XVII GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE FRANCE
Linas-Montlhéry - Paris (F), 21 June 1931.
10 hours race on a 12.5 km (7.77 mi) circuit.
Chiron and Varzi with Bugatti win the French Grand Prix
by Hans Etzrodt
The seventeenth Grand Prix of the AC de France was run to the 10-Hour International Formula and was the second race of the 1931 European Championship, demanding two drivers per car. Three strong official factory teams
from Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and Maserati provided the main battle. The early leader was Fagioli in the 2800 Maserati until Chiron in the twin-cam Bugatti passed him. After one hour, Fagioli was again in first place next
came Chiron, Dreyfus, Divo, Williams, Lehoux and Campari, the fastest of the 2300 Alfa Romeo drivers, in seventh place. For the first time since WW I, there was a German entry in the French Grand Prix, the independent
team of Caracciola/Merz in a huge Mercedes-Benz. They held eighth place after the first lap; then fell back to 13th before retiring later. The Dreyfus/Ghersi pair twice held second place, but maintained third position
during most of the first half of the race.
Out of 23 starters only 12 finished the long race. The independent drivers were the first to retire. Dunfee (Sunbeam) broke down at the start. Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz) and Lehoux (Bugatti) disappeared before the the
second hour ended. Scott's 1920's Delage broke down during the third hour to be followed by the Caracciola/Merz Mercedes-Benz in the fourth hour. The first factory car to retire was Fagioli/E.Maserati with the 2800
Maserati during the fifth hour. Five Bugattis retired over the next laps, all caused by mechanical failures.
Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti) dominated the race and won three laps ahead of Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) and five laps in front of Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati). Birkin/Eyston (Maserati) an idependent entry finished fourth.
A total of 12 cars were classified but only 10 were still driving at the end while Divo/Bouriat and Nuvolari/Minozzi made it on distance alone as their cars broke down near the end.
The promoters announced that 1931 was the 25th race for the Automobile Club de France. The first Grand Prix was held in 1906 and the 1931 race was the 17th in the series. However the ACF also included the
1895 to 1903 town-to-town races to achieve their high number, clearly an invalid manipulation.
This year's Grand Prix was held over the combined 12.500 km road and track circuit of Linas-Montlhéry, which was in good condition. Approach roads and grandstands had been improved. As the second event of the International
Formula, the race was to last ten hours. The winner would be the car that covered the greatest distance. Due to the length of the race two drivers, a main driver and a relief driver had to be nominated for each car.
During the race just one person was allowed in the car and driver exchanges were only allowed at the pits in the presence of an official. The race was run to Formula Libre without any restrictions on weight or engine
capacity. The total prize money of 115,000 francs was divided as follows: to the winner (the entered main driver) 50.000 francs, the second 30,000 fr., third 20,000 fr., fourth 10,000 fr. and fifth 5,000 francs. According
to reports in AUTOMOBIL-REVUE and AAZ (Austria), the entered main driver received the prize money and nothing went to entrants or relief drivers. By conclusion, it was probably up to the main driver to pay the relief driver,
or in case of a works team the team manager may have arranged how the prize money was to be shared.
Newspaper headlines predicted a battle between Bugatti and Alfa Romeo, France against Italy. 46 drivers were present including most of the best in Europe The entry was formidable, the best since 1914. For the first time
this year the three official factory teams, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and Maserati each entered three potent racecars.
Alfa Romeo had sent three of their latest 2300 straight-8 cars with Giuseppe Campari with Baconin Borzaccini as second driver, Tazio Nuvolari with Giovanni Minozzi and Ferdinando "Nando" Minoia with Goffredo "Freddy" Zehender.
The Autocar reported that the Alfa Romeo team had hired the whole of the Hotel de l'Escargot as its racing quarters.
Maserati was the second Italian factory team with three of last year's 26M racecars for René Dreyfus with Pietro Ghersi and Clemente Biondetti with Luigi Parenti. One of the 2500 straight-8 engines had been bored out to
2800 cc with other substantial modifications and installed in a 26M chassis for the first time. It was to be driven by their lead driver Luigi Fagioli with Ernesto Maserati as relief driver.
