XVI GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE FRANCE
Grand Circuit Permanent de Pau (F), 21 September 1930.
25 laps x 15,835 km (9.839 mi) = 395.88 km (246.0 mi)
Independent Etancelin victorious against all odds
by Hans Etzrodt
At the start of the 16th Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France there were 25 cars, 17 of which were Bugattis, two Peugeots, two Ford-Montiers, one La Perle, one Delage, one Ariès and one Bentley.
The two factory Bugattis of Williams and Bouriat/Chiron held the early lead of the 25 lap race around the new triangular high speed circuit outside Pau. When the factory cars were delayed at half
distance with tire and engine problems, Etancelin's independent Bugatti went into the lead, never to lose it again. Williams was the fastest driver, but succumbed to a broken engine. Birkin's 4.5-liter
Blower 4-seat Bentley was surprisingly quick and well driven into second place. Three private Bugattis of Zanelli, Czaykowski and de l'Espée followed with Sénéchal's 1.5-liter Delage in sixth place.
De Maleplane's Bugatti was seventh leading the two Peugeots of Stoffel and Ferrand followed by Laly in the Ariès.
The late Twenties had seen the big factory teams leave grand prix racing one after the other except Bugatti. The A.I.A.C.R. had introduced a fuel consumption formula for the 1929 grand prix races. This kind of formula
deterred constructors and organizers and only the Grands Prix de l'ACF and San Sebastian were held to this formula. For 1930, the A.I.A.C.R. stuck to the same unacceptable formula. In March of 1930 the French Automobile
Club published the regulations for their Grand Prix at Pau on September 21. No car was allowed to consume more than 14 kg fuel and oil over 100 km, otherwise the car would not be classified. The result was a fiasco
because by the beginning of June the ACF had not received a single entry for their race. The dilemma was attributed to the widespread dislike of the fuel consumption formula. The organizing committee of Pau, the Automobile
Club Basco-Béarnais, was seriously worried. The Sporting Commission of the ACF had no other alternative but to work out a new formula that no longer contained the offensive stipulation. The new regulations established a
free formula (libre) limited to racecars above 1100 cc and the September 21 date remained the same as had been set up in March. The racecars were divided into Group I (over 3000 cc), Group II (over 2000 cc up to 3000 cc),
Group III (over 1500 cc up to 2000 cc) and Group IV from 1100 to 1500 cc. The fastest car over 25 laps was to be the winner.
This meant that the European Grand Prix at Spa on 20 July was to be the only race held to the A.I.A.C.R. formula. The starting money for Pau had been set originally at 5,000 francs and was now lowered to 2,000 francs.
The ACF had made an open invitation to all racing drivers to participate. Simultaneously the largest French sport paper "L'Auto" published an appeal addressed to the French racing drivers. "The Grand Prix of France has
to take place and should rise again splendidly because of reasons of prestige in our own country towards the foreign countries. This should be in your personnel interest, which is so sincerely connected with the international
automobile sport. Do not hesitate to make a sacrifice and enter for this great race!"
The French drivers could not resist such language. By the sixth of August, they responded by entering a variety of 37 racing cars, most coming from independent Bugatti drivers. The change to formula libre had come too late
for foreign entries because the Italian companies were already committed to other major races in September.
The 15,835 km long triangular course outside Pau was completed just in time and had to be driven clockwise. It was named the Grand Circuit Permanent de Pau, but was then used only once for this 1930 event over 25 laps, a
total of 395.875 km. A great deal of hard labor had gone over many months into widening Route Nationale Number 117 and the Department Road Number D6, including a new tarmacadam surface. The start and finish area with
grandstand and pits was at the end of a dead straight section of RN117 from Ousse to Pau. After about 700 meters, instead of heading straight towards Pau, the course turned right at a sharp angle to the north onto another
straight of a section of D6 adjacent to the railroad line to Morlaas. At its end the road snaked through a series of six turns including the Morlaas S-turns ('Esses'?) . From here the course headed south through high speed
kinks until it met up again with RN117 at the village of Ousse, where it turned right onto a straight of over five kilometers straight to the finish line.
