European Grand Prix Championship 1938
In the 1938 Grand Prix season , the International Automobile Association ( AIACR) once again announced a European Grand Prix Championship for drivers, as in previous years . With the Grand Prix of France , Germany , Switzerland and Italy, there were a total of four Grandes Épreuves , which were held in accordance with the newly adopted provisions of the International Grand Prix racing formula . Essentially, the displacement for racing cars with supercharging was limited to 3.0 liters, for racing cars with naturally aspirated engines to 4.5 liters, with a minimum weight of 850 kg. Smaller engines were balanced according to a so-called "sliding scale" with a weight advantage of up to 450 kg. The minimum race distance for the Grande Épreuves was still 500 km, and the championship mode remained the same as in previous years.
After the death of Bernd Rosemeyer while attempting to record at the beginning of the year, it took well into the season for the Auto Union team to consolidate again. The Daimler-Benz team was able to largely control the races with the new Mercedes-Benz W 154 and, with Rudolf Caracciola, win the European championship for the third time after 1935 and 1937 .
New racing formula with sliding scale
The so-called 750 kg formula of the years 1934 to 1937 was unable to achieve its goal of preventing an almost unlimited increase in engine power and speeds. For this reason, at the end of 1936 , the AIACR felt compelled to adopt a new Grand Prix racing formula for 1938, in which the maximum displacement of the racing cars was again specified directly, as was the case last in the 1.5-liter formula from 1926 / The case was in 1927 . In order to still leave a certain technological and design freedom, equal opportunities for smaller engines should be established by assigning the cubic capacity to the minimum weight in a so-called sliding scale . At the same time, for the first time in Grand Prix history, engines with and without a compressor were treated differently when setting the displacement limits, with a ratio of 1: 1.5 being used.
Racing cars with a minimum displacement of 666 cc with or 1000 cc without compressor and a minimum weight of 400 kg each and a maximum of 3 liters displacement with or 4.5 liters displacement without compressor and a minimum weight of 850 kg each were allowed.
In practice, however, it quickly became apparent that it was not possible to really put the parameters in a reasonable relationship to one another, so that ultimately only racing cars with a compressor and the maximum permissible displacement of 3.0 liters were really competitive. Due to this fact it is often overlooked that vehicles with smaller engines, e.g. For example, practically all models in the 1.5-liter Voiturette class were fully-fledged Grand Prix racing cars in terms of the racing formula .
For the first time since 1927 , the technical regulations of the International Grand Prix Formula also applied again in Indianapolis , but in the first year of the new formula there was still no significant mutual exchange between the two motor sport worlds.
While the goal of the 750 kg racing formula was to accommodate the largest possible displacement and horsepower engine in the chassis within the weight sizes, under the conditions of the new formula the way to maximize performance with limited displacement was primarily via the Engine speed. As a result, the liter output, which had previously leveled off at around 100 hp per liter of displacement, shot up to values of around 150 hp per liter and sometimes even more. In the end, the engine performance came close to the previous values, so that, in conjunction with further technical innovations in chassis technology and aerodynamics, the racing cars soon achieved the same speeds and lap times as before.
At Daimler-Benz it was quickly recognized by means of tests with various engine configurations that the only way to success was via the supercharged engine with the maximum permitted displacement of 3.0 liters. The optimal design was decided in favor of a V12 cylinder engine with four-valve technology, which once again set completely new standards with the high speed of 8000 revolutions per minute at that time and an output of approx. 450 hp, which, however, also set completely new standards for the exorbitant fuel consumption. As a special innovation, the unit known as the M 154 was installed slightly diagonally in the chassis , which was otherwise largely derived from the previous model, the Mercedes-Benz W 125 , so that the drive train could now be laid sideways past it instead of under the driver's seat. This made it possible to keep the entire car much flatter, which not only gave the new Mercedes-Benz W 154 a lower center of gravity than its predecessor, but above all a considerable reduction in the frontal area and thus ultimately the air resistance. 14 chassis and 19 engines were built in the course of the 1938 season, which illustrates both the material possibilities and the determination with which Daimler-Benz approached Grand Prix racing.
There was hardly any reason for major changes in the driver line-up. Rudolf Caracciola as reigning European champions had together with Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang the 1937 season dominated sovereign - despite strong internal rivalries. Above all in Lang, who was immediately on a par with the "veteran" Grand Prix drivers after his promotion to regular driver, both saw an increasing threat to their position in the team, especially since Lang was able to cope with the driving characteristics of the new W 154 and looked very good During his time as a mechanic, he had a much better technical understanding of the car than the two “gentlemen” drivers. With Richard Seaman as a so-called junior driver in the team, another great talent was waiting for his breakthrough, and so only the second junior Christian Kautz had to be replaced by Walter Bäumer as reserve driver after moving to Auto Union .
The situation was completely different at Auto Union , where the new season had already been characterized by a great mood of change in advance. Ferdinand Porsche was no longer available as the designer of the unconventional racing cars because he was taking care of Hitler's Volkswagen project . The new head of the racing department was Robert Eberan von Eberhorst , who consistently continued the line taken by Porsche and, with the Auto Union Type D, again designed a racing car with an engine located behind the driver's seat. Under the elegantly curved body, a compressor-charged 3-liter V12 cylinder now worked according to largely similar design principles as the V16 engine of the previous models. Like the current Mercedes racing cars, this Auto-Union model also had a De-Dion rear axle for better road holding. In the development of the new cars, however, there were considerable delays, also because the team had in the meantime been completely thrown off track by the death of Rosemeyer. Luigi Fagioli had to give up racing because of severe rheumatism and was only able to continue his Grand Prix career after the Second World War . And the contracts with Achille Varzi , because of his drug addiction and other escapades, and Hans Stuck , who was no longer considered fit and motivated enough, had not been extended at the end of 1937. At the beginning of the season, the team found itself without a car and - apart from the young and reserve drivers Rudolf Hasse , Hermann Paul Müller , Christian Kautz and Ulrich Bigalke - without a driver of international stature.
There were also big changes at Alfa Romeo for the new season. At the beginning of the previous year, the majority stake in Scuderia Ferrari was acquired, which until then had officially organized the Grand Prix events. After the disappointing course of the season and the unsatisfactory Alfa Romeo 12C / 37 entered at the end , the Modena- based racing team was completely disbanded. Instead, the main factory in Milan set up its own racing department with Alfa Corse , for which Enzo Ferrari continued to work as an employed race director. The new chief designer Wilfredo Ricart developed three different Grand Prix models, with the tubular frame chassis of the failed previous year's model being used as the basis. First there was the Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 with an eight-cylinder in-line engine modified from the Alfa Romeo Tipo B , which was initially intended as a temporary solution because the Alfa Romeo Tipo 312 with a 3-liter version of last year's V12 engine was not yet available at the beginning of the season was standing. At the same time, Gioacchino Colombo had been working as a further designer since the summer of 1937 on a scaled-down version of the Tipo 308 with a 1.5-liter in-line eight-cylinder, the so-called Alfetta , which was paralleled to the 1938 in view of the dominance of German racing cars on the Grand Prix circuits The entry into the increasingly popular Voiturette category should also take place. Since the engine of this model, officially known as the Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 , showed great potential right from the start, Ricart also quickly combined two such units by coupling the two crankshafts in a common housing to create a third Grand Prix model, the Alfa Romeo Tipo 316 , which only became more or less operational in the course of the summer. This diversity of types - an expression of the search for a concept against the superiority of the German Silver Arrows - led to such a dissipation of forces that ultimately none of the models could go through a really satisfactory development program.
Nevertheless, there was reason for hope that Tazio Nuvolari had initially been able to persuade him to stay after the Italian superstar tried to make an attempt at Auto Union after the disappointing course of the previous season at the Swiss Grand Prix . However, when his new Tipo 308 caught fire in practice for the opening race of the Pau Grand Prix , he immediately declared his final departure from Alfa Romeo.
Without Nuvolari and in the absence of the Auto Union team, a Mercedes victory seemed certain in Pau. The team wanted to use the race as the last test for the upcoming season and had sent two of the new W 154s to the south of France for their racing debut. But to everyone's amazement, Caracciola was unable to shake off René Dreyfus in a Delahaye 145 on the winding street circuit. Because the French sports car with its frugal 4.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 engine, unlike the sophisticated Mercedes, was able to get through the race without refueling, Dreyfus could no longer take victory and thus one of the biggest surprises in Grand Prix racing was perfect.
One month later, the first major international race of the season took place in Tripoli, North Africa . Mercedes was unbeatable on the fast Mellaha course and celebrated a triple success with Lang in front of von Brauchitsch and Caracciola. The Alfa Romeo team had to accept further blows of fate after Nuvolari's departure. To fill the field of participants, Voiturette racing cars were sent to the start along with the Grand Prix cars . Due to the large differences in speed, dangerous situations repeatedly occurred when lapping. At first, on one such occasion, Eugenio Siena's Alfa Romeo Tipo 312 came off the track and ended up on a house wall; the driver died immediately. A little later the new team captain at Alfa Corse , Giuseppe Farina , had a collision with the Hungarian Voiturette driver László Hartmann . Both cars overturned, but while Farina, who was involved in a fatal accident for the second time after colliding with Marcel Lehoux at the Deauville race in 1936, escaped serious injuries, Hartmann died in hospital the following day.
