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III GRAND PRIX DE BELGIQUE

Spa-Francorchamps (B), 12 July 1931.
10 hours race on 14.914 km (9.268 mi) circuit


No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2Ferdinando Minoia/Giovanni MinozziSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8
4"W. Williams"/Caberto ConelliAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-8
6Albert Divo/Guy BouriatAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-8
8Henri Stoffel/Boris IvanowskiH. StoffelMercedes-BenzSSK7.1S-6
10Tazio Nuvolari/Baconin BorzacchiniSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8
12Louis Chiron/Achille VarziAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-8
14Giuseppe Campari/Goffredo ZehenderSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8
16Henry Birkin/Brian LewisSir Henry BirkinAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8
18Jean-Pierre Wimille/Jean GaupillatJ. P. WimilleBugattiT512.3S-8
20Ferdinand Montier/XF. Montier (junior)Montier-Ford3.3S-4
22Charles Montier/DucolombierC. Montier (senior)Montier-Ford3.3S-4
24Jean Pesato/Pierre FélixJ. PesatoAlfa Romeo6C-17501.8S-8


Williams and Conelli victorious at the Spa 10-Hours

by Hans Etzrodt
The third Belgian Grand Prix was the final race of the 1931 European Championship, run to the 10-Hour International Formula which demanded two drivers per car. The factory teams from Alfa Romeo and Bugatti entered three cars each. Due to Maserati's absence only 12 cars arrived at the start. The early hours of the race provided an exciting battle between Varzi's Bugatti and Nuvolari's Alfa Romeo. Eventually Chiron relieved Varzi and got the upper hand dominating until mid-race when the Bugatti broke down. The Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo) also retired, thereby losing the winning title of the European Champion for Campari. Afterwards the team Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) was first for a long time, only to lose the lead in the last hour. The Williams/Conelli (Bugatti) team eventually won the long race due to better pit management. Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo) came second, Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo) third, followed by the independents Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo) fourth, Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz) fifth, Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo) sixth and Charles Montier/Ducolombier (Montier-Ford) last. Other retirements included Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti), Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti) and Ferdinand Montier, junior, (Montier-Ford).
The R.A.C.B. -Royal Automobile-Club de Belgique- organized their national Grand Prix, which carried a special meaning of importance this year since the outcome of the European Championship was decided at this race. Like the July Spa 24-Hour-Race the week before, the third Grand Prix de Belgique took place on the difficult 14.914 km triangular Spa-Francorchamps circuit to the same 10-hour formula that was applied at the preceding Italian and French Grands Prix. In 1925 the European Grand Prix at Spa was won by Antonio Ascari in a 2-liter Alfa Romeo P2. The second event in 1930 again carried the title European Grand Prix and was won by Louis Chiron in a 2-liter Bugatti T35C. The existing lap record stood at 6m49s, equal to an average speed of 131.49 km/h, established by Ascari in 1925 and was expected to be broken at this race with faster machines present.
Entries:
Since Maserati would not send their cars to Spa to reserve them for the German Grand Prix the following week, only 12 cars were entered for the Belgian race, which was to be decided between Bugatti and Alfa Romeo with a few independent crews as support. Alfa Romeo arrived with two of their latest 2300 straight-8 cars for Tazio Nuvolari with Baconin Borzaccini as second driver and Giuseppe Campari with Goffredo "Freddy" Zehender. The third car was a 2300 straight-8 in Targa Florio shape, equipped with bucket seats and a cylindrical exposed fuel tank for Ferdinando "Nando" Minoia with Giovanni Minozzi to defend their chances for the European Championship. The Bugatti works team entered three of their proven twin-cam 2300 straight-8 racecars for Achille Varzi with Louis Chiron as relief driver, Albert Divo with Guy Bouriat and the third car for Williams with Count Caberto Conelli. The Molsheim cars were again equipped with Dunlop tires as seen at the French Grand Prix.
      There were six independent entries. Henry Birkin with Brian Lewis arrived with the same 2300 Alfa Romeo that Birkin had raced with George Eyston at the Spa 24-Hour endurance race the weekend before. By Friday night they had transformed Birkin's 4-seat touring Alfa into a stripped 2-seat racecar. The second independent Alfa Romeo, a 6C-1750, came from Jean Pesato with Pierre Félix, in which they had finished first in the 2-liter class at the Spa 24-Hour sports car race. They had to strip their sports car down into racecar trim. Jean-Pierre Wimille with Jean Gaupillat raced Wimille's 2300 twin-cam Bugatti, which they had raced three weeks earlier at the French 10-hour race. The Belgian Henri Stoffel with Boris Ivanowski arrived with the stripped down Mercedes-Benz SSK sports type, which they had raced at the Spa 24-Hour sports car race. The last two independent cars came from the Paris garage owner Charles Montier with Ducolombier and his 22-year old son Ferdinand, entering two similar 3.3-liter self-made Montier racecars with Ford Model A engines.
Practice:
Since their last 10-Hour race three weeks ago, the Alfa Romeo team had altered the rear axle ratio on their cars, because they had lacked speed at the French Grand Prix. The Bugatti team had lost the first 10-Hour event at Monza on account of their tires. Since the French Grand Prix they were using Dunlops and had no problems. Both teams should now be equally strong for the final battle at Spa.
Race:
Sunday weather conditions were perfect not only for the large crowd. The grandstands were packed by thousands of spectators. The twelve cars assembled in order of their race numbers for the early morning start at 9:00 AM. The 10-Hour race was to last till 7:00 PM.
Pole Position
2
Minoia/Minozzi