The total prize money of 250,000 francs was split as follows: the winner received 100,000 francs, second 40,000, third 30,000, fourth 15,000, fifth 10,000 and sixth 5,000 francs. Additionally there were prizes of 25,000
francs each for the winners of Group I and II.
Bugatti in Molsheim had planned to enter two of their new 2300 cc twin-cam T51s but since they were not yet ready the factory sent two regular proven T35Cs. There were no less than 17 Bugattis, T35B, T35C and T37A. Birkin's
start with the heavy Bentley was the only foreign entry. Despite the large number of 25 cars at the start, the French Grand Prix had lost its prestige since not only were some great foreign drivers missing, but also the
Group I (above 3000 cc) comprised six entries: Tim Birkin arrived from Great Britain with one of the Le Mans 4½-liter Bentley sports car with a four-seat body, but stripped by Chassagne of all the touring equipment.
Birkin was received with ridicule because of his unusually huge, truck-like sports car compared to the much smaller Bugattis. From Paris came Charles Montier with his son Ferdinand, both in 3.3-liter 4-cylinder Montier-Fords.
According to Motor Sport, the technical head of the Peugeot concern, M. Henry, entered two Peugeot racecars, which therefore may be regarded as a factory entry. These were two old 3950 cc sleeve-valve Peugeots 174S, for
René Ferrand and Henri Stoffel. Victor Rigal was reserve driver for both cars. Last of the large cars was Robert Laly who appeared with his old 3.3-liter Ariès.
Group II (above 2000 cc up to 3000 cc) consisted of four cars: Marcel Lehoux (Bugatti) with Philippe Etancelin as reserve, Juan Zanelli (Bugatti), Aristide Lumachi (Bugatti) and Guy Daniel (Bugatti) with André Boillot as
Group III (above 1500 cc up to 2000 cc) was made up of nine cars, all Bugattis: Guy Bouriat with Louis Chiron and Albert Divo as reserves, Count Stanislas Czaykowski, Jean de Maleplane, "Sabipa" Louis Charavel, Grimaldi,
Philippe Etancelin with Marcel Lehoux as reserve, Georges Delaroche, Max Founy, Williams and Jean de l'Espée.
Group IV (up to 1500 cc) included five entries: a totally unknown driver with a Bugatti T37A made his debut, Jean-Pierre Wimille, who was later to become the greatest driver of the forties. Robert Sénéchal arrived with a
3-year old grand prix winning car, one of the 1500cc 8-cylinder Delages. Finally there was Louis Casali in a supercharged 6-cylinder 1.5-liter La Perle, Jean Gaupillat (Bugatti) and Albert de Bondeli (Bugatti).
The American Babe Stapp, who two weeks earlier had raced unsuccessfully at Monza, withdrew his entry for Pau since his Duesenberg racecar was supposedly unsuitable for the road circuit of the French Grand Prix. Arthur
Duray, who had driven in the town-to-town-races back in 1902 and finished fourth in the 1930 European Grand Prix, did not appear with his Amilcar. There were an additional 10 drivers who did not appear for unstated reasons.
As of Wednesday before the race the drivers had practiced on the circuit but the roads were not totally closed with many curious onlookers present. Most tenacious were the Bugatti drivers Lehoux, Willians, Jean de l'Espée,
Zanelli and Czaykowski, also Birkin in the large Bentley. According to Philippe Etancelin's records from 'My Greatest Race,' as an independent driver, he did not have enough self-confidence to enter this prestigious
international event, where he expected to meet the greatest racing drivers of the day. But his wife convinced him otherwise and he entered his 2-liter Bugatti T35C.
During Thursday's practice, Etancelin had carried out fuel consumption tests. He also tried to impress the factory team with his speed and consequently broke his crankshaft and engine block by over-revving the engine on
the long straights. He called the factory, convincing Pierre Marco, Bugatti's Man Friday, to send new parts by plane. On the Saturday evening before the race, Etancelin picked up the correct parts at Biarritz aerodrome
and left the mechanics to work all night. Not only did they rebuild his engine and drove it in for 100 km the following morning, but they also changed the rear axle with one of a higher final drive to prevent the engine
from breaking up again.
