XIX GRAND PRIX DE L'AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE FRANCE
Montlhéry - Paris (F), 11 June 1933.
40 laps x 12.50 km (7.767 mi) = 500.0 km (310.7 mi)
Campari won convincingly at Montlhéry with his privately entered Maserati.
by Hans Etzrodt
The French Grand Prix was still the most important event of the year, so the withdrawal of the entire Bugatti-Equipe came as a great surprise.
The favorites Nuvolari and Chiron retired early on with 11 other cars to follow. Campari and Etancelin, the only front-running survivors of
this battle, provided a tense duel right until the last lap, which the Italian decided in his favor. Only six of 19 cars finished the 500 km race.
In February 1933, the Automobile Club de France published the rules for their twenty-seventh Grand Prix de l'ACF. It was the last year of
formula libre, which allowed unlimited engine capacity with no weight restriction. According to the latest rules the race had to be of 500 km
distance, which on Montlhéry's 12.5 km long combined road and track circuit amounted to 40 laps. The most important rule changes for this
event had to do with the registration fees and prizes offered. The ACF took a new approach to stimulate the automobile sport. The
registration fee for each car, including insurance, was only 100 francs! Until now the ACF had always demanded a registration fee of 2,000
to 3,000 French francs. With this new modest demand, the racing drivers had been helped financially. Yet there was still a total of
170,000 francs in prize money, of which the winner received 100,000, second place 50,000 and third 20,000 fr. A special incentive bonus
system helped the remaining drivers. A driver, who finished the first 10 laps received an award according to his average speed at that point,
125 km/h received 3,000 fr., 115 km/h 2,000 fr. and 105 km/h 1,000 fr. There were similar awards for completing 20 laps and 30 laps but a
driver could only receive one award. This special incentive bonus system was put in place to help compensate racing drivers for their large
expenditures and presumably to encourage the entry of cars which were unlikely to complete 500 km or finish in the top three.
Complications were encountered during April when authorities carried out a technical inspection and declared that the grandstands for the
Montlhéry Autodrome were no longer sufficiently strong to support a full crowd of spectators. The ACF would have to raise no less than
500,000 to 800,000 francs to repair the grandstand. The Club was reluctant to spend this amount, but by the middle of May, experts had
completed the necessary alterations to the grandstand so that nothing stood in the way of staging the event.
The ACF Sporting Commission met in early May to determine which of the 33 entries received should be accepted for the race. It was initially
planned to select only the best 20 drivers, but this was later changed to 28 because the remaining five drivers were either dead or no longer
available. Frédéric Toselli had died May 5 following his crash at Val de Cuech hill climb on April 30. Louis Trintignant and Guy Bouriat
died in crashes at training for the Picardy Grand Prix at Péronne and the
race itself on May 20 and May 21 respectively. Rudolf Caracciola lay in hospital with a compound fracture of the thigh after his Monaco
practice crash on April 20. Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin was mortally sick with blood poisoning in London, following his burn injury at Tripoli
on May 7.
The most prominent international drivers had entered at Montlhéry with 13 Alfa Romeos, 13 Bugattis and 2 Maseratis. Varzi, Divo, Williams,
and Dreyfus started for the official Bugatti Equipe with the improved 2.3-liter car, though unconfirmed reports suggested Varzi was to drive
a new 2.8-liter model. The Scuderia Ferrari entered Alfa Romeo Monzas, now increased from 2.3-liter to 2.6-liter for Nuvolari, Borzacchini
and Taruffi. Maserati entered Campari in an 8C 3000 two-seater while Fagioli was to drive the narrower 8CM. However, in the race it was to
be Zehender who drove the works car after there was a small dispute with Fagioli at the factory. The Swiss drivers Julio Villars and Baron
Horst von Waldthausen came with their 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo Monzas. Other independent drivers in Alfa Romeo Monzas were Chiron, Etancelin,
Wimille, Sommer, and finally Eyston in Australian Bernard Rubin's green Monza. Earl Howe, Count Czaykowski, and Lehoux came with their
privately owned Bugattis.
began on Wednesday when there was little on-track activity. Thursday's action turned out to be livelier when Chiron, Etancelin, Lehoux, Sommer,
Eyston, Count Czaykowsky and Earl Howe practiced for several hours. It appeared that Louis Chiron was the most successful, coming one fifth of
a second outside the existing lap record.
