LE MANS 24 HOURS 1938

18th - 19th June

42 starters 15 classified finishers

This year there were no Bugattis and the spearhead of the French attack came from 7 Delahayes, 2 of which were the type 145 cars wi!h 4. 5 litre V12 engines entered by the Ecurie Eleue, 6 Talbots made up of five 4 litre models and a 4.5 litre car entrusted to former winners, Chinetti and Etancelin, plus a 3 litre Delage driven by Louis Gerard and De Valence. The only opposition to the French cars came trom a single Alta Romeo, an 8C 2900 B coupe with 2 stage supercharging and streamlined coachwork by Touring entrusted to Raymond Sommer and Clemente Biondetti. This beautiful red car was powered by an engine dosely derived trom fhe 308 grand prix model and put out at least 230 bhp. The big Delahayes were also thinly disguised grand prix cars as earlier that year, Rene' Dreyfus had defeated Caracciola's Mercedes - Benz in the Pau GP in an off - set single - seater version of the type 145. If Sommer made abad start allowing the 4. 5 litre Delahayes to hit Les Hunaudieres in tront , he soon took over the lead, and for 18 hours the Alfa showed a dean pair of heels to its French pursuers. The pace soon proved too much for !he big Delahayes as the Comotti - Divo car's gearbox cried enough while Dreyfus and Chiron retired because of overheating at Tertre Rouge on lap 22. Etancelin took up the chase and managed to pass the Alta, was repassed but got ahead again before a valve blew on the blue Talbot. Thus, as night fell everything looked roses for the Alta for its main rivals had been eliminated. At half - distance, the red coupe had a 5 lap lead and by Sunday moming this had been doubled. With the retirement of the second - placed Talbot of Trevoux - "Levegh", Sommer and Biondetti found themselves 13 soon to become 14 laps (188, 888 kms ) ahead of the Chaboud - Tremoulet Delahaye. The Italian car looked set to give Alta Romeo their fifth Le Mans victory but it suddenly went all wrong on Les Hunaudieres when the front right - hand tyre blew. Sommer's skill managed to keep the car on the road and he crawled back to his pit where the wheel was changed, Biondetti taking over Two laps later the car ground to a halt at Amage with a seized engine. Sommer in his attempts to keep the Alfa on the road had darnaged the transmission and an oilline had let go. Thus, Chaboud and Tremoulet found themselves in an unexpected first place with a very sick Delahaye. They had only top gear left ; the exhaust had just broken and the fuel tank cap had disappeared, a potentially disqualitiable offence. The Delahaye showed proof of its solidity and rolled on to the chequered flag followed by the sister car of Serraud and Giraud Cabantous which had a split fuel tank! Into third carne the pretty Talbot Coupe of Prenant - Morel with fourth and fifth falling to another Delahaye and the sole remaining Peugeot. Never before had 5 French cars finished in the first 5 places! Since the creation of a proper classitication in 1928. In addition, the Peugeot had extracted its revenge on the Adlers in the 1501 to 2000 cc dass while a Simca 5 had triumphed in the Index of Performance. Finally, the highest placed English car (8th) was a Singer driven by a French pair, the Savoye Brothers.

CIRCUIT :

13.492. The track was widened in tront of !he pits and on the exit of !he main comers. New surface. Appearance of the famous starting circles along the fences opposite the pits. Marking of the edges of the track generalised. A big improvement in the access facilities thanks to increased police surveillance set up well beyond the approaches to the town and circuit.

REGULATIONS:

No major changes.

STARTERS:

42 cars 4 nations 15 makes

France : 1 Amilcar, 1 Delage, 7 Delahayes, 3 Peugeot Darl'mats, 10 Simca Fiats, 6 Talbots. Germany : 2 Adlers.

Great Britain : 1 Aston Martin, 1 Atalanta, 1 H. R. G (Halford, Robins and Godfrey), 2 M. G. s, 1 Morgan, 2 Rileys, 2 Singers.

Ita1y : 2 Alfa Romeos.

SUMMARY:

The lack of British cars was even more noticeable this year, especially in the small cubic capacity classes where out of 10 entries 4 were British cars driven by continentals. The 2 type 145 Delahayes were entered by Ecurie Bleue owned by Lucy and Laury Schell (parents of Harry). Rene Dreyfus, their no.1 driver was the man who had won the "Million" in 1937 (a competition organised at Montlhery whereby a car had to average 146 km/h for 16 laps) and the Pau Grand Prix as already mentioned. In the up to 1500 cc dass was a very exotic but alas fugitive British built Atalanta. In the Darl'mat the Peugeot engine supplied between 80 and 85 bhp. Unfortunately, due to having moditied their settings between practice and the race 2 of the three 402DSs went out with blown cylinderhead gaskets. Gordini and Scarron in their 1100 cc Simca looked well set for victory in the Index of Performance until their retirement but were compensated as first place in this category fell to the Aime - Plantivaux Simca Cinq.

RECORDS:

At midnight the Alfa Romeo was already 3 laps ahead in relation to the average of the 1937 winning Bugatti, but the relatively slow pace at the end of the race tinally left the 1937 records unbeaten as on the finishing line the Delahaye was some 106, 998 kms down on the T 57's distance. With a lap in 5'13"8, a speed of 154, 783 km/h, Sommer failed to beat Wimille's 1937 record by 8/10". The Simca Cinq of Aime - Plantivaux covered 2042, 769 kms at 85, 114 km/h, only 34, kms fewer than the 1924 winning Bentle, As the Singer of the Savoye brothers won the 751 to 1100 cc dass and the Morgan finshed on its first appearance, the Paris importer of these cars had double cause for rejoicing!

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Author: ArchitectPage

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