During Friday practice, Stoffel blew a tire at the first road junction and Fourny skidded in the Morlaas S-turn without damage. The British motorcycle rider Jimmie Simpson on a Norton crashed at high speed during practice
with a bicycle rider who crossed the circuit illegally and who died the following day. Simpson survived the terrible crash.
Sunday morning arrived with wind and relentless rain, but the spectators rushed to the motorcycle races and suddenly the sun came out. At the start of the motorcycle Grand Prix, it had stopped raining. The sun was still
shining at the time of the Grand Prix for cars. From 37 entries, only 25 drivers appeared on the grid for the 25-lap race. The starting places in order of the racing numbers had been decided at the August allocation meeting,
placing the lowest number at the right of the first row for Casali's 1500 La Perle. The journalists cleared the starting area and moved to the press stand while the engines were cranked into life for the 2:00 PM start.
The flag was lowered, engines roared and Bouriat's Bugatti went past Czaykowski's car into the lead, Birkin's Bentley from row three made a slow start and Sénéchal's Delage, next to him, was delayed. His engine had stalled
and when cranking the starting handle did not help to get life in the engine, several enthusiasts rushed to the car to push-start 30 seconds later, but Sénéchal was not disqualified.
When the cars completed the first lap, it was Williams in the lead with a time of 6m41s; he had passed 18 cars ahead of him including his teammate Bouriat. The order behind them was Zanelli, Czaykowski, Etancelin, Birkin,
Sabipa, Lumachi, Fourny, Delaroche, Wimille and the rest. Sénéchal had already worked himself up to 15th place. Lehoux stopped right after the start with a broken transmission and walked back to the pits.
On lap two Williams in the lead made a new record lap of 6m15s, representing a speed of 152,016 km/h. Such speeds had not been seen before on a road circuit. Zanelli had passed Bouriat for second place, next came Etancelin
who had passed Czaykowski, followed by Birkin, Lumachi and Sénéchal who was already in eighth place from dead last.
Fourney and Delaroche retired both with engine problems. Williams increased his advantage during the following laps, while Czaykowski fell back and Lumachi retired with a broken crankshaft. Wimille walked back to the pits
after retiring with supercharger trouble. After five laps the leading cars were well spaced out and the order was as follows:
|1. Williams (Bugatti)||31m50s|
|2. Zanelli (Bugatti)||32m06s|
|3. Bouriat (Bugatti)||32m29s|
|4. Etancelin (Bugatti)||32m50s|
|5. Birkin (Bentley)||33m36s|
|6. Sénéchal (Delage)||34m54s|
|7. de l'Espée (Bugatti)||35m55s|
|8. de Maleplane (Bugatti)||?|
|9. de Bondeli (Bugatti)||?|
|10. Stoffel (Peugeot)||?|
On lap six, Bouriat, who was 40 seconds behind Williams, stopped and handed over to Chiron, the relief driver. (One can only wonder why Chiron didn't drive the whole race and not lose time with an unnecessary pit stop.)
Without losing third place, Chiron immediately worked himself towards the leading group. When Zanelli had to stop as well the French cloth merchant Etancelin inherited third place. Chiron had moved into second place and
Birkin was now fourth. Behind them Zanelli and Sénéchal battled for fifth place.
At the end of lap seven, Williams stopped to change a punctured front tire, which took 1m20s and dropped him to third place. Chiron now led the French Grand Prix, ahead of Etancelin, Williams, Birkin, Sénéchal and Zanelli
who was making up lost ground.
On lap nine, Chiron still held the lead but Williams established the fastest lap in 6m10s, a speed of 154.070 km/h. Just after this he stopped again, this time to change both rear tires. In their battle for the lead the
Bugatti works drivers tore up their tires losing precious time with their pit stops. Williams had fallen further behind and doubled his effort to make up the deficit.