Alfa Romeo

4
Williams/Conelli

Bugatti

6
Divo/Bouriat

Bugatti

8
Stoffel/Ivanowski

Mercedes-Benz

10
Nuvolari/Borzacchini

Alfa Romeo

12
Varzi/Chiron

Bugatti

14
Campari/Zehender

Alfa Romeo

16
Birkin/Lewis

Alfa Romeo

18
Wimille/Gaupillat

Bugatti

20
F. Montier

Montier

22
C.Montier/Ducolombier

Montier

24
Pesato/Félix

Alfa Romeo

The starting flag was dropped and the 12 cars were on their way. After the first lap Varzi held the lead with a time of 6m41s. In spite of his standing start, he had beaten the existing lap record established in 1925 by Ascari in 6m49s. In second place came Nuvolari, about 140 meters behind Varzi, followed by Williams, Minoia, Wimille, Birkin and Campari. Divo stopped to change one spark plug. He was passed by Stoffel, Pesato, Montier father and son. After two rounds the skirmish between the two eternal rivals Varzi and Nuvolari became closer. They passed together at the finish with a lap of 6m29s at an average speed of 137.892 km/h. Then followed Williams, Minoia, Birkin had passed Wimille, who also seemed to have a very close battle at this moment. On the third lap Nuvolari succeeded in passing Varzi at the Burneville corner and took the lead. After four rounds, Nuvolari was leading and made a record lap of 6m25s at 139.324 km/h but at the end of five laps it was again Varzi, who held the lead, which he was to keep up to the ninth lap.
      At the end of the first hour, comparable to after 9 laps, Nuvolari was was slightly ahead of Varzi.
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)135.90 km
2.Varzi/Chiron (Bugatti)135.88 km
3.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)132.80 km
4.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)130.50 km
5.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)
6.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)
7.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)
8.Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)
9.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)
10.F. Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)
11.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)
12.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)

At the tenth lap, 149 km, Nuvolari held still first place, followed by Varzi, Williams, Minoia, Wimille, then Birkin who had passed Divo and then came Campari. During the second hour, Divo arrived on his wheel rim, had the wheel changed and simultaneously Bouriat took over. Campari proceeded calmly as he was obviously concerned about the European Championship. The following lap, Nuvolari was still first, ahead of Varzi. Williams in third place had put up a record lap at 6m24s at 139.687 km/h average speed. Despite Williams' fastest lap, he fell a further kilometer behind Varzi between the tenth lap and the two hour mark. Minoia in fourth place was followed by Gaupillat and Birkin. By now Stoffel, Pesato and the two Montiers had been lapped by the two leading cars. The junior Montier slowed down and was passed by both his father and the Pesato Alfa Romeo. The two leading cars continued their close battle.
      At the end of two hours Nuvolari had covered 273 km at 136.5 km/h average speed.
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)273.00 km
2.Varzi/Chiron (Bugatti)272.96 km
3.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)268.80 km
4.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)262.90 km
5.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)262.80 km
6.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)262.75 km
7.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)252.50 km1 lap behind
8.Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)251.90 km1 lap behind
9.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)247.10 km1 lap behind
10.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)212.90 km4 laps behind
11.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)210.00 km4 laps behind
12.F. Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)197.96 km5 laps behind

