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Lang (Mercedes-Benz)Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)E. Villorei (Alfa Romeo)

XIII° GRAN PREMIO DI TRIPOLI
(Voiturette 1500cc)

Autodromo di Mellaha - Tripoli (I), 7 May 1939
30 laps x 13.1 km (8.14 mi) = 393.0 km (244.2 mi) (Note 1)



No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2Luigi CastelbarcoScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
2Giovanni LuraniScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNS - alternative driver
4Guido BarbieriG. BarbieriMaserati6CM1.5S-6
6Edoardo TeagnoScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
8Heinz DipperSüddeutsche RenngemeinschaftMaserati6CM1.5S-6
10Giovanni RoccoOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-4
12Catullo LamiC. LamiMaserati6CM1.5S-6
14Enrico PlatéE. PlatéMaserati6CM1.5S-6
16Hermann LangDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW1651.5V-8
Manfred von BrauchitschDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW1651.5V-8DNS - reserve driver
18Carlo Felice TrossiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-4
20Franco CorteseOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-6
22Ovidio CapelliScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
24Rudolf CaracciolaDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW1651.5V-8
26Ettore BiancoE. BiancoMaserati4CM?1.5
28Arialdo RuggeriScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
30Piero TaruffiScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
32Renato BalestreroScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
34"Nando" AldrighettiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
36Paul PietschScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
38Luigi VilloresiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-4streamliner
40Clemente BiondettiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
42Francesco SeveriAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
44Giuseppe FarinaAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
46Andrea BrezziScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
48Emilio VilloresiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
50Carlo PintacudaAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8
50Ferdinando RighettiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8DNS - alternative driver
52Pino BaruffiP. BaruffiMaserati6CM1.5S-6
54Pietro GhersiScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
56Emilio RomanoE. RomanoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
58Dioscoride LanzaScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
60Armand HugScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM/CL1.5



Mercedes' greatest surprise
The 1939 Tripoli race assembled the greatest field of voiturette cars ever, including six Alfettas, introduced the Maserati 4CL and proved to be the only appearance of the Maserati 4CL streamliner. A real sensation were the two Mercedes-Benz W165, planned and built in only eight months. After an exciting qualifying, where Luigi Villoresi took the pole position in the Maserati streamliner, the race itself, run in horribly hot conditions, proved to be rather an anticlimax. While the Mercedes duo of Lang and Caracciola run away with the race, the works Maserati 4CLs were out almost immediately with engine failures and the Alfa Romeos were struggling with overheating , and had to abandon the race one after another and only Emilio Villoresi was able to take his car to the flag in third, far distanced by the Mercedes cars. Rocco in the last Maserati works car had to retire on the last lap as he run out of fuel and small team and privateer Maseratis filled the positions 4-11.
In view of the fact that the new Grand Prix formula to be selected for 1940 or 1941 would almost certainly be the current voiturette formula, it was no big surprise when the Italian Sport Authorities in September 1938 announced that all major Italian races in 1939 would be restricted to 1½ litre cars. There has been much comments made about that decision, both back then and later, claiming it was mainly a political decision, a simple way to get rid of the German teams from the Italian races to secure Italian victories. That may have been the fact but in Tripoli's case it is hard to see that the organizers could have come to a different solution anyway. They needed 30 cars because of the yearly lottery but there were simply not 30 Grand Prix cars available, and the 1938 race with its two fatal accidents had shown that a mixed GP and voiturette field had to be avoided.
      Anyway, Daimler-Benz certainly saw the rule change as an attempt to lock them out. Alfred Neubauer claimed that he first heard about the new rules for Tripoli at the Italian GP on 11 September, the president of the Italian sports federation giving him the news "with a honey sweet smile". Four days later there was a special meeting at Daimler-Benz and three days later an official order was issued to build three voiturette cars and three 1½ litre engines. A special secret section of the experimental department was assigned for the task, getting the highest priority and orders to work 24h a day if needed to get the cars ready in time.
Entries:
One can guess the sensation it created when Mercedes-Benz entered two cars for the race. There were a lot of telegrams being sent between Italy and Untertürkheim for confirmation as the organizers had to be sure of 30 cars. One car, to be raced by Caracciola, was indeed ready and was tested at Hockenheim, the other car for Lang was completed on the ship on the way to Tripoli. The cars were a little bit different. Caracciola's car was set up for higher acceleration, had 15.5 mm torsion bars and quick steering ratio against Lang's car that was set up for higher top speed, had 16 mm torsion bars and a slower steering ratio. Caracciola's car was identified by a thin white ring round the radiator, Lang's by a dark, possibly blue, ring.
      For the only time, six Alfa Romeo Alfettas were to appear together in a single event, three of them for Alfa Corse's 1938 voiturette drivers Emilio Villoresi, Biondetti and Severi, while Aldrighetti, Farina and Pintacuda were making their Alfetta debut. The cars were upgraded for 1939 into 158B spec. with needle bearings replacing the rod bearings on the crankshaft, a new dual exhaust system and a new radiator type that would prove to be unique for Tripoli. The radiators were painted with identifying colors. Sadly it is not known what colors each car had but a highly speculative guess could be: Pintacuda - white, Farina - yellow, Villoresi - light blue or orange, Aldrighetti & Biondetti - green or blue and Severi - red?
      The race was the works debut for the new Maserati 4CL. (Privateer Reggie Tongue had given the car its world premiere the day before at the J.C.C. International Trophy. ) Luigi Villoresi's car had a superbly looking streamlined body that closed in the front wheels and ended in a beaver tail with white (?) painted tip. The car was running on 19" tyres and was expected to be very fast. It was also extremely hot, Villoresi later claiming six laps being the maximum one could stand in it. Rocco and Trossi were to race the other two new 4CL cars and the works team also entered an improved variant of the old 6CM for Cortese.
      The rest of the field consisted of Maseratis of different models. Scuderia Ambrosiana entered four 6CMs for Castelbarco, Capelli, Ruggieri and Taruffi , the last one being a 1939 type (a scene from the race showing a 4 cylinder Scuderia Ambrosiana car with #30 in the pit is in fact taken back in 1938 and cut into the 1939 news film). Another six 6CMs were entered together under the Scuderia Torino banner to be raced by Teagno, Balestrero, Pietsch, Brezzi (light radiator band), Ghesi and Hug (white/red car), Hug's car being of the "4CM speciali" type, having a 4 cylinder engine in a 6CM type chassis.
      There were eight other Maserati s run by privateers including Dipper's silver colored car.
      There were no British entrants because of the difficulties with the Italian money politics.
Practice:
First practice session was on Thursday, 4 May 12:00-15.00. A hot wind blew in from the desert, making the skies yellow, putting sand on the track and creating extreme conditions with track temperature over 50 degrees.
      New Alfa Romeo team manager Meo Constantini, afraid that the heat would make the cooling system in the Alfettas to burst, had decided to lessen the pressure in the system.
      As expected the works teams were fastest with two Mercedes and two Alfas finishing in the top four positions followed by three works Maseratis.

