LE MANS 24 HOURS 1939

17th - 18th June

42 starters 20 classified finishers

Not just an era but a whole way of life was soon to come to an end as fue eompetilors wended their way to the Sarthe. A single T 57 Bugatti was back again to defend Molsheim colours, and ranged againsl it were 8 Delahayes, 6 Talbols, 3 of which were 4. 5 litre models , and a couple of Delages. Opposition to the Freneh cars was povided by Sommer and Prince Bira in a new Alfa and a pair of 4.5 litre Lagondas from the pen of W O Bentley watching over his charges like a worried molher hen! The 8 cylinder engine of tbe Bugatti was now supereharged and putting out at least 200 bhp for a speed of over 200 km/h. The "tank" style coachwork had been lightened and the car was entrusted to Jean - Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron. Powerwise the larger engined Talbols and the Lagondas had nothing to envy the Bugatti and any power disadvantage of the other front runners was compensated for by their lightness. This was confirmed in the first few laps as a battle for the lead raged between Chinetti's Talbot ahead of Dobson's Lagonda, Wimille's Bugatti, Gerard's Delage and Mazaud's Delahaye. The one car missing was the Alfa Romeo. Initially faulty ignition was blamed but in fact, the car was having problems digesting the fuel which led to its early retirement. Meanwhile up front Gerard (Delage) and Mazaud (Delahaye) were at each other's throats with Wimille being content to play a waiting game while fending off the Chinetti - Malhieson Talbot. There was no letting up as night fell with the Gerard - Monnerel Delage beginning to pull away pocketing 17 hourly bonuses in the process. Chinetti and Mazaud also tried to make up ground on the leader bul the Delahaye was eliminaled by a fire in the early morning, while the Talbot with Malhieson at the wheel went off when a tyre exploded. The Bugatti was suffering from tyre and wheel problems and even had to stop on Les Hunaudieres for a short time. The engine was also showing signs of over - heating and the car was running witbout its lower streamlining while in the pits, a sickly looking Wimille seemed resigned to a second place finish at best. At midday, 3 laps separated the Delage from the "tank". Botb Lagondas were still running but were not in a position to threalen the leaders. Around 13 H 00, tbe whole face of the race changed when the Delage came into its pit with a misfire. A new set of plugs failed to change the engine note, and in addition Monneret complained of having bunt feet. In fact, due to a couple of missing screws an exhaust joint had let go. But worse than this was the fact thal a valve spring had broken and under the eagle eyes of the marshals, there was no question of supplying one to Monnerel even if the part in question was hidden in a sandwich! The Delage got going again after a 40' stop but with 2200 rpm less, no question of a final sprint. Wimille and Veyron nursed their transmission in tbe closing stages but were still fast enough to beat the reeord set 2 years previously by the 57 G Bugatti.

CIRCUIT :

13.492 kms. Creation of a bank and public viewing zones from the pits up to the top of the hump preceding the Tertre Rouge Esses. Car parks and camping sites still being increased in size.

REGULATIONS:

No noteworthy changes but there was a joint iniative by the A C. O and the newspaper "Le Matin" to create 24 bonuses to be awarded to the leader at the end of each hour.

STARTERS:

42 cars 4 nations 15 makes

France : 1 Bugatti, 2 Delages, 8 Delahayes, 8 Simea - Fials, 6 Talbols

Germany: 1 Adler, 3 B. M. W. s

Greal Britain : 2 Aslon Martins, 1 H. R G. (Halford, Robins and Godfrey), 2 Lagondas, 2 M. G. s, 1 Morgan, 1 Riley, 3 Singers.

ltaly: 1 Alfa Romeo.

SUMMARY:

In spite of the withdrawal of an Alfa Romeo, an Atalanta and an Adler Coupe there were still 20 cars capable of winning. This was due in part to the A C. F. s decision to privilege sports cars even if the French Grand Prix was now back on the international calendar in spite of there being no competitive French teams. The manufacturers had however taken advantage of the A, C, F decision to design and build a range of very competitive sports cars that raced in events like the Mille Miglia, tbe Tourist Trophy (won by Gerard's Delage in 1938) and of course Le Mans. Scrutineering saw a certain amount of nail biting when the Alfa Romeo which Sommer was to share with Prince Bira was late in arriving. As always it came by road but finally the beauliful drop - head coupe designed by Touring made it in the nick of time. If the struggle for outright victory monopolised the spectators interest, there were otber fascinating confrontations all down the field. In the 2 litre class a single Aston Martin was opposed to 3 B. M. W. s one of which was a lovely coupe also by Touring. The 1500 cc category was the scene of yet another Anglo - Germanic duel with an H R G and an Aston against a streamlined Adler. Next step down saw 6 Simca 8s, induding the pretty little open 2 seater reserved by Gordini for himself, against M. G and Singer. Finally, in tbe smallest class of all, the objective of the 2 Simca 5s was to exceed 2000 kms whieh the Alin brothers car just failed to do by 532 metres! The pace was too much for the majority of the Delahayes and all the Talbots but when the times were sorted out, apart from Mazaud and Chinetti eliminaled by fire and accident respectively, it was the neither the quickest nor the fieriest who had to capitulate. Right, Louis Gerard ?

RECORDS:

In spite of the Delage's problems and the comparatively slow final laps of tbe Bugatti all the existing records were smashed. Part of the reason for this was the improvement in aerodynamics as well as much lighter cars. It was true at every level induding the lowest as proved by Gordini. The use of aluminium played a role but again one had to know how to work it. The figures speak for themselves. Wimille and Veyron in their supercharged Bugatti covered 3354.760 kms ( 66, 882 kms more tban in 1937) at an average speed of 139,781 km/h, and no fewer than 8 cars including two 2 litre B. M. W. s exceeded 3000 kms while the 1100 cc Simca of Gordini and Scarron, winners of the Index of Performance, averaged 120 km/h. Mazaud set a new lap record in 5'12"1, a speed of 155, 627 km/h. The 1939 Le Mans 24 Hour race was an eloquent demonstration of the health of the Freneh motor industry, in particular, Bugatti, Delahaye, Delage, Talbot and Simca. It would be 11 long years before these records would be beaten as humanity was on the point of engaging in another bout of mass slaughtering.

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Le Mans 1930

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Author: ArchitectPage

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