During the third hour the cars came in for their first stop to refuel and change drivers. Borzacchini took over from Nuvolari. At the same time Varzi was relieved by Chiron, topped up fuel, oil and fitted four new wheels. Minozzi relieved Minoia. The Mercedes of Stoffel/Ivanowski lapped the circuit regularly but did not carry the speed to keep up with the Alfas and Bugattis. Chiron chased after Borzacchini's Alfa Romeo and passed him into first place on lap 25, around 372.5 km. By lap 26, just before three hours were up, Chiron's advantage had visibly increased.
      After three hours, 27 laps, Chiron had covered 406.44 km at 135.48 km/h average speed, followed by the drivers now behind the wheel, which were Borzacchini, Conelli, Minozzi, Bouriat, Gaupillat, Zehender, Lewis, Iwanowski, Félix, and Montier.
1.Varzi/Chiron (Bugatti)406.44 km
2.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)405.72 km
3.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)398.50 km
4.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)387.35 km1 lap behind
5.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)387.30 km1 lap behind
6.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)381.90 km1 lap behind
7.Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)380.90 km1 lap behind
8.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)373.70 km2 laps behind
9.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)362.60 km2 laps behind
10.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)319.60 km5 laps behind
11.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)318.80 km5 laps behind
12.F. Montier , junior (Montier-Ford) 299.05 km7 laps behind

At the beginning of the fourth hour Chiron broke the lap record at 6m22s, an average speed of 140.418 km/h. On lap 32 Chiron beat the lap record at 6m21s and gradually drew away from the fastest Alfa Romeo. The drivers behind the wheel were now Chiron, Borzacchini, Conelli, Bouriat, Minozzi, Zehender, Lewis, Gaupillat, Ivanowski, Félix, C. Montier. After four hours, 36 laps, Chiron had covered 546.84 km at 136.2 km/h average speed.
1.Varzi/Chiron (Bugatti)546.84 km
2.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)542.50 km
3.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)525.43 km1 lap behind
4.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)521.50 km1 lap behind
5.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)521.15 km1 lap behind
6.Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)502.50 km2 laps behind
7.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)497.70 km3 laps behind
8.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)491.85 km3 laps behind
9.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)487.50 km3 laps behind
10.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)432.40 km7 laps behind
11.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)431.00 km7 laps behind
12.F. Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)403.90 km9 laps behind

During the fifth hour, on lap 37, Chiron established a new lap record in 6m19s at an average speed of 141.53 km/h. The Bugatti of Williams/Conelli had advanced into third place. Chiron's advantage to Borzacchini's Alfa Romeo was 1m47s after equaling his record lap of 6m19s on lap 42. Thereafter he drove an even faster fast lap in 6m18.6s, which was to remain the record of the day. The Birkin/Lewis Alfa Romeo did not have the same speed as the other 2300 Alfas but lapped the course with great regularity. On lap 45 Chiron had increased his lead to about four minutes. At this time it became obvious that his Bugatti was overdue. Then the Alfa of Borzacchini flashed by and still there was no sign of Chiron's Bugatti. Eventually an overall clad man appeared, running uphill from Eau Rouge towards the pits. It was Chiron who explained that his car's magneto drive had sheared. He collected a magneto coupling and tools from his pit and set off sprinting to repair his stranded car.
      After five hours, mid-race, Borzacchini had covered 679.3 km at 135 km/h average speed. The drivers behind the steering wheel at that time were Borzacchini, Williams, Chiron, Minozzi, Bouriat, Birkin, Ivanowski, Zehender, Wimille, Félix, and Montier.
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)679.30 km
2.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)667.60 km
3.Varzi/Chiron (Bugatti)655.60 km1 lap behind
4.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)655.40 km1 lap behind
5.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)637.50 km2 laps behind
6.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)626.90 km3 laps behind
7.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)611.80 km4 laps behind
8.Campari/Zehender (Alfa Romeo)596.00 km5 laps behind
9.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)587.30 km6 laps behind
10.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)546.50 km8 laps behind
11.Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)531.70 km9 laps behind
12.Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)504.10 km11 laps behind