Times: Lang 3m45.73s, Aldrighetti 3m47.86s, Farina 3m48.65s, Caracciola 3m52.23s, Trossi 3m52.74s, L.Villoresi 3m53.65, Cortese 4m05.78s, Lanza 4m06.69s, Bianco 4m08.57s, Castelbarco 4m20.00s, Capelli 4m23.90s, Rocco 4m33.49s, Ghersi 4m34.34s, Lami 4m44.38s, Teagno 4m45.64s, Brezzi 4m50.11s, Balestrero 4m45.64s, Dipper 4m59.92s, Pietsch 5m16.56s, Taruffi 6m03.75s.
Time unknown: Platé, Baruffi.
Did not set a time: Barbieri, Ruggeri, Biondetti, Severi, E. Villoresi, Pintacuda, Romano, Hug.

      On Friday the conditions were better with less wind. To the joy of the Italians Luigi Villoresi put in a 3m41.80s lap with the streamliner, a time no one was able to challenge. Lang got for the third time in his career a stone thrown up from another car in his face.

Times: L. Villoresi 3m41.80s, Caracciola 3m43.13s, Farina 3m45.30s, E. Villoresi 3m46.35s, Biondetti 3m46.40s, Lang 3m49.58s, Rocco 3m50.30s, Cortese 3m52.60s, Bianco 3m58.80, Severi 4m04.76s, Pintacuda 4m06.80s, Capelli 4m13.10s, Pietsch 4m19.44s, Lanza 4m20.79s, Hugh 4m27.69s, Brezzi 4m28.80s, Lami 4m29.48s, Balestrero 4m30.06s, Castelbarco 4m35.25s, Dipper 4m35.27s , Ruggieri 5m54.90s, Ghersi 5m55.29s, Baruffi ~10m.
Did not set a time: Barbieri, Teagno, Platé, Trossi, Taruffi, Aldrighetti, Romano.

      The last practice session was on Saturday at 12:00 - 14.30 but no one was able to beat Villonesi's Friday pole time. There was considerable tension in the Mercedes team, especially as both drivers seem to have thought the other one had got the better car deal. And on Saturday it all came to an explosion. Neubauer, being worried about 52 degrees track temperatures, asked Lang to go out to do three or four fast laps for a tyre check, scrubbing up a set of tyres for the race at the same time. Seeing Lang getting himself prepared to go out Caracciola got angry, saying he thought the team had decided not to start in the last session to spare the engines, and that he was expected to be the first driver. He then accused Neubauer of trying to fix Lang in front of him on the grid and walked away saying he had had enough. Neubauer then noticed Lang had disappeared, too. Neubauer finally found him sitting on a bench in a palm grove behind the pits with his crying wife Lydia. She said they had had enough of Caracciola's jealousy and that she had now forbidden his husband to race. Mercedes' director Max Sailer himself had to convince Lang to get back to the car. Lang set the fastest lap of the day, putting himself on second position on the grid. The Alfa cars were suffering from overheating, probably because of the low pressure in the cooling system, and Farina was almost six seconds down on Lang.

Times: Lang 3m42.35s, Farina 3m48.02s, Aldrighetti 3m48.98s, Biondetti 3m50.18s, E Villoresi 3m51.63s, Pintacuda 3m52.10s, Severi 3m58.93s, Pietsch 4m06.52s, Hug 4m12.64s, Lami 4m21.06s, Ruggeri 4m23.86s, Brezzi 4m28.56s, Teagno 4m33.90s, Romano 4m42.41s, Plate 4m59.73s? (Note 2), Barbieri 5m00.29s, Baruffi 5m26.48s? (Note 2).
Times unknown: L. Villoresi, Trossi, Bianco, Severi, Hug, Dipper.
Did not set a time: Castelbarco, Rocco, Cortese, Capelli, Caracciola, Taruffi, Balestrero, Ghersi, Lanza.

