Here is that famous team manager of Mercedes-Benz, Alfred Neubauer, on the grid at the public road circuit of Reims-Gueux before the French Grand Prix on July 3, 1938. Naubauer is standing next to the Mercedes W154 which will be driven by Hermann Lang to third place behind his teammates Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudolf Caracciola.
Lang, however, had qualified fastest and led the early laps as seen here at speed against the summer fields. But the race was nearly a farce. Maserati had withdrawn their powerful 8CTFs and Alfa Corse did not even enter. The Schell family’s Delahayes were likewise non-arrivals because the Schells were boycotting the race due to their anger over Delahaye’s adverse political treatment from the Automobile Club de France. Other than the “Mercs” and the Auto-Unions, the latter considerably slower than the Mercedes, this left two Talbot T26s , a Bugatti 59/50B for Jean-Pierre Wimille and the mysterious SEFAC. The only of these to record a time was the Talbot of René Carrière, whose practice time was almost 18 seconds slower than Lang’s pole.
On the first lap it was reported that the three leading Mercedes passed the pits before any other car was visible. This was partly caused by the retirement of the two Auto-Unions, the third to be driven by Hermann Müller being a non-starter after a crash in practice, and Wimille’s Bugatti on the first lap with the very slow SEFAC only lasting two. So Neubauer allowed his charges to race amongst themselves for the benefit of the crowd. At lap 20 Lang made his first fuel stop but his car would not restart due to vapor lock, resulting in a loss of four minutes and any potential to get back into the three-way competition. At the finish it was Brauchitsch ahead of Caracciola by almost a full lap with Lang still mired back in third. Carrière in his Talbot was the only other finisher, ten laps down.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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