Bugatti was the third official works team with three of their successful new twin-cam 2300 straight-8 racecars for lead driver Louis Chiron with Achille Varzi as relief driver, Albert Divo with Guy Bouriat and the third car
for "Williams" with Caberto Conelli.
Although German cars had been allowed to compete in the French Grands Prix since 1926, this was the first time since WW I that a German entry was received. Rudolf Caracciola with Otto Merz as second driver entered a
stripped Mercedes-Benz SSKL sports car, the same one that was victorious at the Mille Miglia and raced at Monaco two months earlier. Although officially an independent entry, Caracciola received limited factory support.
The Franco-Russian Boris Ivanowsky with Henri Stoffel arrived with a similar Mercedes-Benz SSK sports type, which was the stripped car in which the pair had finished second in the Le Mans 24-hour race the weekend before.
The large number of independent drivers appeared with mostly older racecars, without factory help and technical personnel. René Ferrant with Louis Rigal entered a 4-liter 4-cylinder sleeve-valve Peugeot racecar, the car
which had been driven years ago successfully at the 1925 Targa Florio. Robert Sénéchal with Fretet arrived with a 1927 straight-8 1500 cc Grand Prix Delage, the actual car in which Chiron had finished seventh in 1929 at
Indianapolis. Jean Pesato with Pierre Félix brought a sports 6C-1750 Alfa Romeo in race trim.
Five independent Bugattis were entered in various configurations: Marcel Lehoux with Philippe Etancelin and Jean-Pierre Wimille with Jean Gaupillat in the new 2300 twin-cam models, Emilio Eminente with Edmond Bourlier in a
2300 single-cam racecar, Conte Georges d'Arnoux with Max Fourny and Grimaldi with Bourgait in 2000 cc types.
The English drivers were all independents, like Jack Dunfee with Appleyard in the former's 1925 Grand Prix Sunbeam. Earl Howe with Brian Lewis as co-driver entered Howe's new 2300 twin-cam Bugatti. Sir Henry Birkin with
George Eyston arrived in Birkin's 2500 straight-8 Maserati. William Scott with Sydenham Armstrong Payn started with a 15S8, 1500 cc grand prix Delage.
According to John Humphries Scott's other car, a 1920's 2LCV, 2000 cc V-12 grand prix Delage, which did not start, was bought from a Swede for a song by Sydenham Armstrong-Payn on behalf of Scott. The Swede had paid the
works an astronomical amount of money for the car a few years earlier but it proved a bit too temperamental as it did for Scott at Montlhery. William Scott was a big, bulky bloke and whilst at university he played
Rugby Union. He was a good player for his day and won an international cap playing for Scotland. It was common for big men in sport at the time to be called "Bomber" as they could blast away an opponent. "Bomber" was
The original 30 entries were reduced to 23 since some cars did not appear, Givanden with Vagniez (Bugatti), Kaye Don with unannounced co-driver and car, Monteiro with Deperi (Demo), A. Boillot with "Dribus" (Peugeot),
Brisson with Cattaneo (Stutz) and R. Williams with Rose-Richards (Delage). The entry of "Williams" with Arthur Duray in a 2000 cc Bugatti was cancelled when "Williams" was asked to join the Bugatti works team.
On June 19 IL LITTORIALE reported some practice times, according to which Minozzi with the Alfa Romeo drove a 5m45s lap, while Minoia did one in 5m52s. Nuvolari propelled his Alfa in 5m41s, later one lap in 5m37s.
Chiron had a time of 5m43s, while Varzi drove 5m41s, then a lap of 5m39s, his best in 5m36s. Caracciola's SSKL could do no better than 5m45s.
Early on in practice the Bugatti team encountered problems with their failing Michelin tires and were at the brink of withdrawing their cars, a repeat of their Le Mans experience, the week before. However, the British
driver "Williams" had a stock of Dunlop racing tires, which he made available to the Molsheim team for testing during early practice. As a result more Dunlops were then flown in from England. Probably as a reward it was then agreed for "Williams" to join the official Bugatti team paired with Conelli. Consequently "Williams" scratched his own 2000 cc Bugatti entry.
