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Back in 1999 when I went online with my site the 1939 season was not included. I then added that season in a rather rush to get my site complete.
Now, eleven years later, the 1939 pages are being completly redesigned with full entry lists and results included even for the minor races.
Also, I don't have to worry about limited web resources any more, but can concentrate on getting the reports and results tables correct and
complete, including race speeds and track lenghts. The page will follow the format already seen on the 1933 pages, with a few improvements.
The world situation interfered heavily with the 1939 races.
Early in the season Mussolini refused Italian drivers to race in French events because of the involvement
in the Spanish civil war and deteriorating relations between the two nations. It was also decided that all major
Italian races should be for 1.5 litre cars only. The fact that Mercedes-Benz introduced their new voiturette car in the
Tripoli GP and that Auto Union was building their own voiturette showed that 1.5 litre racing was gaining ground
and probably would have been the new GP formula in the early 1940s if not the war had intervened.
Mercedes-Benz continued as the leading Grand Prix team challenged only by Auto Union. A stronger concentration on
GP racing by the Alfa Romeo and Maserati teams could have made some very interesting racing but the Italian teams
preferred to dominate in voiturette racing instead.
There have been doubts about who was the European Champion in 1939. Using the 1935-1938 points system the Champion would be
Hermann Müller but due to the war there were never any official results of the 1939 championship.
However, Lang was declared European Champion in December 1939 by NSKK-Korpsführer Hühnlein .
There is no doubt that Lang was the dominant driver of the season with 4 GP victories, winner of the most prestigious
voiturette race of the season and 2 major mountain climb victories. The 1939 season is also sadly
remembered for Richard Seaman's infamous accident at Spa.
The 1939 season was of course cut short. The Italian Grand Prix, Masaryk Grand Prix and Donington Grand Prix, scheduled for 10th, 24th and 30th September were never raced and neither was the first Zürich Grand Prix,
a race planned to be held on the Schwamendingen circuit in Switzerland. The Wien Grand Prix planned for 26th August was also never raced and
the Grand Prix de Liege sports car race in Belgium was canceled after the first day of practice, 24 August.
The Bangkok Grand Prix also became a victim of the war. The La Baule Grand Prix, schedules for 3 September, London Grand Prix, scheduled for 7th October and
the Brooklands Autumn Meeting, scheduled for the 14th October were never held either.
1939 SEASON LINEUP:
Factory Racing Teams:
Mercedes-Benz continued with their W154 car (Note 1) with a new
streamlined bodywork and fuel tank distribution that made the car almost 100 kg lighter.
The greatest novelty was the two stage supercharger that added some 30 BHP.
To better the cooling of the brakes Mercedes-Benz developed new drums with integral cooling fans.
A new V12 engine known as the M163 was constructed and used late in the season.
The team lineup was the familiar one with Rudolf Caracciola,
Manfred von Brauchitsch, Hermann Lang and
Richard Seaman as senior drivers.
Walter Bäumer, Hans Hugo Hartmann and
Heinz Brendel were added to the team as reserves.
Seaman's crash during the Belgian GP was the first fatal incident for the team since Otto Merz at AVUS 1933.
The team continued to develop their D-type, adding two stage supercharging for better performance.
At the end of the season the rear engine Auto Union cars probably held an edge in roadholding over any
other car in the world at that time.
Tazio Nuvolari continued as team leader with Hans Stuck,
Rudolf Hasse and Hermann Müller as the other drivers.
Motorcycle driver Georg "Schorsch" Meier was added to the team as junior driver with
Ulrich Bigalke functioning as reserve.
Alfa Romeo made only minor cosmetic changes to their Tipo 308, 312 and 316 cars.
The company was developing a new 16 cylinder car named Tipo 162 but the car was never raced.
Giuseppe Farina led Alfa Corse In the few races started during the year with
Raymond Sommer mostly entered as a privateer.
Maserati concentrated their efforts on Voiturette racing and no development was done on the 8CTF.