In Tripoli, two formerly important manufacturers, Maserati and Bugatti , returned to Grand Prix racing after a long break. The small Italian plant had recently concentrated entirely on the production of racing cars in the Voiturette class, but after the company was taken over by the Orsi industrial family and the move to Modena, it now brought out a very promising new model with the Maserati 8CTF , which, however, was due to the limited There was a lack of development opportunities, especially stability, to pose a serious threat to German cars. In Tripoli, Carlo Felice Trossi at least achieved the fastest lap time, but like Achille Varzi had to give up the race early.
At Bugatti, the return to work had less sporting than financial reasons. As early as 1935 , the French government had initiated a national donation program with the Fonds de Course , whose funds were to be used to promote the construction of competitive local racing cars in the fight against the overwhelming German and Italian competition. But instead of the successful Delahaye team of the French-based US racing driver couple Laury and Lucy O'Reilly Schell in Pau , the sum was paid out to the supposedly well-deserved Bugatti and Talbot companies upon the mere announcement of new Grand Prix models . In order to be able to show something in return, Bugatti presented the Bugatti Type 59/50 B3 , an almost unchanged version of the already failed monoposto from 1936, the basic design of which was still based on the old two-seater Bugatti Type 59 with rigid axles and cable brakes was accordingly completely out of date. Incidentally, only a single copy was regularly registered with Jean-Pierre Wimille as driver before the team - after receiving the funds - withdrew completely from Grand Prix racing in the middle of the season. The Talbot with 3-liter V16 supercharged engine, announced by the new company owner Anthony Lago , didn’t get beyond drawings. Instead, the team had to continue to resort to makeshift retrofitted sports car models with low-performance six-cylinder naturally aspirated engines with a displacement of 4 liters, which at most occasionally scored points for their stability and frugality.
Ultimately, the British ERA team, which had previously been successful in the Voiturette class, had considered moving up to the Grand Prix category. The specially developed ERA E-Type was reminiscent of the successful Mercedes Silver Arrows, at least outwardly, but far exceeded the limited possibilities of the small racing team, which led to the end of the entire company.
In view of the overwhelming dominance of the German racing teams, fewer and fewer organizers were now willing to organize races for Grand Prix cars and increasingly turned to the Voiturette class, which the races had so far been - at least until Alfa Romeo joined in the middle of the year the largely balanced material of the numerous private drivers had been much more exciting. The next race for Grand Prix cars was the French Grand Prix at the beginning of July, which was held on the triangular course of Reims-Gueux after a long break and, not for the first time in its history, developed into a veritable farce.
It started with Alfa Romeo having withdrawn completely from the Grand Prix scene for a while after its recent failures. In protest against the fact that it was not included in the public funding program, the Delahaye team of the Schell couple decided not to participate. After all, at least Auto Union was there again, even if only with a short team of previous reserve and junior drivers. For the fast course with its long straights, two streamlined racing cars had been specially prepared in the style of the vehicles used on the Avus last year . But neither Rudolf Hasse nor “H. P. “Müller got along with the car and both came off the track during training. For the race, the streamlined cars were therefore replaced by transitional models - the current engine in the previous year's chassis - and Christian Kautz took the place of the injured Müller. However, both cars were eliminated during the course of the first lap due to driving errors by their drivers, so that the Mercedes trio contested the race - apart from two Talbot sports cars, which were lapped every six laps on average - without serious opponents and with von Brauchitsch ahead of Caracciola and Lang achieved an undisputed triple victory.
In contrast, the following German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring ensured significantly better public entertainment. In an effort to close the gap in the domestic German competition, Auto Union hired Tazio Nuvolari as the new top driver, who, however, still needed time to adjust to the driving behavior of the unfamiliar rear-engined racing cars. Due to a driving error, he was eliminated on the third lap of the race. In addition, Hans Stuck was back in the team and both drivers had two new Type Ds available for the first time . Nevertheless, Mercedes-Benz was clearly setting the tone again and von Brauchitsch once again looked like the sure winner when his car caught fire from overflowing petrol while refueling. This cleared the way for Mercedes junior Richard Seaman, who caused a sensation with his first Grand Prix success and in one of the most prestigious races.
