II GRAND PRIX de NÎMES
Nîmes (F), June 4 1933.
80 laps x 2.617 km (1.63 mi)? = 209.36 km (130.1 mi)?
Nuvolari prevails at Nîmes after an exciting clash with Etancelin.
by Leif Snellman
Only eight competitors took part in the Nîmes Grand Prix held on an avenue in the city center of Nîmes.
The race developed into an exciting duel between Nuvolari in a works Alfa Romeo Monza against Etancelin in a private Monza. At half way into
the race Nuvolari had managed to establish a 30 seconds advantage but Etancelin continued pushing. Not until the last laps when the brakes
failed on Etancelin's car, was the race definitely decided.
In 1932 and 1933 the Automobile Club du Gard organized a Grand Prix in the old Roman city of Nîmes, the capital of the Gard département, in southern
France. It was one of the many "round the houses" city races in the 1930s that tried to copy the success of the Monaco Grand Prix.
After using a 2.9 km race circuit in 1932 the course was shortened for 1933 to a length of 2.617 km. The circuit led up and down the Avenue Jean Jaurès
in the city center and the straights were linked by a hairpin bend at each end. The north end hairpin was at Quai de la Fontaine opposite the Jardin
de la Fontaine while the southern hairpin was where the Avenue Jean Jaurès met the Rue de la Republique. Two chicanes made of straw bales were built
where the avenue crossed traffic circles and the pits were located near the southern of those traffic circles.
The race took place the same weekend as the Grand Prix des Frontieres in Chimay, Belgium. In the woods of St Germain near Paris the Bol d'Or was also
going on. It was however Nîmes that had managed to attract the "big guns" including Nuvolari.
Only nine entries arrived for the race but the class was very high with most of the big French stars taking part. On such a short track the
few cars were quite enough to satisfy even the most critical spectator. The only real works entry was the Scuderia Ferrari 2.6 litre Alfa Romeo Monza
for Nuvolari. There were also private 2.3 litre Monzas entered by the French drivers Sommer, Etancelin, and Wimille. The young Algerian Guy Moll was
also present, having changed his Bugatti for a brand new Alfa Romeo Monza.
The Bugatti works team was not present at Nîmes so the Alfa Romeos were challenged by a trio of Bugatti T51 in private hands. Falchetto and Lehoux raced
their blue cars while Swiss driver Braillard had a red-white Type 51.
Lastly, someone named Bonnefon with an old Bugatti T35 arrived but he never took part in the race itself. Among those not arriving at Nîmes was
Robert Brunet who had broken his ankle during the Picardie Grand Prix two weeks earlier.
On Thursday practice session Lehoux was fastest with a time of 1m24.8s (110.8 km/h).
On Friday Etancelin bettered that time with a lap of 1m23.8s (112.1 km/h).
One could compare the speeds to the 96.2 km/h for the fastest Monaco lap that same year and notice that despite chicanes and hairpins Nïmes was definitely
a faster circuit. It is probable but not certain that the times were used to determine the grid positions, putting Etancelin in pole position.
Whitsunday arrived with beautiful weather and attracted hordes of people to the track. The sidewalks at Avenue Jean Jaurès were packed when the series of
events started shortly after noon with motor cycle racing.
About 3 p.m. 19 cars in three classes started for the 40 lap Trophée the Provençe. That race went on for about an hour and was finally won by Jacob in a
Bugatti after Falchetto, who had initially led, had retired his 2 litre Bugatti.
After some delay the high point of the day finally was approaching as the GP class lined up for the start. Falchetto was ready to have another go,
this time with his 2.3 litre car.
As the eight cars were flagged away for the 80 lap race Lehoux took the lead in his Bugatti with the three Alfa Romeo Monzas of Etancelin, Nuvolari,
and Moll following closely. Wimille was immediately in trouble with a broken supercharger and had to retire on the very first lap.|
At the end of lap two Lehoux was still leading but was pushed hard by the rest of the field and his Bugatti started to overheat. On the next
lap Nuvolari passed Etancelin for second and then he went by Lehoux and grabbed the lead. Soon Etancelin also passed the
struggling Lehoux. Falchetto had no luck in trying to repeat his victory from 1932. He was dropping down the field with a sticking throttle and
retired on the third lap for the second time that day. Etancelin was in great form and had no intentions to give up even
if his Monza had a weaker engine than Nuvolari's car and an exciting duel for the lead started with Nuvolari. On lap five Lehoux made a pit stop because
his car was overheating. He returned to the track in seventh position only to retire a lap later.
