LE MANS 24 HOURS 1937

19th - 20th June

48 starters 17 classified finishers

The A. C. F. 's decision to run its grand prix for sports cars in 1936 (due to the Gennan domination in single - seater racing ) was a shot in the arm for endurance competitions asall the major French manufacturers entered for the 1937 Le Mans race,the focal point of interest being the 2 massive "tanks" from Molsheim. These were in fact a pair of T 57 Bugattis with special streamlined coachwork. Talbot and Delabaye also entered, and for the lirst time in many years the vast majority of cars of 3 litres or over were French. In the 2 litre category French colours were carried by the Darlmat Peugeots. Chenard et Walcker were back with 2 cars. The tide was tuming and the last 2 victorious makes, Lagonda and Alfa Romeo, seemed outdated in relation to their French rivals. In addition , there was a tremendous resurgence of Gallic interest in the lower capacity dasses, mainly through Simca whose tiny 569 cc cars driven by Viale - Albert Alin and Adrien Alin - Querzola deserve their place in Le Mans history with the fonner winning its dass. The race however was a procession, as once Sommer had shot his bolt none of the other cars seemed capable of challenging the Bugattis. Indeed, by 18H30 Wimille and Benoist had lapped the whole field! It then becarne a question of by how much they would beat all the existing records provided that they lasted !he distance. Tragedy marred France's first victory for 11 years as 2 drivers were killed in an accident at Maison Elanche.

CIRCUIT :

13.462 kms. Continuation of the work begun in 1936 with new fencing installed at Arnage, Indianapolis and the Tertre Rouge Esses. Tbe access roads to the garages, tribunes and pits were widened. Tents made available to drivers and assistants.

REGULATIONS:

Official creation of a distance classilication per category. Handicap for supercharged engines increased from 40 to 60%. Fuel : still the 5 choices but Esso's turn to supply the competitors. A slight increase in the set distance per category varying from 1807, 692 kms = 75, 320 km/h for the 750 cc elasss to 2679,334 kms = 111, 688 km/h for the 6000 ce and over class.

STARTERS:

48 cars 5 nations 19 makes

France : 4 Bugattis, 2 Chenard et Walckers, 1 Delage, 7 Delahayes, 3 Peugeot 4Darl'mats, 5 Simca - Fiats, 2 Talbots. Gennany : 4 Adlers, 1 B. M. W.

Great Britain : 3 Aston Martins, 3 Austins, 2 Frazer Nashes, 1 H. R. G (Halford, Robins and Godfrey), 1 Lagonda, 1 M. G. , 2 Rileys, 4 Singers.

ltaly: 1 Alfa Romeo.

United States of America : 1 Ford

SUMMARY:

Tbe efforts made by the French manaufacturers put the country on a level footing with the foreign makes. Having already won the 1936 A. C. F Grand Prix Bugatti arrived with his unsupercharged tanks (a style reminiscent of the strange T 30s seen at Tours in 1923) and with Wimille and Benoist spearheading his attack left no doubt as to his ambitions. The second car was entrusted to Labric and Veyron as a reward for their fidelity to the make and on paper anyway, the Molsheim cars faced tough opposition. Ranged against them were 7 Delabayes, 2 Talbots and the 2.7 litre Alfa Romeo with special spyder coachwork by Touring of Milan. The main strength of the Delahayes lay in their reliability and the experience of their drivers indudlng the well- known Rene Dreyfus. In the Talbot camp were Louis Chiron, Luigi Chinetti and Raph. The only Delage entered was a splendid coupe for Louis Gerard marking his Le Mans debut. In the 2 litre dass, opposition to the Darl'mat Peugeots (a 302/402 mixture) carne from the strearnlined Adlers from Gennany and the B. M. W engined Frazer Nashes. If English domination was expected in the 1500 cc elass, the Simca - Fiats breathed on by Amedee Gordini provided strong opposition to the Singers and the M. G. in the 1100 cc dass. A small Chenard et Walcker, a direct descendant of the cars of the twenties, was entered by Giraud Cabantous and aman of some weight in the burly shape of Charles Rigoulot, a well - known weight lifter. There were 6 lady drivers, 4 of whom were English while Mme Itier (Anne Rose) courageously tearned up with a certain Fritz Huschke von Hanstein of whom more would be heard in the post - war years.

RECORDS:

All records (all circuits combined) were broken by the Bugatti. Wimille and Benoist improved the 4 year old distance record by 143,900 kms to 3287, 938 kms and the average speed to 136, 97 km/h, an increase of over 5 km/h. Fastest lap fell to Wimille in 5'13", a speed of 155, 179 km/h. Like Lagache - Leonard in 1923, Bamato and Rubin in 1928, Chineti in 1932, Nuvolari in 1933, Etancelin in 1934 and Fontes in 1935, Wimille also won on his Le Mans debut. As for Robert Benoist, the man who had given Delage its world grand prix title some 10 years earlier, he anounced his retirement on the evening of his Sarthe triumph putting an end to a career that had begun in cyelecars in the early twenties. He was executed by the Gestapo on 12th September 1944.

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