The two Italian classics, the races for the Coppa Ciano at the Circuito di Montenero near Livorno and the Coppa Acerbo at Pascara , did not go smoothly for the Mercedes team either. Nevertheless, in the end, Lang and Caracciola were each a Mercedes driver in front. In Livorno, where the Auto Union team paused again after the less than satisfactory performance at the Nürburgring, Caracciola had to retire early due to a defect and Lang, too, had to relinquish his lead to von Brauchitsch shortly before the end due to a tire defect. However, he had strayed from the track during the fight with his stable mate and was then pushed by spectators, so that Lang came to his award ceremony due to the due disqualification. In Pescara, the engines of von Brauchitsch and Lang's cars burst spectacularly in the early stages, but at least Caracciola was the only remaining Silver Arrow in the race to ensure Mercedes success. Auto Union was there again, but Nuvolari again didn't get far beyond the first lap. In both races, Carlo Felice Trossi also had the opportunity to briefly flash the great potential of the new Maserati when he was able to wrest the lead from the Mercedes drivers for a few laps before being thrown out of the race prematurely on both occasions due to engine defects. Alfa Romeo, where Farina and Wimille formed the regular team, however, was never able to keep up with the Mercedes. However, thanks to the stability of his Tipo 312, he was able to benefit from the numerous failures both times and thus achieve at least second place. In addition, the new Alfa Romeo Alfetta with Emilio Villoresi was immediately successful in the Voiturettes race in Livorno , so that the Italian racing team could be quite satisfied with their performance in front of their home crowd.
Unless they disabled themselves or faced technical problems, the Mercedes drivers were unbeatable this year. This was again impressively proven at the Swiss Grand Prix , which once again took place under pouring rain. The fastest in training, Richard Seaman, initially seemed on the way to his second Grand Prix victory in a row, but then, as conditions deteriorated, Caracciola lived up to his reputation as rain champion and led the Mercedes team to another one-two-three. At Auto Union, on the other hand, it was surprisingly not Nuvolari who continued to have problems with the rear-engined racing car, but also one of the young up-and-coming drivers, Hermann Paul Müller, who demonstrated his increasing ability and held third position for a long time as the best of his team he hit a tree with three laps to go.
With a large lead over his team-mates von Brauchitsch, Seaman and Lang, Caracciola went into the final race as the leader in the championship standings and only had to contend with the Italian Grand Prix , which had returned to his home in Monza after the detour to Livorno last year Come over the distance to finally secure the title. Initially, the Mercedes drivers had completely mastered the action in practice, but on race day Auto Union was suddenly back in front again, and while one Mercedes after another was being slowed down by the technology, Nuvolari continuously worked its way to the top to claim the team's first victory after a disastrous year. Caracciola got caught in the straw bales of the track barrier right from the start and handed over the cockpit to the already failed von Brauchitsch halfway through the race, who in the end with his third place - which was classified according to the regulations for Caracciola - his team captain won the championship still secured.
Due to the Sudeten crisis , the Masaryk race in Brno, Czechoslovakia , which was actually planned for September, could no longer be held, and the end of the season in Donington , UK, which was actually scheduled for the beginning of October, took place three weeks late. The German teams who had arrived on the original date had been told to prepare for the burning of the wagons so as not to let them fall into British hands in the event of a possible outbreak of war. Once again, the Auto Union team was in good shape and started the race in Donington with a one-two lead by Nuvolari and Müller. After the refueling stops that were due halfway through the race, Lang was in the lead with his Mercedes for a long time, but Nuvolari was able to work his way up from fourth place and clinched the second victory in a row for Auto Union.
Grandes Épreuves for the European Championship
|1||03.07.||French Grand Prix||Circuit de Reims-Gueux||Manfred von Brauchitsch ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|2||07/24||Grand Prix of Germany||Nürburgring||Richard Seaman ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|3||08/21||Swiss Grand Prix||Bremgarten circuit||Rudolf Caracciola ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|4th||11.09.||Italian Grand Prix||Autodromo di Monza||Tazio Nuvolari ( Auto Union )||statistics|
|04/10||Grand Prix de Pau||Circuit de Pau||René Dreyfus ( Delahaye )|
|April 18||Campbell Trophy||Brooklands||Prince Bira ( ERA )|
|04/23||Cork Grand Prix||Carrigrohane||René Dreyfus ( Delahaye )|
|05/21||Gran Premio di Tripoli||Autodromo della Mellaha||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )|
|05/29||Circuito de Gávea Nacional||Gávea||Arthur Nascimento Jr. ( Alfa Romeo )|
|05.06.||Grand Prix des Frontières||Circuit de Chimay||Maurice Trintignant ( Bugatti )|
|12.06.||Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix||Gávea||Carlo Maria Pintacuda ( Alfa Romeo )|
|07.08.||Coppa Ciano||Circuito di Montenero||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )|
|08/15||Coppa Acerbo||Circuito di Pescara||Rudolf Caracciola ( Mercedes-Benz )|
|08/27||Junior Car Club 200 mile race||Brooklands||John Peter Wakefield ( ERA )|
|15.10.||Mountain Championship||Brooklands||Raymond Mays ( ERA )|
|10/22||Donington Grand Prix||Donington Park||Tazio Nuvolari ( Auto Union )|
Grandes Épreuves for the European Championship
ACF Grand Prix
|1||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||3: 04.38.5 h|
|2||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||+ 1.31.1 min|
|3||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||+ 1 lap|
The ACF Grand Prix in Reims on July 3, 1938 turned into a farce. Quarrels between the French automobile club ACF and the French teams and the non-appearance of the Italians for political reasons decimated the starting field. Mercedes celebrated a triple victory.