The Alfa Romeo pits were managed by Managing Director Gianferrari, Designer Vittorio Jano and Luigi Bazzi. At Bugatti there was Ettore Bugatti with his son Jean and Meo Costantino. At the Maserati pits Alfieri Maserati
was in command with assistance from carburetor factory owner Edoardo Weber, to join forces with the introduction of the 2800 car. At Caracciola's pit there was his wife Charly and engineer Alfred Neubauer to give advice.
The 10-Hour race was to run from 8:00 AM till 6:00 PM. It was a pleasant Sunday morning and most of the spectators came from Paris, 25 km to the north, and were on the road to Montlhéry as early as 5:00 AM. W.F. Bradley
wrote in The Autocar, "Several thousands of them received their reward of their early rising by securing free admission for themselves and their cars. During the run down from Paris the coach carrying the gate-keepers and
cashiers developed mechanical trouble, with the result that these officials were late in reaching the track. The public faced with gendarmes who admitted that they had received no orders, parked their cars wherever they
saw fit, and swarmed into the grandstands reserved for more distinguished guests. An attempt by officials, accompanied by gendarmes, to collect money from the gate crashers was not very fruitful. Probably the organizers
lost £500 out of gate receipts totaling £10,000, for the gathering was the biggest ever seen at Montlhéry, or, indeed, at any French motor race." According to AAZ, over 100,000 spectators were present, many of whom were
using the large bus service from Paris to Montlhéry. The starting order and race numbers were announced five days before the race in AUTOMOBIL-REVUE.
Photographs of the starting grid showed a gap in the second row, which the organizers must have arranged to keep vacant. The reason is unknown, possibly in case the missing #14 or #16 cars should show up late or probably
just by mistake.
|- - -
The French Under-Secretary of State for public works, M. Gaston Gérard, dropped the yellow flag at 8:00 AM. Under the deafening roar of engines, superchargers and exhausts, the cars shot away, Fagioli in the crimson-red
Maserati first, followed by d'Arnoux's blue Bugatti, Campari's red Alfa, Dreyfus' red Maserati and Chiron's blue Bugatti, the latter had made a bullet-like start from mid-field. W.B. Scott in the #2 Delage in the first
row of the grid stalled his engine and followed half a lap behind after finally starting the motor with the help of his mechanic. Dunfee with the green Sunbeam appeared to wait immediately behind W.B. Scott. However this was because he broke an axle
shaft universal joint on the start line and retired after less than one kilometer.
Fagioli (Maserati) covered the first lap in 5m52s at 127.841 km/h average, followed by Dreyfus (Maserati) about 150 meters behind, Chiron (Bugatti), Williams (Bugatti), Lehoux (Bugatti), Divo (Bugatti), Campari (Alfa Romeo),
Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti), Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo), d'Arnoux/Fourny (Bugatti), Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati), Birkin/Eyston (Maserati), Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo) and the rest.
Fagioli's second lap in the lead improved to 5m39s at 132.743 km/h. Chiron had passed the Maserati of Dreyfus, Williams (Bugatti) was in fourth place, then came Lehoux (Bugatti), followed by Divo (Bugatti) and Campari
(Alfa Romeo). Nuvolari was in tenth place and Minoia held 14th position. Up to the third lap the positions did not change. Then Williams in the Bugatti drove a new fastest lap of 5m38s at 133.136 km/h average speed
that accelerated him past Dreyfus' Maserati. On the fourth lap Chiron stepped on the gas to overtake Fagioli, breaking the lap record with 5m37s at 133.531 km/h average speed. His time after four laps was 22m53s at
|7.||Campari (Alfa Romeo)||23m47s|
|9.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||24m13s|
Chiron improved his record with a time of 5m35s at 134.328 km/h. The battle between Chiron and Fagioli was first-class. After 100 km, eight laps, Fagioli was on Chiron's heels and improved with a lap of 5m34s, at
134.730 km/h average speed.
|7.||Campari (Alfa Romeo)||46m50s|
The exciting clash between Chiron and Fagioli continued. The Italian recaptured first place by pulverizing the lap record on the tenth round at 5m29s, 136.778 km/h, which was to remain the fastest lap of the race.
