Another slightly nerdish diversion before we get back to something more typical of this journal. While I loudly applauded Ms Seymour's virtual single-handed resurrection of Mariette's life story it would have to be said that 'Bugatti Queen' borders on the chick lit in many places. Fanciful speculations are made and conclusions drawn which have absolutely no basis in fact, notably regarding the Delangle's time in Boissy-le-Sec (renamed Boissy-lès-Perche in 1924) and Mariette's childhood in Aunay-sous-Auneau. In addition there have been some wildly preposterous 'details' of her ancestry posted, frequently by people who should know better. So...I have traced and tabulated her ancestry on both paternal and maternal lines through 4 generations . Every event, 'hatched, matched or despatched', has been verified by viewing the actual confirmatory document from original commune records. This has only been possible by the Herculean efforts of all those dedicated souls who have made the documentation available on line. A huge 'merci' to all of them! You may view a pdf here: kvisit.com/Pw/iZcP
Someone asked me for a 'crib-sheet' a couple of years ago as he was officiating at Retromobile when 5 of the 6 cars were re-united. Having just completed work on 'Champion du Monde' I was in a good position to put this together. Rather than let it fester on my computer I thought others might find it useful so here it is. You may download it from my Google Drive here: lineage_with_captions1.jpg
The harrowing picture above, taken in the Delage pit after the Grand Prix of San Sebastian held at the Lasarte circuit on the 19th September 1925, tells its own story in graphic detail. Louis Delâge, in cardigan, and team personnel contemplate the reality that their popular but impetuous young team-mate Paul Torchy is dead. The drivers, l-r André Morel, Albert Divo, René Thomas and Robert Benoist seem in a state of disbelief. Sure, they knew Torchy had crashed out on lap five but had passed his abandoned car every lap subsequently noting that the damage appeared to be minimal and assumed their young team-mate to be ok. Sadly this was not the case; the glory of victory evaporated into melancholy despair. This was the not infrequent dark side of motor racing in the Twenties which Louis, until then, had not personally experienced.
Who was Paul Torchy?
Paul Gaston Torchy was a young man who had already, aged 28, led a very eventful life. Born in Elbouef near Rouen (Seine-Maritime) on the 17th November 1897 he was the son of schoolmaster Isidore Torchy and, with such a background, might have been expected to be groomed for the Halls of Academe. The feisty young Paul was having none of that! When the Great War broke out Paul was approaching his 17th birthday and ineligible to join up but come his 18th birthday the following November the young man was immediately signing on the dotted line at the local recruiting station. Passed medically fit to be shot or blown up he was given the lowly rank of canonnier (gunner) 2ème classe and posted to the 108 Th Heavy Artillery Regiment for basic training. Within a year of arriving at the front he was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Bronze Star) for valiantly leading his section under heavy bombardment. With further citations he ended his war in Greece after taking part in the Salonika campaign…he was just 21 years old!
Paul joins Delage
As can be seen from Paul’s military record above he had a great deal of which to be proud but his adventurous spirit wanted more and this led him to come knocking on the door of the Delage factory. Little is known of Paul’s initial duties but he graduated to the competition department quite early in his employment as mechanic and test driver. This must have been heaven on earth for any aspiring young racing driver. Here he was at the state of the art facilities of a manufacturer which had already won voiturette and Grand Prix races, had won the Indy 500 and was developing invincible sprint cars, one of which was to briefly hold the World Land Speed Record. In any event young Torchy had sufficiently impressed Louis Delâge and probably his ace driver and head of the competition department René Thomas to be given the co-driver’s seat alongside the dependable Charles Belben, another mechanic/tester who had been with Delage since 1911, to handle the Delage entry in the inaugural Le Mans 24 hours. The 2 litre DE entered had no chance of overall honours and was entered purely as a demonstration of Delage quality and reliability. This it did in the capable hands of Belben and Torchy finishing 13th overall.
Young Paul was now a racing driver…or so he imagined! He would have known also that Louis Delâge had the intention of re-entering Grand Prix racing having seen the abortive ‘Strasbourg’ 2LC 4 cylinder car at the factory. By the time of his Le Mans exploits this car had been developed into the 2LCV with Planchon’s jewel of a V12 engine and a month later Delage did indeed re-enter Grand Prix racing with Thomas’ less than successful outing in the GP de l’ACF at Tours with the original 2LCV (which became the Coty/Béquet Speciale in later life).
The story of Planchon’s difficulties in extracting more power and reliability on the dyno from the V12 is a matter of record leading to Louis Delâge, aided and abetted by Thomas, firing the unfortunate Planchon and handing over development to Albert Lory. Four brand new cars were produced for 1924 and Paul Torchy was one of the race team mechanics (but not riding mechanic even though they were still required in 1924). Picture below shows him, standing 4th from left, with Divo’s car at the Lyon circuit for the European Grand Prix.
Only two Grand Prix were entered by Delage in 1924, the French (European) at Lyon and the San Sebastian on the Lasarte circuit. While no victories were obtained the 2LCVs acquitted themselves well but it was obvious that they were at a power disadvantage against the blown straight eight Alfas. Lory set about rectifying this by totally restructuring the cylinder heads and incorporating twin Roots-type superchargers, one for each bank of cylinders with the net result that the V12 was now capable of pumping out close to 200 bhp for flash readings with 175+ hp for sustained running. Five brand new cars were laid down with the intention of entering a full team of four at the French GP to be held at Monlhéry in July. However the AIACR (forerunner of the FIA) had introduced the World Championship of Manufacturers in 1925 with four events counting towards the championship…Indianapolis 500, Belgian GP, French GP and Italian GP, participation in the latter being mandatory to qualify. Few European manufacturers were thought likely to compete at Indy (only one did, Bordino in the FIAT 804) and likewise no US manufacturer was expected in Europe as the regulations differed, principally in that the US cars were single-seaters even though the weights and capacities were similar. Nonetheless, for whatever reason the Indy 500 was included.
Baptism by fire – The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps – 28th June 1925
This put a different perspective on things and Louis Delâge decided to enter a full team of four cars in the Belgian GP to be held at the demanding Spa Francorchamps circuit on 28th of June. Only problem was that none of the new cars was remotely race-ready. A wise move would have been to withdraw the entry but Louis Delâge wouldn’t countenance this so one new car was got just about ready and handed to Divo while three of the 1924 cars were cobbled up with the supercharged engine for Thomas, Benoist and…Paul Torchy! Yes, young Paul had been promoted to Grand Prix driver with the most august of company, not least within his own team. This was no 24 hour jolly trundling round la Sarthe in a comparatively pedestrian DE mind you. He was sitting on the grid in the most viciously powerful Grand Prix car on the planet with road-holding barely, if at all, capable of handling it. Alongside him was Gastone Brilli-Peri, in front on the second row was the roly-poly opera-singing Giuseppe Campari and Albert Divo with the front row comprising René Thomas, Antonio Ascari and Robert Benoist; the absolute crème de la crème of mid-twenties Grand Prix drivers. A baptism by fire indeed! Picture below shows Paul in the ‘interim’ 2LCV #12 during practice.