After ten laps the order was as follows:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h04m35s|
|3. Williams (Bugatti)||1h05m28s|
|4. Birkin (Bentley)||1h05m55s|
|5. Zanelli (Bugatti)||1h07m54s|
|6. Sénéchal (Delage)||1h08m07s|
|7. de l'Espée (Bugatti)||1h09m17s|
|8. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||?|
|9. de Maleplane (Bugatti)||?|
|10. Stoffel (Peugeot)||?|
On lap 11, Sabipa, a pseudonym for the Parisian Louis Charavel, hit a pile of stones at the corner of Morlaas, causing his car to turn into the roadside ditch outside the corner on the return leg. His Bugatti rolled back
onto the right side of the road. Sabipa was ejected through the air and fell head first in the middle of the road with his head bleeding. Only with the greatest skill could the following two Peugeots avoid him. Sabipa
was very fortunate that he was not run over by the next car to arrive, the huge Bentley. Birkin said after the race that he could not brake in time and his wheels missed Charaval's head by less than two inches. Sabipa was
brought by ambulance to the hospital with slight head injuries. The following day Sabipa's wife met with Birkin to thank him and told him that her husband had been conscious the whole time and saw the wheels rushing by his
head. Despite his lacerated head, Sabipa was able to rise to his feet before the ambulance arrived.
On lap 12 a major change took place. Chiron, who had held the lead since lap seven, punctured a tire in the "S"-curves forcing him to drive slowly back to the pits to change one front wheel. This enabled the prudent
Etancelin, who was driving to save his tires, to take first place ahead of Birkin, Zanelli and Sénéchal.
Chiron stopped again the following lap when his Bugatti encountered oil pressure problems. Shortly thereafter Williams stopped once again after his three prior stops to change wheels, but this time he retired with engine
problems. Chiron had fallen back to fifth place but drove hard to catch up with the leading group.
After 15 laps Etancelin was still in the lead, 2m43s ahead of Zanelli who was followed by Birkin, Chiron, Sénéchal, de l'Espée, Czaykowski, Maleplane, Stoffel and Ferrand. Birkin, who was ahead of Chiron was an experienced
driver and blocked the Frenchman not letting him past. De l'Espée and Czaykowski were a lap down at this stage. After 15 laps the order was as follows:
|2. Zanelli (Bugatti)||1h39m58s|
|3. Birkin (Bentley)||1h41m07s|
|4. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h41m09s|
|5. Sénéchal (Delage)||1h43m12s|
|6. de l'Espée (Bugatti)||1h44m17s|
|7. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||1h45m30s|
|8. Maleplane (Bugatti)||?|
|9. de Stoffel (Peugeot)||?|
|10. Laly (Ariès)||?|
On lap 16, Chiron stopped at his pit and shook the hand of Bouriat, who then took over the Bugatti. Sénéchal was now fourth, ahead of Bouriat/Chiron and Czaykowski in sixth place.
On lap 19, Etancelin remained in the lead, followed by Zanelli who stopped for fuel and tires, which enabled Birkin to pass him into second place. The heavy Bentley was by far the fastest car in the race. The time Birkin
lost with his unwieldy car in the corners, he made up on the straights where he whistled through at a speed of 214 km/h compared to 210 km/h for the fastest Bugatti of Williams. Etancelin was 4m13s ahead of Birkin with
the race average speed at 146.416 km/h after 20 laps.
|3. Zanelli (Bugatti)||2h14m49s|
|4. Sénéchal (Delage)||?|
|5. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||?|
|7. de L'Espée (Bugatti)||?|
|8. de Maleplane (Bugatti)||?|
|9. Stoffel (Peugeot)||?|
|10. Laly (Ariès)||?|
On lap 21 Etancelin was 4m20s ahead of Birkin, who was followed by Zanelli. Sénéchal, whose car started to trail smoke from the engine bay, stopped at the pits and found an oil leak onto the hot exhaust. There was so much
smoke emitting from the car that it appeared to be on fire. The stop had cost Sénéchal fourth place, which was inherited by Czaykowski.