During the sixth hour, driver changes took place once again in the battle between Conelli and Nuvolari for first place and between Minozzi and Bouriat for third. There was no sign of Chiron's Bugatti. The Autocar reported, "Up on the hill-side Chiron replaced the broken magneto coupling, started his engine, and once more took to the road, only to find that there was other damage which made it impossible for him to continue." A small notice in The Motor revealed the problem to be with the camshaft, which drove the magneto. At 3:15 PM an announcement was made that Chiron had retired. A photo showed his Bugatti with the hood removed parked in the grass to the right side of the road.
      At around the same time, the Campari/Zehender Alfa Romeo retired. The demise of this car has been described in various ways, giving rise to speculation of what really happened. The Motor stated, "owing to engine trouble." Motor Sport wrote that "its withdrawal was announced." The Autocar reported, "On the fast straightaway leading to the Source hairpin, Campari's Alfa-Romeo burst into flames. Running it to the side of the road, and jumping clear, Campari brought his fire extinguisher into action, but was unable to make any serious impression on the flames, which almost completely devoured the car." Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin wrote in his 1943 memoirs FULL THROTTLE, "But when he [Campari] had completed his turn at the wheel, and the second driver [Zehender] taken over, a stone from a car in front was flung up through the oil sump, so that the Alfa could not continue." These differing accounts make it hard to understand what really happened. In hindsight, it was known that Campari's Alfa Romeo did not start at the German Grand Prix the following week, where Borzacchini was to drive it but the car was withdrawn before the start. While a damaged engine would certainly have been repaired in time, a burned car would probably not have been race-ready within such a short time. After the Bugatti of Chiron/ Varzi had retired including Campari/Zehender in the Alfa Romeo, the standings were as follows after 6 hours:
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)805.54 km
2.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)796.50 km
3.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)775.50 km2 laps behind
4.Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti)761.80 km2 laps behind
5.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)743.95 km4 laps behind
6.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)724.80 km5 laps behind
7.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)701.90 km6 laps behind
8.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)661.50 km9 laps behind
9.Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)597.75 km13 laps behind
10.Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)595.90 km14 laps behind

In the meantime the retirement of the Divo/Bouriat (Bugatti) was announced, withdrawn with mechanical trouble of the differential after 51 laps. Following Chiron's retirement, the attention had shifted to the last works Bugatti of Williams/Conelli to carry on the fight with the Nuvolari/Borzacchini Alfa Romeo. Nuvolari's Alfa was leading the Williams/Conelli Bugatti by over four minutes. Since the Bugatti did not appear to pose a threat, Nuvolari was instructed from the pits to slow down. However, Conelli in the Bugatti was progressively creeping up.
      After seven hours, 62 laps, Nuvolari held first place with 934.9 km at 133.6 km/h average speed, ahead of Conelli, Minoia, Birkin, Stoffel, Wimille and Pesato. After Divo/Bouriat retired the field was down to nine cars after seven hours.
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)934.90 km
2.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)932.80 km
3.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)900.60 km2 laps behind
4.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)869.70 km4 laps behind
5.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)846.20 km5 laps behind
6.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)825.20 km7 laps behind
7.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)771.80 km10 laps behind
8.F. Montier, junior (Montier-Ford)701.40 km15 laps behind
9.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)701.38 km15 laps behind

After eight hours the Nuvolari/Borzacchini Alfa had covered 1066.4 km at 133.3 km/h average speed.
1.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)1066.40 km
2.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)1062.40 km
3.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)1025.30 km2 laps behind
4.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)   996.10 km4 laps behind
5.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)   961.50 km7 laps behind
6.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)   939.90 km8 laps behind
7.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)   879.10 km12 laps behind
8.Montier, father (Montier)   808.70 km17 laps behind
9.Montier, son (Montier)   803.60 km17 laps behind