Various contemporary magazines reported that during the early part of the race the Alfa Romeos strategically held back, which evidently was a false conclusion. In reality the Alfas just did not carry the speed
to keep up with the faster factory cars from Bugatti and Maserati. After the first hour the order was:
followed by Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti), Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati), Caracciola/Merz (Mercedes-Benz), Birkin/Eyston (Maserati), Ivanowski/Stoffel (Mercedes-Benz), Howe/Lewis (Bugatti), Eminente/Bourlier (Bugatti),
d'Arnoux/Fourny (Bugatti), Ferrand/Rigal (Peugeot), Scott/Payn (Delage), Grimaldi/Bourgait (Bugatti), Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo).
|1.||Fagioli/E.Maserati (Maserati)||133.194 km|
|2.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||132.900 km|
|4.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||130.576 km|
|5.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||130.310 km|
|6.||Lehoux/Etancelin (Bugatti)||130.275 km|
|7.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|
|8.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)|
|10.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|
After 150 km, 12 laps, the Maserati of Fagioli remained first, followed by Chiron, Dreyfus, Divo, Williams, Lehoux, Campari, Nuvolari, Sénéchal, Minoia, Wimille, Biondetti, Caracciola and Birkin. On lap 13 Ivanowski,
who one week ago came second at the 24-hours of Le Mans, brought his Mercedes-Benz into his pit with a rear axle problem. The rear end was jacked up and after an axle examination the car was retired.
The differential casing, which had cracked during practice, did not allow further racing since a certain breakdown was expected. Soon after
150 km, 12 laps, Chiron regained first place from Fagioli. After 200 km, 16 laps, Chiron held the lead in 1h29m53s at 133.506 km/h average speed.
|6.||Campari (Alfa Romeo)||1h32m21s|
|7.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h32m25s|
|8.||Minoia (Alfa Romeo)||1h34m03s|
The Bugatti of Lehoux retired with a broken engine. Chiron was able to break loose from Fagioli because he drove faster during the second hour, while Fagioli had slowed down a bit. After 20 laps, 250 km, Caracciola
stopped at the pits to change tires and refuel when the supercharger of the SSKL started to give trouble. Merz relieved Caracciola. The Scott/Payn Delage retired with a broken rear axle at a remote
part of the circuit. After two hours
Chiron led with 267.205 km at 133.602 km/h average speed.
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||267.205 km|
|2.||Fagioli/E.Maserati (Maserati)||265.706 km|
|3.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||264.668 km|
|4.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||264.216 km|
|5.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||261.956 km|
|6.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)|
|7.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|
|8.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|
At the beginning of the third hour cars started to head for the pits to refuel and to change tires and drivers. Caracciola had stopped earlier to be relieved by Merz. Ernesto Maserati had taken over from Fagioli,
Ghersi had relieved Dreyfus, Minozzzi had taken the wheel from Nuvolari. After the third hour, Varzi had taken over from Chiron and had increased the lead on Fagioli's Maserati to four minutes. Varzi covered
394.980 km at a speed of 131.855 km/h. The order was as follows:
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||394.980 km|
|2.||Fagioli/E.Maserati (Maserati)||387.708 km|
|3.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||385.921 km|
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||385.000 km|
|5.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||264.660 km|
It would appear that at this stage the two Maserati's were going round in tandem. During the third hour Fagioli had slowed down even more. He was probably suffering from losing his brakes at this time.
