LE MANS 24 HOURS 1931

13th - 14th June

26 starters 6 classified finishers

1906 to 1931 : a Silver Wedding celebration for the A. C. O. The effects of the Great Depression were still being felt with only 26 starters but if quantity was lacking, quality was not the new decade saw the birth of a new era. Wile a Bentley, a Mercedes - Benz and a Lorraine were a reminder of the past, the pundits saw the future winners in the massively powerful 4. 9 litre Bugattis and the agile and elegant 2. 3 litre 8 C Alfa Romeos. Tim Birkin and Lord Howe played their cards right by betting on the lightness of the Alfa Romeo even if Ettore and Jean Bugatti seemed to have the best driver line-up with Chiron, Varzi, Divo, Conelli and Bouriat. With no works Bentleys! he English colours were flown by' a full team of Aston Martins. When the start was given by Georges Durand (a thoroughly deserved honour for his 25 years service to the club Raymond Sommer was quickest away in his Chrysler. Soon however, Chiron in his Bugatti took over the lead without being able to shake off Stoffel's Mercedes - Benz which fíni­shed the fírst hour in front. The Alfas split the Bugattis and had no problems keeping the pace. However, the speed, weight and sheer power of the cars from Molsheim were too much for their tyres, fírst Stoffel and then Chiron being obliged to stop to change their rubber. This let Marinoni into a lead the Alfas were never to lose. The American challenge had faded early and Rost’s accident at around 18H30 led to the withdrawal of the other 2 Bugattis, thus depriving the race of any further real suspense. In spite of having to wait for new tyres, Stoffel and

Ivanowski still reckoned that a victory was on the cards. Indeed, when Marinoni's Alfa went off at 6HOO on Sunday morning . The Mercedes - Benz found itself in second place but 7 laps behind the leaders, Birkin and Howe, in front since the tenth hour. Thanks to a car driven by 2 Englishmen, ltaly and Alfa Romeo savoured their fírst triumph as well as that of the fírst victory by a supercharged engine. It was the start of a glorious series for the cars from Portello.

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CIRCUIT :

16, 430 kms. as last year.

REGUlATIONS:

Yet another dislance change as these were now staggered between 1400 and 2600 kms. Only 5 official cubic capacity classes : under 1000 ccs, 1001 to 1500 ccs, 1501 to 2000 ccs, 2001 to 3000 ccs, over 3001 ccs. Competitors had a choice of fuel, namely, commercial tou­ring car fuel, benzol and a benzol/petrol mix­ture. Additives were allowed up to 2% of the overall volume of the fuel.

STARTERS:

26 cars 5 nations 14 makes

France: 1 B. N. C (Bollack, Netter et Cie), 6 Bugattis, 2 Cabans, 1 Lombard, 1 tLorraine Dietrich.

Germany : 1 Mercedes - Benz.

Great Britain : 1 Arrol Aster, 3 Aston Martins, 1 Bentley, 2 M. G. s, 2 Talbot (Darracqs.

ltaly : 2 Alfa Romeos.

United States of America : 2 Chryslers, 1 Stutz

SUMMARY:

The Alfa Romeos which were in fact, works entries under a private banner, had met their fírst problems on !he Milan - Le Mans road! No question of crossing the Alps by road so !he cars were transported by rail, transiting !hrough Switzerland and the Franche Comte. Another hitch was that the fuel did not suit the 8 cylinder engines of !he ltalian cars which had to be adapted to pure benzol. This led to the Campari - Minoia car being withdrawn but rumour had it that it blew its engine during practice. Ton Birkin did not have the time to paint his car in British Racing Green, while the T 50 Bugattis were dressed in a very appropriate black! Although the ltalian cars were less powerful than the Bugattis (a power output of some 145 bhp with the initial fuel being quoted), the Alfas designed by the great Vittorio Jano with their long chassis and Zagato coachwork, weighed little more than 1000 kgs and reached speeds of almost 200 km/h. In spite of their lightened Torpedo style bodies the Bugattis weighed just under 2000 kgs for a power output of 270 bhp! With their engine size increased to 2. 9 litres and a power output of some 135/140 bhp the Talbots represented a kind of happy medium and respected the spirit of "catalogue" models. The Bugatti setback due, according to an official communique, "to a cause independent of their construction", the American flop, the lack of preparation of certain entries and the forgetfulness of others (Mrs Sico and Mrs Mareus did not respect the refuelling inter­vals) resulted in a total number of 6 classifíed fínishers : a record which still stands today!

RECORDS:

Although comfortably in the lead well before half - distance, Birkin and Howe never lifted off fearing no doubt the possible come - back of the powerful Mercedes - Benz, thus !he English pairing broke all the records. For the fírst time in the history of the event the 3000 km barrier was breached and an ave­rage speed of 125 km/h attained . These would remain the outright records for circuit no. 2. Like the big Bentley in 1930, the Alfa Romeo pulled off the double winning the race outright as well as the Index of Performance. In his chase of the leaders, Ivanowski set the fastest lap in 7'02", a speed of 139, 334 km/h , not fast enough to beat Birkin's "Demon" effort of the previous year. The performance of the privately entered 6 cylinder Lorraine deserves a mention as the 6 year old car covered 218, 710 kms more than the Lorraine which triumphed in 1925.

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Sports Car Races

Targa Florio 1963

Sebring 1966

Stardust GP 1968

Le Mans 1930

Le Mans 1949

Le Mans 1950

Le Mans 1951

Le Mans 1952

Le Mans 1953

Le Mans 1954

Le Mans 1955

Le Mans 1956

Le Mans 1957

Le Mans 1958

Le Mans 1959

Le Mans 1960

Le Mans 1961

Le Mans 1962

Le Mans 1963

Le Mans 1964

Author: ArchitectPage

Speed Six Bentley
4.5 Litre Blower Bentley
Mercedes Benz SSK