During the ninth hour Conelli's Bugatti was brought in to refuel, change all wheels with brake drums in one piece, plus four sets of brake shoes, all done in the unbelievably short time of 2m02s. Williams relieved Conelli with instructions to catch the leading Alfa Romeo. At the same time, lap 74, about 1103.6 km, Nuvolari stopped to refuel and hand the wheel over to Borzacchini, who left with two minutes advantage. Williams was lapping at 6m30s, gaining six to twelve seconds each lap on Borzacchini, steadily reducing the advantage of the Nuvolari/Borzacchini Alfa Romeo. Eventually Williams passed the Alfa for the lead, which had grown after nine hours to a notable advantage.
1.Williams/Conelli (Bugatti)1199 km
2.Nuvolari/Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo)1196 km
3.Minoia/Minozzi (Alfa Romeo)1149 km3 laps behind
4.Birkin/Lewis (Alfa Romeo)1112 km5 laps behind
5.Stoffel/Ivanowski (Mercedes-Benz)1008 km12 laps behind
6.Pesato/Félix (Alfa Romeo)
7.Wimille/Gaupillat (Bugatti)
8.C. Montier, senior (Montier-Ford)

During the tenth hour the Alfa Romeo stopped at the pits, where Borzacchini explained that he had fuel feed problems. After brief work on the car, Nuvolari jumped into the Alfa and headed towards the hill after Eau Rouge, the engine still misfiring. Nuvolari came in the following lap to have the ignition coil replaced. It appeared for Alfa Romeo to be a hopeless situation with Williams' Bugatti now one lap ahead. Valerio Moretti in 'When Nuvolari Raced' mentioned comments by Giovanni Canestrini, "Victory should have gone to the Nuvolari: Borzacchini crew, had not a minor problem (which was not properly diagnosed initially) caused them to stop twice, losing the advantage gained. Victory was lost through ignition failure, wrongly diagnosed - the symptoms being similar - by Borzacchini as fuel starvation."
      Nuvolari finally caught up with Williams and passed him, but the Alfa Romeo was still one lap behind. In the meantime Wimille had abandoned with gearbox problems, the Pesato Alfa Romeo had been off the road and Ferdinand's Montier-Ford had retired.
      At 7:00 PM Williams and Count Conelli Bugatti finished first, having covered 1320 km. Nuvolari and Borzacchini with the Alfa Romeo ended up second, over ¾ of a lap behind. Minoia and Minozzi wound up over 3 laps adrift in third place. The Birkin/Lewis Alfa Romeo had fallen five laps back in fourth place, followed by the Mercedes-Benz of Stoffel and Ivanowski trailing by over seven laps. The remaining drivers Pesato/Félix in the 1750 Alfa and Charles Montier/Ducolombier finished sixth and seventh. According to The Autocar, only six cars were running at the finish. The spectators were relieved the race was over and rushed to their cars. The Autocar reported, "It had been a keen struggle; in fact, a most exciting race during the first few hours, but had it stopped after five or six hundred miles, the spectators would have been better satisfied and the result would not have been different."
      The Nuvolari/Borzacchini Alfa Romeo had to make four stops lasting 8m45s, against the victorious "Williams"/Conelli Bugatti which made only three stops, costing the team 5m4s.

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/Status

1.4"W. Williams"/C. ConelliAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-8881320 km
2.10T. Nuvolari/B. BorzacchiniSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8881309 km
3.2F. Minoia/G. MinozziSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8851274 km
4.16H. Birkin/B. LewisSir Henry BirkinAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-8831240 km
5.8H. Stoffel/B. IvanowskiH. StoffelMercedes-BenzSSK7.1S-6811206 km
6.24J. Pesato/P. FélixJ. PesatoAlfa Romeo6C 17501.8S-6731088 km
DNF18J.-P. Wimille/J. Gaupillat J.P. WimilleBugattiT512.3S-865968.5 kmgearbox
7.22C. Montier/DucolombierC. MontierMontier-Ford2.8S-458864.2 km
DNF20F. Montier F. MontierMontier-Ford2.8S-456835.2 kmmechanical
DNF6A. Divo/G. BouriatAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-851759.9 kmdifferential
DNF12A. Varzi/L. ChironAutomobiles Ettore BugattiBugattiT512.3S-844655.6 kmmagneto drive
DNF14G. Campari/G. ZehenderSA Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo8C 23002.3S-840596.0 kmfire
Fastest lap: Chiron (Bugatti) in 6m18.6s = 141.8 km/h (88.1 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 132 km/h (82.1 mph)
A Weather: sunny, dry.
In retrospect:
Contradictions were encountered among the hourly results given in kilometers while comparing the various reports from contemporary newspapers and magazines. Even the final results distance in kilometers differed at times from one source to another. The reason for this might be found with the R.A.C.B. timekeepers who certainly must have been incapable of publishing timely press releases or faulty information was displayed on the huge score board opposite the grandstands; or both. In any event, this sad case of affairs is hard to accept. Although the hourly kilometer distances given in this report have been carefully researched, it is possible that one or the other could be slightly off due to the above contradictions.

