European Grand Prix Championship 1939
In the 1939 Grand Prix season , the international automobile association AIACR announced a European Grand Prix Championship for drivers for the last time before the outbreak of World War II . A total of four Grandes Épreuves, the Grand Prix of Belgium , France , Germany and Switzerland, based on the unchanged International Grand Prix formula, were held as races for this purpose . This formula essentially required racing cars up to 3 liters displacement with a compressor and up to 4.5 liters displacement without a compressor, minimum weight 850 kg; smaller engines were balanced according to a so-called "sliding scale" with a weight advantage of up to 450 kg; Race distance at least 300 km.
At the end of all races, Hermann Paul Müller on Auto Union led the ranking for the European Championship according to the points system that is still in force . Because of the outbreak of war, however, no official championship result was announced. NSKK leader Adolf Hühnlein , as the highest representative of motorsport in the German Reich , but without official authorization from the AIACR, quickly declared Hermann Lang the European champion, who had achieved the most successes with Mercedes-Benz this year.
In 1939, the Indianapolis 500-mile race was again driven according to the regulations of the international racing formula , where, with Wilbur Shaw on a Maserati 8CTF , a driver on a European make was successful for the first time since 1916.
The international racing formula adopted for 1938 was adopted unchanged. Racing cars up to 3 liters displacement with and up to 4.5 liters displacement without supercharging and a minimum weight of 850 kg were permitted, whereby the performance disadvantage for smaller engines was to be compensated by correspondingly lower weight specifications based on a so-called sliding scale .
In practice, however, it had already been shown in the previous year that the parameters were not properly balanced, so that only racing cars with supercharged engines with the maximum permitted displacement of 3 liters were competitive.
In October 1938, the AIACR also decided that the Grandes Épreuves would only have to be held over a distance of at least 300 km instead of the previous 500 km.
Teams and cars
The 1939 racing season was largely influenced by the global political events that finally led to the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939. It began with the fact that at the beginning of the year Italy's Duce Benito Mussolini banned the participation of Italian racing teams or drivers in racing events in France because of the increasingly tense political situation between the two countries. At the same time, in view of the oppressive dominance of the German Silver Arrows in Grand Prix racing, the organizers of the Italian races finally switched to the popular, smaller Voiturette category for racing cars up to 1.5 liters, in which Alfa Romeo and Maserati had recently set the tone. In connection with the cancellation of the Italian Grand Prix due to renovation work on the Monza racetrack, this meant that the two German manufacturers were practically among themselves in Grand Prix racing for the remaining Grandes Épreuves .
Mercedes-Benz , the championship team of the previous two years, had completely revised last year's successful Mercedes-Benz W 154 . The car was then lighter, the weight distribution was new and the body was even more aerodynamic than before. In addition, the performance of the V12 engine, designated in its last development stage as the M 165 , was considerably increased thanks to the use of a two-stage compressor. The team's regular drivers were still Rudolf Caracciola , Manfred von Brauchitsch , Hermann Lang and Richard Seaman , who had taken the first four places in the European championship last year.
The Auto Union team , where the Type D had reached full racing maturity at the end of the previous season, was essentially content with converting its V12 engine to two-stage supercharging as well. The top driver of the team remained Tazio Nuvolari , who had won the last two races of the previous season with the Italian Grand Prix and the Donington Grand Prix . The team was completed by the young Hermann Paul "HP" Müller, Hans Stuck and Rudolf Hasse .
Although a new Grand Prix model was being developed with the Alfa Romeo Tipo 162 , Alfa Romeo now turned more and more to the Voiturette class, where a successful model was available with the Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 Alfetta developed by Gioacchino Colombo . Racing director Enzo Ferrari had already terminated his contract at the end of 1938 in a dispute with development chief Wilfredo Ricart and after the again unsatisfactory appearance of Giuseppe Farina in the revised Alfa Romeo Tipo 316 at the Belgian Grand Prix , the factory finally withdrew from the Grand Prix business.