The works team entered just one race during 1939, the German GP, where Luigi Villoresi
and Paul Pietsch showed that the cars still were fast but fragile. After
that race the works cars were sold to Laurie and Lucie Schell to be driven by "Raph" and Max Christen .
Another 8CTF was sold to American Wilbur Shaw who showed the potential of the car by dominating the Indy 500.
Ecurie Lucy O'Reilly Schell continued with their T155 and T145 cars for their drivers
René Dreyfus and "Raph"
before giving up the Delahayes and buying the works Maserati cars instead.
Some private Type 135 Delahaye sportscars were also seen during the season driven by
In January 1939 Tony Lago unveiled the MD 90 "Monoplace Decalée" offset 4.5 litre GP car followed
two months later by the MC 90 "Monoplace Centrale" also with the 4.5 litre engine. There was never
any money to build the planned 3 litre V16 engine.
Drivers included Philippe Étancelin, René Carrière and
René Le Bègue
Jean-Pierre Wimille made only sporadic appearances with the works
Type 59/50B as the driver and the team were concentrating on sports cars.
Mercedes-Benz answered the Italian plans to race all Italian races to the voiturette formula by building their
own W165 voiturette cars with 1.5 litre V8 engines between November 1938 and April 1939.
The constructions leaned heavily on the new W154 GP car and one car was made ready and taken to Hockenheim for
tests. A second car was finished during the trip to the Tripoli GP.
The W165s were only raced once during the season
but during that race they really shook the Italians. Drivers were Rudolf Caracciola
and Hermann Lang.
The Alfa Romeo improved reliability of their Tipo 158s. The Alfa Corse team retained their position as top voiturette
team during the season. In fact, during the rainy Swiss GP Farina was able to keep his Tipo 158 in front of the
GP Mercedes cars for several laps.
Two fatal crashes happened during the year involving works drivers Emilio Villoresi
and "Nando" Aldrighetti.
Other Alfa Corse drivers included Giuseppe Farina, Clemente Biondetti,
Francesco Severi and Carlo Pintacuda.
For the season Maserati built a totally new voiturette car, the 4 cylinder 16 valve 4CL.
A streamlined variant of the car appeared during the Tripoli GP to be driven by head driver
Count Trossi, Giovanni Rocco and Franco Cortese
also continued as works drivers.
Unlike Alfa Romeo, Maserati had even their latest cars availible for privateers and British drivers
Johnnie Wakefield and Reggie Tongue took the oportunity to buy thir own 4CL cars and raced them successfully.
Other teams including Scuderia Ambrosiana and Scuderia Torino and several privateers continued with their 6CM and 4CM cars,
among them Armand Hug using a 6CM with a 4CL engine.
ERA Ltd. struggled on with great finacial difficulties.
Raymond Mays and Berthon split with the company, Mays racing on with the ERA-D as privateer.
Mays kept the Bourne premises whil Cook and the works team moved to Donington Park. Philip Mayne was appointed team manager.
Arthur Dobson became first driver and Tony Rolt second driver.
The ERA E-type was shown in public in April 1939. There were however development problems and the car was withdrawn
several times before finally making its debut.
Other privateers to be seen during the season included "B Bira" who was now racing under Siamese licence,
Earl Howe, Peter Whitehead, Bob Ansell,
Con Pollock and Peter Aitken.
1.The official name of the car was W154 just as the year before. However in many books the car is incorrectly known as the
W163. The reason for that is that the new, redesigned K-series engine, used parallell with the old type during the season, was known as the M163 (M standing for Motor, W for Wagen).
On a suggestion from Hans Etzrodt I have decided to use the correct but perheps less known name W154 here for the car to set an example for future historians.
The 1939 season was not without its fatal race accidents, several of them involving running ito a tree Vern Leech crashed a MG at the Australian GP at Lobethal on 2 January.
1938 AAA champion and Indy winner Floyd Roberts died of brain damage after a crash with Bob Swanson at the Indianapolis 500 on 30 May
where Robert's car went through the back straight outer wall and straight into a tree.