The distances issued by the R.A.C.B. timekeepers for every car at every hour are shown in this report, but those figures were dubious at best. The timekeepers had no means of recording the location of each car at the end of each hour. Nonetheless, they proceeded to publish locations presented to two decimal places, which gave the appearance that they knew where each car was on the track. In the absence of real data, they used their timing data to calculate the position of each car. The calculation involved the cars' times across the finish line, the length of the circuit and therefore their average speed. To be meaningful this calculation required that each car maintained a constant speed throughout the lap. On a triangular track like Spa, or any other track, this is completely impossible. Therefore the claimed locations are simply wrong and the cars were not at the locations quoted by the timekeepers. For most of the cars the calculations would probably have yielded reasonable estimates of their locations, maybe to the nearest kilometer. That the distances were issued by the timekeepers makes them official, but it does not make them factual. It would be much easier to follow the race if the officials had given the times rather than these spurious distances. As recorders of history our mandate is to present the facts and to avoid fiction whenever possible, which is the reason why the distances issued by the R.A.C.B. timekeepers are questionable in this account, including at the tenth hour, the end of the race. These distances were just as dubious as all the others as the timekeepers had no way of knowing where each car was at exactly 7 pm. They had the times when the cars crossed the finish line after 7pm, so they must have calculated the distances from that.

A comparison with Le Mans: David Hodges in his book 'The LE MANS 24-Hour Race' wrote about the Regulations: "Finally, the actual position" [by which he probably means the position on the track] "of the surviving cars at 4pm on Sunday is calculated from their speed on the last lap" [it is not clear if he means the last lap before 4pm or the last lap after 4pm] "and rounded-off to give to the nearest 10 meters the distances which they travelled in 24 hours."
      This procedure is totally artificial since the timekeepers had no REAL means of knowing where the cars were at 4pm. The distances issued by the officials are no more than an approximation. The calculation is based on the fallacious premise that the car maintains its average speed throughout the lap and that never happens on any race track. It doesn't happen today and it didn't happen in 1931. The quoted distances are at best a very crude approximation based on a false premise.
      The Le Mans officials moved to times and completed laps years ago. The date of the change is hardly relevant. The results of the 2010 Le Mans race show the first place was scored as 24 hours plus a few seconds and all other places were given as completed laps. There was absolutely no mention of distances. At some stage the officials must have realized the error of their ways and changed to a more sensible approach to scoring their race. Suffice to say that their decision to cease quoting distances lends further credence to the argument about the 1931 and 1932 races.

The European Championship outcome was an unexpected surprise. Campari's point advantage had been so great that even a place in the mid-field would have secured him the title of European Champion. But his car retired and completed only 596 kilometers. This earned Campari six penalty points, which placed him equal with Minoia at a nine point total. The regulations determined in this case that the higher total distance driven would decide the outcome. While Campari had excellent finishes in Monza and Montlhéry but was followed by misfortune in Spa, Minoia came off in mid-position every time. The reward was significant: in addition to his prizes in the individual races, Minoia received 150,000 francs as the European Champion. See also: 1931 Championship

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
AUTOMOBIL-REVUE, Bern
A-Z Motorwelt, Brno
IL Littoriale, Roma
LA STAMPA, Torino
L'AUTO, Paris
LE FIGARO, Paris
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Special thanks to:
John Humphries



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© 2017 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 05.01.2017