18th February 2011

GRAND PRIX du FOREZ
St. Just - Andrezieux

SOMMER SURVIVES

The Grand Prix du Forez was only run in the latter part of the 1940s but I have decided to run a 1950 version of the race. The circuit, which was just under three miles in length and joined the towns of St. Just and Andrezieux.

As this is technically a fictitious race the entry will be completely arbitrary and decided upon no more than my own whims.

THE ENTRY

Naturally the entry will be predominently French, with all the Gordini (Trintignant, Manzon, Simon) and Talbot (Rosier, Sommer, Etancelin, Giraud-Cabantous and Levegh cars being entered along with Claes' Belgian coloured machine. Jacques Swaters is hoping to have his new Talbot up and running too, but time is against him. It is not the longest of journeys from either Monaco or Switzerland so there will be Maseratis for Chiron and de Graffenried as well as Bira, who never misses a race if he can help it. Raymond Mays is a surprise entry with his E.R.A and to make the trip from Bourne worthwhile, the truck is also bringing one of the rarely seen V.16 B.R.Ms for Reg Parnell to drive. The final car on the entry is a brand new vehicle built by the Maserati brothers and named for their OSCA company. The car is similar but different to that run by Bira earlier in the season and the Italian driver Franco Rol has been given the job of piloting the car on its debut.

PRACTICE

Two sessions of practice have given us a very interesting front row. One Italian car, one French and one British will line up at the head of the 15 car field (Swaters never appeared). Toulo de Graffenried has his Maserati running better than at any time this season and was fastest in both sessions of practice. He took top spot by just over half a second from Rosier's Talbot. Third place man Parnell has the B.R.M going very nicely and has looked very confident so far. Bira and Sommer make up row two with Etancelin, Chiron and the remarkable Raymond Mays on row three. The black E.R.A going beautifully and seeming to suit the circuit admirably.

Although two of the Gordinis are in their expected positions at the back Maurice Trintignant is quicker than three of the Talbots and lines up on row four with a very happy Franco Rol whose OSCA has impressed on its maiden outing.

THE RACE

It may have happened before but in 45 years of running these slot races I cannot remember a race where three different drivers led and then retired while in the lead; but it happened at Forez.

To begin with there was a glorious 12 laps for Reg Parnell and the V.16 B.R.M, which led away at the start and although he was harried by Bira's Maserati, the dark green car held onto first place until the engine went wrong on lap 13, leaving the pale blue Maserati with a lead of more than 10 seconds. Until lap 19, that is, when something broke in the chassis of the Maserati, causing the engine and gearbox to become somewhat less well connected than they should have been. The lead was then inherited by Louis Rosier, with Raymond Sommer right behind him as half distance came and went. Rosier extended the advantage gradually so that by lap 32 of the 40 the lead was out to 16 seconds and then the engine failed. So Raymond Sommer survived the mechanical carnage to win his third race of the season.

Into second place came the pole position man Toulo de Graffenried with his Maserati. The Swiss had made a terrible start and after the first 10 laps was down in 6th place almost half a minute behind the eventual winner. With ten laps left to run and with Sommer still in 2nd place behind Rosier, the gap was still more or less what it had been half a race earlier but Toulo really wound the car up over the final laps, setting the fastest race lap on the way and he finished just 10 seconds behind the Talbot. Louis Chiron was a subdued third having never threatened to get any higher while only three other cars made it home.

Johnny Claes drove a steady race in the yellow Talbot and he was followed home by a euphoric Maurice Trintignant in his Gordini, following a splendid run that was really only eclipsed by his team-mate Andre Simon who may have started last but who suddenly found his car beginning to work really well. Simon overtook Manzon, Rol, Trintignant, Mays, Etancelin and Giraud-Cabantous, to run as high as 6th when there were still ten cars in the race. The failure of the number 14 car just four laps from the end was heart-breaking. It allowed his team-mate into 5th and he was followed home by Giraud's Talbot which was not on its best form this time out.

There were no accidents in the race - all the other retirements were mechanical including Mays' E.R.A which was running really well at the time and Rol's new OSCA, which wasn't.

Here is the full result of the 40 lap race:

   1.     2 R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26     1. 40. 18'46
   2.   18 E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT     1. 40. 28'73
   3.     4 L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT     1. 41. 52'75
   4.   20 J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26     1. 42. 00'71
   5.   10 M. TRINTIGNANT GORDINI 15       39 laps
   6.   24 Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26       39 laps
Fastest lap:   E. de GRAFFENRIED,  MASERATI 4.CLT on lap 38,   2.22'43
Retired:
  14 A. SIMON GORDINI 15       36 laps
  16 Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26       35 laps
    8 L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26       33 laps
  12 R. MANZON GORDINI 15       25 laps
    6 B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT       18 laps
  32 F. ROL OSCA V.12       17 laps
  30 R. MAYS E.R.A B-type       16 laps
  28 R. PARNELL B.R.M V.16       13 laps
  26 P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26         4 laps

FOREZ FOIBLES:

  • Despite the absence of Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the B.R.M boys were very encouraged to see the car running at the front....
  • ....but we hear that it will not be going to Monaco.
  • Having seen his friend Sommer win twice already this season Rosier was devastated to lose this one so late in the race.
  • De Graffenried says that his car was good enough to win as was its driver. Its tyres, however, were not up to the job.
  • Bira's chassis failure will be addressed very seriously before Monaco. Allegedly it is a design fault.
  • As often happens, there appears to be no sensible explanation as to why the Gordinis suddenly began to go so well.
  • The new OSCA was rather disappointing after a good practice showing. It will be at Monaco.
  • And so to round 2 of the World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix. Goody, goody!

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