LE MANS 24 HOURS 1928

16th - 17th June

33 starters 17 classitied finishers

This year 33 starters, reminiscent of 1923 execpt that there were fewer Freneh than foreign cars (17 as against 16). However, French representation was strong in the small cubie capcity classes, but only the single 3 litre Aries seemed to have any chance of outright victory. The 3 Traetas of J A Gregoire were not the only members of the front wheel brigade as both Alvises employed this form of propulsion. Wilh 4 Chryslers and a Stutz, the Amerieans had obviously come for outright vietory. Having their first taste of Le Mans were drivers whose names were more familiar to followers of grands prix, namely, Chiron, Birkin, Benoist (Robert) and Eyston. Woolf "Babe" Bamato, the "fastest diamond merehant in the world" led a team of three 4. 4 litre Bentleys. The hood era had come to an end. The main novelty was that for the first time there would be a true classifieation based on the greatest distanee. The 4. 9 litre American Stutz, designed by a Belgian engineer, Paul Bastien, and entrusted to the Freneh pairing of Bloch and Brisson, was well able to match the speed of the Bentleys. Such was the pace that just after the end of the first hour, the average speed was higher than the previous year's lap record! In fact, as the race wore on the marshals had to signal some of the Bentley Boys to keep to their line on Les Hunaudieres as the green cars gave the impression of balking. The Aries went out on lap 2 wilh a broken conneeting rod. Alter the Birkin . Chassagne Bentley had been delayed by a puncture and the Clement - Benjafield car eliminated (water leak) the U.S./ G.B. battle became more even. It went right down to the chequered flag, the final verdict going to the Bentley with the Stutz just behind! Bamato had proved himself a worthy team leader ; just what the famous English make needed, and was on his way to becoming the first man ever to win the race 3 times in succession.

CIRCUIT :

17,262 kms. A big efIort had been made to provide loudspeakers in the publie enclosures.

REGULATIONS :

Entry fee reductions calculated in relation to the date and number of entries. Obligation to race with raised hoods cancelled. Supereharging allowed. Creation of a general clasification entitled "Prize for the greatest distanee" wilh a new Rudge - Whitworth cup and eash prizes.

STARTERS :

33 ears 4 nations 23 makes

France : 1 ALPHI (Automobiles du Luart, Poniatowski, Houghardy Ingenieurs), 3 Aries, 1 B. N. C (Bollaek, Netter et Cie), 1 E. H. P (Ets Henri Preeloux), 1 Lombard, 2 S. A R A. s (Ste des Automobiles a Refroidissement par Alr), 2 Salmsons, 2 S. C. A P. s( Ste de Construetion Automobile de Pans), 3 Traetas.

Great Britain : 2 Alvises, 2 Aston Martins, 3 Bentleys, 3 Lagondas.

Italy : 2 Italas.

United States of Ameriea : 4 Chryslers, 1 Stutz.

SUMMARY:

The Marinoni - Ivanowski Alfa Romeo was refused at scrutineering being judged "too sporting looking" and "especially lacking in comfort"! Two of the Lagondas ran into each other at Mulsanne leading to Samuelson's irnmediate retirement. On lap 20, Birkin's Bentley had a puneture at Mulsanne, continued as far as Arnage where the tyre carne off the rim. Birkin legged it back to his pit and Chassagne, his team - mate, set off with the jack which had been forgotten. The whole operation cost the pair 3 hours and 23 places! For a long time pitstops dictated whieh car would lead in the battle between the Bentleys and the Stutz. Although out paced the Chryslers followed a steady rhythm behind the leaders. The best - placed Freneh car since the start was the Dore Trunet B. N. C. Fog added to the survivors hazards during Ihe night but did not seem to slow the leaders. Around midnight, the Clement - Benjafield Bentley gave up the ghost, but at midday the Bamato - Rubin Bentley and the Stutz were still almost neck and neck and all the records had been smashed. The final hours were the most testing as the Bentley's chassis was showing signs of fatigue and the car was smoking. But Barnato pushed on regardless. In the Stutz, Brisson and Bloch had only top gear left. At the last refuelling stop, the raee was still wide - open. Finally, Bamato and Rubin took the chequered flag just 12, 678 kms ahead of the black American car. It was their first and Bentley's third Le Mans success. In spite of going into the sand at Amage the B. N. C managed to head off the 2 litre Itala, but was unable to cateh the Harvey - Purdey Alvis which finished sixth winning the 1101 to 1500 ee class on the make's first Le Mans outing. The Casse - Rousseau Salmson again won the Index of Performance ahead of the E. H. P. For the sixth consecutive time a S. A. R A (1800 ees) was classified and all the front - wheel drive cars made it to the finish.

RECORDS :

Rather than the suppression of the "Raised hoods" comedy, it was the race - long battle which led to all the records being smashed : that of 24 hours on the open road , held by Lorraine Dietrieh, being beaten by both the Bentley and the Stutz. Covering 2669, 272 and 2656, 594 kms respectively the British and American cars averaged over 110 km/h. Out of the 17 classitied finishers, 13 including two 1100 cc cars, exeeeded 2000 km.;. The 1095 cc Salmson, winner of the Index of Performance, gave away only 1,092 kms to the 1923 winning 3 litre Chenard et Walcker, while the little 1099 ec B. N. C would have beaten the 3. 6 litre Lorraine Dietrieh, winner of the 1925 race, by 36.084 kms! As for the lap record which had already been lowered from 8'28" to 8'17" at the start, it was literally atomised by Birkin and his Bentley. In his climb back up the field frorn 24th to 5th place, the Englishman reduced it to 8'07", a speed of 127, 604 km/h, a net gain of 39" in a year! . These records still stand as never again would the long circuit be used.

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Author: ArchitectPage