      The trouble continued during Mercedes' meeting in the evening when Neubauer revealed the plans for the race. Lang should start on scrubbed tyres, which could stand high speed without overheating, and go flat out to brake the opposition, even with the chance that the Mercedes engine couldn't take the beating, while Caracciola on new tyres should take it easy and do a short pit stop just for fuel. When Caracciola asked for scrubbed tyres as well, Neubauer lost his temper and said it was Caracciola's own fault they had just one set available. Once again Max Sailer had to step in, reminding the drivers that they were responsible to see that eight months of work in the factory had not been in vain.
     
Race:
Came the race day and again it was extremely hot with track temps of 35 degrees in the shade, 40 in the sun and over 50 degrees on the track. The stands were filled to capacity and the hour before the start was filled with the usual Fascist pomp, grandeur and music. Then it was time to pick a lottery ticket for each participating car. Marshal Balbo, accompanied by former race driver Giuseppe Furmanik, who was now secretary of the Fascist racing drivers sport federation, then reviewed all the cars and then finally everything was ready for the event itself. Oddly the event was to be started both with lights and with Marshal Balbo waving the flag. Minutes before the start, Lang asked Neubauer which would be the official one, and after checking it out Neubauer rushed back to the grid pointing at the lights for Lang.
      The cars were lined up on the grid like this:
Pole Position
44
Farina

Alfa Romeo
3m45.30s

24
Caracciola

Mercedes-Benz
3m43.13s

16
Lang

Mercedes-Benz
3m42.35s

38
L Villoresi

Maserati
3m41.80s

34
Aldrighetti

Alfa Romeo
3m47.86s

40
Biondetti

Alfa Romeo
3m46.40s

48
E Villoresi

Alfa Romeo
3m46.35s

20
Cortese

Maserati
3m54.60s

18
Trossi

Maserati
3m52.74s

50
Pintacuda

Alfa Romeo
3m52.10s

10
Rocco

Maserati
3m50.30s

36
Pietsch

Maserati
4m06.52s

42
Severi

Alfa Romeo
3m58.93s

26
Bianco

Maserati
3m58.80s

22
Capelli

Maserati
4m13.10s

60
Hug

Maserati
4m12.64s

58
Lanza

Maserati
4m06.60s

28
Ruggeri

Maserati
4m23.86s

12
Lami

Maserati
4m21.06s

2
Castelbarco

Maserati
4m20.00s

6
Teagno

Maserati
4m33.90s

32
Balestrero

Maserati
4m30.60s

46
Brezzi

Maserati
4m28.56s

56
Romano

Maserati
4m42.41s

8
Dipper

Maserati
4m35.27s

54
Ghersi

Maserati
4m34.34s

52
Baruffi

Maserati
5m26.48s

4
Barbieri

Maserati
5m00.29s

14
E Platé

Maserati
4m59.73s

30
Taruffi

Maserati
6m03.75s

(Note 3)



29 drivers were looking at Marshal Balbo and his raised flag when the lights turned from yellow and Lang was on his way, making "his best start ever". Caracciola tried to follow as did Farina and in the next second Marshal Balbo dropped the flag. Villoresi's streamlined Maserati moved forward from its pole position, leaving a thick track of oil behind and then it fell back with the gearbox stuck in 2nd gear. Cortese, in the third row, made an excellent start and keeping to the left edge of the track moved up to fourth position behind Lang, Farina and Caracciola. False start! protested Alfa Corse team and asked for a two minutes penalty for Lang. Just blame yourselves for not checking out the rules, was Neubauer's reply.
      At the top Lang, still angry about yesterday's events, was really pushing, and doing a 4m02.36s on the first lap he opened up a gap of 7 seconds. He was followed by Farina, Caracciola, Cortese, Biondetti, Aldrighetti, Trossi, Pintacuda, Pietsch, and Bianco. Ghersi and Baruffi had already retired.
      While Villoresi was still cruising back to the pits where he would lose seven laps to repairs, Cortese in fourth position and Trossi were both forced to retire with broken pistons in one of the darkest moments ever for the works Maserati team. Of the works team only Rocco with the 6CM now remained in the race, far down in the order. Meanwhile the Alfa Romeos were moving up the order so that the cars in the top eight positions now consisted of the two Mercedes and the six Alfas.
      Lang made his second lap in 3m46.67s. Farina ran second, then Caracciola, Aldrighetti, Biondetti, Emilio Villoresi, Severi, and Pintacuda. Farina clearly had no chance of keeping up with Lang's pace, but was rather losing three - four seconds per lap and he had to concentrate on keeping Caracciola behind him instead.