Dreyfus had had also slowed down a bit but was catching Fagioli. Nuvolari had gradually worked his way up to 4th from 18th on the grid. After 400 km at the completion of 32 laps, the order was as follows:
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||3h6m11s|
|7.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)||one lap behind|
|8.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|| " " "|
|9.||Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)|| " " "|
|10.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)|| " " "|
|11.||Sénéchal/Fretet (Delage)|| " " "|
|12.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)||two laps behind|
|13.||Howe/Lewis (Bugatti)|| " " "|
|14.||Caracciola/Merz (Mercedes-Benz)|| " " "|
After 450 km at the completion of 36 laps, the order was as follows:
|1.||Varzi had substituted for Chiron||3h25m14s|
|2.||Ghersi had substituted for Dreyfus||3h28m51s|
|3.||Minozzi had substituted for Nuvolari||3h29m30s|
|5.||Ernesto Maserati (Maserati)||3h30m23s|
|7.||Borzacchini substituted for Campari||one lap behind|
|8.||Zehender substituted for Minoia|| " " "|
|9.||Wimille (Bugatti)|| " " "|
|10.||Sénéchal (Delage)|| " " "|
|11.||Parenti had substituted for Biondetti||two laps behind|
|12.||Birkin (Maserati)|| " " "|
|13.||Caracciola/Merz (Mercedes-Benz)|| " " "|
Ernesto Maserati had not only lost three positions, but also 2 whole minutes in just 50 km. His Maserati slowed down with brake problems. After 36 laps, 450 km, Merz brought the Mercedes in to examine the
supercharger, which kept running with the engine idling. Mechanics worked on the car before it was sent away again but after two further laps Merz stopped again to retire on lap 39 with supercharger damage but did not
pass the grandstands and parked the car on the grass edge. After 500 km, 40 laps, the Chiron/Varzi Bugatti held the lead after 3h47m50s at 131.675 km/h.
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||3h52m51s|
|5.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||one lap behind|
|6.||Fagioli/E.Maserati (Maserati)|| " " "|
|7.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|| " " "|
|8.||Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)|| " " "|
|9.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||two laps behind|
|10.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)|| " " "|
Varzi had carried on increasing his advantage to the two Maseratis. During the fourth hour Ernesto Maserati fell steadily back. After Fagioli had taken over, he brought the Maserati in for a lengthy repair to the left
front brake. He then rejoined the race, but stopped again to retire on lap 46 with sparks flying from the left front brake drum, which was beyond a mere trackside repair. At the end of four hours Chiron/Varzi led with
526.806 km at 131.701 km/h average speed. The order after four hours was:
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||526.806 km|
|2.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||518.386 km|
|3.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||515.876 km|
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||515.482 km|
|5.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||511.797 km|
Between 550 and 600 km the drivers changed for the second time: Nuvolari changed with Minozzi and Dreyfus was relieved by Ghersi. At the end of lap 46, 575 km, Varzi stopped to refuel, change tires and hand the wheel
to Chiron. Bouriat passed Ghersi's Maserati, resulting in two Bugattis being in the lead. The Grimaldi/Bourgait Bugatti retired before mid-race.
After 600 km, 48 laps, Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti) led in 4h36m09s at 130.364 km/h average speed. Around this time spectators started wandering off, apparently dissatisfied with the monotonous progress of the race,
they turned towards their midday meal, a brief siesta or other matters. The Chiron/Varzi duo was now comfortably in the lead with a large advantage. After five hours, mid- race, 52 laps, Chiron led with 651.889 km at
130.378 km/h average speed.
Next were Howe/Lewis (Bugatti), four laps behind; d'Arnoux/Fourny (Bugatti), four laps behind; Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo), five laps behind due to brake difficulties; Eminente/Bourlier (Bugatti), seven laps behind;
Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo), nine laps behind; Rigal/Ferrand (Peugeot), 11 laps behind; Grimaldi/Bourgait (Bugatti).
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||651.889 km|
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||639.660 km|
|3.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||635.635 km, one lap behind|
|4.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||634.846 km, " " "|
|5.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||632.620 km, " " "|
|6.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||one lap behind|
|7.||Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)|| " " "|
|8.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)||two laps behind|
|9.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)|| " " "|
|10.||Sénéchal/Fretet (Delage)||three laps behind|
After 700 km, lap 56, Chiron led at an average speed of 130.367 km/h. On lap 57, after 712.5 km, Chiron stopped at his pit to change tires and brake shoes. The Bugatti aluminum wheel and steel brake drum were one piece and
new drums went on the car at every wheel change. The worn brake shoes could be quickly replaced by new shoes in about the same time it took to change one detachable wheel. In comparison, the Alfa Romeo mechanics had
to spend several minutes for the same operation. All Alfa Romeos came to the pits for front brake adjustment. Eventually the front drums and shoes had to be changed where much time was lost with removing the hub,
compared to the efficient Bugatti pit work. During the sixth hour the Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati) fell further behind to fifth place. The three factory Bugattis held the first three places at the end of the sixth hour
ahead of the Nuvolari/Minozzi Alfa Romeo and the Dreyfus/Ghersi Maserati. After six hours, 61 laps, the order was:
There followed d'Arnoux/Fourny (Bugatti), Sénéchal/Fretet (Delage), Eminente/Bourlier (Bugatti), Howe/Lewis (Bugatti), Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo), Rigal/Ferrand (Peugeot), Grimaldi/Bourgait (Bugatti).