Emilio Villoresi died testing a Alfa Romeo Alfetta at Monza on 19 June. On his 15th lap he is reported to have gone head on into a tree near Curva della Roggia.
Richard Seaman died at hospital in the evening of 25 June following the horrible burns he had recieved at the rainy Belgian Grand Prix when his Mercedes-Benz crashed into a tree,
trapping the driver and splitting the fully loaded tank.
Jean Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti's son, was testing a T57C at high speed near Duppigheim on the evening of 11 August when he run over a cyclist, lost control, hit two trees, bounced across the road and hit yet another tree.
The car split in half lengthwise and Bugatti died instantly.
Giordano Aldrighetti, in a Alfa Romeo Alfetta, crashed near Spoltore on 11 August while practicing for the Coppa Acerbo, the car overturning in a ditch, catching fire and trapping the driver, who
succumbed to his injuries at a hospital after midnight.
Sir John Bowen died after crashing his Maserati at a handicap race at Donington Park on 12 August.
Catullo Lami died instantly when his Maserati went off the road and overturned at the Coppa Acerbo on 13 August.
The main sources of information for the 1939 season has been Paul Sheldon: "A history of Grand Prix and Voiturette Racing, volume 4", Chris Nixon: "Racing the Silver Arrows",
David Venables: "The Racing Fifteen-Hundreds" and "First Among Champions", Georg C. Monkhouse: "Motor Racing with Mercedes-Benz" and "Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Racing 1934-1955" and
Adriano Cimarosti: "The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing."
For information about the cars I have had good use of Karl Ludwigsen: "Quicksilver Century", Peter Kirchberg: "Grand-Prix-Report Auto Union 1934 - 1939", Peter Hull: "Alfa Romeo, a History", Anthomy Pritchard:
"Maserati a History", H.G. Conway: "Grand Prix Bugatti", Laurence Pomeroy: "The Grand Prix Car" and Doug Nye: "Autocourse History of the Grand Prix Car 1945 - 1965".
There are also the classic biografies like Alfred Neubauer: "Männer, Frauen und Motoren", Rudi Caracciola. "Meine Welt" and Hermann Lang: "Von Rennmonteur zum Europameister".
These books I consider to be standard literture, used for most of the race accounts and I will usually not mention them especially for each race. However if some other book has been of special use for a particular race, it
has been mentioned at the end of that race account. See here for a more complete source list.
Also period magazines has been used as much as possible, especially the Swiss
"Automobil-Revue" and the Italian "Il Littoriale". I'm greatly thankful to Hans Etzrodt and Alessandro Silva for providing me with copies of those.
In addition to all that comes various Net resources, Discussion Groups, magazine articles, videos, YouTube etc.
2 January 1939:Allan Tomlinson (MG) wins the Australian GP handicap race at Lobethal.
Vern Leech has a fatal crash during the race.
February 1939: Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Talbot, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union tests at Monza.
March 1939: Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union tests at Monza. Hermann Lang, driving the 1939 body W154 prototype, makes a best lap of
2m27.2s, 5.2s under last year's pole time.
11 March 1939: Combined B.A.R.C. and B.M.C.R.C. Meeting at Brooklands.|
The handicap races were won by Ian Connell (Darracq), Bob Gerard (Riley), Arthur Hyde (Riley),
J. Lemon Burton (Bugatti) and Charles Mortimer (Bugatti).
1 April 1939: Rolt (ERA B) wins the British Empire Trophy handicap race
at Donington Park, England.
GRAND PRIX DE PAU
Pau (F), 2 April 1939
100 laps x 2.769 km (1.721 mi) = 276.9 km (172.1 mi) (Note 1)
Unnecessary stop makes von Brauchitsch to lose race to Lang
Mussolini forbid Italian teams and drivers to race at Pau. The Mercedes drivers took control of the race, Caracciola leading until he had to stop
after 31 laps with a loose oil pipe. Von Brauchitsch took over and lead until he made an unnecessary pit stop on lap 82, believing that he was out of fuel.
