It is the morning of July 9, 1939 in front of the tribunes at the Grand Prix circuit of Reims, laid out on a roughly triangular series of public roads which also passed through the small village of Gueux. The car, shown as it approaches the grid, is a Maserati 4CM with a 1500cc 16 valve motor driven by the Swiss driver Armand Hug whose Maserati was entered by Scuderia Torino which was active between 1935-1940. The coming race, called the Coupe de la Commission Sportive, will be a support event for the French Grand Prix, officially referred to as the Grand Prix de l’A.C.F.
This support race was a voiturette affair, meaning it was for 1500cc supercharged cars, half the engine size of the super-fast grand prix cars of Mercedes and Auto Union, and such others which might show up for the Grand Prix. For the Coupe, in addition to Hug’s Maserati, there were three ERAs, including ones for Price Bira and Arthur Dobson and six other Maseratis for Johnny Wakefield, Raymond Sommer and others, plus a pair of Gordini-modified Simcas. The Alfa Romeo team and their lovely new 158s ,which would have been quite something to see, stayed away, evidently at the behest of Mussolini over differences with France regarding the Spanish Civil War.
During practice Bira, Hug and Dobson were all quick, but then Bira, trying to be fastest, rolled his car on a fast sweeper after Gueux village. He was fortunate not to be seriously injured. Dobson’s E-Type ERA then blew its motor and was withdrawn. At the start Wakefield led for five laps before brake problems let Hug by to a lead that he maintained easily to the finish.
Unfortunately, this would be Hug’s last race. He crashed heavily with this same car during practice for the Grand Prix d’Albi a week later suffering serious head injuries which ended his driving career and left him needing ongoing care with which he survived until 1975.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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