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||774.963 km|
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||771.385 km|
|3.||Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)||766.619 km|
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||756.709 km, one lap behind|
|5.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||749.338 km, " " "|
|8.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|
|10.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|
After 800km, 64 laps, Chiron/Varzi led in 6h11m38s an average speed of 129.159 km/h in the following order:
|4.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||one lap behind|
|5.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||two laps behind|
|6.||Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)||three laps behind|
|7.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|| " " "|
|8.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)|| " " "|
|9.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)|| " " "|
|10.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)||four laps behind|
During the seventh hour, the Williams/Conelli Bugatti was forced to retire due to sheared bolts at the rear universal joint. Their car was left on the right verge of a straight road stretch.
This allowed the Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo) to inherit third place. The d'Arnoux/Fourny (Bugatti) retired with a broken engine, and the Eminente/Bourlier (Bugatti) developed a leaking fuel tank.
When fuel dropped on the hot exhaust pipe, the tail burst into flames somewhere on the track. The car was said to have burned out. At this time there remained 13 cars in the race. The retirements had
happened in the order of Dunfee, Ivanowski, Lehoux, Scott, Caracciola, Fagioli, Grimaldi, d'Arnoux, Eminente, and Williams.
After 900 km, 72 laps, Chiron/Varzi led in 6h58m42s at 128.970 km/h average speed. Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti) were second with 7h4m14s, followed by Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo) two laps behind, Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)
three laps behind, Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo) three laps behind, Birkin/Eyston (Maserati) and Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) four laps behind, Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati) five laps behind. Clearly the race was
becoming a drawn out procession with many of the cars separated by almost a lap. After seven hours, 72 laps, the Chiron/Varzi Bugatti led with 902.785 km at 128.969 km/h.
followed by Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo), Rigal/Ferrand (Peugeot) and Howe/Lewis (Bugatti), the last car in the race.
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||902.785 km|
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||891.218 km|
|3.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||877.401 km|
|4.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||857.759 km|
|5.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||856.283 km|
|7.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|
During the eighth hour, Minoia stopped several times at the pits. The Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti) retired with a broken radius rod of the rear axle. The Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati) developed brake problems, resulting in
a very long pit stop. A brake drum was needed but no spare was on hand. Finally a brake drum was removed from Fagioli's retired car and installed. After the brake trouble encountered by the Campari/Borzacchini
(Alfa Romeo), the Nuvolari/Minozzi and Minoia/Zehender teams encountered the same problem with their cars. After 80 laps, 1000 km, Chiron led in 7h45m02s, an average speed of 129.023 km/h. He stopped to refuel and
wheel change, leaving the wheel to Varzi.
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||7h51m55s, one lap behind|
|3.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||four laps behind|
|4.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)|| " " "|
|5.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|| " " "|
|6.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)||five laps behind|
|7.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||six laps behind|
|8.||Dreyfus/Ghersi (Maserati)||seven laps behind|
During the eighth hour, when Varzi completed lap 81, the Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo) had a breakdown on the circuit but succeeded to make it to his pit, where he lost much time with prolonged repairs to his brakes,
falling behind the Birkin/Eyston (Maserati). All three Alfa Romeos were slowed down with brake problems. At the end of eight hours Varzi led with 1025.632 km at an average speed of 128.204 km/h. The order was:
Next was the Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati), which passed the stationary Minoia/Zehender Alfa in the pits.