The euphoria didn’t last long however as Paul was forced to retire the car after 2 laps of the scheduled 54 with a duff magneto. This was one lap better than was achieved by Robert Benoist who split his fuel tank on the opening lap and only fractionally worse than the fate of Thomas whose car caught fire and crashed on lap 6. Divo, however, performed creditably in the new car and was keeping pace with Campari in the second Alfa although Ascari had disappeared into the distance. Divo lasted until lap 29 before retiring with various mechanical maladies described in the race report as ‘valve trouble’. This had been a very inauspicious debut for the new supercharged engine but hardly surprising in view of the rushed preparation and the hybrid 1924 cars. Worse was to follow. After the race it came to light that Thomas had done deals with accessory manufacturers and had pocketed the proceeds. When Louis Delâge found out he sacked Thomas on the spot, both as driver and Head of the Competition Department and furthermore made sure than any such future contracts were made and signed only by him not individual drivers.
Home soil The GP de l’ACF – Montlhéry – 26th July 1925
The next race on the calendar was Delage’s home race, to be held on the full circuit at Linas-Montlhéry on the 26th of July. Delage entered four cars for Benoist, Divo, Wagner (taking the place of the demoted Thomas who was nonetheless in the Delage pit on race day) and Paul Torchy. In the event only three cars were presented but they were all the latest 1925 spec with modified chassis, steering and bodywork as compared to the 1924 cars and, of course, they all had the latest supercharged engines. The three cars were allocated to Divo, Benoist and Louis Wagner with Paul Torchy as reserve to share the driving as required. By 1925 Louis Wagner was a veteran of 43 years old and had raced with great success some of the most mythical racing cars since the dawn of the sport. One of his first races was the Paris-Madrid and he had been victorious on both sides of the Atlantic including winning the Vanderbilt Cup in 1906, the American Grand Prize in 1908, second in the 1912 French GP driving for FIAT and second again behind team-mate Lautenschlager driving a Mercedes in the legendary 1914 French GP. After the Great War Wagner had driven for Ballot before joining the all-conquering Alfa Romeo team for 1924. He was a driver of high principles and great skill from whom the young Paul Torchy could learn a lot.
For those readers not too conversant with 1920s Grand Prix racing it should be pointed out that the heroic drivers of the time bear no comparison whatsoever with the namby-pamby ‘elite sportsmen’ of today; neither do the circuits. Unlike many, the Circuit Linas-Montlhéry was designed and built purely as a motor racing track and opened in 1924 thanks to the good offices of Alexandre Lamblin who wanted France to have a track to rival or out-do autodromes such as Brooklands, Indianapolis and Monza. With the addition of a demanding road circuit incorporating the east banking the track was ready to, hopefully, host a home victory. These hopes were pinned on the Delage team as the normally aspirated Bugattis were only competing in the ‘Touring’ category. The race was run on the full 12.5 km ‘Grand Circuit’ including the ‘Biscornes’ complex and, being recently laid, the surface of tar on macadam and the concrete banking was in very good condition…in the dry at least!
This was in favourable comparison to the previous Grande Épreuve at Spa-Francorchamps where the public road circuit had been in a diabolical condition in places. Race distance was the mandatory 800km and it was expected to last around 10 hours with the start scheduled for 08.00 hrs (!) The grid was selected merely on race number in ascending order and assembled in a 3x3 formation to incorporate a rolling start.
This needs a bit of explaining. The allocation of grid positions by drawing lots or by number order was merely that, in the twenties and before, it was considered that in a mass-start race lasting 800+ kilometres the starting positions were of little importance as, indeed, neither was a wheel-spinning blast off the line jockeying for position. At Montlhéry for the start of the Grand Prix the grid was lined up stationary behind two dignitary-bearing road cars which duly trundled off with the race cars following. The officials’ cars peeled off into the paddock and the race was on when the competitors crossed the timing line. From period video footage it is pleasing to note that the drivers had already floored it before the officials were out of the way and Pierre de Viscaya in his 'Touring' Bugatti had made a flyer from the outside of the front row. Ascari had made a lightning start from Row 2, going wheel to wheel with the fast starting Masetti in the Sunbeam with Divo coming up fast. Campari in the #3 Alfa had stalled it on the front row whereupon his faithful mechanic rushed out in front of the field and swung it! High drama with the race barely under way! Ascari took the lead even before Deux Ponts and such a manoeuvre was usually the last any competitor would see of him. Make no mistake, out of the car Antonio Ascari may have had the appearance of a slightly portly well-to- do farmer, his father was a corn dealer, but behind the wheel of a racing car he was blindingly quick, almost certainly the fastest of the early post-war generation.
His technique, as he charmingly wrote in an article which ‘Motor Sport’ magazine posthumously published in the August 1925 issue, was to go flat out from the start and break the opposition, either mechanically or mentally. This tactic seemed to be working again as on lap 4 Divo’s Delage lost power and was heard to be popping and banging necessitating a pit stop. His mechanics changed the plugs and sent him out again, now dead last, but the problem was obviously terminal and the car was retired 2 laps later with what turned out to be a broken supercharger drive. Hardly the start Delage wanted and the spectre of Spa looked to be stalking them again, however, this was to prove to be the only problem that the Delage team would experience. Divo’s retirement left Ascari with a 2 min lead over his team-mate Campari with the vastly experienced Wagner in the leading #14 Delage another two minutes in arrears. Meanwhile Benoist in the #10 Delage had been acclimatising himself to the tricky conditions caused by the continual drizzle and had begun to move through the field with his trade-mark smoothness. By lap 15 when Ascari made his pit stop for fuel and tyres Benoist had gained 4 places and when Campari pitted on lap 18 the Frenchman took over second place. However, in spite of gaining places Benoist was actually still losing time to the flying Ascari. With the rudimentary pit signalling of the time it is unlikely Ascari was fully aware of Benoist’s progress. He was certainly made aware of it during his pit stop. Whether this had any bearing on the tragic events that were soon to unfold is moot but, with Ascari’s record and temperament it is almost certain that he resolved to drive absolutely flat out to extend his lead even though the rain had started again. Such was Ascari’s speed that, in spite of his pit stop, he had not lost the lead and had, in fact, increased it to 3 min 40 sec over the yet to stop Benoist. As Ascari set off on his 22nd lap the rain was falling steadily. Heading back towards the autodrome Ascari accelerated hard out of Gendarme and would have been flat out before lifting slightly for the kink just past the 9km post and approaching Chateau d’Eau. The organisers had erected a paling fence around the apex of the corner in this ultra-fast section as they had done around a lot of the other sections of the circuit to deter drivers from cutting corners. Some drivers, including Ascari, had remarked after practice that these temporary structures were potentially dangerous…their comments went unheeded. Pressing on, Ascari fractionally misjudged the apex; the nearside wheel hooked the palings dragging the Alfa into the deep ditch immediately behind the fence causing the car to first somersault end over end and then barrel-roll a number of times to a standstill upside down in the trackside ditch. The unfortunate Ascari was at first trapped in the car during its violent aerobatics and then ejected only to be hit by the vehicle as it came to a halt. He was mortally wounded with horrendous injuries. The intention was to transfer Antonio to the Piccini Clinic in Paris but the ambulance had only got as far as Linas before the great driver succumbed.