      After five laps the cars were already far spread out: Lang 19m11.45s, Farina 19m32.70s, Caracciola 19m37.94s, Biondetti 20m15.06s, Aldrighetti 20m15.20s, E. Villoresi 20m22.16, Pintacuda 20m30s, Severi 21m05s, Rocco 21m15s, Pietsch 21m23s, Bianco 21m34s Lanza 21m55s, Taruffi, 22m14s, Hug 22m32s, Brezzi 22m56s, Romano 23m05s, Castelbarco 23m11s, Barbieri 23m34s, Dipper 23m36s, Teagno 23m51s, Balestrero 24m11s, Capelli 24m17s, Plate 25m46s, and Lami 26m17s.

      On the seventh lap Lang's lap time was down to 3m45.67s while Caracciola had passed Farina for second position. Luigi Villoresi's streamliner finally made it back to the track but almost immediately retired with a broken piston.

      After ten laps the positions were: Lang 38m03.13s, Caracciola 38m32.53s, Farina 38m44.89s, Aldrighetti 39m51.19s, Biondetti 40m16.69s, Pintacuda 40m29.55, E. Villoresi 40m32.05s, Pietsch 41m22.43s, Rocco 41m22.68s, Bianco 42m30s, Severi 43m08s, Lanza 43m35s, Taruffi 44m11s, Hug 44m51s, and Romano 45m37s.

      Now overheating seriously struck the Alfa Romeos. First to retire was Farina and he was soon to be followed by Aldrighetti.
      It was now time for the pit stops Lang being the first one to come in, followed by Caracciola and the remaining Alfa Romeos. Severi was the next Alfa Romeo driver to get into trouble and then it was Biondetti's turn to retire, which meant that Rocco, who had passed Pietsch, in the works Maserati was now up to fifth.
      It has been claimed that the Mercedes cars that day sent out particularly noxious fumes and many drivers came in with sore eyes, sick, dehydrated and exhausted. There are stories of drivers pouring into their mouths any liquid they were given, one or two getting badly drunk. Capelli came to the pit in an exhausted shape and L. Villoresi quickly gave him a sponge and a lemon. Capelli wiped his face with the lemon while trying to eat the sponge and then jumped back into the car and went off before anyone could hinder him. Fortunately he then understood to pull off before he collapsed. Biondetti, seeing extinguisher fluid on the ground in the pit, was convinced in his confused mind it was ice.

      Situation after 15 laps: Lang 57m02.34s, Caracciola 58m27.92s, Pintacuda 1h00s39s, E. Villoresi 1h00m49s, Rocco 1h04m02s, Pietsch 1h04m40s, Taruffi 1h05 m44s, Lanza 1m07m21s, Romano 1h07m53s, Capelli 1h08m, Bianco 1h09m21s, Hug 1h10m08s, Brezzi 1h11m40s, Teagno 1h11m30s (sic), Dipper 1h13m21s, Lami 1h14m01s, Castelbarco 1h14m32s, Biondetti 1h15m06s, Balestrero 1h16m57s, and Plate 1h19m27s.

      Pintacuda was the fifth Alfa driver to call it a day and Lang had now lapped all others than his team mate at least once and was closing up on the latter.

      20 laps: Lang 1h17m26.30s, Caracciola 1h20m47.35s, E. Villoresi 1h24m39s, Rocco 1h25min04s, Taruffi 1h28m55s.

      Near the end of the race Lang approached Caracciola but Lang decided not to try to lap his team mate but rather slowed down, cruising to finish. So Lang took the victory and Caracciola completed the Mercedes triumph with his second place. The mechanics lifted Lang from the car and carried him around on their shoulders.
      The organizers gave the rest of the field half an hour to finish the race. Emilio Villoresi took the single remaining Alfa to the flag in third position. After an excellent race poor Rocco had to retire on the very last lap from his fourth position as he run out of fuel, so it was Taruffi who in the end found himself fourth. Then followed the Maseratis of Hug, Brezzi, Dipper, Lanza and so on.
In retrospect:
The Mercedes W165 cars were not raced again, the team being committed during the season to the GP formula.
      Engine designer Gioacchino Colombo critizised Meo Constantini's decision to lower the cooling pressure and saw it as the reason for the Alfa Romeo problems as the engine boiled and vapour formed in the fuel lines. But it seems that Meo Constantini might have been made a scapegoat to hide the fact that there was a design error in the engine. After Tripoli the cooling system was extensivly redesigned, permanently curing the problem.
      Maserati also managed to sort out the 4CL and it enjoyed a good run of successes.
      And the lottery? A lucky person in the little town of Busto Arsizio in northern Italy who owned ticket Y-33884, the one associated with car #16, received 3 million Lire. Ticket G-55790 in Rome was worth a million Lire because of Caracciola's second place, ticket G-85667 in Catania meant 445,000 lire for the owner and ticket AV-85669 sold in Pisa gave 219,000 Lire.