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||1025.632 km, at 128.204 km/h|
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||1016.474 km, at 127.059 km/h|
|3.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)|| 973.204 km, at 121.650 km/h|
|4.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)|| 963.034 km, at 120.379 km/h|
|5.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)|| 958.992 km, at 119.874 km/h|
|6.||Minoia/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||was in the pits for repairs, also changed to Zehender.|
During the ninth hour the order remained the same. The Howe/Lewis (Bugatti) ran into time consuming ignition cut-out problems only while driving. The car was brought in several times for plug changes, ignition
check-ups and thereafter released again without improvement. Eventually the problem was found to be a shorting ignition wire inside a metal tube. After eight hours not only were the cars afflicted with
mechanical problems but the drivers were also suffering from the ordeal. W.F. Bradley reported that "George Eyston's hands were stripped of skin; Birkin's clothing was worn through; Varzi drove with a cushion
strapped to his back, and Zehender called for special packing." After the ninth hour Varzi led with 1149.283 km at 127.698 km/h average speed. The order was:
|1.||Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti)||1149.283 km at 127.698 km/h|
|2.||Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)||1125.000 km at 125.000 km/h|
|3.||Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)||1089.839 km at 121.093 km/h|
|4.||Birkin/Eyston (Maserati)|| 1074.751 km at 119.416 km/h|
|5.||Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati)|| 1069.005 km at 118.778 km/h|
|6.||Nuvolari/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)||?|
On his 94th lap, after 1175 km, 40 minutes before the end Divo stopped on the circuit to retire the second works Bugatti. The bolts holding the engine had worked loose and with no tools in the car it was impossible
to drive to the pits. Since everything now depended on Varzi in the last surviving works Bugatti, orders were immediately signaled from the pits to reduce speed. In the meantime Campari had inherited second place.
He lapped in 6m2s, Zehender in 6m13s and Varzi even slowed to 7m10s at only 104 km/h average speed. But on the last lap Varzi drove a very fast lap, equaling his best time of the day. Nuvolari had a problem again
and was immobile in the pits. The classification at 1200 km, 96 laps, showed Chiron/Varzi (Bugatti) in 9h26m38s at 127.066 km/h with Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) second, four laps behind.
At the end of ten hours at 6:00 PM Varzi received the yellow victory flag to the monstrous cheering of the crowd. He had covered 1258.825 km at an average speed of 125.883 km/h. Varzi continued for an extra lap of
the circuit, just to make sure of victory and his Bugatti was the last to come to a standstill. Campari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) came second, Biondetti/Parenti (Maserati) third, Biondetti had passed Birkin for third
place on the very last lap, Birkin/Eyston (Maserati) excellent fourth for a privateer, Sénéchal singlehandedly, he would not let Fretet drive, finished fifth, very good for a 1500 cc car, Minoia finished sixth, Divo
seventh on distance covered since he had already retired, eighth Dreyfus, ninth Ferrant, tenth Pesato, eleventh Nuvolari, like Divo he did not arrive at the finish because he was in his pit, and last Earl Howe who
had spent an hour and half in the pits. From 23starters only 10 arrived at the finish, though a further two were classified by distance covered. Of the 12 classified, seven cars were factory entries and five were
independents, the latter finished the 10-hour ordeal by steady driving. The perfect weather held all day, presenting ideal conditions for the popular picnics and spectators remained till the very end. Varzi and
Chiron were celebrated by the crowd.