As was normal practice at the time the race continued unabated so on the 22nd lap the #10 Delage of Benoist made its scheduled pit stop allowing the #3 Alfa of Campari to take the lead. During the Delage’s pit stop the two Sunbeams of Masetti and Segrave had also gone past into second and third places. When the #10 Delage re-joined it was Divo at the wheel, fresh from only having driven six laps and now began the most exciting part of the race. On lap 25 Divo was 4 minutes behind Masetti’s Sunbeam but only 20 sec behind Segrave’s similar car; more to the point he was 5 min 11 sec behind race-leader Campari. A lap later Divo had disposed of Segrave and was gaining on Masetti hand over fist but that little battle was curtailed when both Sunbeams came in for scheduled stops on lap 27. Divo was now second, 5 min 4 sec behind Campari and he began to apply the pressure taking chunks of time out of Campari’s lead every lap. By lap 35 the gap was down to 4 minutes. Setting fastest lap after fastest lap and equalling the lap-record in far from ideal conditions Divo was hauling in Campari…to the intense delight of the partisan crowd. By lap 40 the gap was down to 2 minutes and shrinking at over 20 seconds per lap. Then on lap 40 more high drama and emotion when the leader Campari came in for his scheduled stop. Pulling into the pits he leaped out as normal and began attending to the car which was already up on jacks having the wheels changed when the driver stopped his work, took off his goggles and slumped on the pit wall sobbing…he had been told of his team-mate and compatriot’s death. The Alfa remained stationary alongside the third team car, the #12 P2 of Brilli-Peri who had endured a terrible race beset with rough running and mis-firing almost from the start. The Count had already made six pit stops including four for plug changes before the car was finally retired on lap 33 after running dead last for a number of laps. Brilli-Peri could have taken over Campari’s car but he’d had time to reflect on Ascari’s fate and was probably in no mood to do so. In any event, work ceased in the Alfa Romeo pit and it was announced within 20 minutes that Nicola Romeo was withdrawing the team ‘as a mark of respect to their fatally injured driver’. This was the honourable thing to do and should be applauded but…viewed dispassionately 90-odd years later it can be seen that Alfa had little option. They had one car wrecked; another already retired with terminal mechanical maladies and two drivers who showed no inclination to continue and had been sitting in the pits for 20 minutes. Add to that the rate at which Divo had been overhauling Campari it is clear that, after the pit stops, the #10 Delage would have taken the lead within 6 laps even if the remaining Alfa had completed a normal pit stop. Now one cannot write history on ‘what ifs’ but the facts as they unfolded on that day in July 1925 totally give the lie to the interminably regurgitated statement that the Delages gained only a Pyrrhic victory. They did not; they won the race fair and square. One cannot describe every victory where cars in front of the eventual winner crashed out or retired as Pyrrhic! Yes, if Ascari had not made that one fatal mistake he would have won by a country mile but that was because he was Antonio Ascari, the fastest racing driver on the planet, and would probably have won with whatever car he was driving provided it held together.
While all this drama was going on the redoubtable Wagner had been running a steady 4th around 5 minutes behind Masetti in the #7 Sunbeam and had handed over to Paul Torchy at their scheduled stop on lap 33. This was the first time Paul had got his hands on the latest spec Delage in anger and, it would have to be said, these were not the ideal conditions to re-acquaint himself with the 2LCV’s surfeit of power over grip and road holding! Paul drove neatly and steadily for his opening laps and kept the gap to Masetti steady at around 6 minutes but on lap 39 he had an almighty tank-slapper and spin which lost him 4 minutes to Masetti and even allowed the ‘Touring’ Bugatti T35 of Costantini to get past. Torchy collected his thoughts, soon reeled in and passed Costantini and set off after Masetti. There were to be no more histrionics and Paul drove exceptionally, taking around 90 seconds a lap off the Sunbeam so that, when he handed over to Wagner on lap 59 the #14 Delage was only 2 minutes in arears. By lap 68 Wagner had caught and passed Masetti to take second place behind the leading similar car of Benoist. So the race petered out to its muted conclusion, the dismal skies and now-continuous rain adding to the gloom that had descended as a result of the announcement of Ascari’s death.
After the prize-giving and team photographs Robert Benoist led his team-mate Wagner and Masetti in the Sunbeam on a somewhat self-conscious lap of honour. At the site of Ascari’s accident Benoist halted the convoy and the drivers laid their victory garlands at trackside; a fitting tribute by his fellows to a great driver. As far as the World Championship was concerned the result meant that Delage and Alfa were tied on points; the championship would be decided at Monza.
The AIACR World Championship…and two bombshells!
Let us first examine the regulations laid down by the AIACR which governed the first World Championship of Makes (Note ‘makes’ not ‘drivers’) in 1925. The championship was to comprise four designated races (originally five but the ‘British Grand Prix’, which was never a serious possibility, was dropped). These were nominated as the Indianapolis 500 Miles, the Belgian (European) GP, the French (GP de l’ACF) GP and finally the Italian GP. Participation in the Italian GP was mandatory but others could be skipped with a points penalty. Points were awarded for one car only per team (to avoid multi-car teams being at a disadvantage over single entries) and were allocated as follows: 1st place – 1point; 2nd place – 2 points; 3rd place - 3 points; all other finishers – 4 points; non finishers -5 points and non-starters – 6 points; the best of three nominated events, including the Italian GP, to count. The manufacturer with the lowest combined score would be Champion; in the event of a tie there would be a run-off at Monza within 48 hrs of the Italian GP. All competing cars must comply with the then current AIACR regulations of a maximum displacement of 2 litres, superchargers optional, minimum weight of 650 kg and a minimum body width of 80 cm. It has been inferred that the inclusion of the Indy 500 was merely to justify the title ‘World’ in the championship with no realistic expectation of transatlantic competition. This has been shown to be untrue insofar as the Italian Club at least, if not the AIACR, had intimated early in the year that the American cars could compete, at least at Monza, if suitably modified to comply with the cross-sectional dimension requirement. In any event the AAA regulations governing Indy and all other American Championship races were very similar to the AIACR with a maximum displacement, blown or unblown, of 122 cu.in (1999 cc) and a minimum weight of 1400 lb (635 kg). The latter could easily be brought within AIACR regulations by the addition of ballast if necessary although, in practice, none of the 1925 Indy competitors weighed below 650 kg. The only potential fly in the ointment regarding the two disciplines competing together was the body width but it had been inferred that this could be accommodated. Under AAA rules there was no stipulation on body width or number of seats so all serious competitors ran a minimum width single seater configuration with centre steering. Such cars would have been ineligible for the AIACR Championship but were given the necessary dispensation for the Indy 500. There would have been nothing to preclude the European cars from running at Indy but in the event only Bordino’s FIAT did. The AIACR, in their usual high-handed manner, assumed the Americans would have their ‘sideshow’ and take no further part in the World Championship or if they did they would have to modify their cars. This assumption lasted all through the summer until after the French GP which had left Alfa-Romeo and Delage tied on points at 12 points each. Obviously both those teams would drop the 6 points incurred for missing Indy so the Championship was going to be decided at Monza in the Italian GP until…
Bombshell #1 The Yanks are coming!
