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The 1938 French Drivers Championship
How René Dreyfus did not miss his second chance

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Date

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Who?

Georges Grignard, Secondo Corsi and others

What?

Amilcar #10 and Maserati #15

Where?

La Baule

When?

La Baule Grand Prix (August 28, 1938)

Why?

After the first French championship in 1937, it was decided to try to improve the rules and to listen to some VIPs in the motor racing world. This is why it was decided to grant FRF 20,000 to the winner of the ’38 championship instead of FRF 10,000. This sum was given by the FNCAF (FRF 7,000), the organizers of the races (FRF 8,900) and the other French clubs (FRF 4,100).

The point system was also changed. No more factors, only points given as follows:

Moreover, if a driver had to share his car with another driver, the points would be divided in two. It is interesting to note that in Germany or Italy, when a driver had to share his car with a co-driver, his classification was not taken into account for the national championship.

If a driver used various cars during a race, his points would be divided by the number of cars he used. Each country had its own philosophy on this matter. This rule was not valid for Le Mans, an exceptional race, where the full point system was to be applied.

At the end of January, the list of the races of the 1938 championship was ready. One more time the organizers listened to the advice of journalists and professionals, and there would be only French races:

Unfortunately, from February to May, three races were cancelled: Tunisia, Marseille and Comminges. The Marseille race was planned only one week before Le Mans. Consequently, drivers did not want to enter the 3-hour race in order to preserve their car for the prestigious 24-hour race. As for the Comminges GP, many teams and drivers did not want to enter the race because of the controversy in 1936, which was due to unprecise rules. This is how the championship was reduced to seven races. Well, it seems that it was even less…

In fact, when I read L’Auto to write this article, I noticed that the Bol d’Or race was not taken into account for the classification of the championship… It was on the list of the races of the championship but it was never quoted when the classification was given. So it is not sure that the Bol d’Or was a round of the championship, which definitely wasn't the case in 1939. Nevertheless, it seems that Ouest Éclair, a daily newspaper from the west of France, had the same attitude. So, what is the truth? Was the Bol d’Or a heat of the French championship? I decided to write this article as if L’Auto was right and to follow the attitude of the French newspapers.

So, in fact, there were only six races for this championship. A small championship if we look at the thirteen races of 1937. Anyway, now, the Championnat de France begins…

Round 1: Grand Prix de Pau (F.Internationale) – April 10, 1938

Circuit: Pau, (100 laps x 2,769km = 276.9km)
Organizer: Automobile Club Basco-Béarnais


The Pau GP was the opening of the new season and the opening of the second French championship. But it was also the opening of a new era. Indeed, the 750kg formula was over and the new formula had new rules, 4.5-litre engines without supercharger and 3-litre engines with supercharger were authorized. The maximum weight was 850kg. This is why the Mercedes-Benz team came with its brand new W154 whereas Alfa Romeo entered the new 308, a modernized 8C-35.

Initially sixteen or seventeen drivers were registered on the entry list. The Pau Grand Prix was about to be a real success. Unfortunately, a few days before the race, many drivers cancelled their participation, for various reasons. So drivers such as Wimille and Le Bègue did not come to King Henri IV’s city. Moreover, during practice, the Alfa Romeo of Nuvolari caught fire. The Italian champion did not want to enter this race and the Italian team preferred to withdraw the cars of Emilio Villoresi and Nino Farina. So, on the race day there were only nine cars on the grid.

The starting grid was a bit of a surprise. In fact Dreyfus was on pole as he was as fast as Caracciola and Nuvolari (who withdrew, as I said above). Lang was 1’’ behind, on the second row. In fact Dreyfus being on pole was quite normal: his car was much less powerful than the Mercedes but on a short and tricky circuit such as Pau it was an advantage. Moreover the Delahaye was easier to drive. The second Delahaye was fourth, Comotti being 11’’ slower than Dreyfus. Then came Lanza (12’’) and a young man who was there to take part in his very first race: Maurice Trintignant. Finally, Lang could not take part in the race because of oil pressure trouble. So, only eight cars were on the staring grid when Charles Faroux gave the start.

Caracciola took the lead ahead of Dreyfus and Comotti. Dreyfus found it easy to follow the path of the German driver. He perfectly knew that his competitor had to refuel at mid-race which was not the case with the Delahaye. In fact, the French car's consumption was of 38litres/100km whereas the Mercedes consumption was… 120 liters/100km! Dreyfus knew he could win. On lap 7, the French driver passed Caracciola but, nine laps later, the Mercedes was back in the lead and made the fastest lap of the day. Caracciola had to be 30’’ ahead of Dreyfus to keep the lead after the necessary pit stop but at mid-race Caracciola was only leading by 6’’. Not enough. Then, the Mercedes went into the pits and Caracciola handed over the car to Lang. When the latter was back on track, Dreyfus was leading by 1’30’’. Lang battled to try to get closer to the Frenchman but unfortunately he had to go back to the pits because of clutch trouble. Dreyfus just had to wait for the end of the race and won an historical race! It was not so often that a French Grand Prix car could beat a German car! It was a good beginning for the French championship.

Results:
1. R.Dreyfus (F), Delahaye 145, 3h08’59’’ (avg. 87.932kph)
2. R.Caracciola (D) / H.Lang (D), Mercedes-Benz W154: +1’51’’
3. G.Comotti (I), Delahaye 145, - 6 laps
4. "Raph" (F), Maserati 6CM, - 15 laps
5. M.Trintignant (F), Bugatti T35C/51, - 17 laps
6. D.Lanza (I), Maserati 6CM, - 19 laps

Did not finish:
Y.Matra (F), Bugatti T51, 40 laps
A.Negro (I), Maserati 6CM, 9 laps

Fastest lap:

R.Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz W154), 1’47’’ (avg. 93.182 kph)

Championship after one race:

1. R.Dreyfus Delahaye 10 pts
2. « Raph » Maserati 4 pts
3. M.Trintignant Bugatti 3 pts
4. Y.Matra Bugatti 1 pt

Round 2: Grand Prix de Picardie (Voiturette) – June 12, 1938

Circuit: Péronne, (2 qualifying heats of 10 laps x 9,765km = 97,65km + 1 final of 15 laps x 9,765km = 146,475km)
Organizer: Automobile Club de Picardie et de l’Aisne

As usual there were two heats for the traditional Grand Prix de Picardie. Only two French drivers were there, with uncompetitive cars: Villeneuve and De Burnay.

Heat 1:

There were six drivers to take part in this heat: Bira (ERA), Howe (ERA), Bianco (Maserati), Soffietti (Maserati), Hanson (Maserati) and Herkuleyns (MG). Two ERAs against three Maseratis. No French drivers.

The start was given at 1:30pm for a ten-lap race.

Howe took the lead ahead of Bira. One lap later the Siamese prince was ahead of Howe. Bira made the fastest lap of the heat on the third lap. He improved it on the fourth lap and on the fifth lap. At this moment Hanson retired. At mid-race Bira was still the leader, 15’’ ahead of Howe, Bianco, Soffietti and Herkuleyns. Two ERAs ahead of two Maseratis. Then Bira decided to slow down in order to secure his victory. But he succeeded in keeping the gap steady and won the race.

Results:
1. B.Bira (SM), ERA C, 38’43’’8
2. Earl Howe (GB), ERA B, + 15’’2
3. E.Bianco (I), Maserati 4CM, - 1 lap
4. L.Soffietti (I), Maserati 4CM, - 1 lap
5. H.Herkuleyns (NL), MG K3 Magnette, -3 laps

Did not finish:
R.Hanson (GB), Maserati 6CM, 4 laps

Fastest lap:
B.Bira (ERA C), 3’50’’ (avg. 152.843 kph)

Heat 2:

There were seven drivers on the starting grid of the second heat. This time, there were two French drivers: Alphonse De Burnay (Maserati) and Louis Villeneuve (Bugatti). The five others were Dioscoride Lanza (Maserati), Armand Hug (Maserati), Raymond Mays (ERA), Norman Wilson (ERA) and John Wakefield (ERA). Three ERAs against two Maseratis.

After one lap Mays was leading Hug by 7’’ and Wakefield by 15’’. Unfortunately, the latter retired two laps later. Then, one lap later, Hug had to go to the pits. So at mid-race Mays was still easily leading ahead of Wilson, Hug, Lanza, De Burnay and Villeneuve. Two ERAs ahead of three Maseratis. Because of technical trouble Hug had to slow down and was passed by Lanza and De Burnay. Mays won the heat.

Results:
1. R.Mays (GB), ERA D, 40’53’’0
2. N.Wilson (ZA), ERA A, +3’54’’2
3. D.Lanza (I), Maserati 6CM, - 1 lap
4. De Burnay (F), Maserati, - 2 laps
5. A.Hug (CH), Maserati 4CM, - 2 laps
6. L.Villeneuve (F), Bugatti 51A, - 2 laps

Did not finish:
J.Wakefield (GB), ERA B, 3 laps

Fastest lap:
R.Mays (ERA D), 3’59’’ (avg…147.088 kph)

Final:

Ten drivers were qualified for the final: Bira, Howe, Bianco, Soffietti (heat 1) plus the first six of the heat 2. It was clear that the winner would be Bira, Mays or Howe. It meant an ERA driver.

So, after one lap, Bira was leading the race. Mays was 4’’ behind, followed by Hug and Bianco. Howe had to retire while Wilson made a tremendous beginning, passing from 8th to 5th position. After three laps, Bira was 20’’ ahead of Mays. One lap later the gap was 30’’. After five laps Bira had increased the gap from 30’’ to 47’’… Hug and Bianco were still behind Mays. They were followed by Wilson, Soffietti, Lanza and the two French drivers: Villeneuve and De Burnay.

On lap 6 Hug had to go to the pits. He tried to go on but retired four laps later. Unfortunately for Bira he had to stop and lost any hope to win the race. Thus Mays became the new leader on lap 8. Bianco was second, ahead of Soffietti, Wilson and Lanza. Mays increased the gap and, as in 1937, won the Grand Prix de Picardie.

Classified results:
1. R.Mays (GB), ERA D, 1h00’03’’6 (avg. 146.328 kph)
2. E.Bianco (I), Maserati 4CM, +2’23’’
3. L.Soffietti (I), Maserati 4CM, - 1 lap
4. N.Wilson (ZA), ERA A, - 1 lap
5. D.Lanza (I), Maserati 6CM, - 1 lap
6. L.Villeneuve (F), Bugatti 51, - 1 lap
7. A.De Burnay (F), Maserati, - 4 laps

Did not finish:
A.Hug (CH), Maserati 4CM, 10 laps
B.Bira (SM), ERA C, 8 laps
Earl Howe (GB), ERA B, 1 lap

Fastest lap:
B.Bira (ERA C), 3’48’’ (avg. 154.184 kph)

Championship after two races:

    Pau Pic.

TOTAL

1° R.Dreyfus Delahaye 10

10

2° "Raph" Maserati 4  

4

3° M.Trintignant Bugatti 3  

3

4° Y.Matra Bugatti 1  

1

L.Villeneuve Bugatti   1

1

A. De Burnay
Maserati

1

1

Round 3: 24 Heures du Mans (Sports) – June 18-19, 1938

Circuit: Le Mans (24 hours on a 13,492km track)
Organizer: Automobile Club de l’Ouest


42 cars were on the starting line. 62 of their drivers were French. Among them only Dreyfus, Matra and Villeneuve had scored at least one point in the two previous races of the French championship. It meant a good opportunity for Dreyfus to increase the gap to his competitors. Other drivers were from Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

Bugatti and BMW had decided to not take part in the race this year. So the main competitors were the seven Delahayes (two of Ecurie Bleue’s 145s of Dreyfus-Chiron and Comotti-Divo as well as five 135s), the six Talbots (one 4.5l for Etancelin-Carrière, three 4l for Mathieson-Clifford, Carrière-Le Bègue and Trévoux-Levegh, two 4.0l SS for Rosier-Huguet and Prenant-Morel), the Delage D6-70 of Gérard-De Valence, and the beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring driven by Sommer-Biondetti.

The start was given at 4:00pm. Dreyfus (Delahaye) was the first leader of the ’38 Le Mans race. He was followed by Comotti (Delahaye), Sommer (Alfa Romeo), Carrière (Talbot) and Etancelin (Talbot). Two laps later, Sommer was the new leader. Nevertheless, the fight was hard between Sommer, Etancelin, Dreyfus and Carrière. After seven laps, there were only 10’’ between the first four cars. Comotti was not in the race anymore as he retired.

Etancelin succeeded in overcoming Sommer on lap 10 but it did not last and the ’37 French champion took the lead back one lap later. After one hour, both drivers were very close. Carrière was 15’’ behind them and Dreyfus was at 50’’. The winner of Pau had some mechanical trouble and had to slow down. He finally retired because of oil pressure trouble, after less than 300km. The Ecurie Bleue had lost its two cars at the very beginning of the race! And Dreyfus, the leader of the French championship, could score only one point in this race.

After 24 laps, the most part of the drivers stopped to let their co-drivers take the wheel. Thus, Chinetti was now in Etancelin’s Talbot, Le Bègue was in Carrière’s Talbot while Sommer only stopped after three hours to let Biondetti take the wheel of the Alfa. The Italian driver was slower than Sommer whereas Le Bègue was the fastest on the track. This was how, after three hours and a half, the young French driver was ahead of Chinetti (at 31’’) and Biondetti (at 2’10’’). One hour later, the Alfa was back on top and after six hours, the classification was as follows:

1° Sommer/Biondetti (Alfa Romeo)
2° Etancelin/Chinetti (Talbot)
3° Carrière/Le Bègue (Talbot)
4° Trévoux/Levegh (Talbot)
5° Chaboud/Trémoulet (Delahaye)
6° Mathieson/Clifford (Talbot)
7° Serraud/Giraud-Cabantous (Delahaye)
8° Villeneuve/Biolay (Delahaye)

One Alfa, four Talbots and three Delahayes in the first eight cars. Unfortunately for Talbot, Etancelin-Chinetti’s car retired during the ninth hour because of a broken valve rocker. In the meantime, Gérard-De Valence (Delage) and Horvilleur-Matra (Alfa Romeo) also retired.

From this moment Carrière-Le Bègue’s Talbot went to the pits several times because of technical trouble. The car lost ground and, of course, lost any hope of victory. Carrière and Le Bègue were 3rd on the ninth hour and 5th one hour later. Then , on the eleventh hour they finally retired.

So, at mid-race the classification was as follows:

1° Sommer/Biondetti (Alfa Romeo), 128 laps
2° Trévoux/Levegh (Talbot), 123 laps
3° Mathieson/Clifford (Talbot), 120 laps
4° Chaboud/Trémoulet (Delahaye), 118 laps

Chaboud-Trémoulet’s Delahaye reduced the gap with Mathieson-Clifford’s Talbot and took the third spot. On the sixteenth hour, a big desillusion occurred for Mr Anthony Lago: both Talbots retired. Trévoux and Levegh were out because of head gasket trouble and the car of Mathieson-Clifford caught fire.

So, at 10:00pm on Sunday, that is to say after three quarters of the race, the classification was as follows:

1° Sommer-Biondetti (Alfa Romeo), 189 laps
2° Chaboud-Trémoulet (Delahaye), 178 laps
3° Serraud-Giraud-Cabantous (Delahaye), 174 laps

Three hours later, the gap between the first two cars was bigger as the Italian car was 21 laps ahead of the French one! The victory could not escape from Sommer and Biondetti.

But the race was not over as a tyre of the Alfa Romeo exploded on the Mulsanne straight. Sommer succeeded in staying on the track by slowing down thanks to the gearbox (in this case don’t touch the brakes!) before reaching the pits. The mechanics tried to repair the car and Biondetti took the wheel. The driver did two laps but had to stop because of a broken valve, surely due to an overrev during the tyre accident on the straight. It was the final blow. The Alfa Romeo would not win the ’38 Le Mans race.

It was the last surprise of the race. From this moment, the positions of the first four cars did not change. It was a big victory for Delahaye whose cars finished 1st, 2nd and 4th. The honour of Talbot was kept safe thanks to Prenant and Morel who finished 3rd. The success of the French constructors was completed through De Cortanze-Contet’s Peugeot Darl’Mat who finished 5th.

Results:
1. E.Chaboud(F)/J.Trémoulet (F), Delahaye 135CS, 3180.940km: 1st Cl <5000c
2. G.Serraud (F)/Y.Giraud-Cabantous (F), Delahaye 135CS, - 27.067km
3. J.Prenant (F)/A.Morel (F), Talbot 150SS Coupé, - 221.243km
4. L.Villeneuve (F)/R.Biolay (F), Delahaye 135CS, - 235.149km
5. C.de Cortanze (F)/M.Contet (F), Peugeot Darl’Mat DS402, - 283.959km: 1st Cl <2000c
6. P.Graff Orssich (A)/R.Sauerwein (D), Adler Super Trumpf Rennlim., - 324.558km: Biennal Cup
7. O.Löhr (D)/P.von Guilleaume (D), Adler Trumpf Rennlimousine, - 415.903km: 1st Cl <1500c
8. J.Savoye (F)/P.Savoye (F), Singer Nine Le Mans Replica: - 829.958km
9. A.Debille (F)/G.Lapchin (F), Simca Huit-Fiat,- 851.384km: 1st Cl <1100c
10. P.Clark (GB)/M.Chambers (GB), HRG Le Mans Model, - 877.653km
11. V.Camerano (F)/R.Robert (F), Simca Huit-Fiat, - 931.729km
12. C.Bonneau (F)/A-C.Rose-Itier (F), MG Midget PA (PB?) Special, - 953.392km
13. M.Fawcett (GB)/G.White (GB), Morgan 4/4-Coventry Climax, - 971.555km
14. M.Aimé (F)/C.Plantivaux (F), Simca Cinq-Fiat, -1138.581km: 1st Cl <750c, 1st Ind. of Perf.
15. A.Leduc (F)/A.Querzola (F), Simca Cinq-Fiat, -1289.535km

Did not finish:
R.Sommer (F)/C.Biondetti (I), Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring, 2954.748km
T.A.S.O.Mathieson (GB)/F.Clifford (GB): Talbot T150C, 2145.228km
J.Trévoux (F)/P.Levegh (F), Talbot T150C, 2145.228km
R.P.Hitchens (GB)/M.Morris-Goodall (GB): Aston Martin Speed Model, 2023.800km
A.Gordini (F)/J.Scaron (F), Simca Huit-Fiat, 1888.880km
P.Ferry (F)/F.Noireaux (F), Riley TT Sprite, 1713.484km
R.Lévy (F)/A.Alin (F), Simca 1000-Fiat, 1673.008km
J.Viale (F)/J.Breillet (F), Simca Huit-Fiat, 1497.612km
F.Roux (F)/G.Rouault (F), Amilcar G36 Pégase Spéciale, 1362.692km
R.Carrière (F)/R.Le Bègue (F), Talbot T150C, 1362.692km
G.Monneret (F)/R.Loyer (F), Delahaye 135CS, 1187.296km
L.Rosier (F)/R.Huguet (F), Talbot T150SS Coupé, 1022.852km
J.D.Barnes (GB)/T.Wisdom (GB), Singer Nine Le Mans Replica, 998.408km
G.Tramer (F)/P.Samuel (F), Simca 1000-Fiat, 930.948km
P.Etancelin (F)/L.Chinetti (I), Talbot T26, 890.472km
L.Gérard (F)/J.de Valence (F), Delage D6-70, 782.536km
J-E.Vernet (F)/S.Largeot (F), Simca Huit-Fiat, 748.060km
M.Horvilleur (F)/Y.Matra (F), Alfa Romeo 2300 Monza, 715.076km
M.Mongin (F)/R.Mazaud (F), Delahaye 135CS, 674.600km
E.B.Wisdom (GB)/A.Dobson (GB), MG Midget PB, 647.616km
A.Molinari (F)/G.Sarret (F), Fiat 508S Ballila, 539.680km
R.Forestier (F)/R.Charon (CH), Riley TT Sprite, 404.760km
R.Dreyfus (F)/L.Chiron (F), Delahaye 145, 283.332km
J.Pujol (F)/L.Rigal (F), Peugeot Darl’Mat DS402, 242.856km
G.Comotti (I)/A.Divo (F), Delahaye 145, 94.444km
M.Serre (F)/D.Porthault (F), Peugeot Darl’Mat DS402, 80.952km
C.Morrison (GB)/N.Watson (GB), Atalanta, 53.968km

Fastest lap:
R.Sommer (F), Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring, 5’13’’8 (avg. 154.783kph)

Championship after three races:

    Pau Pic.

