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 (!).
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 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.