That left Lang to take the victory afrom von Brauchitsch with Etancelin in the new talbot third after a long fight with Sommer's Alfa Romeo.
The Pau Grand Prix, once again organized by the Automobile Club Basco Béarnais (ACBB), had become recognized as the curtain raiser for the Grand Prix season. But in 1939 politics interfered badly with the event.
Mussolini had forbidden Italian teams and drivers to race at Pau. As Nuvolari couldn't start Auto Union decided to miss the race altogether.
To avoid a repetition of the 1938 race, Daimler-Benz had made careful preparations and pre season tests. They sent four of their new cars, three race cars plus a T-car, with new streamlined noses and new
radiators, the results of an extensive test program run during the winter. The new cars had tanks large enough to make the race nonstop. The engines were still of the 1938 type with a one stage supercharger.
Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang were selected as drivers. Dick Seaman had to be content by being reserve.
Because of Mussolini's boycott both Alfa Romeo and Auto Union scratched their entries. There was however one Alfa Romeo 308 present at the race. It has been claimed it was a works entry entered under Sommer's
name to hinder any problems. However Jean-Maurice Gigleux has found out that the car in fact seems to have been entered by Emilio de Graffenried together with de Graffenried's own Maserati 6C-34.
(On April 18th, Il Littoriale announced that Raymond Sommer and Emmanuel de Graffenried were to form a racing team together.)
Talbot entered two of their new "Monoplace Decalée", having the option of René Carrièrè, Philippe Etancelin and René Le Bègue as drivers, and S.E.F.A.C. did a last attempt, this time with Jean Trémoulet
Ecurie Lucy O'Reilly Schell (ex- Ecurie Bleue) entered two Delahaye 145 on 14 March but then withdrew the entry a week later, so Dreyfus would not be able to defend his 1938 victory. The new Ecurie Francia
team entered three Delahaye 135s for Joseph Paul, Marcel Contet and Eugène Chaboud with Jean Trévoux and Charles de Cortanze as reserves. Paul's #46094 had been rebuilt for 1939 and looked much like the
two other cars of the team except that Chaboud's #46810 featured air slots around the radiator and that the radiator on Contet's #47193 looked a bit more heart formed than on the other two cars. All three
cars were painted with white-red-white lines over the hood similar to the one seen in 1938 on the Ecurie Bleue Delahayes.
There were two other Delahayes in the race, René Biolay's #46626 with a huge triangular radiator and Robert Mazaud's #47194 with a small square radiator and headlights.
The Bugattis of Marcel Balsa and Maurice Trintignant completed the entry list.
Practice sessions took place on Friday and Saturday from noon to 1.45 p.m.
Not unexpectedly the Daimler-Benz team dominated practice. Von Brauchitsch was fastest followed by Caracciola.
On the second day Mercedes' reserve Seaman was actually fastest with a time of 1m46s and Lang was able to better to his time to 1m47s.
Lang had a nasty moment when his brakes failed but he was able to stop the car without damage. Trémoulet in the SEFAC
spun and filled the track with gravel.
Etancelin used car #4 at first practice but for the second practice Carrière took over that car and Etancelin used car #16 instead.
It is unknown which of the cars Le Bègue used.
|Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1m49s||1m50s|
|Le Bègue (Delahaye)||-||1m53s||DNS|
The weather did not look too good at Sunday morning. It had been raining hard during the night. But at 2 p.m. when the race started the sun had finally broken through the cloud.
In spite of the weather a big crowd (some 50.000) had turned up for the Grand Prix.
In 1938 Daimler-Benz had experienced that the track conditions deteriorated during the race as the track became slippery. The strategy for 1939 was therefore to go flat out in
the beginning to open up a gap big enough in case an unscheduled pit stop was needed. But as the competitors had made a lot of laps during practice the track had already become
slippery before the race. And the track was still wet from the earlier rain.