LeM

TOTAL

1° R.Dreyfus Delahaye 10

1

11

2° E.Chaboud Delahaye    

10

10

J.Trémoulet Delahaye    

10

10

4° G.Serraud Delahaye    

6

6

Y.Giraud-Cabantous Delahaye    

6

6

6° J.Prenant Talbot    

5

5

A.Morel Talbot    

5

5

L.Villeneuve Bugatti/Delahaye   1

4

5

9° « Raph » Maserati 4    

4

R.Biolay Delahaye    

4

4

11° M.Trintignant Bugatti 3    

3

C.de Cortanze Peugeot Darl’Mat    

3

3

M.Contet Peugeot Darl’Mat    

3

3

14° Y.Matra

Etc…
Bugatti/Alfa Romeo 1  

1

2


Raymond Sommer missed an opportunity to be second in the temporary classification of the Championship. But 1938 was not to be his year as he broke his wrist while he was in Leghorn to take part in the Coppa Ciano. Consequently he could not drive for one month.

Apart from that it has to be noted that the first five drivers in the classification were Delahaye drivers. But the champonship was far from over.

In L’Auto, the classification of the championship did not mention Trintignant (3 points). We can consider it is just a small mistake as it reappeared in other articles about the championship.

Round 4: Grand Prix de l’A.C.F. (F.Internationale) – July 3, 1938

Circuit: Reims-Gueux (64 laps X 7.816 km = 500,224 km)
Organizer: Automobile Club de France


The A.C.F. Grand Prix, the fourth race of the Championnat de France, took place in Reims, three weeks after Le Mans and its overwhelming success for the French industry. The Grand Prix had to be one of the most important and most prestigious of the season. In fact it was really disappointing.

There were only nine cars on the starting grid. Of course there were the usual German cars: three Mercedes-Benz (Lang, von Brauchitsch and Caracciola) and two Auto Unions (Kautz – who replaced Müller who had been hurt in practice – and Hasse). Trying to beat the German cars were four French cars: two Talbots (Carrière and Etancelin), one Bugatti for Wimille and one SEFAC for Chaboud.

The Société d'Etude et de Fabrication d'Automobiles de Course (SEFAC) was created by the French state to try to make a car which was able to win a Grand Prix. This car was created in 1935 and the 1938 ACF Grand Prix was in fact its very first race. It was also the very first Grand Prix for the driver, Eugène Chaboud, who had won Le Mans three weeks before. The car designed by Emile Petit was too heavy and underpowered. In fact, even if the state was at the origin of the creation of the SEFAC, it did not finance the project as it should have done. So, the miracle was impossible.

Where were the Ecurie Bleue? Lucy O’Reilly-Schell had decided to boycott the Grand Prix. In fact, the Fonds de Course, the body which granted subsidies to the French teams (remember the ’37 Million!) gave FRF 600,000 to Talbot because Anthony Lago had the idea to create a V16 engine. Mrs Lucy O’Reilly-Schell was really upset because his team was the best French team of this year and it did not receive anything, despite a beautiful and historic victory against the German cars in Pau. Whereas Talbot received a big amount of money only because it promised to create a brand new engine. Consequently, Mrs Schell decided to not enter the race and to expatriate the Ecurie Bleue in Monaco. Thus, because of political reasons, Dreyfus could not take part in the race. He just had to hope that Chaboud, his main rival among the French entrants, was not about to score too many points. In fact, given the poor quality of the SEFAC, maybe Dreyfus felt at ease…

Of course, the German cars were the best, especially the Mercedes. Lang was fastest during practice and was followed by von Brauchitsch and Caracciola. Then came the Auto Unions of Kautz and Hasse. The gap between Lang and Kautz was 3’’8. Carrière and Etancelin were behind, too far away to hope for victory. Carrière was 17’’8 slower than the poleman and Etancelin was 21’’5 slower! Chaboud and Wimille had no time. Four French drivers were taking part in their national GP and they knew they were only there to participate, not to win.

The worst was to come. After one lap, there were three retirements: both Auto Unions crashed and Wimille’s Bugatti oil line broke. One lap later, Chaboud also retired. So after two laps, there were only five cars left. And only two French drivers…

The Mercedes were, of course, well ahead of the Talbot. Caracciola was the leader but had some trouble with his engine, which ran on 11 cylinders. Moreover, Lang had some problem during his pitstop. So von Brauchitsch took the lead and easily won ahead of his two team-mates. Etancelin retired around mid-race and Carrière finished fourth, ten laps behind the winner, because of brake trouble.

Classified results:
1° M. von Brauchitsch (D), Mercedes-Benz W154, 3h04’38’’5 (avg. 162,550 kph)
2° R.Caracciola (D), Mercedes-Benz W154, + 1’31’’1
3° H.Lang (D), Mercedes-Benz W154, - 1 lap
4° R.Carrière (F), Talbot T150C, - 10 laps (!)

Did not finish:
P.Etancelin (F), Talbot T150C, 38 laps (engine)
E.Chaboud (F), SEFAC, 2 laps
C.Kautz (CH), Auto Union C/D, 1 lap (broken rear axle then crash)
J.P.Wimille (F), Bugatti T59/50B, 1 lap (broken oil line)
R.Hasse (D), Auto Union C/D, 1 lap (crash)

Fastest lap:
H.Lang (D), Mercedes-Benz W154, 2’45’’1 (avg. 170,428 kph)

Championship after four races:

    Pau Pic.