|1.||32||L. Chiron/A. Varzi||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||100||1258.825 km|
|2.||18||G. Campari/B. Borzacchini||SA Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||97||1215.122 km|
|3.||46||C. Biondetti/L. Parenti||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||95||1187.535 km|
|4.||40||H. Birkin/G. Eyston||Sir H. Birkin||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||94||1185.763 km|
|5.||36||R. Sénéchal/Fretet||R. Sénéchal||Delage (1927)||15-S-8||1.5||S-8||91||1142.558 km|
|6.||4||F. Minoia/G. Zehender||SA Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||90||1126.167 km|
|7.||28||A. Divo/G. Bouriat||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||90||1125.000 km, oil pipe|
|8.||20||R. Dreyfus/P. Ghersi||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||88||1108.279 km|
|9.||24||R. Ferrant/L. Rigal||R. Ferrant||Peugeot||174S||4.0||S-4||85||1070.508 km|
|10.||48||J. Pesato/P. Félix||Jean Pesato||Alfa Romeo||6C-1750||1.8||S-6||84||1056.538 km|
|11.||44||T. Nuvolari/G. Minozzi||SA Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||84||1050.000 km|
|12.||30||Earl Howe/B. Lewis||Earl Howe||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||78||975.938 km|
|DNF||38||J.-P. Wimille/J. Gaupillat||J.-P. Wimille||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||71||887.500 km, rear suspension|
|DNF||34||E. Eminente/E. Bourlier||B. Ivanowsky||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||69||862.500 km, fire|
|DNF||22||G. d'Arnoux/M. Fourny||Conte d'Arnoux||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||67||837.500 km, mechanical|
|DNF||42||"W. Williams"/C. Conelli||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||66||825.000 km, driveshaft bolts|
|DNF||50||E. Grimaldi/Bourgait||E. Grimaldi||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||47||587.500 km, mechanical|
|DNF||10||L. Fagioli/E. Maserati||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.8||S-8||46||575.000 km, brakes|
|DNF||58||R. Caracciola/O. Merz||R. Caracciola||Mercedes-Benz||SSKL||7.1||S-6||38||475.000 km, supercharger|
|DNF||2||B. Scott/S. Armstrong-Payn||W. B. Scott||Delage||15S8||1.5||S-8||21||262.500 km, rear axle|
|DNF||52||M. Lehoux/P.Etancelin||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||16||200.000 km, engine|
|DNF||26||B. Ivanowski/H. Stoffel||B. Ivanowski||Mercedes-Benz||SSK||7.1||S-6||13||162.500 km, rear axle|
|DNF||12||J. Dunfee/Appleyard||J. Dunfee||Sunbeam||1925 GP||2.0||S-6||0||0 km, axle shaft|
Fastest lap: Luigi Fagioli (Maserati) on lap 10 in 5m29.0s = 136.8 km/h (85.0 mph).|
Winner's medium speed: 125.883 km/h (78.223 mph)
Weather: sunshine, hot.
The European Championship standings showed after the completion of the second race that the positions of the leading drivers in the European Championship had not changed. Campari kept the lead with three points
(1, 2) and Minoia with six points (2, 4) remained in second place. Bouriat and Divo continued in their third place but were now joined by Chiron and Varzi; each had seven points. The next driver was Sénéchal
with nine points, followed by Nuvolari, Biondetti and Parenti, each 11 points. Pirola, Ruggeri, Birkin, Dreyfus, Ferrant, Pesato and Howe had each 12 points. Klinger, Di Vecchio, Lehoux and Caracciola with 13
points had no chance to win. Campari obviously had the best chance to win the championship. He just had to finish in the Belgian Grand Prix to become the European Champion.
See: 1931 Championship
Was the race won and lost on brakes? The Bugatti had a four lap lead before they slowed down. That would have been equivalent to about 25 minutes, yet they 'only' gained 15 minutes over the Campari Alfa due to
their more efficient brakes. The Bugatti was simply faster, as it showed in the early part of the race before there had been any stops to change brakes. It looked as if Bugatti would have won even if they had
had conventional brakes. The brakes just made it a whole lot easier.
The Chiron/Varzi Bugatti made five pit stops, totaling 10m30s while the stops of the Campari/Borzacchini Alfa Romeo, whose brakes went out first, replacement took 25 minutes. Next failed the brakes for the
Minoia/Zehender Alfa, which took 55 minutes of which 45 minutes involved replacing brake shoes, which required dismantling of the hubs. The last Alfa affected was that of Nuvolari/Minozzi. The pair carried
on as long as possible without repairs, but their pace obviously came down, braking by downshifting gears; finishing in the pits after the end of 10 hours with no brakes left.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
A-Z Motorwelt, Brno
B.Z. am Mittag, Berlin
IL Littoriale, Roma
LA STAMPA, Torino
La Vie Automobile, Paris
LE FIGARO, Paris
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Special thanks to
Mercedes-Benz Archiv, Stuttgart