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.16Hermann LangDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW1651.5V-8301h59m12.36s
2.24Rudolf CaracciolaDaimler-Benz AGMercedes-BenzW1651.5V-8302h02m49.64s+ 3m37.28s
3.48Emilio VilloresiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8302h07m00.00s+ 7m47.64s(Note 4)
4.30Piero TaruffiScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6302h13m31.14s+ 14m18.78s
5.60Armand HugScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM/CL1.5302h17m05.63s+ 17m53.27s
6.46Andrea BrezziScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6302h20m15.67s+ 21m03.31s
7.8Heinz DipperSüddeutsche RenngemeinschaftMaserati6CM1.5S-6302h35m14.08s+ 36m01.72s
DNF10Giovanni RoccoOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-429
8.58Dioscoride LanzaScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-6282h17m07.14s
9.6Edoardo TeagnoScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6282h18m16.49s
10.2Luigi CastelbarcoScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6282h19m25.51s
11.32Renato BalestreroScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6272h02m17.00s
12.14Enrico PlatéE. PlatéMaserati6CM1.5S-6262h19m01.84s
DNF22Ovidio CapelliScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6~18
DNF36Paul PietschScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6~18
DNF26Ettore BiancoE. BiancoMaserati4CM?1.5~16
DNF12Catullo LamiC. LamiMaserati6CM1.5S-6>15
DNF50Carlo PintacudaAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8~16engine
DNF56Emilio RomanoE. RomanoMaserati6CM1.5S-6>15
DNF40Clemente BiondettiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-815engine
DNF42Francesco SeveriAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-8~14engine
DNF34"Nando" AldrighettiAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-811engine
DNF44Giuseppe FarinaAlfa CorseAlfa Romeo1581.5S-810engine
DNF4Guido BarbieriG. BarbieriMaserati6CM1.5S-6~8
DNF38Luigi VilloresiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-41gearbox/engine
DNF20Franco CorteseOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-61engine
DNF18Carlo Felice TrossiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati4CL1.5S-40? engine
DNF28Arialdo RuggeriScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-60
DNF52Pino BaruffiP. BaruffiMaserati6CM1.5S-60
DNF54Pietro GhersiScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-60
Fastest lap: Hermann Lang (Mercedes-Benz) in 3m43.77s = 210.8 km/h (131.0 mph) (Note 5)
Winner's medium speed: 197.8 km/h (122.9 mph)
Pole position lap speed: 212.6 km/h (132.1 mph)
Weather: extreamly hot.


Footnote:
1. Nixon Silver Arrows" & Venables "Racing Fifteen-Hundreds" give a track length of 13.14 km. However all results in contemporary newspaper "Il Littoriale" shows that the speeds released to the press were counted using a 13.1 km track length.
2. Time possibly made already on Thursday.
3. The grid has been reconstructed after extensive analysis of pictures and film of the start and should be the most correct to be found even if Taruffi's position on his own row remains a bit of a questionmark.
4. The odds are that the time keeper slept when that car took the flag!
5. For the results released to the press they did not hesitate to first round off 3m43.77s to 3m43.8s and from there check up the announced speed of 210.723 km/h with three decimals in the tables! That is a Horrible misuse of numbers that shows just how silly it is to give three decimals in the results. If someone necessarily wants to use three decimals then the "correct" numbers would be 210.752 km/h.

Sources: Standard literature plus contemporary newspapers "Il Littoriale" and "L'Automobile" and Ed McDonough's book "Alfetta". Also film and pictures from the start.



Westerblom (Alfa Romeo)Cristea (BMW) - color unknownPatama (Ford Spl.) - to be repainted

VII ELÄINTARHANAJO/DJURGÅRDSLOPPET

Eläintarharata - Helsinki (FIN), 7 May 1939
25 laps x 2.00 km (1.24 mi) = 50.0 km (31.1 mi)



No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

1Petre CristeaP. CristeaBMW3282.0LS-6
2Aleksi PatamaA. PatamaFordSpecial
3Walter BergströmW. BergströmDKWSpecial2x?
4Tore BergT. BergAlfa RomeoMonza2.6S-8
5Adolf WesterblomVästerås Racer KompaniAlfa RomeoMonza2.6S-8
6Einar AlmE. AlmFordDNS
(2)Hans RüeschH. RüeschAlfa Romeo8C-353.8S-8DNA
(6)Helge HallmanH. HallmanFordSpecial3.6V-8DNA
(7)Asser WalleniusA. WalleniusFordSpecial3.6V-8DNA