Grand Prix of Germany
|1||Richard Seaman||Mercedes Benz||3: 51.46.1 h|
Rudolf Caracciola / Hermann Lang
||Mercedes Benz||+ 4.20.0 min|
|3||Hans Stuck||Auto Union||+ 8.56.2 min|
The German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring took place on July 24, 1938. The 1935 winner, Tazio Nuvolari , drove for Auto Union with immediate effect and was greeted frenetically by the audience. However, the cars were not yet stable enough for the Briton Seaman to celebrate his only major success with Mercedes.
Swiss Grand Prix
|1||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||2: 32.07.8 h|
|2||Richard Seaman||Mercedes Benz||+ 26.0 s|
|3||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 1 lap|
While the heat determined the race in Pescara, it was pouring rain at the Swiss Grand Prix in Bremgarten on August 21, 1938; ideal conditions for the "rain champion" Caracciola , who led a superior triple success for Mercedes.
Italian Grand Prix
|1||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union||2: 41.39.6 h|
|2||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||+ 1 lap|
Rudolf Caracciola / Manfred von Brauchitsch
||Mercedes Benz||+ 3 rounds|
Grand Prix de Pau
|1||René Dreyfus||Delahaye||3: 08.59 h|
Rudolf Caracciola / Hermann Lang
||Mercedes Benz||+ 1.51 min|
|3||Gianfranco Comotti||Delahaye||+ 6 rounds|
The first race of the year was the Grand Prix of Pau on April 10, 1938. The narrowness of the only 2.8 km long street circuit meant that Mercedes could not exploit its technical superiority, and there were technical problems. Auto Union did not run. Thus Dreyfus could celebrate his victory on Delahaye.
Gran Premio di Tripoli
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||2: 33.17.14 h|
|2||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 4.38.50 min|
|3||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||+ 5.03.62 min|
The organizers of the high-speed race for the Gran Premio di Tripoli in Mellaha decided to have the Grand Prix vehicles run in one and the same race together with the smaller Voiturette cars. This decision led to a catastrophe on May 15, 1938: The Italian Eugenio Siena and the Hungarian Laszlo Hartmann had a fatal accident. The winner was Hermann Lang .
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||1: 40.35.2 h|
|2||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||+ 48.0 s|
Jean-Pierre Wimille / Clemente Biondetti
||Alfa Romeo||+ 1 lap|
The Coppa Ciano in Livorno won on August 7, 1938 Hermann Lang. Manfred von Brauchitsch finished first, but was disqualified for unauthorized outside help. Spectators pushed him back onto the track after he got caught in the straw bales.
|1||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||3: 03.45.6 h|
|2||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||+ 3.26.0 min|
|3||Vittorio Belmondo||Alfa Romeo||+ 8.35.1 min|
Donington Grand Prix
|1||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union||3: 06.22 h|
|2||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||+ 1.38 min|
|3||Richard Seaman||Mercedes Benz||+ 1 lap|
The Donington Grand Prix was almost canceled as a result of political conflict. After the Munich Agreement had been signed (and in keeping with the appeasement policy ), the British caught up with it three weeks later on October 22, 1938. As in Monza, Nuvolari won here too .
|green||covered more than 75% of the race distance||4th|
|blue||covered between 50% and 75% of the race distance||5|
|violet||covered between 25% and 50% of the race distance||6th|
|red||covered less than 25% of the race distance||7th|
Bold - Pole Position
Italic - Fastest race lap
- Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas: Detailed history of the 1938 European Grand Prix Championship. Www.kolumbus.fi, accessed on July 28, 2014 (English).
- The type designation of the Auto Union racing cars was only introduced later by specialist authors to differentiate between the individual models.