Instead, the other Italian team, Maserati, got better and better. With the Maserati 8CTF had developed a promising in the previous year Grand Prix model with which the American Wilbur Shaw thanks to the unification of racing formulas 1939 , the 500-mile race at Indianapolis won and this success could repeat a year later. In Europe, too, the former Auto Union reserve driver Paul Pietsch was even able to keep the German Silver Arrows at bay for a short time with the works car at the German Grand Prix before he was thrown back to third place due to braking problems and a spin. However, the small Italian company lacked the financial means to carry out an appropriate development program parallel to the production of the successful Voiturette racing cars. Following the race, the two Grand Prix racing cars were sold to the private racing team of the US-American racing driver couple Laury and Lucy O'Reilly Schell , who were based in France and who had previously worked in vain with the Grand Prix model developed by Delahaye from Type 155 with a 4.5 liter naturally aspirated V12 engine had struggled. Finally, Bugatti also appeared sporadically to a few insignificant racing events with Jean-Pierre Wimille as driver. The death of Jean Bugatti during test drives in summer, however, meant the end of the traditional French racing team.
At the start of the season on the street circuit in Pau , Alfa Romeo had to forego the start due to Mussolini's boycott decree, and for Auto Union it made little sense to participate without Nuvolari. The Mercedes team had an easy time of it, especially since after the defeat last year they started with better preparation and a 3-car team in order to have a reserve in case of any defects. In fact, Caracciola was thrown out of the race by a broken oil pipe and von Brauchitsch forgave the victory in favor of Lang, his arch-rival in the team, because he had made an unnecessary pit stop because of a supposedly empty tank.
At the start of the Italian season at the highly endowed Tripoli Grand Prix , the Italians got an unpleasant surprise on the fast Mellaha circuit . After the news that the race had been announced for the Voiturette class that year, Mercedes-Benz had already secretly started developing a suitable 1.5-liter racing car in autumn 1938, the design of which was largely based on the successful Grand Prix Models was ajar. Although the rivalry between the two Mercedes drivers within the team finally escalated on this occasion, Lang and Caracciola turned their two "little" Silver Arrows on race day, completely unimpressed, while the forces of the six behind them were so sovereign until then Alfettas and the three new Maseratis of the type Maserati 4CL , which was used here for the first time, gradually dissolved under extremely high temperatures due to overheating problems.
Hermann Lang was unbeatable in the shape of his life in 1939 and also in the subsequent Eifel race at the Nürburgring , where the Auto Union team competed for the first time this season. Thanks to the renewed performance boost of his Grand Prix racing car, which was equipped with the new two-stage compressor for the first time, Lang was able to intercept Nuvolari's Auto Union, which had driven through the race without changing tires, despite a one-stop strategy.
Finally, Lang achieved a fourth victory in a row at the tragic Belgian Grand Prix after his young team-mate Richard Seaman had a serious accident while in the lead and died of burns the next day. For the last time in Grand Prix history, the starting grid was determined by drawing lots.
This ended the series of successes for Mercedes-Benz for the time being. Although Lang was again the undisputed lead at the French Grand Prix for a long time, the Mercedes Silver Arrows gradually fell victim to engine damage, so that the lucky winner was finally Müller at Auto Union, who had recently gotten better and better ahead of his relatively inexperienced team mate, the junior driver Georg "Schorsch" Meier .
For the home race at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, Mercedes had thoroughly revised the engines again, but in the race Lang had to give up the lead again because of the known defect and when von Brauchitsch was also slowed down by an engine problem, the Mercedes Team only Caracciola in the race. Once again, the rain champion lived up to his nickname and was able to put the assembled competition in their place in the second half of the race under wet conditions, but with his second place Auto Union driver HP Müller was still able to take the sole lead in the race with a five point lead over Lang Win championship standings. At the final Swiss Grand Prix , according to the current situation, he only had to come over half the distance to finally secure the European championship title. However, a possible change in the points system was already being discussed at this time, but the AIACR did not want to announce a final decision until its annual autumn meeting at the Paris Salon.
In order to bring the Italians back to the start, the organizers of the Bern race had come up with a special format for this year. The traditional Voiturette race for the Prix de Berne , which was usually carried out as part of the Grand Prix supporting program, was this time counted as a preliminary run, from which the best six participants in the final run, the actual race for the Grand Prix, against eleven fully-fledged Grand Prix Prix racing cars were allowed to compete. Purely nominally, the 1.5-liter voiturettes were also racing cars anyway, due to the sliding scale , which fell under the provisions of the international racing formula , so that this did not constitute a violation of the applicable regulations.
