The date is August 29, 1936 at Donington Park before the Junior Car Club “200,” one of the first “endurance” races in England, as the famous Italian racing mechanic Giulio Ramponi is being pushed to the grid by one of his assistants, Jock Finlayson, in the equally famous 1927 Grand Prix Delage 15-S-8 which will be driven in a few minutes by Ramponi’s British employer Richard Seaman.
Giulio Ramponi had been born in Italy in 1902 and had worked during the 1920s as a riding mechanic for racer Antonio Ascari, the father of his more famous son Alberto, as well asa test driver at Alfa Romeo for designer Vittorio Jano. In the early 1930s Ramponi was hired by the American driver Whitney Straight to oversee the latter’s Maseratis and moved to England with Straight. Setting up a workshop in London, Ramponi soon met Richard Seaman whom he joined full time when Straight retired from competition at the end of 1934. Ramponi first supported Seaman’s success with an ERA and in the fall of 1935 suggested to Seaman that he acquire the above then eight year old Grand Prix Delage from Lord Howe.
Ramponi’s idea was that the old Delage – an amazingly modern design for its time – offered an underappreciated opportunity to be made successful again. He updated it by lightening the car considerably, modifying its 1500 cc supercharged straight eight motor to produce at least 185 hp at 8000 rpm, fitting hydraulic brakes, and also improving the gearbox. The result was a car that was clearly the fastest in the 1.5 liter class, better than the 1.5 liter ERAs, and capable of winning outright against a full Formula Libre field on the right circuit.
Seaman proved himself a star with the Delage, winning his class all over Europe in five races with the Delage prior to the JCC “200” which would have a field of unlimited cars. Seaman won again at Donington, seen at the left, which left him in the lead as the most successful British driver of the year and Ramponi as the most talented mechanic.
After Seaman was killed in a Mercedes-Benz at Spa-Francorchamps in 1939, Ramponi remained in England as an automotive consultant, but was interned during the war years. Postwar he retired to South Africa where he died in 1986.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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