As Charles Faroux, the famous French journalist and race manager, dropped the flag Caracciola took the lead at the start followed by von Brauchitsch, Lang, Carrièrè , Sommer and Etancelin. Already after one
lap those six had opened up a gap to the rest of the field and soon the three Mercedes cars created a group of their own. De Graffenried was first to retire with a broken gearbox on lap 3 and he was soon to
be followed by Trinignant, whose engine was overheating. Tremoulet in the S.E.F.A.C. was an early visitor in the pits and Chaboud had to give up after 10 laps.
The track soon dried out and the speeds were increasing. The Mercedes duo of Caracciola and von Brauchitsch was doing 1m49s laps and was slowly but surely pulling away from Lang.
Carrièrè in the Talbot was in fourth position. However the main interest of the spectators turned to the fight for fifth position between Sommer's Alfa Romeo and Etancelin's new Talbot. The new Talbot made a
good impression and on the 15th lap Etancelin found a way past his fellow countryman. But on the next lap Sommer retook the fifth position.
Further down the field Balsa was making a good job in his old Bugatti to keep the whole lot of Delahayes behind him.
By 15 laps the Mercedes trio had a half a minute lead over Carrièrè and team manager Neubauer gave orders to his drivers to ease the pace a bit.
On the 19th lap Sommer went past Carrièrè for fourth position but he was a minute behind the Mercedes cars. On the22nd lap Balsa's good race came to an end.
On the 29th lap Carraciola entered the pit with oil streaming out under the car. An oil pipe had come loose and it took a 12 minute repair before Caracciola could return to the race. But had lost 7 laps and
he retired soon afterwards. A lap later a similar thing happened to Carrièrè's Talbot and the driver lost control in the smoke from the engine and crashed, destroying the new car.
With a third of the race gone von Brauchitsch was leading Lang by 21 seconds and Sommer by 1m47s. The rest of the field, which was led by Étancelin and followed by Mazaud, Biolay, Tremoulet and Contet, had
already been lapped.
Caracciola did the 28th lap in 1m47s, equaling the time he had set on lap 2.
After 35 laps Trémoulet retired the S.E.F.A.C.
By half distance the two Mercedes cars had lapped the entire field but following their plan they were still going hard. Von Brauchitsch was doing faster and faster laps and was leading Lang by half a minute
by mid-race. Sommer was third followed by Etancelin Mazaud, Paul and Biola.
At lap 82 the engine on von Brauchitsch's Mercedes, which was now leading by 45 seconds, cut out in the chicane. Von Brauchitsch believed that he was out of fuel and made a surprise pit stop, leaving over
the lead to his teammate.
With 17 laps to go Sommer, who was suffering from a dislocated shoulder, also came in for fuel but the Alfa Romeo refused to restart. In the haste someone forgot to close the bonnet and Sommer lost 8 minutes
in total and his third place to Etancelin's Talbot.
Lang was leading von Brauchitsch by 17 seconds. The latter made the 84th lap in 1m47s but Lang answered by equal fast times on laps 85, 87 and 88.
Despite von Brauchitsch's efforts to close the gap Lang controlled the race to take the flag as the winner of the Pau GP. Étancelin's Talbot was third and Sommer's Alfa fourth followed far back by some
Delahaye sports cars.
After the race a furious von Brauchitsch discovered that the car had not run out of fuel at all, but it had been a pick-up problem, and that he had lost the race because of an unnecessary stop.
According to Sheldon the fastest lap of the race was 1m46.8s by von Brauchitsch. Both Darmendrail Le Grand Prix de Pau 1899-1960 and Hermann Lang in Von Rennmonteur zum Meisterfahrer claim that the
fastest lap 1m47.0s was shared by Caracciola (laps 2 & 28), von Brauchitsch (lap 84) and Lang (laps 85, 87 & 88).