LeM

A.C.F.

TOTAL

1° R.Dreyfus Delahaye 10

1

11

E.Chaboud Delahaye/SEFAC    

10

1

11

3° J.Trémoulet Delahaye    

10

 

10

4° G.Serraud Delahaye    

6

 

6

Y.Giraud-Cabantous Delahaye    

6

 

6

6° J.Prenant Talbot    

5

 

5

A.Morel Talbot    

5

 

5

L.Villeneuve Bugatti/Delahaye   1

4

 

5

R.Carrière

Etc …
Talbot    

1

4

5


The result of the race did not deeply affect the temporary classification of the championship, except for Carrière who became sixth thanks to his race in the Grand Prix. Chaboud scored one point and became co-leader of the championship, with the unfortunate Dreyfus.

Round 5: Course de côte de La Turbie (Hillclimb) – August 5, 1938

Circuit: La Turbie (6.3 km)
Organizer: Automobile Club de Nice et Côte d’Azur


The La Turbie hillclimb, near Nice, was the fifth round of the championship and also the final special stage of the Paris-Nice rally. Amédée Gordini, at the wheel of his Simca, was the great winner of this rally, ahead of Le Bègue.

There were only four single-seaters among the entrants: Stück (Auto Union), Sommer (Alfa Romeo), Dusio (Alfa Romeo) and Dreyfus (Delahaye). The latter, who was the co-leader of the championship, also took part in a sports car. This is why we find his name two times in the classification. The event was won by the specialist, the king of the mountain, Hans Stück at the wheel of his Auto Union V16 with twin rear tyres.

Among the French entrants, there were the first three drivers of the championship (Dreyfus, Chaboud and Trémoulet). Consequently, this race was really important and could be decisive: let’s imagine a victory for Dreyfus or Chaboud, and the gap of nine or ten points René or Dreyfus could have made.

But there was no French victory, as we said above. Nevertheless, Dreyfus made the second FTD and Sommer finished third with his Alfa. Both drivers won their category. Dreyfus also won the 5-litre sports category. Chaboud finished ninth and 3rd in the 5-litre sports category whereas Trémoulet was twelfth and 5th in this same category.

Classified results:
Driver, Car, Time, Category
1° Stück (A/D), Auto Union, 3’30’’1/5, 1° Race 5 à 8l: (avg.107.743 kph)
2° Dreyfus (F), Delahaye, 3’40’’3/5, 1° Race 3 à 5l
3° Sommer (F), Alfa Romeo, 3’45’’1/5, 1° Race 2 à 3l
4° Dreyfus (F), Delahaye, 3’47’’, 1° Sport 3 à 5l
5° Dusio (I), Alfa Romeo, 3’49’’1/5, 2° Race 2 à 3l
6° Pintacuda (I), Alfa Romeo, 3’56’’2/5, 1° Sport 2 à 3l
7° Le Bègue (F), Talbot, 4’00’’2/5, 2° Sport 3 à 5l
8° Delpero (I), Alfa Romeo, 4’08’’2/5, 2° Sport 2 à 3l
9° Chaboud (F), Delahaye, 4’18’’2/5, 3° Sport 3 à 5l
10° Heinemann (D), BMW, 4’19’’2/5, 1° Sport 1,5 à 2l
11° Rouault (F), Delahaye, 4’23’’4/5, 4° Sport 3 à 5l
12° Trémoulet (F), Delahaye, 4’24’’4/5, 5° Sport 3 à 5l
13° Rosier (F), Talbot, 4’26’’, 6° Sport 3 à 5l
14° Fritz Wenek (D), BMW, 4’31’’4/5, 1° Sport 1,1 à 1,5l
15° Robert (F), Talbot, 4’33’’1/5, 7° Sport 3 à 5l
16° Otto Trittel (D), BMW, 4’34’’, 2° Sport 1,5 à 2l
17° Bertani (I), Fiat, 4’37’’4/5, 1° Sport 750 à 1,1l
18° Pycroft (GB), SS, 4’40’’, 3° Sport 2 à 3l
19° Lord Valeran (GB), Lagonda, 4’44’’2/5, 8° Sport 3 à 5l
20° Parent (F), Hotchkiss, 4’45’’, 9° Sport 3 à 5l
21° Innes (GB), Frazer Nash-BMW, 4’45’’3/5, 3° Sport 1,5 à 2l
22° Poma Ugo (I), Fiat, 4’48’’, 2° Sport 750 à 1,1l
23° Gordini (F), Simca Huit, 4’49’’2/5, 3° Sport 750 à 1,1l
24° Seyer (D), BMW, 4’51’’, 4° Sport 1,5 à 2l
25° Vernon (GB), SS, 4’53’’2/5: 10° Sport 3 à 5l
26° De La Celle (F), Talbot, 5’00’’, 11° Sport 3 à 5l
27° Hampton (GB), Bugatti, 5’02’’2/5, 12° Sport 3 à 5l
28° Wisdom (GB), SS, 5’04’’3/5: 4° Sport 2 à 3l
29° Demaret (F), Peugeot Dar’l mat, 5’29’’1/5, 5° Sport 1,5 à 2l
30° Molinari (F), Simca, 5’32’’2/5: 4° Sport 750 à 1,1l
31° Muguet (F), Hotchkiss, 5’33’’2/5, 13° Sport 3 à 5l
32° Camerano (F), Simca, 5’39’’4/5: 5° Sport 750 à 1,1l
33° Mère (F), Simca, 5’51’’, 1° Sport 500 à 750
34° Fothergill (GB), Triumph, 5’56’’2/5, 6° Sport 1,5 à 2l
35° Court Picon (GB), MG, 6’10’’4/5, 6° Sport 750 à 1,1l
36° Mrs Kay Petre (GB), Austin, 6’12’’, 2° Sport 500 à 750
37° Glad (GB), MG,6’12’’1/5, 2° Sport 1,1 à 1,5l

Championship after five races:

    Pau Pic.

