Motor Sport News - - Le Mans Preview: Retro -

BEST RE­SULT: R (1938) Few, if any, cars have ever dom­i­nated at Le Mans like this one-off Alfa coupe that looked like a post-war de­sign dropped into the 1938 race.

Com­pleted just be­fore the event, the un­usual-look­ing car made quite an im­pact when it ar­rived at La Sarthe. “It caused quite a stir amongst the sports car fra­ter­nity, since a closed car was al­most un­heard of in real sportscar rac­ing,” said Alfa Romeo ex­pert Si­mon Moore in his book The Im­mor­tal 2.9.

Ranged against an ar­mada of French Tal­bots and De­la­hayes, Ray­mond Som­mer and Cle­mente Bion­detti bat­tled for the lead early on be­fore their three quick­est ri­vals hit trou­ble. Fast French de­feated, the Ital­ian ma­chine, which was clocked at 150mph on the Mul­sanne, cruised serenely on.

Tak­ing turns in the cramped cock­pit, Som­mer/bion­detti built a 12-lap lead (around 100 miles) be­fore the right-front tyre blew with less than four hours to go, caus­ing dam­age as Som­mer fought to con­trol the car at 130-140mph.

Som­mer got the Alfa back to the pits, but a bro­ken valve – prob­a­bly the re­sult of the French­man’s ef­forts – stopped the big coupe at Ar­nage. Bion­detti bat­tled to push the Alfa back, but was even­tu­ally forced to give up.

“Thus ended what promised to be a new record for Le Mans,” re­ported Au­to­car. “Through­out, Som­mer had held the at­ten­tion of the crowds by the speed of his car and his own per­son­al­ity.”

Come the fin­ish, the silent Alfa had still cov­ered more laps than all but the top three.

Alfa built a lead of around 100 miles

New coupe stood out in 1938

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