As expected, the Prix de Berne was clearly dominated by the two Alfetta of Giuseppe Farina and Clemente Biondetti , who then drove surprisingly well in the final on a wet track. Despite the engines that were only half the size, Farina was able to maintain second position for a long time, right behind Lang's Mercedes-Benz, until the Mercedes’s superior engine power came to the fore when the rain subsided and the Alfa Romeo driver finally came in seventh Position fell back. At the top there was another dramatic duel between the two Mercedes rivals Lang and Caracciola, from which Hermann Lang emerged victorious with a three-second lead.
In the meantime, the political situation in Europe had worsened and when the German racing teams met for the Belgrade Grand Prix at the beginning of September, news of the outbreak of World War II reached them while they were still training . Nevertheless, the organizer managed to persuade the teams to stay, and so Nuvolari achieved a final Grand Prix victory for itself and Auto Union before the engines finally fell silent. Only in Italy, which did not enter the war until the spring of 1940, had a few Voiturette races been held, just as in the USA the 500 miles from Indianapolis continued up to 1941.
The still open championship question was finally resolved in December 1939 by NSKK boss Adolf Hühnlein, the highest German motorsport official, by unceremoniously declaring Herrmann Lang as the most successful driver of the season as the most successful driver of the season, although according to the official points system of the Auto Union driver HP Müller would have granted the title. The unauthorized decision, which was never officially confirmed by the AIACR or its successor organization, the FIA, was more or less accepted as given by the motorsport public for many years and has only been questioned more and more since the end of the 20th century.
Grandes Épreuves for the European Championship
|1||25.06.||Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|2||09.07.||French Grand Prix||Circuit de Reims-Gueux||Hermann Paul Müller ( Auto Union )||statistics|
|3||07/23||Grand Prix of Germany||Nürburgring||Rudolf Caracciola ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|4th||08/20||Swiss Grand Prix||Bremgarten circuit||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )||statistics|
|04/02||Grand Prix de Pau||Circuit de Pau||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )|
|04/10||Road Championship||Brooklands||Arthur Dobson ( ERA )|
|07.05.||Coupe de Paris||Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry||Jean-Pierre Wimille ( Bugatti )|
|07.05.||Grand Prix of Finland||Eläintarha||Adolf Westerblom ( Alfa Romeo )|
|05/21||Eifel race||Nürburgring||Hermann Lang ( Mercedes-Benz )|
|05/28||Grand Prix des Frontières||Circuit de Chimay||Maurice Trintignant ( Bugatti )|
|26.06.||Bucharest Grand Prix||Bucharest||Hans Stuck ( Auto Union )|
|07/30||Circuit des remparts||Angoulême||Raymond Sommer ( Alfa Romeo )|
|07.08.||Campbell Trophy||Brooklands||Raymond Mays ( ERA )|
|03.09.||Belgrade Grand Prix||Belgrade||Tazio Nuvolari ( Auto Union )|
|29.10.||Circuito de Gávea Nacional||Gávea||Manuel de Teffé ( Maserati )|
Grandes Épreuves for the European Championship
Belgian Grand Prix
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||3: 20.21.0 h|
|2||Rudolf Hasse||Auto Union||+ 16.9 s|
|3||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 1.53.0 min|
The Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps on June 25, 1939, which took place in the rain, was overshadowed by a serious accident. British Mercedes driver Richard Seaman was half a minute ahead when he crashed his car into a tree and the vehicle caught fire. His team mate Hermann Lang pitted and wanted to give up, but Mercedes race director Alfred Neubauer sent him back into the race and Lang won.
That same evening, Seaman, the best British racing driver of the interwar period, succumbed to serious injuries - 60% of his skin was burned.
French Grand Prix
|1||Hermann Paul Muller||Auto Union||2: 11/21.8 h|
|2||Georg "Schorsch" Meier||Auto Union||+ 1 lap|
|3||René Le Bègue||Talbot||+ 3 rounds|
The French Grand Prix in Reims on July 9, 1939 was unfavorable for the Mercedes team. Accidents and engine damage did not allow any of his drivers to cross the finish line, so that Auto Union achieved a double victory. From the fifth to the 35th lap, Hermann Lang led by a large margin before retiring with an engine failure.