LeM

A.C.F.

LaT

TOTAL

1° R.Dreyfus Delahaye 10

1

6

17

2° E.Chaboud Delahaye/SEFAC    

10

1

1

12

3° J.Trémoulet Delahaye    

10

 

1

11

4° G.Serraud Delahaye    

6

   

6

Y.Giraud-Cabantous Delahaye    

6

   

6

R.Sommer Alfa Romeo    

1

 

5

6

7° J.Prenant Talbot    

5

   

5

A.Morel Talbot    

5

   

5

L.Villeneuve Bugatti/Delahaye   1

4

   

5

R.Carrière

Etc …
Talbot    

1

4

 

5


With one more round to go, only three drivers could still win the championship: Dreyfus, Chaboud and Trémoulet. Let’s imagine, just for one moment, that Raymond Sommer had won Le Mans. Dreyfus would still be in the lead with 17 points but he would be followed by Sommer (16 points), Chaboud (8 points) and Trémoulet (7 points). Thus mathematically, only Dreyfus, Sommer and Chaboud could have been champion and it would have been really difficult for Chaboud! Moreover, a final between Dreyfus and Sommer, a kind of revenge of 1937, would have been really exciting but, well, you know the story.

But in real life the game was easier for Dreyfus. Indeed, if Chaboud wanted to be the 1938 champion he had to finish second at La Baule and hope that Dreyfus would do no better than sixth. Thus both drivers would have a total of 18 points. Nevertheless, Chaboud being the winner of Le Mans – a more important race than Pau – he still had a chance to win the championship. If Dreyfus was to finish between fifth and third at La Baule, Chaboud had no choice but win. And finally, if Dreyfus would be second at La Baule, the Ecurie Bleue driver was champion. The case of Trémoulet was simpler: he had to win, nothing else.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s go to the seaside resort of La Baule, in Britanny.

Round 6: Grand Prix de La Baule (Voiturette) – August 28, 1938

Circuit: La Baule beach: (3km X 40 laps=120km)
Organizer: Automobile Club de l’Ouest


So, if we remember the 1937 championship, we remember that Dreyfus, who still had a chance to be Champion de France, could not take part in the last race. Thus Sommer won the championship easily. This time however, in 1938, spectators were about to watch a true final with three drivers fighting over the title, even if Dreyfus had a big opportunity to win. Unfortunately, Eugθne Chaboud did not enter the race. So it was Dreyfus vs Trémoulet.

For this last race, the organizers of the championship had chosen the La Baule Grand Prix of which the last edition occured in 1933. The specifity of this race was the track: it was on the beach of this Breton resort…

The organization of a beach race meant that it was absolutely necessary to take the tide into account. The Atlantic Ocean is not the Mediterranean. The tide ebbs and flows very far and quickly. So organizers had to study the tide sheet and the winds carefully. Charles Faroux, the famous French journalist and race manager, decided to give the start between 1:00pm and 1:30pm. As we will see later, this proved to be a mistake.

Lucy O’Reilly-Schell did not plan to enter a car for the race. But she allowed René Dreyfus and Raph to take part in the race in cars entered by another team. Thus, both drivers were hired by the Squadra Torino. Lucy O’Reilly-Schell surely remebered she couldn't help Dreyfus in 1937 because of the technical rules of the Tourist Trophy. Surely this time she wanted to help her driver to win the 1938 title!

Trémoulet was at the wheel of a Bugatti whereas Dreyfus was at the wheel of a more recent Maserati 6CM. What were the real chances for the Mans winner to beat Dreyfus? In fact, they were poor. Journalists considered Dreyfus as the "nearly" Champion de France.

The other French drivers, except Raph, Dreyfus and Trémoulet were Jean Delorme (Bugatti T51A), Maurice Mestivier (Amilcar), Amédée Gordini (Simca Huit), Jean Breillet (Simca Huit), Francis Guérin (Bugatti) and Georges Grignard (Amilcar). Both Amilcars and Simcas were in the 1100cm3 category.

Yves Matra (Maserati) was on the entry list but did not come to La Baule. Jean-Pierre Wimille wanted to take part in the race but Alfa Romeo, his employer, did not want to. In this 1938 championship, the great driver only scored one point because he took part in just one race, the ACF Grand Prix.

However, the opposition was really strong with two drivers at the wheel of Maseratis: Armand Hug and Herbert Berg. There was also Secondo Corsi (Maserati) who tried a come back after some disappointing seasons from 1933 to 1935. Ettore Bianco, the 1937 Italian 1500cc champion, was also on the entry list but did not come to France.

