1927 Grand Prix season

1927 AIACR World Manufacturers' Championship
World Champion
Flag of France.svg Delage
Previous: 1926 Next: none
1927 Grand Prix season
Previous: 1926 Next: 1928

The 1927 Grand Prix season was the third (and final) AIACR World Manufacturers' Championship season and the second run to a 1.5-litre engine limit. In a dominant display, the championship was won by Delage, with team driver Robert Benoist winning four of the five Grand Prix.

Robert Benoist, winner of four World Championship GPs in 1927

The championship opened with the Indianapolis 500 – once again a contest between Duesenberg and Miller engines. Previous year's winner Frank Lockhart started on pole position and led for over half the race until his car suffered a broken con-rod. Rookie George Souders, driving Peter DePaolo’s 1925 race-winning Duesenberg, came through and took a comfortable victory with an eight lap margin. DePaolo went on to secure the season's AAA Championship with three wins and four second places.

After major re-working over the close season to sort out the chronic exhaust and heating issues, the Delages proved unbeatable. They were the only manufacturer to enter the requisite three races to qualify for the championship. Bugatti and Talbot challenged them at the next Grand Prix, in France, but then the Talbot team was shut down. Three Americans, including Indy-winner George Souders, came over for the mandatory Italian round but their oval-track car-designs were unsuitable for European circuit-racing. The final round, the British Grand Prix attracted a bigger field, but once again Delage was able to romp to a dominating 1-2-3 victory.

It was already readily apparent that the 1.5-litre formula was not attracting consistent manufacturer interest. The AIACR had stated, before the season started, that from 1928 it would not continue this racing format but instead run its Grands Prix to an open Formula Libre, as most other European races were already being done.

The season had opened with the advent of a new road-race across northern Italy – the Mille Miglia was a race for touring cars from Brescia to Rome and back. Ferdinando Minoia led home a triumphant 1-2-3 for OM. In a rain-affected Targa Florio, Emilio Materassi kept control to win for Bugatti. His success continued and he went on to be the winner of Italy's inaugural Driver's Championship. The other significant event of the racing year was the opening of a major new racetrack in Germany. The Nürburgring was over 30 km of winding road with 172 corners, situated near the Ardennes Forest just across the border from the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The opening race in June was won by Rudolf Caracciola in a 6.8-litre Mercedes sports-car.

Manufacturers' World ChampionshipEdit

Sources: [1][2][3][4][5]

Rnd Date Name Circuit Race
Regulations
Weather Race
Distance
Winner's
Time
Winning driver Winning
constructor
Fastest
lap
Report
1 30 May   XV International 500 Mile
Sweepstakes
Indianapolis AAA ? 500 miles 5h 08m   George Souders Duesenberg 91 Report
2 3 Jul   XXI Grand Prix de l’ACF Montlhéry AIACR cloudy 600 km 4h 46m   Robert Benoist Delage 15 S8   Robert Benoist
Delage
Report
3 31 Jul   IV Spanish Grand Prix Lasarte AIACR sunny 690 km 5h 21m   Robert Benoist Delage 15 S8   Robert Benoist
Delage
Report
4 4 Sep   VII Italian Grand Prix /
V European Grand Prix
Monza AIACR rain 500 km 3h 27m   Robert Benoist Delage 15 S8   Robert Benoist
Delage
Report
5 1 Oct   II RAC Grand Prix Brooklands
Outer circuit
AIACR cold,
showers
530 km 3h 49m   Robert Benoist Delage 15 SB not recorded Report

The Indianapolis 500 also counted towards the 1927 AAA Championship Car season held in the United States

Other RacesEdit

Major non-championship races are in bold Sources: [1][2][3][6][7]