Swede Westerblom shows his talent
There had been no Finnish Grand Prix in 1938 as it would have clashed with a big air show on May 15th at the new Helsinki airfield. In March 1939 Finland held its first international car show and among the cars shown was a Mercedes speed record car, creating high interest. For the 1939 race the organizers therefore threw out a feeler to see if they could attract the German teams to participate. There were also attempts to get some Italian or French entries to fill up the field in case the Germans would come. But Auto Union wasn't interested at all and Mercedes found the 20 minute practice sessions too short and victory prizes far too small.
      So the event remained a minor Nordic one. The track was improved in a few places and two new bridges over the Nordenskiöld Street were built but otherwise it mostly remained the same as in 1937. The prizes were 5000 FIM, 3000 FIM, 2000 FIM and 1000 FIM for the top four finishers.
Entries:
In the end the admittedly weak entry list included nine names. The stars of the previous seasons were no longer racing, Finn Ebb , Swede Widengren and Norwegian Björnstad having all retired. But two of the Alfa Romeo Monzas were entered. The internationally rather unknown Adolf Westerblom was racing Widengren's old car and Tore Berg was to race Björnstad's #2111041 that had won the event in 1934 and 1936.
      The absolutely strongest contender was the 1937 race winner Hans Rüesch with his Alfa, but in the end he failed to arrive. The car was presently in Italy and problems with getting it out of the country was claimed as the reason. As Rüesch did not turn up, Romanian 1936 Monte Carlo Rally winner Cristea, who had entered a BMW special, became the favourite. One may ask why this rebuilt rebuilt BMW 328 with no front fenders and enclosed rear wheels was included in the race class rather than in the sports car class.
      Perhaps the most curious entry was Bergström's homemade special. Built around two DKW motorcycle engines, one in the front and one in the rear, the quite nice looking little car had a streamlined body with a round radiator in front and sponsons between the wheels a bit like the 1950s Lancia D50. Sadly the car was in a bit of unfinished state.
      The rest of the list consisted of some really old Fords. Aleksi Patama, initially listed to race an Adler in the sports car class, entered his old Ford special, and Einar Alm turned up for the final time with his monstrous "Tail Ford" with a zeppelin style rear end. The initial list also included Hallman's and Wallenius' ancient A-Fords but they never turned up.
Practice:
The organizers continued their curious habit of arranging the qualifying at odd times or places rather than having the race track closed. Obviously permission was granted to close the streets for the race day only.
      This time the qualifying was arranged on a 400m section of the main straight at 4 a.m. Friday morning. The cars took off according to start numbers with the racing cars first followed by the sports car class. Each car did two runs, the better time giving the grid position.
      Cristea and his mechanic had started off from Bucharest with the BMW pulled by an old Ford. First stop was BMW Werke in München for a car overhaul. Then he continued through Germany to Stettin where he found that he had missed the ship and that he would have to wait a week for the next one. A less determined man might have given up but Cristea turned west and via Denmark and Sweden reached a ship going between Stockholm and Turku. He arrived in Helsinki on Saturday, having missed qualifying.
      As Westerblom and Berg had been unable to get their cars unloaded from the ship the qualifying runs were restricted to three race cars.
      Patama did a 24.9s time in his first attempt and a 15.0s in his second. Bergström's best time was 20.6s and Alm's 15.8s. German driver Richter's pole time with a BMW in the sports car class was 14.9s (14.1?).
      Qualifying was followed by short practicing sessions on Friday and Saturday. Seeing the odd behavior of Alm's old "Tail Ford" a local newspaper claimed it was not race worthy and guessed it would be banned from the race.
Race:
There had been a raise in the ticket prices and that was shown by the fact that the numbers of spectators was down from earlier years. With 26127 paying spectators the total number was about 30000. The traditional grand stand train had left the railway station for the track at 12:45 and the event started with the motor cycle races at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. After that it was time for the sports car race that started at 3 p.m. with the 1.5 litre class leaving the grid 30s behind the big class. It proved to be a rather dull event, totally dominated by German Ulrich Richter (BMW). Finally five race cars lined up for the 4 p.m. start with Patama on pole position. Alm (Ford) who had qualified second was indeed a non starter as had been suspected, so the other four cars were all moved up a step in the grid. Interestingly both Alfa Romeo Monzas started the event with double rear wheels. Those on Berg's car had been specially built in Italy for Björnstad with two tyres on one wide rim and probably Westerblom had similar ones.
Pole Position
5
Bergström

DKW
20.6s

2
Patama

Ford
14.9s

4
Berg

Alfa Romeo
-

1
Cristea

BMW
-

5
Westerblom

Alfa Romeo
-

6 Alm (Ford) 15.8s DNS
Rest of grid moved up



As the flag dropped Patama took the lead followed by Cristea, Berg and Westerblom. Bergström, who had already participated in a motorcycle race finishing second after a fall, had problems with his car and lost a lap on the grid before he was able to join the race.
      Patama's lead held for less than a lap, and then Cristea took over. Westerblom was soon past Patama too for second position. Berg's rear brakes failed making him spin in the "Death curve". So, four laps into the race he stopped in the pit for fast repairs, losing a lap to the top trio. Situation after five laps: Cristea 6m09s, Westerblom 6m11s, Patama 6m12s. Berg was fourth and far behind Bergström was struggling with his car, the two DKW engines creating a lot of noise but hardly much speed.
      The top trio remained close together, Cristea being unable to shake off Westerblom. On the 9th lap the Swede found his chance and passed the Romanian for the lead and immediately started to pull away. Lap 10: Westerblom 11m59s, Cristea 12m03s, Patama 12m05s.
      Westerblom was now able to open the gap by about two seconds per lap without pushing his blue Monza, while Patama was beginning to fall back Cristea.
      15 laps: Westerblom 17m39s, Cristea 17m52s, Patama 18m07.5s. Berg in the other Monza was now the second fastest driver on the track, but he overdid it, crashed into the City Gardens fence and damaged the engine in the incident, so that he had to retire on lap 18.
      Situation after 20 laps: Westerblom 23m18s, Cristea 23m38s, Patama 24m13s.
      There were no further changes in the order so Westerblom passed the chequered flag after 25 laps to take a surprise victory. Cristea was second and Patama was third, having been struggling during the last lap, losing half a minute to the Romanian. Bergström, having been lapped four times during the race, was the last finisher.
      Westerblom had made a perfect race and in the end the BMW had been no match for the old Italian race car.
In retrospect:
It had frankly been the weakest Finnish GP so far, the event mostly saved by the motorcycles. The Finnish GP was to return in 1946 as a motor cycle event and in 1947 for cars as well.
      Later that summer Västerås Racing Company sold the winning Alfa to John Forsberg at Lögdeå in northern Sweden. In the mid 1950s the car was put back in shape by Karl-Erik Fröjd and it was sold in the mid 1980s to South African industrial man David Cohen, living in Vancouver, Canada.

