17th July 2010

PRIX de PARIS, MONTLH»RY

SOMMER IN PARIS

A relatively minor race is next on the calendar for the 1950-51 F.1 cars. It is the Prix de Paris, run over 50 laps of the partly-banked circuit in the southern outskirts of the French capital. As would be expected, the entry is mainly French with Talbots for Rosier, Sommer, Etancelin, Levegh and Giraud-Cabantous as well as Johnny Claes' Belgian entered car. The Gordini team have arrived in force with their three cars for Manzon, Trintignant and Simon. A further French-built car is the Delage which is owned and entered by Scotsman Rob Walker and will be driven by Tony Rolt in its first appearance of the season.

The non French part of the entry consists of the two F.2 H.W.Ms that have come here straight from the San Remo race with Stirling Moss joined on this occasion by George Abecassis. Raymond Mays has brought his black E.R.A out from England too. The final entry is almost French. Louis Chiron, the driver from Monaco, has brought along his 4.CLT Maserati - the only Italian car on the entry.

PRACTICE

A very quick lap during first practice was enough to see Raymond Sommer take pole position. Rosier was fastest in session two but did not quite pip Sommer leaving Stirling Moss, flying as usual in the little H.W.M, to complete the front row. Behind Chiron's Maserati in fourth come three more Talbots. Tony Rolt went superbly in the Delage, beating Mays' E.R.A and Levegh's Talbot.

Sadly, the entire Gordini team had the most miserable time. They are the last three cars on the grid and the drivers are all complaining that the little cars are totally undriveable. The team are at their wits end and simply do not know what to try next.

One concern for poleman Sommer is that his car did not run at all well in the second session and following a considerable amount of tinkering, he goes into the race without the comfort of knowing how the car will run. His best lap in second practice would have put him only 8th on the grid.

THE RACE

Well, it was close for a few laps! For 17 of the 50 laps Louis Rosier in his Talbot actually led Raymond Sommer in his, but when Rosier's car lost its brakes the event was well and truly over and there was only ever going to be one winner. The biggest excitement, if indeed there was any, (there wasn't!) was waiting to see who was going to be the next one to retire. Of the 14 starters only 6 made it to the finish but that was excellent news for the British contingent because apart from the retirement of Raymond Mays E.R.A the remaining entries from across La Manche all made it to the finish.

The H.W.M team of Stirling Moss and George Abecassis came home third and fourth with Tony Rolt following them in fifth. Moss drove a solid, steady race and was rewarded with third place on the same lap as the winner, though over a minute behind Phi-Phi Etancelin who drove a beautifully consistent race into second.

The only other car to finish was the sole surviving Gordini of Robert Manzon - who probably wished his car had failed much earlier, so dreadfully poor was its performance. The three Gordinis ran at the back all race, just as they had qualified and the equipe is in total despair, not knowing what to do next to improve the performance of the little cars.

Even the usually reliable Talbots saw only two of their six cars make it to the end. Giraud spun off quite early in the race while braking problems accounted for Claes, who was running second at the time, as well as Rosier, while Levegh's engine let him down. But perhaps the biggest blow of all was the retirement of the only car that might have seriously challenged the Talbots at the front of the field. Louis Chiron in his Maserati did not make a great start and was running fourth early on but the red car's engine begun to pour out blue smoke and the Monagasque was clearly losing power, stopping on lap 11 with a serious engine problem. Thereafter, apart from a spirited duel between Abecassis and Rolt, very little happened. Not one of the more rivetting events!

HERE IS THE FULL RESULT - 50 LAPS:

   1.   12 R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26     2. 03. 04'51
   2.     6 P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26     2. 04. 01'95
   3.   34 S. MOSS H.W.M ALTA     2. 05. 22'25
   4.   36 G. ABECASSIS H.W.M ALTA         48 laps
   5.   24 A. ROLT DELAGE         48 laps
   6.   16 R. MANZON GORDINI 15         46 laps
Fastest lap:   R. SOMMER,   TALBOT LAGO T.26,   on lap 21,   2.22'76

Retired:
     20 A. SIMON GORDINI 15         42 laps
     14 J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26         36 laps
     10 P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26         33 laps
      8 L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26         18 laps
    18 M. TRINTIGNANT GORDINI 15         17 laps
    26 R. MAYS E.R.A         15 laps
      2 L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT         11 laps
      4 Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26           6 laps

MONTLH»RY MUSINGS

  • It would be hard to imagine a more tedious motor race. No Ferraris seems to equal no excitement!
  • The performance of the H.W.Ms, especially the Moss car brought smiles of pleasure to the few British fans who attended.
  • Rosier was bitterly disappointed as he felt he had the beating of Sommer this time. It was Raymond's second victory so far this season.
  • Johnny Claes made a splendid start and was running a comfortable second following Rosier's retirement but yet again his car failed him.
  • The old Delage trundled around steadily and gave Rolt a nice ride - threatening to beat Abecassis for many laps before settling for fifth.
  • And what can one say about Gordini? It seems to make no difference what modifications are carried, the cars just won't go round corners!
  • The next race for these cars will be the Jersey International Road Race which has attracted an excellent entry.

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