by the greatest care. His morale was in no way affected and he patiently waited for his condition to improve before returning to Italy. More about this, see: In retrospect.]
      Lang's brakes went wrong on Saturday. He skidded and hit a fence with the back of the car, damaging the chassis, which was repaired. According to Hermann Lang, his Mercedes suffered an oil-pressure pump failure which caused over-oiling. For unknown reasons the oil pressure level climbed so fast that after a short time all plugs of the engine were oiled up. A spare engine was unfortunately not yet available. Despite strenuous night work the team did not succeed to get the car ready for the start. Still on Sunday morning at sunrise Uhlenhaut tried the car on a highway but the failure could not be corrected and the car was withdrawn.
Saturday times
Dreyfus (Delahaye)1m48s
Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)1m48s
Lang (Mercedes-Benz)1m49s
Comotti (Delahaye)1m59s
Lanza (Maserati)2m00s
Trintignant (Bugatti)2m04s
Matra (Bugatti)2m05s
Raph (Maserati)2m10s
Negro (Maserati)2m21s
Sunday was a very wonderful spring day with packed stands and an estimated crowd of 30,000. It was warm in the bright sunlight but the stands in the shade were crowded with people feeling cold. The starting grid was arranged by order of Saturday practice times by each driver.
Pole Position
















* 8 Lang (Mercedes-Benz) 1:49 DNS
Comotti took Lang's place in the grid.

At the start a few thousand spectators were shocked and speechless when the silver Mercedes was started. The two 12-cylinder Delahayes, the two supercharged Bugattis and three supercharged Maseratis stood already 60 seconds before the start with running engine and made an impressive racket. Suddenly the exhaust rumble of these cars was almost completely silenced, as the 12-cylinder supercharged Mercedes was started. The new "voice" totally drowned the rumble of all other racecars and just before the flag fell, the racket became even louder as Caracciola raised the engine revs for the get-away at the 2 p.m. start, 100 meters ahead of the grandstand. Caracciola immediately took the lead and covered the first lap in 1m52s. He was followed closely by Dreyfus, then Comotti, Trintignant, Lanza, Raph, Matra and far behind Negro.
      Caracciola could not pull away from Dreyfus as was expected, since the Delahaye followed the Mercedes just a few seconds behind. On the 7th lap Dreyfus passed Caracciola, doing a lap in 1m50s. Dreyfus recalled in his book My Two Lives: "For the first few laps I stayed behind Rudi, enough distance to avoid the fumes... So, I hung back until I decided to test Rudi. I tried to pass him and did, easily. There was nothing he could do about it." On the 10th lap of the race Negro retired his Maserati.
      On the 16th lap Caracciola, who was second, passed Dreyfus to regain the lead. The German also was setting the fastest lap of the race in 1m47.0s at 93.182 km/h average speed. Spontaneous applause thundered at the announcement of this record. After 20 laps, Caracciola led in 36m58s with an average speed of 89.704 km/h.
      On the 23rd lap Caracciola was leading Dreyfus by 6 seconds. The Delahaye followed the Mercedes consistently a few seconds behind, in contrast to the remaining five drivers who in some cases trailed with significant gaps. After 25 laps, Caracciola led Dreyfus by nine seconds. On lap 27, Dreyfus was only 6.6 seconds behind Caracciola but, hampered by another competitor on the straight, he was ten seconds behind on the next lap. After 30 laps Caracciola led when the times were as follows:
1. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)55m20s
2. Dreyfus (Delahaye)55m31s
3. Comotti (Delahaye)1 lap down
4. Raph (Maserati)1 lap down
5. Matra (Bugatti)4 laps down
6. Lanza (Maserati)6 laps down

At lap 40 Matra retired his Bugatti with mechanical problems. Caracciola in his Mercedes-Benz racecar was incapable to establish the needed advantage for a refueling stop at mid-race, because due to the hot sun the tared road surface was starting to run away with melting tar in some turns, it was slippery like driving on ice. Why they had not taken tar with a higher melting point for the road construction was inconceivable. After the 40th lap Caracciola led with 89.856 km/h average speed when the times were as follows:
1. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)1h13m57s
2. Dreyfus (Delahaye)1h14m00s
3. Comotti (Delahaye)2 laps down
4. Raph (Maserati)3 laps down
5. Trintignant (Bugatti)9 laps down
6. Matra (Bugatti)10 laps down
7. Lanza (Maserati)10 laps down

Hermann Lang recalled in his book Vom Rennmonteur zum Europameister, 1943 Ed.: "Our car was positively the fastest and Caracciola also achieved the fastest lap. However, the race required for our cars to stop mid-race to refuel, while the un-supercharged cars could cover the distance without stopping. We did know that in advance, but hoped to be much faster, to recover the time lost at the pitstop. Unfortunately, our thoughts proved wrong as we did not know the treachery of the circuit. Already after 30 laps of the 100-lap long race it had become impossible to drive establishing an advantage. In a short time, this circuit had become very slippery, covered like with soft soap from the oil and rubber-dust, so that one could not suddenly accelerate or brake sharply. From that time on, all cars drove at the same speed and we lost the time which we would have needed for the fuel stop". After half the race Caracciola had only a six second lead at 89.889 km/h average speed after 50 laps:
1. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)1h32m26s
2. Dreyfus (Delahaye)1h32m32s
3. Comotti (Delahaye)3 laps down
4. "Raph" (Maserati)4 laps down
5. Trintignant (Bugatti)12 laps down
6. Matra (Bugatti)12 laps down
7. Lanza (Maserati)14 laps down