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.5Adolf WesterblomVästerås Racer KompaniAlfa RomeoMonza2.6S-82528m56.0s
2.1Petre CristeaP. CristeaBMW3282.0S-62529m54.4s+ 27.4s
3.2Aleksi PatamaA. PatamaFordSpecial2530m30.5s+ 1m32.5s
4.3Walter BergströmW. BergströmDKWSpecial2x?2536m17.0s+ 7m27.0s
DNF4Tore BergT. BergAlfa RomeoMonza2.6S-818brakes
Fastest lap unknown.
Winner's medium speed: 103.7 km/h (64.4 mph)
Weather: beautiful spring weather


Main source has been contemporary newspapers: Hufvudstadsbladet (Helsingfors), Suomen Urheilulehti (Helsinki), Svenska Pressen (Helsingfors), Uusi Suomi, (Helsinki)
Also: Geitel, Juurikkala, Talvitie: "Kuolemankurvasta Moukaripörssiin"

Film of race event (racing cars are 5m58s into the film): yle.fi/elavaarkisto



Wimille (Bugatti)Sommer (Alfa Romeo)Le Bègue (Talbot)

COUPE DE PARIS

Montlhèry - Paris (F), 7 May 1939
30 laps x 3.333 km = 100 km (62.1 mi) (Note 1)



No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

Catégorie 2 à 3 litres *
34la Boissièrela BoissièreBugatti1.5
37Roger LoyerR. LoyerMaserati6CM1.5S-6
41Louis GérardEcurie WatneyDelage2.9S-6DNA
42MonneretEcurie WatneyDelage2.9S-6DNA
43Mme. RouxMme. RouxAmilcarPegase2.0
 
Catégorie de 3 à 5 litres *
45Emmanuel de GraffenriedBaron de GraffenriedBugattiT552.3S-8
46Raymond SommerR. SommerAlfa RomeoTipo 3083.0S-8
49"Levegh""Levegh"Talbot150C4.0S-6
50Joseph PaulEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-6
51Marcel ContetEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-6
52Eugène ChaboudEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-6
53Robert MazaudR. MazaudDelahaye135S3.6S-6
54René BiolayR. BiolayDelahaye135S3.6S-6
55Georges GrignardG. GrignardDelahaye135S3.6S-6
56René Le BègueLe BègueTalbotMD 904.5S-6
57René CarrièrèR. CarrièrèTalbotMD 904.5S-6
58ForestierForestierTalbot150C4.0S-6DNA
 
Catégorie plus de 5 litres: *
59Jean-Pierre WimilleJ-P. WimilleBugattiT59/50B4.7S-8

* Supercharged cars had their cylinder volume multiplied by the factor of 1.65
to determine the class.




Wimille wins minor Formula Libre event at Montlhéry
The Olazur fuel company sponsored a series of races "Coupes de Paris", on 5th - 7th March. The Coupe de la Commission Sportive de l'A.G.A.C.I. was run in classes from over 0.75 to 1.1 liter and over 1.1 liter to 1.5 liter, and was won by Amédée Gordini (Simca). The Grand Handicap "Olazur" was won by Cayeux (Simca). The races culminated in the main race, the Coupe de Paris. That race whad also a distance of 30 laps and was divided in 2.0 -3.0 liter, 3.0-5.0 litre and over 5 liter classes. Supercharged cars had their cylinder volume multiplied by the factor of 1.65 to determine the class.
Entries:
Talbot entered two of their new Monoplace Decalée cars for LeBègue and Carrière. The Ecurie Bleue was a non starter but several private Delahayes took part as did Sommer in his Alfa Romeo, Levegh in a Talbot and Wimille in a works Bugatti.
Practice:
Wimille took pole position with a time of 1m20.6s
Race:

Pole Position
59
Wimille

Bugatti

56
Le Bègue

Talbot

46
Sommer

Alfa Romeo

37
Loyer

Maserati

57
Carriere

Talbot

50
Paul

Delahaye

49
Levegh

Talbot


?

Delahaye

54
Biolay

Delahaye


?

Delahaye


?

?

45
de Graffenried

Bugatti


?

?

34
la Boissière

Bugatti


?

?

(Note 2)



Wimille took control of the race at the start, never to give it up again, and took the flag 9 seconds in front of Sommer's Alfa. The Talbots of Le Bègue and Carrière finished 3rd and 4th.