It was nearly certain that the winner would be a Maserati driver, Dreyfus being the favourite. He confirmed his status during practice, setting the fastest time in 1’32’’8. He was followed by Hug (1’34’’0) and Berg (1’38’’0). Trémoulet was far away … whereas Raph suffered from piston trouble.

Now, the race: it started at 1:15pm under a grey sky. Fortunately it only rained after the race. As seen above, twelve drivers out of fourteen were on the starting grid. So, when the flag came down, Dreyfus, the poleman, was immediately well ahead, followed by Hug, Berg, Grignard, Raph, Trémoulet, Delorme and Mestivier. Raph retired on lap 2. Two laps later, Hug and Berg overtook Dreyfus who went into the pits with technical problems. He retired soon after and, consequently scored one point for the championship.

On lap 10, the classification was:
1° Hug (Maserati)
2° Berg (Maserati), + 33’’
3° Delorme (Bugatti), +2’40’’
4° Mestivier (Amilcar), +3’09’’ (he was only 9th on lap 1!)
5° Trémoulet (Bugatti), +3’10’’
6° Corsi (Maserati), +3’19’’
7° Grignard (Amilcar), +3’42’’
8° Gordini (Simca Huit), +3’52’’
9° Guérin (Bugatti), +4’02’’
10° Breillet (Simca Huit), +4’06’’

At this moment of the race Dreyfus was champion with 18 points and Trémoulet was second with 14 points. Trémoulet had to win but he was too slow and lost about 15’’-20’’ a lap over Hug. Hug was much faster than the others. At least, Trémoulet had the satisfaction of being in a beautiful and fair fight with Maurice Mestivier.

The track was not easy because the wheels of the cars were ploughing furrows in the sand. It was like a rail track! Thus, organizers had to displace each hairpin of the circuit every ten laps in order to allow drivers to drive on a smoother part of the beach.

However, on lap 29, Trémoulet had to retire because of engine trouble. The championship was done and Dreyfus officially became the 1938 Champion de France.

Hug finished one lap ahead of Berg and three laps ahead of Delorme. So, despite the retirements of Dreyfus, on lap 14, and of Trémoulet, the ranking did not much change until the end of the race. The 1100cc category was won by Maurice Mestivier and his Amilcar followed by Amédée Gordini, allowing him to take the La Baule Casino Cup home.

The only incident happened on lap 37, when Charles Faroux raised three fingers to inform drivers he had to put an end to the race on lap 40, instead of lap 50. Indeed, the tide was coming higher than initially planned. People who were watching the race from the beach now had their feet in the sea and had to leave. Parts of the sand track were getting wet. It was really time to stop.

One last detail, the first three fastest laps (Hug, Dreyfus and Berg) were made in the first three laps. This was due to the furrows ploughed in the sand, which were not too big at the beginning of the race. The more laps were raced, the slower the cars went.

Results:
1° Armand Hug (CH), (Maserati 4CM), 1h05’16’’ (avg. 110.317 kph)
2° Herbert Berg (D), (Maserati 6CM), - 1 lap
3° Jean Delorme (F), (Bugatti T51A), - 3 laps
4° Maurice Mestivier (F), (Amilcar), - 5 laps
5° Amédée Gordini (F), (Simca Huit), - 5 laps
6° Francis Guérin (F), (Bugatti), - 6 laps
7° Jean Breillet (F), (Simca Huit), - 6 laps
8° Secondo Corsi (I), (Maserati), - 6 laps
9° Georges Grignard (F), (Amilcar), - 7 laps

Did not finish:
Jean Trémoulet (F), (Bugatti), 29 laps (engine)
René Dreyfus (F),(Maserati), 15 laps (gearbox)
Raph (F),(Maserati), 2 laps (piston)

Fastest lap:
Armand Hug (CH), Maserati 4CM, in 1’39’’ (avg: 121,348 kph)

Championship after six races (Final classification):

    Pau Pic.

LeM

A.C.F.

LaT

LaB

TOTAL

1° R.Dreyfus Delahaye/Maserati

10

1

6

1

18

2° E.Chaboud Delahaye/SEFAC    

10

1

1

 

12

J.Trémoulet Delahaye/Bugatti    

10

 

1

1

12

4° G.Serraud Delahaye    

6

     

6

Y.Giraud-Cabantous Delahaye    

6

     

6

R.Sommer Alfa Romeo    

1

 

5

 

6

7° J.Prenant Talbot    

5

     

5

A.Morel Talbot    

5

     

5

L.Villeneuve Bugatti/Delahaye  

1

4

     

5

R.Carrière Talbot    

1

4

   

5

A.Gordini Simca Huit    

1

 

1

3

5

J.Delorme Bugatti          

5

5

« Raph »

Etc…
Maserati

4

       

1

5


Even if the Bol d’Or was taken into account, with Amédée Gordini taking victory there, Dreyfus would have been champion. But in this case, Gordini would have been second with 15 points. So, it could only be René Dreyfus!

Of course it is a pity that Sommer and Wimille did not seriously take part in this championship but Dreyfus really deserved the title. Moreover one can regret that some races were cancelled, the championship being less interesting. However, Dreyfus was the only driver to take two podiums (Pau and La Turbie) and take part in four races out of six of this small championship and consequently deserved to be Champion de France.

But if the 1937 championship was not as consistent as in 1938, the 1939 one was surely to be more interesting, as we are going to see in the third and final article about the pre-war French championships. But the 1939 season was also more frustrating…