At 10 laps Nuvolari was still leading but the challenge from Etancelin had pushed his lap times down. The first ten laps were completed in 14m30s with a
medium speed of 109.8 km/h. Behind the leding duo Moll and Braillard had a tight and exciting duel for 3rd position. Etancelin tried several times to
pass Nuvolari before finally succeeding. The fight for the lead then continued with lap times dropping under 1m24s.
The next 10 laps took just 13m59s and at 20 laps Etancelin was still leading with Nuvolari just a second back. Behind them Moll was doing an
excellent job in his new Monza while Braillard had fallen back, giving Sommer the fourth place in the race. The duel for the lead went on at
ever faster speeds, both drivers eventually setting equally fastest times of the race with a lap time of 1m22s. Nuvolari
re-took the lead but Etancelin hadn't given up and to the cheers of the spectators the French driver continuously attacked the Italian works car in his
inferior 2.3 litre Monza. Obviously he tried to compensate by braking later and not unsurprisingly Etancelin's car developed brake trouble and he
eventually fell back.
At 30 laps Nuvolari held the lead at 43m22s, an average speed of 111.1 km/h. Nuvolari had really been pushing and the time for the last ten laps had
dropped to 13m53s or an average of 1m23.3s per lap. Etancelin had lost 23 seconds and Moll was just about to be lapped by Nuvolari. Sommer was fourth
and Braillard fifth, both already a lap down.
At 40 laps Etancelin was still trying his best to hang on and had lost just another five seconds to Nuvolari, who was still pushing and had done the last
ten laps in 13m59s. The next ten laps went even faster, 13m57s for Nuvolari versus Etancelin's 14 minutes. The gap between them was now 31 seconds.
Laps 51-60 took six seconds longer for Nuvolari while Etancelin lost another 8 seconds. The medium speed was now up to 111.7 km/h.
For the last 20 laps Nuvolari kept pushing, putting in laps around 1m24s while Etancelin's brakes really started to fail and he lost half a minute during
the last laps. Thus, Nuvolari took a celebrated victory but for the spectators, who had seen a truly great duel, it was Etancelin in second place, who
was the great hero of the day. He had forced Nuvolari to go more or less flat out from start to finish, which can also be seen by the results.
Nuvolari's medium speed was 111.8 km/h corresponding to average lap times of 1m24.2s or just 2.2s slower than the lap record. Third was Moll in his
new Monza, one lap behind. Sommer came fourth with yet another Monza and Braillard was the last finisher and best Bugatti driver in fifth position, but only three laps behind the winner.
|1.||22||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||80||1h52m20.6s|
|2.||2||Philippe Etancelin||P. Etancelin||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||80||1h53m19.4s||+ 58.8s|
|3.||8||Guy Moll||G. Moll||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||79|
|4.||12||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||78|
|5.||6||Louis Braillard||N. Braillard||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||77|
|DNF||14||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||6||overheating|
|DNF||16||Benoît Falchetto||N. Braillard||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||3||throttle|
|DNF||24||Jean-Pierre Wimille||J.-P. Wimille||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||0||supercharger|
Fastest lap: Etancelin & Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) in 1m22.0s = 114.9 km/h (71.4 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 111.8 km/h (69.5 mph)
Weather: sunny and warm.
The Alfa Romeo Monzas had dominated the day. As the car was readily available from the Alfa Romeo factory for a decent price, serious GP privateers were now rushing to change their Bugattis for Alfa Romeos, while the Bugatti works team was putting its hope for the T59 to be ready.
Guy Moll had made an impressive race first time out in his new car and had beaten Sommer with equal equipment.
This was the last pre-war Nîmes Grand Prix as financial problems sadly forced the abandonment of the race in 1934, but racing was resumed at Nîmes in 1947 on another track.
4-5 June 1933: De Gabardie (Amilcar) wins the Bol d'Or 24 h race at the forest of St. Germain.|
5 June 1933: The B.A.R.C. Whitsun Meeting was held at Brooklands.
The handicap races were won by A. Esson-Scott (Bugatti 2L), H. J. Aldington (Frazer-Nash 1.5L), A.H. Eccles (Bugatti 1.5L), R. morgan (Invicta 4.5L),
T. G. Moore (Frazer-Nash 1.5L), C. G. M. Boote (Riley 1.1L), C. Brackenbury (Bugatti 1.5L), C. J. Turner (Bentley 4.4L), W. L. Thompson (Austin 0.7L)
and K. D. Evans (M.G. 0.7L). For the first time at Brooklands lady drivers were allowed to race against male drivers.