Results


Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff
1.59Jean-Pierre WimilleJ-P. WimilleBugattiT59/50B4.7S-83043m46.4s
2.46Raymond SommerR. SommerAlfa RomeoTipo 3083.0S-83043m55s+ 9s
3.56René Le BègueLe BègueTalbotMD 904.5S-63044m31s+ 45s
4.57René CarrièrèR. CarrièrèTalbotMD 904.5S-629
5.37Roger LoyerR. LoyerMaserati6CM1.5S-628(1st 2-3 L class)
6.49"Levegh""Levegh"Talbot150C4.0S-628
7.50Joseph PaulEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-628
8.51Marcel ContetEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-628
9.53Robert MazaudR. MazaudDelahaye135S3.6S-627
10.54René BiolayR. BiolayDelahaye135S3.6S-627
11.55Georges GrignardG. GrignardDelahaye135S3.6S-626
12.52Eugène ChaboudEcurie FranciaDelahaye135S3.6S-625
13.45Emmanuel de GraffenriedBaron de GraffenriedBugattiT552.3S-824
14.43Mme. RouxMme. RouxAmilcar21(2nd 2-3 L class)
15.34la Boissièrela BoissièreBugatti20(3nd 2-3 L class)
Fastest lap: Jean-Pierre Wimille (Bugatti) in 1min 23s = 144.6km/h (89.8 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 137.1 km/h (85.2 mph)
Pole position lap speed: 148.9 km/h (92.5 mph)
Weather:


Footnote:
1. Track length source is Le Figaro. Anthony J. Taylor has informed me that there indeed existed a track combination with that length called "Premier Circuit" (piste de vitesse et virage aux deux ponts).

2. Grid reconstructed from picture evidence with thanks to Hugo Boecker and Simon Davis.

Special thanks to:
Hugo Boecker
Jean-Maurice Gigleux



L. Villoresi (Maserati)Taruffi (Maserati)Barbieri (Maserati)

XXX° TARGA FLORIO
(Voiturette 1500cc)

Favorita Park - Palermo (I), 14 May 1939
40 laps x 5.718 km? (3.55 mi) = 188.7 km (117.2 mi)



No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2Pietro GhersiScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNA
4Vico PaglianoC LamiMaserati6CM1.5S-6
4Catullo LamiC. LamiMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNS - alternative driver
6Ettore BiancoE. BiancoMaserati4CM1.5S-4
8Emilio RomanoE. RomanoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
10Giovanni RoccoScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati4CL1.5S-4DNA
12Armand HugScuderia TorinoMaserati4CM1.5S-4
14Andrea BrezziScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNA
16Piero TaruffiScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
18Luigi VilloresiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-6
20Pino BaruffiP. BaruffiMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNA
22LeonardiLeonardiMaserati4CM1.5S-4DNA
24Guido BarbieriG. BarbieriMaserati6CM1.5S-6
26Dioscoride LanzaScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
28Egidio GallinariE. GallinariMaserati6CM1.5S-6
28Renato BalestreroScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6DNA
30Enrico PlatéE. PlatéMaserati6CM1.5S-6
32Edoardo TeagnoScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
34Paul PietschScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6
36Ovidio CapelliScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6
38Franco CorteseOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-6



Villoresi wins an all Maserati event with the old car
Entries:
Still in shock from the Tripoli race and with their new 4CL cars under repair, Maserati works team entered their old 6CM cars for Villoresi and Cortese in Sicily.
Practice:
Race:

>
Pole Position
18
L Villoresi

Maserati

38
Cortese

Maserati

16
Taruffi

Maserati

34
Pietsch

Maserati

24
Barbieri

Maserati

36
Capelli

Maserati

8
Romano

Maserati

12
Hug

Maserati

26
Lanza

Maserati

4
Pagliano

Maserati

28
Gallinari

Maserati

6
Bianco

Maserati

32
Teagno

Maserati

30
E Platé

Maserati



With no Alfas or Mercedes cars competing the Maseratis had no problems to control the race. Villoresi took the lead and opened up a one minute gap to Cortese, who was followed by Taruffi and Pietsch. With 8 laps to go Cortese had to retire with a broken gearbox leaving Villoresi to take the flag as the winner followed by seven other Maseratis.
     
In retrospect:

Results

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.18Luigi VilloresiOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-6401h40m15.4s
2.16Piero TaruffiScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6401h42m05.8s+ 1m50.4s
3.24Guido BarbieriG. BarbieriMaserati6CM1.5S-6401h45m56.4s+ 5m41.0s
4.34Paul PietschScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-6401h48m30.6s+ 8m15.2s
5.36Ovidio CapelliScuderia AmbrosianaMaserati6CM1.5S-6401h50m16.6s+ 10m01.2s
6.30Enrico PlatéE. PlatéMaserati6CM1.5S-638
7.32Edoardo TeagnoScuderia TorinoMaserati6CM1.5S-638
8.28Egidio GallinariE. GallinariMaserati6CM1.5S-636
DNF38Franco CorteseOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati6CM1.5S-632gearbox
DNF4Vico PaglianoC LamiMaserati6CM1.5S-623spin
DNF12Armand HugScuderia TorinoMaserati4CM1.5S-410mechanical
DNF26Dioscoride LanzaScuderia SabaudaMaserati6CM1.5S-6?
DNF8Emilio RomanoE. RomanoMaserati6CM1.5S-6?
DNF6Ettore BiancoE. BiancoMaserati4CM1.5S-40engine
Fastest lap: Luigi Villoresi (Maserati) in 2m24.6s =142.4 km/h (88.5 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 136.9 km/h (85.1 mph)
Weather:


Star 15 May 1939: The Trustees of the British Motor Racing Fund decline the offer to take over ERA Ltd. Cook says he is prepred to continue for a few weeks.
Star 21 May 1939: Farina (Alfa Romeo 412) wins the Groote Prijs van Antwerpen sports car race. (Results)



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© 2014 Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas - Last updated: 27.10.2014