On August 1st Duesenberg announced that they had submitted entries for the Italian GP and two cars were ready for shipment to Italy! The two cars were in American AAA specification with the addition of front-wheel brakes but Duesenberg had been assured by the organising Italian club that they would be eligible providing they carried ‘plates’ giving an overall width of 80 cm to the single seater bodies. Drivers had been nominated as Tommy Milton and AJ ‘Peter’ Kreis. While the immensely likeable Kreis was a wealthy amateur who had finished 8th in that year’s Indy 500 Tommy Milton was an absolute top-line driver who had already competed in 7 Indy 500 Miles, uniquely winning two of them and coming 3rd in another in spite of having only one eye (it was said that he memorised the sight test-card to pass his racing licence medical!). A notable absentee from the Duesey line-up was Pete De Paolo; the Indy 500 winner had announced that he was staying home to concentrate on the AAA Championship. This turned out to be economical with the truth as he had been in negotiations to drive for Alfa-Romeo which at first seemed to be unlikely. However, Alfa, still in shock from the loss of their superstar Ascari, could not obtain their first choice of third driver, Masetti, and being unable to strike a deal with Bordino they accepted De Paolo’s offer at the last minute. It was ‘fortuitous’ that De Paolo was in Milan bearing in mind it took the best part of a week to travel by sea from New York to Genoa in 1925! There was a great deal of money flying around for this race and the Duesenberg team had been offered ‘very substantial appearance money’ according to Motor Age. When the Duesey team arrived it was immediately apparent that these were no ‘appearance money specials’. They had an inordinate amount of kit, top mechanics, special tyres and even their own special fuel; they were in it to win it! This put the cat among the pigeons as far as the World Championship was concerned. Hitherto considered just a straight fight between Alfa and Delage; whoever finished ahead in the top three would be champions, if neither finished in the top three there would be a race-off. Now with Milton and Duesenberg quite capable of winning the race people hastily got out their pencils and paper to work out possible scenarios. It was quite simple. If Duesey won and a Delage or Alfa was second then there would be a race off, Duesenberg versus the second place marque as both teams would have 14 points with a 6 point discard leaving both on 8 points. There were various other permutations which would result in a Duesey/Alfa/Delage win or a race off but, in view of the opposition, these were considered unlikely. Thus the scene seemed to be set for a titanic battle between the three makes until…
Bombshell # 2 Delage withdraw!
Delage, who had been strangely quiet in the lead up to the race, had entered 4 cars for Benoist, Divo, Paul Torchy and the re-instated Thomas. On August 10, less than a month before the race, Benoist, in an interview with Italian journalists, made an extraordinary statement. He intimated that Delage might withdraw from the race ‘due to insufficient time to get the new cars ready’! On the face of it this was a preposterous comment. Delage had a state of the art factory with a skilled and experienced Racing Department and they had dyno testing facilities with two of the dynos specifically set up to test and tune the 2LCV V12 racing engines
If anybody could turn around and race prep four cars between the French GP in July and the upcoming Italian GP in September it was Delage. Besides which there were no ‘new’ cars. Five brand new cars had been constructed for the 1925 season and there would never be any more. By 20th August this withdrawal was confirmed by Louis Delâge in a letter to Arturo Mercanti, director of the organising club the Automobile Club of Milan. However Delâge had turned the excuse on its head by saying that there would be insufficient time to turn the team cars round before the San Sebastian GP, which he had entered, if his team competed in both events. This may well have been true, up to a point with the results of the rushed preparation before the Belgian GP being indicative. However, this was intensely bad publicity for Delage and quite what possessed Louis to take this action was, and, to a certain extent, still is, beyond comprehension. Firstly it was a diplomatic faux pas of the first order by simultaneously upsetting the organising club by dramatically reducing the spectacle and potential attendance of their Blue Riband event while giving the AIACR a slap in the face by inferring that their World Championship was worthless and Delage could profit more by winning a non-championship race in Spain! Arguably the San Sebastian GP should have been included in the championship; that it was not was either due to the overwhelming influence of the Italians in the AIACR politics or that the organising club were strapped for cash as usual. Nonetheless, the facts of the matter were that it was non-championship and Alfa Romeo were not going to be taking part. The obvious inference was that Delâge was fearful of being beaten by Alfa and had effectively thrown in the towel. Now Louis Delâge had not risen from an impoverished kid in Gas Street Cognac to the Château du Pecq and one of the richest men in Paris by throwing in towels! Nearly 100 years later and with no personal papers to consult one can only speculate on this apparently baffling decision. It may well have been that Louis, who was spending more and more time at his palatial new offices on the Champs-Elysées rather than at the factory, was influenced by Max Fallery the Sales Manager who had a history of acting above his pay grade and being pessimistic about Delage’s prospects in the racing field. Worst case scenario would have been that the 2LCVs would have been defeated by the Alfas and then, ill-prepared, would have struck trouble at San Sebastian and been defeated by the Sunbeams or worse the underpowered Bugatti T35s. The most likely reason for the insistence on the Spanish race was that Delage had a very small foothold in that country’s market, particularly with the recently introduced DI and DIS models. To hopefully rectify this Fallery and Co hatched a plan for an ‘ambassador’ to tour the Basque region after success (hopefully!) in the GP demonstrating the model and setting up dealerships. No less a person than Robert Benoist was entrusted with this ambassadorial task! One might say in hindsight that it was a pity he wasn’t booked for his day-job and driving in the Italian GP rather than encourage a few Basques to buy a Delage but that was that…Delage were out and hence disqualified from the Championship.
The Decider. Italian GP Monza 6th September 1925
The Italian GP was to be run on the full 10 km Monza circuit incorporating the high speed banked oval and adjacent road course. Alfa Romeo entered a 3-car team comprising Campari, Gastone Brilli-Peri and Peter De Paolo pitted against the Duesenberg team of Milton and Kreis. Then the previously expected titanic battle began to hit yet more trouble. The Dueseys were presented for weighing and scrutineering with their twin 6 inch square plates bolted to the sides of the cockpits to ‘comply’ with the special dispensation granted by the organising club who were presumably satisfied. However the AIACR scrutineers were most definitely not satisfied and, what’s more, told the organising club that they had no business granting such waivers of the rules and had exceeded their authority in doing so! Tommy Milton apparently went ballistic but to no avail. If Duesey were to race, and get the bags of lire appearance money, then they must remove these bits of tin and make a cockpit that was 31 inches wide over at least most of it. The AIACR would, however, allow the Duesenbergs to retain their central steering and waive the rule that the two seats must be side-by-side. The Deusey mechanics had no option but to set-to and produce the required bodywork. One can only say that they made a damn good job of it as can be seen in the photos below of Milton’s Duesey #7 alongside De Paolo’s Alfa #10 on the grid and the full grid with the two Dueseys on Row 2 with obviously central steering. The seat must have required some contouring or extra side support to avoid Milton and Kreis rolling around like a pea on a drum but his is not immediately apparent on the pictures below.
After practice it was obvious, and disquieting for the tifosi, that the Duesenbergs were indeed very quick and a match for the Alfas. De Paolo was also on the pace showing the calibre of these top American drivers with little or no experience of road racing but in their element on the banked high speed Monza oval. On race day over 140,000 spectators turned up along with members of the Italian royal family and, of course, Benito Mussolini. It was said that over 20,000 vehicles carried spectators to the circuit without any traffic hold-ups. Obviously ‘Il Duce’ had not only got the trains running on time but had sorted out the traffic congestion as well! Grid was, as usual, by number order but this time a standing start flagged off by Crown Prince Umberto. Campari in the Alfa shot into the lead closely followed by the three Americans in the order De Paolo, Kreis and Milton. On lap 2 Kreis forced the Deusey past Campari and took the lead but regrettably (and predictably!) this success was very short-lived as he had a wild slide on lap 3, hit a kerb damaging the suspension, and was out. Kreis was, however, credited with fastest lap which must have been on Lap 2 since this was the only flying lap he completed! This left Milton in the sole remaining Duesenberg running in 4th place behind the three Alfas of Campari, Brilli-Peri and De Paolo. Milton was having trouble selecting second gear which got rapidly worse effectively limiting him to top gear only. This only appeared to trouble the driver from Saint Paul through the tighter turns of the Lesmos as he was pulling over 140 mph on the pit straight. Just after the 50 km mark he passed the Alfas for the lead which he held for another 30 laps up to half distance when an oil pipe fractured on the Duesey costing Milton the lead and a loss of 3 laps. In his book ‘Wall Smacker’ De Paolo oddly dismisses the Dueseys as being ‘outclassed’ which is at total variance with the facts and unbecoming of someone whose racing successes had come almost exclusively in Duesenberg cars. De Paolo himself hit trouble around the halfway mark when a carburettor flange broke and needed replacement. The result was a win for Brilli-Peri, who had a trouble-free run, with Campari in the other P2 second thus giving Alfa Romeo the title of ‘World Champions’. Milton and De Paolo finished 4th and 5th respectively within 2 minutes of each other after 800 km racing. Thus ended the first contest for the World Championship and one can only surmise what Paul Torchy and the other Delage team drivers thought about the matter. Two years later Delage would sweep imperiously to victory at the same venue and secure a clean sweep in the championship but on this day in history it was Alfa Romeo who claimed the laurels which they proudly added to their radiator badge. For Delage there was now the small matter of the San Sebastian Grand Prix at Lasarte in 2 weeks time.
III Gran Premio do San Sebastan Circuito Lasarte, 19 September 1925
Unlike Monza or Montlhéry the Lasarte circuit was hugely demanding 17.815 km tortuous course run entirely on public roads temporarily closed for the event. In addition to its myriad bends it had steep changes of gradient, flat out blasts through wooded sections, blind crests and towns and villages to pass through en route. Said to be second only to the Targa Florio in difficulty the Circuito Lasarte was indeed a severe test for man and machine.
Delage made a big song and dance of their presence with Louis Delâge and other top brass from the factory in attendance and had entered four of the final specification cars in what was to be the 2LCV’s swan-song in Grands Prix with all four cars entered being present. Drivers were nominated as Divo, Thomas, Benoist, Torchy, Morel and Wagner, the latter two acting as relief drivers as required. This meant that, at last, young Paul Torchy was going to start a Grand Prix in the final spec 2LCV.
On paper the entry list for the race, 20 in all, was reasonable. In addition to Delage, there were cars from Bugatti and Sunbeam most of which were listed with top-line drivers of the calibre of Masetti, Conelli and Segrave (Sunbeam), the de Viscayas, Goux and Costantini (Bugatti) and Alfieri Maserati and Materassi in the blown straight eight Diatos. However, come race day a number of potential front runners failed to appear, including Segrave, Materassi and Conelli. While the Bugattis with their superior road-holding were quick in practice it looked as if the race would be a walk-over for Delage which were, not surprisingly, blindingly fast when given their head. Grid positions were by number order as usual which meant that 2x2 grid had #1 Divo on ‘pole’ alongside #4- Jean Gras in the la Perle (this latter being another little gem, 1500cc supercharged, from the shamefully underrated genius Nemorin Causan), Benoist #9 was on Row 3, Paul Torchy, #13 on Row 4 and Thomas the final Delage #15 on Row 5. Paul is supposed to have remarked “Today I win or kill myself”. This is almost certainly untrue and most likely can be attributed to René Thomas years later. Thomas told a good story but could never resist embellishing the facts. This was only Torchy’s second actual start from the grid and unfortunately Paul’s inexperience showed; as the Hispano-Suiza carrying the King and other big-wigs pulled off Paul floored the throttle and promptly bogged the engine. This novice error could well have been a major contributor to the events that were to unfold. By the time Torchy had got the Delage running cleanly on all 12 most of the field, including Thomas had gone past and Paul had a lot of work to do.
Lasarte was by no means the easiest track on which to overtake but by dispatching some of the slower cars and by Foucher’s crash in the Bugatti on the opening lap Torchy crossed the line 7th on Lap 1. He then hauled in and passed Pierre DeViscaya's Bugatti on Lap 2 and got by the similar car of Costantini on the 3rd lap; he was making good progress and was now in 5th place with Masetti’s Sunbeam next up. Coming through Andoain on the 4th lap young Torchy, spurred on by glimpses of the Italian’s Sunbeam up ahead, resolved to add another scalp. However, Giulio Masetti was a very different kettle of fish to the other drivers Paul had disposed of in his climb through the field. ‘The Count’ had earned the soubriquet ‘Il Leone delle Madonie’ with every justification. He was an absolute virtuoso on this type of circuit having, incredibly, won the Targa Florio twice with a 2nd and 4th to add to his record all within 4 years and he wasn’t going to let the young tyro by without a fight. Catching up the Sunbeam through Urnieta Torchy harried Masetti through the sweeps of Hirnani. This was Lap 4 of 40, there was plenty of time to dispose of the slower car but Paul was desperate to join his team mates and make it a Delage 1,2,3,4. Instead of waiting for a safer overtaking spot on the home straight Paul tried a wildly optimistic move round the outside of a tight bend approaching Irubide. It was a very dangerous place to try to overtake let alone attempting to take Masetti round the outside of a tree-lined left-hander. It didn’t come off. Paul got on the loose and at 45 degrees hit a tree which jammed itself between the rear right wheel and the bodywork before becoming uprooted. While causing little structural damage other than to the right side of the cockpit and ripping the rear springs out it brought the car to a virtually instantaneous stop. It came to a halt resting against an adjacent tree with no frontal damage to the car at all. With no restraint Paul’s body smashed against the steering wheel and column resulting in catastrophic injuries to the chest and head from which the unfortunate driver sadly died almost instantaneously.
In the Twenties Irubide was an isolated hamlet and it took some time to get medical assistance, not that it would have aided Torchy who had died virtually on impact. Assistance in extricating Paul had been given by the two marshals Balmaseda and Aldecoa and a soldier who managed to transport the body to a nearby cottage before two doctors, Tortosa and Usandizaga, arrived some time later. All they could do was pronounce Paul Torchy dead. How long it took to get the news and severity of the accident back to Race Control, Louis Delâge and the Delage pit is not accurately known or indeed if Louis communicated the information to his drivers prior to the end of the race. News of the fatality was not announced to the spectators until after the race however. The race had only run a tenth of its scheduled distance at the time of Torchy’s accident but there has never been any suggestion that Louis Delâge considered withdrawing his cars as had Nicola Romeo at Montlhéry. The race continued but the only realistic opposition to the Delages was Masetti’s Sunbeam but after that car’s retirement with steering problems on Lap 28 the three remaining 2LCVs cruised to victory in the order Divo/Morel, Benoist and Thomas. Fastest lap however was accredited to Costantini in the Bugatti prior to his crashing out in spectacular fashion one lap after the Torchy accident. Costantini emerged with barely a scratch even though the car was totally wrecked. This prompted Thomas in his memoirs to express his incredulity that, when passing both crash sites in the race, he later learned that the fatality occurred in the car that appeared to be hardly damaged. This quirk of fate was also picked up in an article in ‘Voitures Legères’ entitled ‘Luck and Fatality’. Winner Albert Divo’s pensive expression at the prize presentation would indicate that he had been told of Torchy’s death.
Perhaps the biggest irony of all however is that Count Giulio Masetti with whom Paul Torchy was dicing in the #13 Delage 2LCV would himself, only seven months later, be lying dead under another Delage 2LCV also bearing #13 in the 1926 Targa Florio. In fact it would be one of the Delage 2LCVs contesting this very race in San Sebastian.
So was ended the brief life of Paul Torchy. A young man who had distinguished himself in everything he had done; a decorated soldier for his country, a rowing champion and a mechanic who rose to become a valued and highly popular member of an elite motor racing team. The funeral service was held at Courbevoie church attended by a large congregation including members of his family and all the senior executives of the Delage Company including, of course, Louis Delâge who gave an emotional oration. The coffin was borne by his team mates Thomas, Benoist, Divo and Wagner who had kept vigil over the body since its arrival in Paris. A very sad occasion but we must remember the attitude to life and death of these young, and some not so young, racing drivers in the early Twenties. Most had fought through and survived the carnage of the Great War. Many had been airmen when life expectancy had been frequently measured in days. Driving a racing car expressed their joi de vivre and, while mindful of the risks, must therefore have seemed a relatively safe activity, incomprehensible as that may be to today’s sanitized society. Paul Torchy is not the first name that comes to mind when recalling the great racing drivers but nonetheless it should forever be remembered by enthusiasts of the sport. We will never know how Paul would have handled the 1500cc 15-S-8 in 1926 and ’27 and which would take Delage to victory in the World Championship but it is safe to assume that he would have acquitted himself with honour and distinction.
All text © Colin Musgrove 2019
I bought the super hi-res version of this Bill Brunell pic of Delage2 thinking it might show 'J Taylor' driving it. It didn't and for one minute I thought it was that bounder Sir Alastair Miller who imported Delage1 and 2 but thankfully not! Its Mr K Donsky, an Irish gentleman of note...Surbiton MC event, Brooklands, Sept 1928. Nice pic, part of a series. (Protip: You can tell Delage1 and 2 apart in period by the drilled x-member under the rad on Delage2)
The next pic IS 'J Taylor'...same car same meet
"Who the hell was 'Mr J Taylor' then?" you ask! Well, he was a very competent young driver in all manner of vehicles winning the Surbiton 150 Cup in his mighty Austro-Daimler. His real name was Philip Turner but his parents were so violently opposed to his racing that he had to enter under a pseudonym. I say 'violently'...so violently that they journeyed to Boulogne where young Philip was entered in the Georges Boillot Trophy and smashed the radiator of the Austro-Daimler to stop him competing!
As for Sir Alastair Miller, in spite of great success at the Track and being lauded as 'Mr Brooklands' by the toady Bill Boddy he had a penchant for little girls and conning people out of their money. It didn't end well. Interesting commentary on the times that the judge threw out the child-bride's divorce petition and even allowed Miller time off the trial to go racing at Brooklands
As for the 'Irish gentleman of note' I mentioned...119.81 mph (192.82 km/h), Miss England III, Loch Lomond, 18 July 1932. World Water Speed Record.
Kaye Don spent a little time in clink too after the TT mechanic fatality incident on the IoM...it's a small world!
This really is my reply to a question on The Nostalgia Forum but I thought a slightly wider audience might find it of interest. By no means anything other than sketchy as forum posts are to avoid the dreaded 'tl;dr' but I'll add a few more details and pics later.
There is another Delage magnum opus in preparation which will give all known details of these cars c/w chassis numbers but it won't be out this year!
OK, firstly the 'Strasbourg' car was built using a four-cylinder engine and was known as the '2LC' being an abbreviation for '2 Litre Course'. It was a neat design incorporating some clever touches including the interior-mounted spare wheel and mechanic's arm rest as seen in the montage I've done below. Notable was the Frontenac-esque nose cone as tried on the Torpille (hence the name) but discarded in the latter due to overheating problems. The 2LC looked good but the performance of the engine was pretty useless and would have fared badly against the Fiats, Bugattis and Sunbeam and while it was entered for the GP de l'ACF at Strasbourg it wisely was withdrawn.
Charles considered various configurations and architecture and finally decided on the jewel of a V12 as we know...and the 2LC became the 2LCV. The chassis and some bodywork was duly modified and the first V12 installed in the erstwhile 2LC and thus 2LCV #1 was born in 1923 just about in time for the GP de l'ACF at Tours on the 3rd of July 1923. This was against the better judgement of Louis D who was being pressurised to an extent by René Thomas. The car lasted 8 laps and DNF'd. That was the only time the 2LC/2LCV hybrid ever appeared in a GP
No more cars were produced in 1923 and the prototype 2LCV remained at the factory until it was sold, less engine, to Raymond Coty and Maurice Béquet who, of course, fitted the V8 Hispano engine and the car still exists. Louis Delâge stipulated that the Delge radiator badge be removed and that it should not be entered in any event as a 'Delage'. Thus it was entered as the Coty Spéciale if and when it appeared (rarely!) and the 'Béquet-Delage' moniker is a comparitively recent application.
Thomas, never one to call a spade a shovel, grumbled incessantly about the engine not producing the expected power on the dyno and eventually Louis D, tenuous family connections notwithstanding, fired poor old Charles Planchon and entrusted the development to Albert Lory. This was grossly unfair on Planchon who then disappeared into virtual obscurity but that's how it was at the Delage emporium. That Lory made many improvements in the execution of the original design is incontestable notably with regard to the engine lubrication and crankshaft. However, this could equally have been done as a team with Planchon. Lory also made mistakes when fitting the superchargers but luckily for him these were identified and fixed in-house. These errors were apparently glossed over but René Thomas had a tale to tell...as usual. Lory went on, justifiably, to be fêted as the designer of the all-conquering 1500 cc 15-S-8 while Planchon is virtually forgotten. All engineers and enthusiasts with a love of racing engines should never forget that it was Charles Planchon who had the idea for this wonderful jewel of a V12 and it was he who designed 95% of it.
Four brand new cars were produced for the 1924 season and a 3-car team was entered for the GP de l'ACF at Lyon where they performed most creditably...much better than the subsequently much-vaunted Bugatti T35s! 2nd, 3rd and 6th with Divo finishing less than a minute behind Campari in the P2 Alfa. The Bugattis were expected to turn the tables at San Sebastian with their superior road-holding on the twisty Lasarte circuit (chassis design was never Lory's strong point!) but, of course, everybody had forgotten about Segrave in the Sunbeam who won. 2LCVs 3rd and 4th behind Costantini in the T35 with Benoist DNF after an off. That was it for 1924 as Delage did not contest the Italian GP at Monza.
Five brand new cars were laid down for the 1925 season and the intention was to run four of these, fully tested, at Montlhéry for the first time at the GP de l'ACF aiming for a home victory. However, Delage decided to give them a trial-run in the Belgian GP at Spa a month before the French event. This turned out to be a big mistake. Only one of the 1925 cars was (just about) race-ready so it was decided to wheel out three of the 1924 cars but fitted with the latest-spec engines now running twin superchargers and giving flash readings of over 200 bhp on the dyno. There was some aggravation as to who should have the new car and it was given to Divo, probably to Thomas' disgust. The three '24 cars retired relatively early but Divo put up a creditable performance in the new car, running close behind Campari in the Alfa, but Ascari had disappeared into the distance. Divo ultimately had to retire with various problems which left the 2 remaining Alfas circulating alone, much to the displeasure of the paying public. However, the 'picnic' story about Marinoni and Alfa 'humiliating' Louis Delâge is pure invented nonsense first appearing 50 years after the event. Here's Thomas giving the older car the beans...yes, that's Spa-Francorchamps!
Three of the latest cars appeared at Montlhéry and Benoist achieved a somewhat Pyrrhic victory after the fatal accident to Ascari and the withdrawal of the Alfa team. Delage sat out the Italian GP at Monza and Paul Torchy had to wait until the San Sebastian GP to get his hands on the new car. Sadly he was killed driving it in the race where Delage scored a 1, 2, 3 with all four 1925 cars starting. That was the end of the 2LCV's GP career but the Works supported the Targa Florio with them in 1926. Tragically Masetti was killed in his example, running Number 13 as had Torchy at San Sebastian.
So, the result of all this rambling is that TEN 2LCVs were built one of which, the first, was the reconstituted 2LC. Where are they now? Well there's two, a '24 and a '25 not fifty miles from where I'm typing this. there's Lukas' '24 and there's the Brequét...that's four so far. I'll continue this later...
© colin musgrove 2018
Well, there's a turn-up for the book...as it were! 'Champion du Monde' has been awarded the hyper-prestigious 'RAC Specialist Motoring Book of the Year Award' for 2017. While Daniel and I were delighted when we heard that the book had been shortlisted it would have to be said that we were more than a little surprised! After all, half the text is in French with the English version on the same page, a layout some don't like apparently. The likelihood of a book by a French author, published in France about a French car being chosen by an august bunch of English judges (most of whom probably don't speak much French!) seemed on a par with Accrington Stanley winning the FA Cup.
Daniel's painstaking research and phenomenal archive of Delage documentation and photographs certainly deserved international recognition, as did the specific research on his own car by Christophe, but these accolades don't always go to the most deserving. I alone spent over 800 hours on the project and Daniel probably four times that amount...and it's a lonely path the author treads...frequently in the small hours. I'm surprised the fibre-optic cables in Normandy and Warwickshire didn't melt with the email traffic...often every 15 minutes!
By working over Christmas and the New Year we managed to meet the deadline by literally a few hours and the book was duly on sale at Retromobile to coincide with the first time five of the six cars had been together since they were dismembered in Uncle Reg Parnell's garage!
So...this recognition is a fabulous reward, not just for Daniel, Christophe and me, but for all those who sweated bricks helping out but with a very special mention and thanks to Sophie Jauneau the young lady responsible for the design and layout of the book. How she sweetly put up with our, almost hourly, alterations and corrections I'll never know.
We dedicate the award to the glorious memory of a great man who drove for France, fought for France and sadly died for France at the hands of the Nazis in Buchenwald....Robert Benoist.
The RAC press release reads:
Peter Read, the Chairman of the Club’s Motoring Committee, said. ‘The Club’s library at Pall Mall is already among the finest in the world, and fortunately for us there’s no shortage of exceptional new titles we’d like to add to it. Our independent judges undertake an incredible task for us, and it’s satisfying that the 2017 winner Watching The Wheels by Damon Hill is an excellent read with the widest possible appeal.
‘Meanwhile, Delage – Champion Du Monde, is an example of fresh research and beautiful production of which we wholeheartedly approve.’
The judges for the Award were leading specialist bookseller Ben Horton of Hortons Books; Gordon Cruickshank of Motor Sport magazine; Mark Dixon, deputy editor of Octane; commentator and reviewer Henry Hope-Frost; Mick Walsh, international editor of Classic & Sports Car magazine; Christian Whitehead from London bookstore Foyles; and Tom Wiltshire of Auto Express magazine.
Colin Musgrove 05-11-17
When idly scrolling through some photographs of the 1929 San Sebastian GP by a couple of excellent Catalan photographers of the period I came across the above pic by Martin Ricardo. Now, notwithstanding my interest in aviation history causing me to note the British registered Avro Avian, I was really taken aback by the appearance of the four poseurs with it. Apart from, maybe, the Homburg that pic could have been taken in the late fifties yet it was taken in 1929! The cut of the gent's suits, hairstyles etc not to mention the girl's pleated skirt and general 'look' are all straight out of the start of the rock'n'roll era. Who were these avant garde fashionistas?! Well, you'll be disappointed to hear that I don't actually know for certain...yet! However, I have a pretty good idea so all will be revealed. First clue to follow was the '---elia' painted on the side of the Avian...'Delia'? 'Ophelia'? 'Amelia'? Avians have been involved in many deeds of derring-do with the likes of, for example, Earhart, Hinkler, Guy Menzies and Bill Lancaster (who crashed in the Sahara having avoided a session with 'Old Sparky' the Florida electric chair (!) and whose mummified remains were found 30 years later by the Foreign Legion!) but 'Amelia' was obviously a red herring since there's not enough room to get that name plus the rest of the registration in...anyway Earhart's Avian was famously registered G-EBUG. Time to wade through as many pics of Avians as I could find in ever more obscure places! Lo and behold, on some Spanish blog I found this...
The pic shows Catalan aviator Josep Canudas and his wife aboard, not an Avian but, a De Havilland DH60 Moth with a Cirrus engine at Hatfield aerodrome, UK, where they had just taken delivery on behalf of the...NELIA Chocolate Company of Barcelona. So the mystery word was 'Nelia'. Obviously they had not had time to do proper sign-writing but the outline of the company and the Spanish 'M' registration can be clearly seen. Señor and señora Canudas were about to set off home in hops by way of Croydon, Le Bourget, Lyon, Nimes, Montpellier, Perpinyà and finally Barcelona.
The 'plane was to be used for 'advertising purposes' but further delving into the activities of the Nelia organisation revealed them to be chocolate makers and a very forward-thinking outfit!
The Nelia company was founded by Barcelona entrepreneur Rafael Massó who had been for a 'flip' over Barcelona with Canudas and had hit upon a demon advertising scheme. Nelia were locally well-known for their 'Chocolate con Leche'...a sort of Cadbury's Dairy Milk of the day and they unashamedly used their trademark brand image to promote it. I say 'unashamedly' in this PC world because the image was 'Little Miss Nelia' a sexy little Betty Boop type character (which is interesting in itself since she pre-dated the Betty Boop cartoon by two years)...here she is...
So...why the title 'Manna from Heaven' for this post? Ah well, Señor Massó's demon scheme was to use the aircraft he had bought in an innovative advertising stunt. The 'plane would be loaded with hundreds of little chocolate bars attached to mini-parachutes. Having first bombarded the inhabitants of Barcelona and then other towns with leaflets and newspaper announcements detailing the time and place the aircraft would fly overhead, at the appointed time 'Miss Nelia' would then hurl out the goodies which would float down on the little orange parachutes and be collected by the kids (and bigger 'kids')! Having scoffed the chocolate said kids could save the wrappers and exchange them for prizes! 10 cents and 10 wrappers got you a paper aeroplane "which flies splendidly" and 10 wrappers plus 50 cents got you a metal badge (button hole or pin to choice) depicting the sexy Miss Nelia!! Top prize for the ten people collecting the most wrappers was no less than a flight in the Moth or Avian. All this is explained in the advert...
Needless to say these stunts caused absolute pandemonium with kids shinning up trees and clambering on buildings, not to mention bun-fights and general mayhem, to get at the chocs! So much so that the good Burgers of Barcelona soon put a stop to it but other towns and villages were more accommodating...hence the requirement for a second aircraft in the form of the Avian. Pic below shows the Moth but another advertising card illustrates the Avian.