At the end of the 52nd lap Caracciola stopped at the pits to refuel. He also was replaced at the wheel by Lang. The stopping time, not including slowing down and starting, was 50 seconds. Dreyfus now had a lead of 1m23s and, as he did not have to stop for refueling, it seemed highly unlikely that victory could elude him. Dreyfus wrote in his book: "Finally Rudi came in for fuel and got out of the car. His hip hurt, he said, he wanted Hermann Lang to take over. Rudi had suffered a bad accident five years before at Monaco, which had left him with a tender hip, but that was not the real reason he did not want to finish Pau. We both knew, without ever saying it, that he just did not want to be beaten by me. Lang was not even in his coveralls-he had his regular trousers on-but he hopped in..."
      The enthusiasm of the crowd had no limits as their countryman Dreyfus led the small field. His advantage was growing. After 60 laps, Dreyfus had a lead of 1m25s to Lang's Mercedes. On lap 62, Dreyfus' lead over Lang was 1m19s, but the latter slowed the pace. At the 65th lap the gap was 1m27s. Lang had difficulty changing gears and had to stop at his pit for 1m20s to correct a gearshift problem. At the 69th lap Dreyfus' lead was exactly 3 minutes, actually one lap and 1m9s, ahead of the German. Comotti in third place was in front of Raph while Matra and Negro had retired earlier. After 70 laps Dreyfus led after 2h10m16s at 89.296 km/h.
      On lap 75, Dreyfus held the lead at 89.044 km/h average speed, 2m39s ahead of Lang. Comotti was 4 laps behind, Raph 7 laps, Trintignant 14, and Lanza 15 laps in sixth place. Due to his large advantage Dreyfus now drove slightly slower and after the repair Lang was able to drive faster than before, recovering a few seconds every lap.
      At 80 laps Dreyfus led at 88.782 km/h average speed. Lang followed 10 seconds behind but he was still one lap behind. Two laps before the end, on lap 98, Lang passed Dreyfus and unlapped himself, but Dreyfus still had the lead. While the Mercedes driver raised his speed, that of the Ecurie Bleue remained wise and cautious to win the race.
      At the finish the huge crowd invaded the road, the Marseillaise resounded, which had not happened for a long time at an international Grand Prix. Dreyfus recalled in his book: "I don't think I ever heard the Marseillaise played with such vigor. It had been so long. No one could remember the last time. A French car and a French driver winning over a German car and a German driver. The crowd was incredibly emotional."



1.2René DreyfusEcurie BleueDelahaye1454.5V-121003h08m59s
2.6R. Caracciola / H. LangDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW 1543.0V-121003h10m50s+ 1m51s
3.4Gianfranco ComottiEcurie BleueDelahaye1454.5V-12943h09m50s
4.20"Raph"Scuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6853h10m37s
5.28Maurice TrintignantM. TrintignantBugattiT35C/512.3S-8833h09m33s
6.24Dioscoride LanzaD. LanzaMaserati6CM1.5S-6813h09m54s
DNF30Yves MatraY. MatraBugattiT512.3S-840mechanical
DNF22Antonio NegroScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-69steering
Fastest lap: Rudolf Caracciola (Mercedes Benz) on lap 16 in 1m47.0s = 93.16 km/h (57.89 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 87.93 km/h (54.64 mph)
Pole position lap speed: 92.32 km/h (57.37 mph)
Weather: sunny, warm, dry.
In retrospect:
Nuvolari - by Cesare de Agostini, publ. 2003: "...the tail of his car was engulfed in flames. He reduced his speed and threw himself out of the cockpit, while the car ended up in a wood and consumed itself. That suffocating immersion in smoke and fire left its mark. He was picked up, conscious, with only a few burns to his face legs and arms [and minor injuries]. But there was something the doctors missed: patient Tazio Nuvolari had been frightened, or at least that is what he said. He sent telegrams to count Alberto Bonacossa, general commissioner of the Royal Automobile Club of Italy, and to engineer Gobbato (Managing Director of Alfa Romeo). In them, he declared point blank to have been extremely perturbed and wanted to retire from racing. After about ten days, he was already back in his Mantua villa."

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
DDAC Motorwelt, München
Kölnische Zeitung, Köln
La Gazzetta dello Sport, Milano
La Vie Automobile, Paris
L'AUTO, Paris
Le Figaro, Paris
L'Ouest-Éclair, Rennes
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Rheinisch-Westfälische Zeitung, Essen
Special thanks to:
Giuseppe Prisco

Star 18 April 1938: Peter Whitehead (ERA) wins the Australian GP handicap race at Bathurst.


© 2023 Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 12.01.2023