Georg “Schorsch” Meier , the runner-up, steered his car to the finish with just one hand: he sustained a burn injury from leaking petrol while making a pit stop.
Grand Prix of Germany
|1||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||4: 08.41.8 h|
|2||Hermann Paul Muller||Auto Union||+ 57.8 s|
|3||Paul Pietsch||Maserati||+ 1 lap|
250,000 to 300,000 spectators saw a failed race at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring on July 23, 1939. Hermann Lang started furiously, had a 28-second lead after the first lap, which he was able to expand to 40 seconds in the second. On the third lap he had to retire due to engine failure. It started to rain and the “rain champion” Caracciola was able to win the race despite a relapse to 3rd place after a long pit stop.
Swiss Grand Prix
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||1: 24.47.6 h|
|2||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||+ 3.1 s|
|3||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 1.09.9 min|
At the Swiss Grand Prix in Bremgarten on August 20, 1939, cars in the Voiturette class competed alongside the Grand Prix cars. This created some confusion. Caracciola was held up by a slow car for a long time and, despite intensive efforts and fast laps, was unable to catch up with the leading Lang .
Grand Prix de Pau
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||3: 07.25.2 h|
|2||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 16.8 s|
|3||Philippe Étancelin||Talbot||+ 2 rounds|
At the Grand Prix in Pau, France on April 2, 1939, the Italians were not allowed to compete according to an order by Mussolini , nor were Auto Union's top driver Tazio Nuvolari . Auto Union therefore skipped the race. Mercedes-Benz dominated the season opener and celebrated a double victory.
|1||Hermann Lang||Mercedes Benz||1: 40.57.1 h|
|2||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union||+ 11.2 s|
|3||Rudolf Caracciola||Mercedes Benz||+ 31.3 s|
For many teams, the Eifel race on the Nürburgring on May 21, 1939 was a preparation race for the German Grand Prix. Nuvolari and Lang fought a gripping battle for victory, which Lang eventually won because Nuvolari had to save his tires.
Belgrade Grand Prix
|1||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union||1: 04.03.8 h|
|2||Manfred von Brauchitsch||Mercedes Benz||+ 7.6 s|
|3||Hermann Paul Muller||Auto Union||+ 31.6 s|
In the middle of training for the Belgrade Grand Prix in Kalemegdan Park, the riders heard of the outbreak of World War II . In order to avoid a financial debacle, the organizer asked the teams to hold the race on September 3, 1939. Nuvolari won the last race of the interwar period. The teams had hardly returned to Germany when the Wehrmacht confiscated their trucks. The racing teams ceased to exist.
|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
After the outbreak of World War II , the season was no longer continued and the official title of European Champion 1939 was no longer awarded.
In December 1939, the ONS , the supreme national sports authority in Germany, declared Hermann Lang European champion with 23 points. According to the points system that was used from 1935 to 1938, however, Hermann Paul Müller had fewer points and would have been European champion. (At that time there were fewer points for better places, and Müller would have had 12 compared to Lang's 14 points). During the season, however, a new point system was discussed in the AIACR as the organizing international organization , similar to that used in Formula 1 after 1950. According to this system, Lang would have become European champion with 22 points ahead of Müller with only 21 points. The decision about which point system should be used should only have been made afterwards at the annual autumn meeting of the AIACR. However, due to the outbreak of war, this meeting did not take place any more and at the AIACR conference in May 1940 in Bern, at which the question of the European championship in 1939 was on the agenda again, the sports commission no longer met due to a lack of participants.
Which point system the ONS used to get 23 points for Lang and whether they wanted to prefer Lang over Müller has not yet been clarified. It is probably due to the fact that Hermann Lang was the dominant driver this season, who in addition to the Grand Prix counting for the European Championship won several other Grand Prix and hill climbs, while H. P. Müller could only win a single race.
- Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas: Detailed history of the 1939 European Grand Prix Championship. Www.kolumbus.fi, accessed on July 28, 2014 (English).
- Automobil Revue , issue 68/1939 from August 22, 1939
- In some publications, the racing cars were incorrectly referred to as the W 165 based on the engine .
- The type designation of the Auto Union racing cars was only introduced later by specialist authors to differentiate between the individual models.
- according to the valid point system
- http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/cha9.htm (accessed on April 22, 2015)
- Automobil Revue , issue 20/1940 of 14 May 1940