Friday brought intense activity to Montlhéry. During the whole afternoon the droning from the practicing cars filled the air as they rushed
with scorching speed around the track. It was again Chiron who displayed his top form when he beat the old lap record of 136.7 km/h by two
seconds. Etancelin, who had come second at Nîmes the prior week after an intense battle with Nuvolari also managed to break the old lap record
with an average of 137.1 km/h. The Scuderia Ferrari and Bugatti teams had not yet shown up for Friday practice.
That evening news circulated throughout Montlhéry, which must have exploded like a bomb. The entire Bugatti-Equipe had scratched their cars.
This had happened at the French Grand Prix, their home event of all places, where many had hoped for a victory for the Molsheim company. This
was also a terrible blow for the organizers who had supported this event in such unselfish ways. Supposedly the newly designed 2.8-liter
Bugatti Type 59 was to have its acid test at the French Grand Prix. The car was designated for Varzi to drive but could not be completed in
time. The other T51 cars had not been rebuilt, resulting in the withdrawal of the entire Equipe. So, with an expression of regret, Jean Bugatti
had notified the organizers at the last moment about this sad decision to the great disappointment of all concerned. Vicomte de Rohan, the ACF
President, was quite vocal expressing his dissatisfaction about Bugatti's forfeit.
Much has been written about the Bugatti Equipe's withdrawal. Erwin Tragatsch stated in "Die großen Rennjahre" that Ettore Bugatti had planned to
enter a new 2.8-liter version but only one car was completed on the day before the race. It was decided that the new car was not yet ready after
a test run of about 100 km on the road around Molsheim to Strasbourg ended unsatisfactorily. This was the official excuse but René Dreyfus in his
memoirs, "My Two Lives", pointed out "the cars were not ready. I can't recall the precise reason. But it just might have been that mechanics at
the factory were busy doing something else. Making a saddle, for instance. Or a chest of drawers." Bugatti had no substitute racecar and the three
T51s that had raced at Monaco had not been touched since, neither had Varzi's winning Bugatti T51 from the Avusrennen. Le Patron most likely did
not intend entering the current T51 on the faster Montlhéry circuit, a hopeless venture, but with the new 2.8-liter Type 59 it should have been
different. The construction of this new T59 car had however fallen behind because a great part of the factory workforce had been assigned to the
very important new railcar project directed by Le Patron. Therefore the racecars simply received less attention. The new T59 was just a few days
behind schedule and would eventually appear for the first time four weeks later at Spa where Varzi drove it during practice.
Until Saturday the participation of the Scuderia Ferrari had also remained uncertain and a second withdrawal was feared. But on Saturday, after
their late arrival, the Scuderia Ferrari were finally practicing with most of the other drivers on the track. Nuvolari set the fastest lap with
142.3 km/h after only his second tour around. After the Italian had completed a lengthy practice run, the firm assurance was given for a start on
the following day.
The Sunday of the race was gray and foggy. Despite the loss of Bugatti it turned out to be an incomparable event. Since the earliest morning hours
a never-ending procession of vehicles, trains, buses and cars hauled an enormous crowd of people to Montlhéry. Due to negligence by the leading
organization, a hopeless jam of people and vehicles pushed and shoved their way along the approach roads to the circuit with the result that many
spectators did not make it in time for the start. But already hours before the beginning of the race, tens of thousands of spectators surrounded the
race circuit. Around noon time over hundred thousand spectators thronged the course. An incredible tension could be felt by the masses before this
great race. The crowd credited their countryman Chiron with the greatest chance. Nonetheless, Nuvolari was mentioned with great respect and the
French press commented about the loss of the Bugatti Equipe with disappointment and regret.
It was not yet absolutely clear if Nuvolari was going to start after the blower drive shaft had broken on his Alfa Romeo during Saturday's practice.
Because repairs could not be completed in time for Sunday's race, the story is told that Borzacchini unselfishly stood down, making the car assigned
to him available to his friend Nuvolari. However, it appears more likely that he was ordered to do so. It is unimaginable that Enzo Ferrari left
these important matters to the good nature of his drivers, but there exists no record to support such a thought. Somehow the starting numbers must
then have been swapped between these two cars, because when the 19 cars assembled on the starting grid in the early afternoon in order of their
starting numbers, Nuvolari with number 10 (the ex-Borzacchini car) was in the second row and Borzacchini's number 14 (the ex-Nuvolari car with
broken blower shaft) was in the middle of row three.
Then, only ten minutes before the start, the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics pushed Borzacchini's number 14 Alfa off the grid and replaced it with the
team's number 38 car, which had been assigned to Taruffi. Supposedly Borzacchini had declined to drive Taruffi's number 38 Alfa when so instructed
by his team. Consequently, the Scuderia Ferrari had no option but to have Taruffi take the wheel, a clever way perhaps to get a better starting
position in row three than they would have had in row six.
With a deafening roar the field of 19 cars shot away for the 500 km battle, accompanied by the wild screaming approval of the giant crowd. A few minutes
went by when the far thunder of the engines could be heard again in the distance. In the lead was the red Alfa Romeo of Nuvolari, eight seconds ahead
of Campari, who had passed nine cars on the first lap. Next came Taruffi, Zehender, Chiron, Etancelin, Eyston, Félix, Czaykowski, Moll, Waldthausen,
Sommer, Howe, Zanelli, Wimille, Bussienne and Villars. Gaupillat stopped at his pits to retire with ignition problems, simultaneously with Lehoux who
had immediately fallen back with engine problems, and Howe who also pitted to change spark plugs. On the second lap Chiron and Etancelin passed
Zehender's Maserati, closing in on Taruffi. Wimille was the next retirement with a broken gearbox.
It then took Chiron and Etancelin two laps to get past the unseasoned Taruffi, who had intentionally blocked them for several laps. While passing the
grandstand, both Frenchmen excitedly pointed their hand towards the Italian to make the
sporting commissioners aware of this unsporting behavior. During the next following laps Nuvolari maintained his lead followed a few hundred yards
behind by Campari with Chiron now in third place, raising French hopes. Campari proved his old shining form by equaling the lap record and then
breaking it by one second on lap four, despite his badly over-steering Maserati, the cause of excessive tire wear.
At 50 km or 4 laps Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) led by 22m06s, just six seconds ahead of Campari (Maserati) with 22m12s, Chiron (Alfa Romeo) in 22m33s,
Etancelin (Alfa Romeo) in 22m33s, Taruffi (Alfa Romeo) in 22m34s, Zehender (Maserati) in 22m39s and then Moll (Alfa Romeo) in 22m58s. At the end of
lap six Nuvolari and Chiron both made pit stops. The Italian changed all four wheels in 2m07s, but soon after resuming the race, he parked his Alfa
Romeo on the circuit with a broken differential. Chiron, now seemed to be the likely winner but one lap after his pit stop he stopped for good, also
with a broken rear axle drive. After Nuvolari's and Chiron's abandonment the race took a totally different complexion but the retirements continued
in an almost alarming way. Shortly afterwards the Swiss but German born Baron von Waldthausen, who was a new regular private driver for 1933, retired
his Monza with a broken piston. He was followed by Bussienne with gearbox problems.
At 100 km or 8 laps, Campari held the lead with his 3-liter Maserati at 43m59s an average speed of 136.415 km/h, followed by the battle for second
place between Taruffi 44m34s and Etancelin 44m34s, then Zehender 44m52s, Moll 45m30s, Czaykowski 45m41s, Sommer 45m46s, Eyston 46m03s, Zanelli 46m40s,
Félix 46m46s, Howe in 49m18s and Villars now far behind after several stops. After eight laps Count Czaykowski stopped his Bugatti with a broken
gearbox bearing. By now the race had lost its excitement and became rather monotonous. Campari further increased his lead ahead of Taruffi and Etancelin
and had set a new lap record on lap 11 with a time of 5m27s. After 13 laps new life was injected into the race when Campari pulled into his pits for
rear tires. The stop had taken 52 seconds and the feared Etancelin had in the meantime taken first place, soon to be passed by Taruffi who then held
At 200 km or 16 laps, Taruffi led by only one second at 1h28m09s, Etancelin followed at 1h28m10s, Campari 1h28m40s, Zehender 1h29m42s, Moll 1h29m56s,
Sommer 1h29m59s and Eyston 1h31m41s. Campari quickly made up his lost time, establishing a new record lap of 5m23s at 139.318 km/h and caught up with
these two leaders, whom he overtook on lap 19. Etancelin had stopped for tires, fuel and oil, which cost him 1m55s. Zehender had also pitted his
Maserati for fuel and rear tires. Earl Howe had to retire after injuring his left eye from a stone that splintered his visor. (After a few days in
a hospital, he was released.)
At 250 km or 20 laps, (half-distace) Campari held the lead at 1h50m20s an average speed of 135.951 km/h. Taruffi followed at 1h50m39s, then Sommer
1h52m01s in third place, then Etancelin 1h52m17s, Moll 1h54m11s, Eyston 1h54m36s, Zehender 1h54m51s, Zanelli 1h57m40s and Villars 2h11m07s. Another
exiting pit-stop happened when Taruffi pulled in for the first time to refuel and change all wheels. Although Nuvolari assisted in this service it
took 2m54s before the team leader jumped into Taruffi's seat and took off, to the accompaniement of disapproving whistles from the grandstand crowd.
But Nuvolari was unable to fight for the lead or might have been instructed to take it easy. After pit stops and completing only 17 laps, Félix
retired his Alfa Romeo with engine problems. Soon after, Zanelli dropped out with his Alfa Romeo after completing 19 laps as did Zehender with broken
shock absorbers on his Maserati.
After 300 km or 24 laps Campari was still in the lead, 1m48s ahead of Etancelin, 4m20s ahead of Moll and 4m39s ahead of Nuvolari. When Moll made a
rather lengthy pit stop for fuel and tires on lap 25, Nuvolari was promoted into third place, followed by the steady Eyston now fourth. But the
Italian stayed only very briefly in third place since he headed for the pits on lap 26 to retire for the second time, now with Taruffi's Alfa, also
with a broken rear axle drive.
Only six cars were now left from the 19 that had started but the race was still exciting. What was lost in quantity was now made up in quality.
This last part of the race brought the spectators a magnificent battle between Campari and Etancelin. On lap 28 Campari still had a lead of 1m40s
but on lap 31 he stopped to change all tires in 1m44s, relinquishing the lead to Etancelin. When Campari resumed the race, he was 31s behind and
attacked the Frenchman. By lap 33 the deficit was down to 20s. Etancelin kept the lead and the enthused masses screamed in excitement, hoping for
a French victory. Yet Campari worked himself steadily closer, constantly reducing the time gap, which was down to three seconds on lap 36.
Then, instead of going into the lead, Campari once more headed for the pits because it began to rain and he changed to unworn tires. The nerve-wrecking
duel had to be decided in those last 50 kilometers with Campari now a full minute behind. The Italian continuously increased his speed and reduced
the gap to 23.2s as he entered the last lap. But just now Etancelin's clutch had become so bad that it would not release and he was unable to
change gears. Campari tore past the desperate Etancelin who had almost come to a stop and then bent the gear lever in his struggle to engage any
gears. Thus the race was decided in this very last moment for Campari, 52s ahead of Etancelin, thereby achieving his final victory. It was also a
great triumph for Maserati, who had already won several major races but never a Grande Épreuve. Eyston in the too highly geared Alfa Romeo, Sommer
and Moll filled the next places, with Villars, who had steadily held his own, finishing last, six laps behind the leader.
After the race:|
a protest was placed with the sporting commission against Campari because the Maserati had been push-started at a pit stop by two mechanics after it
failed to start on the handle. Such action was in breach of the regulations. The commissioners decided in favor of Campari, who retained his first
place, and merely punishing him with a fine of 1000 francs.
Campari had to change wheels several times during the race. After lap 13 he had to stop at his pits again to change rear wheels. In full view of
the commissioners Campari climbed into his car to have two mechanics and a third person standing at his pit push his car a short distance to start
the engine. The Italian thereby violated Article 187 of the Grand Prix regulations, which said that the driver alone had to get his car started.
This transgression was very obvious. The sporting commissioners punished Campari after the race with a fine of 1,000 francs, a rather lenient fine
at that time. AUTOMOBIL-REVUE wrote that the French sporting press was not pleased with the commissioners' action and voiced serious doubts about
the effect that this penalty could have. They pointed at the possibility that Campari without the help of the three persons could have lost a few
minutes and thereby victory would have gone to Etancelin. The French sport journalists, led by the bold Charles Faroux, categorically represented
the viewpoint that Campari had to be excluded from the race. It was referred to earlier years where a rule violation had led to such a draconian
move. Numerous cases were recited, where the smallest violation resulted in disqualification. The Italians defended the other viewpoint, similar
to that of the sporting commissioners, thinking that such exclusion would have been scandalous because Campari certainly was not aware of his violation
and additionally the regulations did not state the maximum penalty. The Sporting Commissioners stressed that for the regulations applied, the
judgment's severity of punishment was appropriate to the severity of the offence. "La Gazzetta dello Sport" arrived at the only true conclusion from
the whole affair and advised as consequence of this incident that in future drivers were to read the regulations in detail, then such rule violations
would no longer happen.