Etancelin drove the race of his life. He had not stopped during the race and would have lost it by a hair because he was almost out of fuel and had a worn clutch at the end. After completing lap 25, Etancelin crossed the
finish line as the victor, his clutch gave in and he had only one liter of fuel left in his tank. To the great applause of the giant crowd he was lifted out of his Bugatti. Etancelin, with a higher final drive rear axle,
had adopted a superior race strategy because before the race he had explained that he would not exceed a certain speed since it could endanger the tires. Birkin also did not stop during the race and finished second about
3 ½ minutes later. He said after the race that this French Grand Prix was his best race ever. Zanelli finished in third place and Czaykowski in fourth were still on the winner's lap. The other six finishers, de l'Espée,
Sénéchal, de Maleplane, Stoffel, Ferrand and Laly had been lapped at least once and kept racing to complete their 25 laps. Charles Montier, Grimaldi and Casali were not classified because they had fallen far behind and
were flagged off. From the 25 cars at the start, 15 retired, amongst them famous drivers like Chiron, Bouriat and Williams. The Bugatti of Bouriat and Chiron retired on the last lap without oil pressure due to an oil
leak. Bouriat and Chiron did not pay enough attention to their tires when they tried to make up lost ground. Their great miscalculation was that they used heavily profiled tires instead of the smooth covers used by Etancelin.
|1.||44||Philippe Etancelin||P. Etancelin||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||25||2h43m18.4s|
|2.||18||Tim Birkin||Captain H.R.S. Birkin||Bentley||UU 5871 ||4.8||S-4||25||2h46m44.6s|
|3.||32||Juan Zanelli||J. Zanelli||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||25||2h46m54.8s|
|4.||6||Stanisłas Czaykowski||Count S. Czaykowski||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||25||2h51m27.0s|
|5.||38||Jean de l'Espée||Baron J. de l'Espée||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||25||2h54m28.8s|
|6.||20||Robert Sénéchal||R. Sénéchal||Delage||15-S-8||1.5||S-8||25||2h56m28.6s|
|7.||28||Jean de Maleplane||J. de Maleplane ||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||25||3h00m58.0s|
|8.||48||Henri Stoffel||H. Stoffel||Peugeot||174S||4.0||S-4||25||3h01m06.2s|
|9.||74||René Ferrand||R. Ferrand||Peugeot||174S||4.0||S-4||25||3h09m08.4s|
|10.||72||Robert Laly||R. Laly||Ariès||3.3||S-4||25||3h21m19.2s|
|DNF||14||G. Bouriat/L. Chiron||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||24||engine|
|DNC||66||Charles Montier (father)||C. Montier||Ford-Montier||Speciale||3.3||S-4||21||flagged off|
|DNC|| 4||Louis Casali||L. Casali||La Perle ||Six||1.5||S-6||19||flagged off|
|DNF||42||Guy Daniel||G. Daniel||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||16|
|DNF||36||Albert de Bondeli||A. de Bondeli||Bugatti ||T37A||1.5||S-4||15|
|DNF||58||"Williams"||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||12||engine|
|DNF||54||Jean Gaupillat||J. Gaupillat||Bugatti ||T37A||1.5||S-4|| 7|
|DNF||30||Ferdinand Montier||F. Montier (son)||Ford-Montier||Speciale||3.3||S-4|| 4|
|DNF||64||Aristide Lumachi||A. Lumachi||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8|| 3||engine|
|DNF||16||Jean-Pierre Wimille||J.-P.Wimille||Bugatti ||T37A||1.5||S-4|| 2||supercharger|
|DNF||68||Max Fourny||M. Fourny||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8|| 2||engine|
|DNF||52||Georges Delaroche||G. Delaroche||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8|| 2||engine|
|DNF||10||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8|| 0||gearbox|
Fastest lap: "W.Williams" (Bugatti) on lap 9 in 6m10s = 154.070 km/h (95.739 mph) |
Winner's medium speed: 2h43m18.4s = 145.447 km/h (90.381 mph)
Weather: sunny, warm.
Group I (above 3000 cc) winner: Tim Birkin (Bentley) at 142.449 km/h (88.518 mph)
Group II (above 2000 cc up to 3000 cc) winner: Juan Zanelli (Bugatti) at 142.304 km/h (88.428 mph)
Group III (above 1500 cc up to 2000 cc) winner: Philippe Etancelin (Bugatti) at 145.447 km/h (90.381 mph)
Group IV (up to 1500 cc) winner: Robert Sénéchal (Delage) at 134.592 km/h (83.635 mph)
Minor differences were encountered in the final times of the results between the various sources, sometimes apart by seconds or even minutes. First, seventh and eighth places showed no variances.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona
La Vie Automobile, Paris
Motor Sport, London
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Special thanks to: