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Benoist (Delage)Bourlier (Delage)Morel (Delage)

GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE FRANCE

Linas-Montlhéry - Paris (F), 3 July 1927.
48 laps x 12.5 km (7.77 mi) = 600 km (372.8 mi)



No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2George EystonF. HalfordHalfordSpecial1.5S-6
4Albert Divo / Jules MoriceauAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-8
6Robert Benoist / Robert SénéchalAutomobiles DelageDelage 15 S 8 19271.5S-8
8André Dubonnet / Caberto ConelliAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT39A1.5S-8DNS - did not start
10"Williams" / Jules MoriceauAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-8
12Edmond Bourlier / Robert SénéchalAutomobiles DelageDelage 15 S 8 19271.5S-8
14Emilio Materassi / Caberto ConelliAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT39A1.5S-8DNS - did not start
16Louis Wagner / Jules MoriceauAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-8
18André Morel / Robert SénéchalAutomobiles DelageDelage 15 S 8 19271.5S-8
20Jules Goux / Meo CostantiniAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT39A1.5S-8 DNS - did not start

Note: Drivers are shown with the nominated relief driver


Benoist wins the French Grand Prix for the second time

by Hans Etzrodt
The 13th Grand Prix of the A. C. de France promised to become a giant battle between Talbot, Bugatti and Delage. When Bugatti withdrew in fear of defeat just before the start, there were only seven cars left to race. Only manufacturers were allowed to enter with cars conforming to the 1500 formula. Divo in the Talbot led initially but from the fourth lap on, Benoist in the faster Delage took the lead and held it to the end of the race. Divo continued to be his closest opponent until he retired on lap 23. Thereafter the two Delages of Benoist and Bourlier led with the Talbot of Wagner third. When Wagner retired near the end after lap 42, the Delages of Benoist, Bourlier and Morel finished in a hat trick while the third Talbot of Williams/Moriceau ended up fourth. The Halford of Eyston was not only the slowest car but was also handicapped by numerous pit stops, was flagged off many laps behind and was not classified.
The Automobile Club de France announced that in 1927 three races were to be held, the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F., the Coupe de la Commission sportive, and La Course Formula Libre. The Formula Libre race and the race for the Cup of the Sporting Commission took place on Saturday before the Grand Prix which was staged on Sunday. It was the second event counting towards the 1927 World Championship and was run to the International 1500 cc formula. It took place on the 12.5 km Linas-Montlhéry circuit over 48 laps, a total of 600 km. The prize money provided the winner with 100,000 francs, second 50,000 and third 20,000.
      The formula libre race on Saturday morning over 10 laps of the 12.5 km circuit was won by Albert Divo with the 1500 Grand Prix Talbot in 1h2m20.4s at 120.307 km/h beating the large Bugattis of Chiron and Eyston. Sadly Gérard de Courcelles died when his Guyot race car shattered to pieces when it hit a tree in the rain. The 400 km race for the Cup of the Sporting Commission was held in the afternoon rain to a special fuel consumption formula and was won by André Boillot in 3h53m21.2s at102.848 km/h with a specially designed 2500 Peugeot.
Entries:
The ACF received a total of just 10 entries from four manufacturers. The Halford-Special was the first entry, followed by 3 cars each from Talbot and Delage. Bugatti, the World Champion marque of 1926 arrived the night before Friday practice. With only 100,000 francs for the victory, Americans showed no interest in taking part probably because the prize money offered did not justify the high shipping cost from America. For this reason the entry was rather small but better than the mere 3 cars in the 1926 race.
      At the beginning of June the starting order had been determined by drawing lots. Uneven numbers were omitted to avoid the ominous number 13. The cars were weighed on Thursday afternoon before the race with 750 kg the allowable minimum weight. There were ten cars: #2 Halford, weighed in at 752 kg, to be driven by George Eyston; #4 Talbot I weighed 810 kg to be driven by Albert Divo with Jules Moriceau as reserve driver; #6 Delage I was 810 kg with Robert Benoist as driver and Robert Sénéchal reserve; #8 Bugatti I was 750 kg, driven by André Dubonnet with Caberto Conelli as reserve; #10 Talbot II was 803 kg with "Williams" as driver and Moriceau as reserve; #12 Delage II was 797 kg, driven by Edmond Bourlier and Sénéchal the reserve; #14 Bugatti II was 750 kg with Emilio Materassi as driver and Conelli reserve; #16 Talbot III was 856 kg, driven by Louis Wagner with Moriceau as reserve; #18 Delage III was 812 kg, driven by André Morel and Sénéchal the team's reserve; #20 Bugatti III was 750 kg with Jules Goux as driver and Meo Costantini the reserve driver.
      It is amazing that all three Bugattis weighed exactly 750 kg, the minimum weight. It sounds very fishy and we will look at that issue at the end of this report.
      The Talbots appeared with improved brakes and axles from the 1926 car and had a different look with the oil cooler now below the radiator. The cars were made lighter and faster but their racing team was near its end because of financial problems. The French Grand Prix would be their last contest as a factory team. The Delages were very much altered versions of their 1926 type, also with new brakes, a redesigned engine, improved supercharging, lowered body work and improved reliability. The 1927 Bugatti 8-cylinder T39A was much the same as their 1926 World Championship winning car but was now outclassed on the faster circuits. The 6-cylinder Halford-Special was too slow and unreliable to be considered a threat to their rivals.
Race:
A large crowd, estimated at around 100.000 attended the race. Never before since its existence had the circuit experienced such a great number of spectators. Before the start there was great activity on the track and in the pits. Mechanics attended to the cars and the drivers got ready. Everyone was looking for the Bugatti race cars, but they were not seen. Soon, the loudspeakers were put into action and announced the presence in the pits of the American Atlantic aviators Chamberlin and Levine, the latter acting as the starter.
      It was in vain to wait for the Bugatti. The manufacturer from Molsheim was not satisfied with the practice results on Friday and with the additional practice until 9:30 PM. Ettore Bugatti feared that he might lose the race and when his decision not to start was announced shortly before the start through the loudspeaker system, the crowd responded with mocking whistles, booing and yelling. Ettore Bugatti said that his cars were not "au point" and he does not want to take part in a race where he did not have a good chance of winning. In making this decision, he repeated what Delage and Talbot had done in 1926. We did not have sufficient time to prepare ourselves but we will return. The decision was a great disappointment, because everyone would have liked to see last year's winner go to battle with the improved Delages and Talbots. Without Bugatti, the seven cars lined up as follows:
Pole Position
6
Benoist

Delage

4
Divo

Talbot

2
Eyston

Halford

12
Bourlier

Delage

10
Williams

Talbot

18
Morel

Delage

16
Wagner

Talbot

At 1:30 PM the Atlantic Ocean flyer Levine, who acted as starter, dropped the Tricolour when Divo immediately took the lead with Benoist on his heels, while Wagner in the other Talbot was delayed on the grid for more than four minutes because his car refused to start. When Wagner finally left with deafening din, the spectators broke out in loud shouts of enthusiasm. After a short time a dull rumble announced the returning cars from their first lap, headed by Divo, Benoist and Williams in a close group, followed after nine seconds by the two Delages of Bourlier and Morel with Eyston's Halford one minute later and Wagner's Talbot much further behind. Divo was leading at an average speed of 122.950 km/h with the field in the following order after the first lap:
1.Divo (Talbot)6m06s
2.Benoist (Delage)6m08s
3.Williams (Talbot)6m10s
4.Bourlier (Delage)6m19s
5.Morel (Delage)6m20s
6.Eyston (Halford)7m21s
7.Wagner (Talbot)11m02s

On the second lap Divo, the French Champion, drove a fast lap in 5m57s at an average speed of 126.050 km/h. On lap 4 Benoist succeeded in passing Divo, while Williams passed his teammate for second place and Wagner in the third Talbot drove a lap in 5m56s which enabled him to overhaul Eyston. Benoist drove a new fast lap in 5m55s and was leading with an average speed of 125.348 km/h with the field in this order after 4 laps:
1.Benoist (Delage)23m56s
2.Williams (Talbot)24m05s
3.Divo (Talbot)24m06s
4.Bourlier (Delage)24m28s
5.Morel (Delage)24m31s
6.Wagner (Talbot)28m53s
7.Eyston (Halford)29m07s1 lap behind

On lap five Eyston stopped at his pit for 8m50s to change spark plugs. Williams, who tried to get past Benoist on lap 5, drove a new fast lap in 5m44s at 130.813 km/h average speed. At the end of lap 5 Benoist still held first place in 29m41s at 126.333 km/h average speed ahead of Williams (Talbot) in 29m49s with Divo (Talbot) 30m06s in third place, followed by Bourlier (Delage), Morel (Delage), Wagner (Talbot) and Eyston (Halford).
      On lap 8 Benoist drove a lap in 5m43s, on lap 9 a faster lap in 5m42s and on lap 10 even faster in 5m41s at 131.964 km/h, establishing a new lap record for the Linas-Montlhéry circuit. After 9 laps Williams stopped at his pit for 6m11s to work on the fuel pump to cure a fuel feed problem and to change all four wheels. The stop dropped him from second place to sixth, one lap behind the leader, while Wagner advanced to fifth place. Benoist was leading at 128.571 km/h average speed with the field in this slightly changed order after 10 laps:
1.Benoist (Delage)58m20s
2.Divo (Talbot)59m59s
3.Bourlier (Delage)1h00m44s
4.Morel (Delage)1h01m05s
5.Wagner (Talbot)1h04m42s1 lap behind
6.Williams (Talbot)1h05m44s1 lap behind
7.Eyston (Halford)3 laps behind

After lap 11 Morel stopped his Delage at the pit for 3m18s. He had also encountered fuel feed problems and changed tires on the right side which dropped him further behind and elevated the steady Wagner to fourth. Eyston continued to fall further behind since he had to stop at his pit every two or three laps to have this or that repaired. Benoist was still in the lead with an average speed of 128.909 km/h after 12 laps.
1.Benoist (Delage)1h09m49s
2.Divo (Talbot)1h11m49s
3.Bourlier (Delage)1h13m00s
4.Wagner (Talbot)1h16m40s1 lap behind
5.Williams (Talbot)1h17m14s1 lap behind
6.Morel (Delage)1h18m52s1 lap behind
7.Eyston (Halford)1h46m26s6 laps behind

Morel stopped on lap 14 for 1m50s to change the left tires and one spark plug. Benoist finished the 15 laps in 1h27m at 129.310 km/h average speed, leading Divo by 1m25 s with Bourlier 1m49s further back. Eyston stopped again changing spark plugs in 7m10s. On lap 16 Morel spun completely around at Bailleau but carried on undisturbed. On lap 18 Williams stopped once more since he experienced fuel feed problems, same as Morel had with his car, and had them check the fuel system which took 2m30s. After 250 km, Benoist's average speed had gone up to 129.459 km/h with the field in the following order after 20 laps:
1.Benoist (Delage)1h55m52s
2.Divo (Talbot)1h59m14s
3.Bourlier (Delage)2h01m58s
4.Wagner (Talbot)1 lap behind
5.Williams (Talbot)2 laps behind
6.Morel (Delage)2 laps behind
7.Eyston (Halford)7 laps behind

After 20 laps Bourlier stopped his Delage for 2m30s to refuel and change two wheels and spark plugs. On lap 21 Eyston stopped for 8m33s to change plugs. After 22 laps Divo stopped at the pits for 3m50s to replace a punctured tire and was passed by Bourlier. On lap 23 Divo headed for the pits again but after a brief stop the Talbot refused to start. After changing all spark plugs which did not cure the problem his mechanic push-started the car in wide circles on the large concrete expanse in front of the pits. When this failed, Divo retired. The loudspeakers announced that the car had a broken valve but other sources stated it was a broken supercharger. The race as such was now over since the third Talbot of Wagner was not fast enough to threaten the two Delages ahead of him. But he was only 18 seconds behind Bourlier. Any slight slip by Bourlier or a problem with his car and Wagner would have been in second place. On lap 24 Benoist stopped at the pits to refuel and to change four wheels in 2m28s. After 24 laps Benoist led at 129.511 km/h average speed with no further changes in the order after 24 laps.
1.Benoist (Delage)2h18m59s
2.Bourlier (Delage)2h29m01s1 lap behind
3.Wagner (Talbot)2h29m19s1 lap behind
4.Morel (Delage)2h36m21s3 laps behind
5.Williams (Talbot)2h56m12s4 laps behind
6.Eyston (Halford)3h32m18s12 laps behind

Benoist completed lap 25 in 2h24m52s at 129.429 km/h average speed, followed by Bourlier after he stopped for nearly nine minutes to refuel and change four wheels. Wagner made several pit stops without losing his third position but in the process, he dropped another lap behind. On lap 25 he refueled in 3m40s, and on lap 26 he replenished his water in 2m15s. According to William Boddy the engine was overheating because a water hose had become detached. The engine recovered fully, but too late. Wagner stopped a third time on lap 27 for 2m20s to replace plugs. On lap 29 Williams stopped for 3m35s to change four wheels, he then handed the car over to Moriceau, his nominated relief driver. Eyston had to stop at his pit for a long time to tighten the lower body shell which was dragging on the ground. After 24 laps, Morel had been seven minutes and two laps behind Wagner, but as a result of Wagner's pit stops, six laps later Morel was now on the same lap and only a little over a minute in arrears. Benoist held a comfortable lead at 126.274 km/h average speed with the field in the following order after 30 laps:
1.Benoist (Delage)2h58m11s
2.Bourlier (Delage)3h05m14s1 lap behind
3.Wagner (Talbot)3h15m05s2 laps behind
4.Morel (Delage)3h16m21s2 laps behind
5.Moriceau (Talbot)3h36m00s6 laps behind
6.Eyston (Halford)12 laps behind

At the end of lap 31 Benoist who had just equaled his record lap of 5m41s, stopped for 1m20s at his pit to replace a spark plug and fill up with fuel. Morel headed to his pit on lap 36 to refuel in 2m15s. On lap 40 he stopped again for 45s to attend to his fuel problem. After 400 km Benoist held a comfortable lead in 3h58m10s at 125.962 km/h average speed with the field in the same order after 40 laps. Bourlier was second one lap behind, followed by Wagner and Morel both two laps behind with Moriceau in fifth place six laps behind and Eyston last 12 laps behind.
      Wagner was third when he completed 42 laps in 4h29m11s and then went missing. He had stopped somewhere on the track and could not restart his Talbot because of a magneto failure and he had to retire. The three Delages were now in the lead. Morel stopped once more for fuel on lap 44 for one minute. The race continued unchanged until lap 45.
      The race ended without any further position changes and was a total success for Delage. When the fourth car, Moriceau in the Talbot crossed the finish line, the 1000 hp Sunbeam record car was made ready for a short demonstration run around the concrete oval. Benoist had won the race in a new record time and established a new circuit record of 5m41s at 132 km/h beating the fastest times driven by the 2-liter formula cars. This was Robert Benoist's second victory in the French Grand Prix after winning this classic race in 1925. Benoist drove a lap of honor. He won 100,000 francs and the prize for fastest lap, Bourlier won 50,000 and Morel 20,000. A nice gesture was applauded when Benoist, Bourlier, and Morel, their arms loaded with flowers that they had received for their victory, departed in a touring car and went to deposit the flowers at the places where Courselles and Antonio Ascari had met their deaths.

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.6Robert BenoistAutomobiles DelageDelage15 S 8 19271.5S-8484h45m41.2s
2.12Edmond BourlierAutomobiles DelageDelage15 S 8 19271.5S-8484h53m55.6s + 8m14.4s
3.18André MorelAutomobiles DelageDelage15 S 8 19271.5S-8485h11m31.4s + 25m50.2s
4.10"Williams"/J. MoriceauAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-8465h24m30.0s + 38m48.8s
DNF16Louis WagnerAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-842magneto
DNC2George EystonF. HalfordHalfordSpecial1.5S-632flagged off
DNF4Albert DivoAutomobiles TalbotTalbot1.5S-823broken valve
Fastest lap Robert Benoist (Delage) on lap 9 in 5m41s at 132.0 km/h (82.0 mph).
Winner's speed: 126.0 km/h (78.3 mph).
Weather: overcast and dry.
In retrospect:
The French Grand Prix was the second round of the 1927 World Championship. It was won by Delage who received one point for their first car. The best Talbot finished in fourth place receiving four points, while Halford received 5 points. All three makes, Delage, Talbot and Halford had already received six points each because they did not contest the Indianapolis 500, which was won by Duesenberg ahead of Miller. (That race was not run to the exact same formula regulations but the engine size was the same.)
      After the French Grand Prix, Duesenberg and Delage were leading the World Championship each with 7 points, ahead of Miller with 8 points, followed by Talbot 10 points and Halford 11 points. Bugatti, who won the 1926 World Championship, did not contest the first two events and would have 12 points.

Bugatti: In order to take part in the race the cars had to weigh a minimum of 750 kg. The official weighing took place on the Thursday before the race and according to Friday's newspapers all of the cars passed the test. Bugatti was lightest at 750 kg and Wagner's Talbot was heaviest at 856 kg. While all the other cars varied in weight, the three Bugattis were precisely the same weight, which stretches the imagination, and this also happened to be the lowest permissible weight, exactly 750 kg. The explanation is simple. The Bugattis were not weighed on Thursday as they did not arrive at the circuit until Thursday evening, long after the weighing session had closed. That still leaves the question, 'Why did the officials provide the press with false information?'
      The second example also involves Bugatti, the press and the officials. It is not known when Bugatti informed the officials of the decision to withdraw from the event. The race previews in Sunday's newspapers (Le Matin, La Presse, Le Figaro) contained no hint of the withdrawal, the Bugattis were still listed among the starting field. It should be mentioned that this was certainly not an inconsequential decision as Bugatti was the current World Champion marque and the winner of the previous year's French Grand Prix. The withdrawal also reduced the field to only seven cars. But as far as the public was concerned, Bugatti would be taking part as planned. Even in the grandstands, it wasn't until just before the start of the race that the loudspeakers announced that the three Bugattis would not compete.
      A record crowd of about 100,000 came to the event. Presumably if the absence of Bugatti had been widely known beforehand, that number would have been considerably smaller......and with it the gate money too. It is said that 'silence is golden'.

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Automobil Motorsport (Budapest)
AUTOMOBIL-REVUE, Bern
Automobil-Welt, Berlin
L'AUTO, Paris
La Presse, Paris
La Vie Automobile, Paris
Le Figaro, Paris
Le Matin, Paris
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Omnia, Paris
Special thanks to:
Tony Kaye


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© 2017 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 27.01.2017