|1.||32||Giuseppe Campari||G. Campari||Maserati||8C-3000||3.0||S-8||40||3h48m45.4s|
|2.||26||Philippe Etancelin||P. Etancelin||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||40||3h49m37.4s||+ 52.0s|
|3.||18||George Eyston||Bernard Rubin||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||39||3h49m25.0s|
|4.||52||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||39||3h54m54.0s|
|5.||46||Guy Moll||G. Moll||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||38||3h54m53.0s|
|6.||8||Julio Villars||Equipe Villars||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||34||3h49m26.0s|
|DNF||38||P. Taruffi/T. Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||26||transmission|
|DNF||12||Goffredo Zehender||G. Zehender||Maserati||8CM||3.0 ||S-8||19||shock absorbers|
|DNF||2||Earl Howe||Earl Howe||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||19||injured eye by broken glass|
|DNF||6||Juan Zanelli||J. Zanelli||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||19|
|DNF||4||Pierre Félix||P. Félix||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||17|
|DNF||22||Stanisłas Czaykowski||Count Czaykowski||Bugatti||T54||5.0||S-8||8||gearbox bearing|
|DNF||42||Louis Chiron||Scuderia CC||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||6||transmission|
|DNF||10||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||6||transmission|
|DNF||24||Pierre Bussienne||P. Bussienne||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||5||gearbox|
|DNF||28||Horst von Waldthausen||Equipe Villars||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||4||engine|
|DNF||48||Jean-Pierre Wimille||J.P. Wimille||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||2||gearbox|
|DNF||44||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||1||connecting rod|
|DNF||36||Jean Gaupillat||J. Gaupillat||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||0||ignition|
Fastest lap: Giuseppe Campari (Maserati) on lap 39 in 5m23s = 139.3 km/h (86.6 mph).|
Winner's medium speed: 131.1 km/h (81.5 mph)
Weather: gray and overcast, rain started at four laps from the end.
Campari with 41 years behind him had to be counted as senior driver but proved that he still belonged to the first international guard. His achievement
had to be rated so much the more since he had not been active for quite some time. Despite his radiant voice and considerable body girth, the famous
baritone Campari had shown once more that he was still as fast and dangerous as in his former years.
Etancelin, the French independent driver, deserved great praise. In recent races he had finished in the top positions and had to be counted amongst the
leading international drivers. During the race he formed a serious threat to Campari and only because of a clutch problem had he needed to let Campari
pass on the last lap.
Nuvolari, who after his first retirement took over Taruffi's car, again encounterd problems and therefore retired twice. He had by then made up his
mind to finally leave the Scuderia Ferrari, as he had already intended after his disappointment at the Monaco Grand Prix. The Alfa Monza's transmission
was not strong enough to handle the increased power of the 2.6-liter engine and consequently broke its gears.
Taruffi left the Scuderia Ferrari not long after the French Grand Prix when relations became strained. This began when Taruffi with his private Norton
had beaten Aldrighetti, Ferrari's top rider, on the Montenero circuit. With the help of some friends Taruffi later acquired the Maserati 8CM 3005,
previously driven by Sommer and Nuvolari.
Earl Howe wrote in 'The Motor' of October 17, 1933, about his serious mishap that led to his retirement. While "... following Campari and an Alfa Romeo
driven, I believe, by Moll, just at a point where you leave the track and enter the Piste Routiere, going at absolutely maximum speed, when a stone
thrown up by one of the wheels of the car in front hit my visor, tore a hole four inches long and hit my left eye, wounding it very seriously. All I
knew about it was that my eye went suddenly black and that when I opened it I could see nothing. I was luckily able to pull up. I took off my crash
hat and visor, put my hand to my eye and found it covered with blood. I realized that nothing could be done for me where I was, so I proceeded to drive
on again as best I could, using one eye, until I came to the ambulance. After some considerable delay I was able to persuade the officials to allow the
ambulance to take me back to the control, and I was subsequently taken to a fine hospital in Paris."
The accident to his eye prevented Earl Howe to take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours Race and the Isle of Man Race but he was allowed to drive again at the
Dieppe Grand Prix.