|1.||18||Hermann Lang||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||100||3h07m25.2s|
|2.||10||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||100||3h07m42.0s||+ 16.8s|
|3.||16||Philippe Etancelin||Automobiles Talbot-Darracq||Talbot||MD||4.5||S-6||98||3h09m57.0s|
|4.||8||Raymond Sommer||Ecurie de Graffenried||Alfa Romeo||Tipo 308||3.0||S-8||95||3h09m15s|
|5.||6||Joseph Paul||Ecurie Francia||Delahaye||135||3.6||S-6||92||3h08m03s|
|6.||28||Robert Mazaud||R. Mazaud||Delahaye||135||3.6||S-6||92||3h09.10s|
|7.||26||René Biolay||R. Biolay||Delahaye||135||3.6||S-6||88||3h07m26s|
|8.||14||Marcel Contet||Ecurie Francia||Delahaye||135||3.6||S-6||86|
|DNF||4||René Carrièrè||Automobiles Talbot-Darracq||Talbot||MD 90||4.5||S-6||31||crash/oil line|
|DNF||2||Rudolf Caracciola||Daimler-Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz||W154||3.0||V-12||31||broken oil line|
|DNF||30||Marcel Balsa||M. Balsa||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||22||mechanical|
|DNF||22||Eugène Chaboud||Ecurie Francia||Delahaye||135||4.5||S-6||10|
|DNF||12||Maurice Trintignant||M. Trintignant||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||5||engine overheating|
|DNF||20||Emmanuel de Graffenried||Ecurie de Graffenried||Maserati||6C-34||3.0||S-6||3||gearbox|
Fastest lap: Manfred von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz) in 1m46.8s = 93.4 km/h (58.0 mph) (Note 1)|
Winner's medium speed: 88.7 km/h (55.1 mph)
Pole position speed: 94.1 km/h (58.4 mph)
Weather: overcast, wet track, drying up.
1. A track length of 2769 seems to have been used for official results. A length of 2769.6m is given in a previous winners list in Autocourse Vol 1 1951 where speed in km/h given are consistant with track length but
speed in mph is counted incorrectly. Fastest lap speeds given corresponds to a lap time of 1m47.0s while Sheldon gives 1m46.8s. It is possible that the lap speeds in
Autocourse is a copy error from the 1938 race the line above.
2. Grid corrected with thanks to Jean-Maurice Gigleux.
Special thanks to:|
Brooklands (GB), 10 April 1939 (Monday)
10 laps x 3.648 km (2.267 mi) = 36.5 km, (22.7 mi)
Dobson wins on the Campbell track
This scratch race was a part of the B.A.R.C. Easter Meeting on Brooklands. The meeting also included handicap races, won by Anthony Beadle (Alta), Percy Maclure (Riley), Arthur Dobson (ERA), Peter Aitken (ERA),
R. N. Wallis (Fountain), Harold J. Aldington (Frazer-Nash BMW), Ian Connell (Darracq), C. K. Mortimer (MG), Walter E. Wilkingson (MG) and Alfred Fane (Frazer-Nash BMW).
The meeting attracted the greatest crowd Brookland had seen for quite a while. After that Anthony Beadle had won the first handicap race in an Alta and Percy Maclure the second one in a Riley,
both run on the Campbell Circuit it was time for the main event of the day, a 10 lap scratch race. Again the popular Campbell Circuit was to be used.
Grid in line across the track |
Artur Dobson in the Works ERA, now in Dominion Blue color scheme immediately took control of the race followed by Beadle. MacLure and mrs. Thomas were early retirements.
The steering tie rod on Pollock's ERA brok, the driver lucky to survice the incident without crashing. In the end Dobson was in his own class winning by almost 25 s over
Cotton's ERA with Evans Alfa finishing third.
Main source is Bill Boddy's "The history of Brooklands Motor Course" with additional entry list information from Richard Armstrong.
13 April 1939: Stuck (Auto Union) wins the La Turbie hill climb in France.
6 May 1939: "B Bira" (Maserati 8CM) wins the JCC International Trophy handicap race
at Brooklands, England. Reggie Tongue gave the new Maserati 4CL its racing debut finishing 3rd.
The new ERA-E was tested but withdrawn.
7 May 1939: Humphrey Cook announces that ERA Ltd has to close down on 26 May and that he is prepeared to transfer all the accets to the British Motor Racing Fund.