This, of course, brings us back to the opening photograph with the fashionable crew. Who were they? I don't know yet but I'd like to hazard a guess that it's Señor Massó and friends...even the prototype Little Miss Nelia. I don't know what happened to the Nelia Chocolate Company, Spain was heading for civil war and ultimately the Franco era but at least Miss Nelia lives on in the internet age...that is a good thing :-)
© Colin Musgrove 2017
Staying on the Delage theme for a bit here's a little insight into how the great marque got started. Whether I continue this is a moot point at the moment but I think I will! There are a myriad of great stories surrounding the progression of the Delage marque, most of which concern Louis himself! A book from the Musgrovian viewpoint might just augment the learned tomes with a bit of pathos and humour :-)
Well, there has been a very good reason for the paucity (read 'total lack'!) of posts for a couple of months and the above picture explains all. I've been working flat out with Daniel Cabart to get the print-ready copy of 'Delage Champion du Monde' at the publishers by the January deadline...we made it by 12 hours! A daunting but very rewarding task and we think the final sumptuous volume justifies all the effort. The entire text is in both French and English and is testimony to Daniel's vast knowledge and fantastic archive of the Marque. It takes the reader from the days of the 2LCV and the young Albert Lory being dropped in at the deep end after Planchon's dismissal through the design and development of the legendary 15 S 8 to the glorious championship year of 1927. Not content with that (!) we detail the subsequent history, owners and successes of the four team cars and the two 'Chula/Lory' versions up to the present day. Profusely illustrated with many hitherto-unseen photographs and scans of Lory's copious notebooks and records (try translating those at 2 o'clock in the morning!) we have attempted to do justice to this magnificent jewel of a racing car. We hope all those who obtain a copy will enjoy reading it and, hopefully, further their knowledge and understanding of motor racing in the 'Golden Age'. Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite
Colin Musgrove 28-01-17
Dateline 5th August 1913...venue Le Mans Circuit d'Ecommoy and Paul Bablot with riding mechanic Losson waits on the start line for the non-championship 3rd Grand Prix de France (not to be confused with the 13th Grand Prix de l'ACF which had been run three weeks earlier at the Amiens circuit). Interested onlookers include Charles Faroux (in the bush hat) the omnipotent owner/editor of 'La Vie Automobile'. The timekeeper checks his watch, the starter, in white coat (and duelling scar!) is ready to set in motion an epic drive.
The car? The all new for 1913 Delage Type Y weighing in at 820kg dry, only fractionally above the stipulated 800kg and utilising aluminium wherever prudent and possible...the only wood on the car was the steering wheel rim. Powered by the Michelat-designed 6.2 litre (6208cc - 105 x 180mm) 4-cylinder masterpiece of an engine, the details of this power unit were kept as a closely guarded secret. As in the rest of the car maximum lightness was sought in the engine. It boasted a hollow four-part crank running in five ball bearings with 'trick' ribbed retainers, hollow rockers and pushrods, 8 spark plugs and two magnetos (it could run on either or both) and a host of other refinements...it wasn't 'state of the art'...it WAS the art! Driving through an aluminium encased 5-speed gearbox with manual lockout on 1st and 5th with 4th being direct and utilising the ultimate quality Derihon BND steel throughout, as indeed did the axle and many engine components the entire car was a testament to the magnificence of Delage design and manufacture. Indeed, in its entire racing history as Delage team cars all cars always finished.
At the previous GP de l'ACF at Amiens, the Type Y's first outing, they had been hyper-quick and the lead battle between Guyot and Bablot in the Delages versus Boillot and Goux in the Peugeot EX3s was wheel to wheel in the opening laps...don't forget that this was 29 laps of a 31km public road circuit! Then problems...both Delages suffered punctures requiring wheel-changes and, worse, Guyot's mechanic, Achille Seeuws, jumped from the car before it had stopped and got his leg run over and badly hurt. Guyot had to fix the tyre and the mechanic before driving relatively slowly back to the pits. Result...Peugeot 1-2 with Bablot and Guyot 4 and 5 behind Chassagne's Sunbeam...Bablot set a new record lap though as some consolation. Thus three weeks later at Le Mans Louis Delâge and co were out to stuff the cars of his erstwhile employer Peugeot. Now, the previous race counted towards the Championship and was run to the regulations then in force i.e. 800 - 1100kg weight limits and a maximum fuel consumption of 14mpg but the Le Mans race, being non-championship adhered to the weight limits but fuel consumption was free. Peugeot were entered but, at the very last minute, withdrew citing "insufficient time to make the necessary carburation adjustments" as their reason! This fooled nobody and the general consensus was that they'd chickened out having seen how quick the Delages were. If the Delages could tickle their carburation they would probably be even quicker. This time Delage entered three cars for Bablot, Guyot and a third for Arthur Duray, the New York-born Frenchman of Belgian parentage who was something of a veteran by then. While the Peugeots depleted the field slightly there were still 19 starters including, worryingly, the 4 car Mercedes team of Lautenschlager, Pilette, Salzer and Elskamp. In the light of the political situation pertaining the hopes of all France rested on the Delages with worried faces remembering the 1908 event at Dieppe where Lautenschlager and his Mecedes won causing gloom throughout France.
The Le Mans Circuit d'Ecommoy was even longer than the Amiens circuit being 54km per lap with 10 laps (540km) to be completed. As usual it was closed public roads being principally a semi-compacted loose stone/gravel surface through villages and countryside with one straight being nearly 13km long (!).
Not all the above pics are taken during a race with people wandering about! Nonetheless you can see what mighty men these pre WW1 racers were.
The cars were started at one minute intervals and at the end of lap one it was clear that Bablot in his Type Y was by far the quickest car on the circuit with Guyot not much slower. Duray had a problem with the magneto which dropped him to 7th behind the four Mercedes but the mag mysteriously cured itself and he got back up to speed again. Lap after lap Bablot increased his lead setting fastest lap after fastest lap. Guyot had held second in spite of some slower pit-stops due to Seeuws, the mechanic, hopping about on his injured leg from the incident at Amiens three weeks previously. Came the final round of pit-stops and Bablot had a commanding lead but Guyot had dropped to third, albeit only a minute behind Pilette in the Merc. Then...disaster! When Losson swung the motor he and Bablot contrived to flood it! Try as he might Losson couldn't get the mighty engine to fire and completely exhausted himself in the process.
Losson exhausts himself...Charles Faroux looks on and 'Saviour' Molon (deep white collar-flat 'at) shouts to Louis D "Let me have a go"
Losson is distraught and Louis Delâge is beside himself seeing victory seemingly snatched away with Pilette's Mercedes having gone past. 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man' and Léon Molon, who had retired his Vinot et Deguingand on lap 2 with bearing failure and who was in the Delage pit offered to have a go. Molon was an aviator well used to swinging aeroplane propellers and with one mighty heave the Type Y burst into life! Regs allowed a change of crew but 'change' meant 'change' so Léon Molon had to leap into the mechanics seat and endure 54km of Bablot driving like a man possessed. Paul Bablot smashed his own lap record, caught the Merc of Pilette inside half a lap and going on to win by nearly 5 minutes. To further rub the Mercs noses in it Guyot also caught Pilette near the end giving Delage a famous 1-2 victory. Duray came home a creditable 5th after his sparks problems. The Type Ys didn't race again in Europe but the aforementioned WF Bradley did one of his demon deals and two of the three team cars were shipped to the US to be entered in the Indy 500 in 1914...and they won again with French cars taking the first four places, Delage (Thomas) - Peugeot (Duray) - Delage (Guyot) - Peugeot (Goux). Sadly the third team car (Bablot's GP winner) didn't survive as, en route to Mont Ventoux it burst a front tyre with Bablot driving and went into a ditch, throwing driver and mechanic out but without much injury. The accident caused a fuel line to rupture, the car caught fire and was pretty much destroyed. The Indy winning car is now in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (where it says it is the 1913 GP winner...probably as a result of Bradley being economical with the truth!) In Europe 1914 was to be the year of the Type S, the fabled 'Desmodromic' Delage but that's for another time. Anyway, Louis D had a great celebration after the event and presented Léon Molon (who could not attend) a magnificent chronometer...very richly deserved.
Guyot Bablot Faroux Louis D Michelat Duray Lossom
Colin M 22.09.16
Locust chaser, butterfly hunter, chemist, bee-keeper, boater, car restorer and racer, award-winning motoring historian and author (not that you'd guess from this rubbish!)