A His­tory Lesson, Via A Race Pro­gramme!

Classic Driver - - HOL­MAN -

In CD54, ESY told the story of the 1914 French GP which was won by Mercedes in the lead up to the First World War. Just 24 short years later, Europe was on the brink of an­other tragic con­flict and a mo­tor race in Eng­land fea­tured in the lead-up in a rather odd way. Read on …

The In­ter­na­tional Don­ing­ton Grand Prix Car Race (not the Bri­tish GP, as such) was due to be held on 1 Oc­to­ber, 1938. Run over 80 laps, as usual the favourites were the ‘Sil­ver Ar­rows’ from Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union with 4 cars each. A pair of De­la­hayes and a sin­gle Maserati were ac­com­pa­nied by some English-en­tered also-rans, in­clud­ing a 1.3 litre su­per­charged MG. There were 17 cars listed in the pro­gramme, though 18 seem to have started on the day.

But the clouds of war were gath­er­ing and, at the last minute, the Ger­man teams were or­dered home. Then, on Septem­ber 30, Bri­tish PM Cham­ber­lain re­turned from a meet­ing with Adolf Hitler and made his fa­mous “It is peace for our time” speech. The im­me­di­ate dan­ger seemed to have passed, though an­other world con­flict was only post­poned for a year. How­ever, it did mean the Ger­man teams turned around and re­turned to Don­ing­ton Park.

Short news­reel footage of the race can still be found on YouTube. Tazio Nu­volari won for Auto-Union with ex-team me­chanic Her­mann Lang and lo­cal hero Richard Sea­man 2nd & 3rd for Mercedes-Benz (Sea­man af­ter a pretty hairy­look­ing spin). These in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful cars looked a right hand­ful on the old, nar­row Don­ing­ton circuit. ERAs fin­ished 6, 7 & 8, with the best of them be­ing seven laps be­hind the win­ner.

Why are you get­ting this his­tory lesson, dear reader? I took a punt on a race pro­gramme I’d seen listed in an an­ti­quar­ian book auc­tion in Welling­ton re­cently and placed a suc­cess­ful ab­sen­tee bid. Sure enough, there’s the orig­i­nal date over­printed on the cover so it be­came the pro­gramme for that very race, on 22 Oc­to­ber ’38. No men­tion any­where of the fact that the event had been post­poned or why! But a lovely piece of motorsport and so­cial his­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.