Rnd Date Name Circuit Race
Regulations
Weather Race
Distance
Winner's
Time
Winning driver Winning
constructor
Report
6 Mar   III Gran Premio di Tripoli Tagiura[8] Formula Libre
Voiturette
sunny 420 km 3h 10m   Emilio Materassi Bugatti Type 35C Report
13 Mar   III Grand Prix de l’Ouverture Montlhéry Formula Libre
cyclecar
rain 250 km 2h 02m   Robert Benoist Delage 15S8 Report
20 Mar [9]/
29 Mar[10]
  II Circuito del Pozzo Verona[11] Formula Libre sunny 250 km 1h 57m   Gaspare Bona Bugatti Type 35T Report
27 Mar   III Grand Prix de Provence Miramas Formula Libre rain then
dry
250 km /
25 km*
(12m)   Louis Chiron Bugatti Type 35B Report
17 Apr   II Grand Prix des Voiturettes Montlhéry Voiturette ? 250 km 2h 19m   Arthur Duray Amilcar 6C Report
A 24 Apr   XVIII Targa Florio Medio Madonie[12] Targa Florio cloudy then
rain
540 km 7h 36m   Emilio Materassi Bugatti Type 35C Report
8 May   IV Circuito di Alessandria Alessandria[13] Formula Libre rain 260 km 2h 47m   Gaspare Bona Bugatti Type 35B Report
  I Coppa Messina Monti Peloritani[14] Formula Libre sunny 310 km 4h 14m   Antonio Caliri Bugatti Type 37 Report
15 May   V Circuito del Savio Ravenna[15] Formula Libre
Cyclecar
sunny 290 km 2h 12m   Gaspare Bona Bugatti Type 35C Report
29 May   IV Coppa della Perugina Perugia[16] Formula Libre
Cyclecar
sunny 330 km 2h 57m   Emilio Materassi Itala 5.8L Special Report
B 12 Jun   III Premio Reale di Roma Parioli[17] Formula Libre hot 420 km 3h 47m   Tazio Nuvolari Bugatti Type 35 Report
  III Grand Prix de Picardie Péronne[18] Formula Libre ? 190 km 2h 02m   Philippe Auber Bugatti Type 37 Report
19 Jun   Premio di Bologna Bologna[19] Formula Libre sunny 120 km 1h 28m   Emilio Materassi Bugatti Type 35C Report
2 Jul   Course de Formula Libre de l’ACF Montlhéry Formula Libre rain 125 km 1h 02m   Albert Divo Talbot 700 Report
  Coupe de la Commission Sportive 400 km 3h 53m   André Boillot Peugeot 176 Report
10 Jul   III Grand Prix de la Marne Reims-Gueux Formula Libre cloudy 400 km 3h 26m   Philippe Étancelin Bugatti Type 35B Report
C 25 Jul   V Gran Premio do San Sebastián Lasarte Formula Libre sunny 690 km 5h 28m   Emilio Materassi Bugatti Type 35C Report
D 6 Aug   IV Coppa Acerbo Pescara Formula Libre
Voiturette
hot 510 km 4h 54m   Giuseppe Campari Alfa Romeo P2 Report
7 Aug   III Grand Prix du Comminges[20] Saint-Gaudens[21] Formula Libre
handicap
? 410 km 3h 49m   François Eysermann Bugatti Type 37 Report
14 Aug   VII Coppa Montenero Montenero Formula Libre sunny 225 km 2h 47m   Emilio Materassi Bugatti Type 35C Report
25 Aug   IV Grand Prix de la Baule La Baule[22] Formula Libre sunny 100 km 50m   George Eyston Bugatti Type 35B Report
E 4 Sep   II Gran Premio di Milano Monza Formula Libre rain heats +
50 km final
20m   Pietro Bordino Fiat 806 Report
10 Sep   VII Grand Prix de Boulogne Boulogne-sur-Mer[23] Formula Libre rain 450 km 4h 09m   Capt Malcolm Campbell Bugatti Type 39A Report
18 Sep   III Solituderennen[24] Solitude[25] Formula Libre rain 21 km 12m   August Momberger Bugatti Type 35B Report
9 Oct   V Circuito del Garda Salò[26] Formula Libre sunny 300 km 3h 30m   Tazio Nuvolari Bugatti Type 35 Report
F 15 Oct   VII Junior Car Club 200 Brooklands
Outer circuit
AIACR
Voiturette
cloudy 200 miles 2h 38m   Capt Malcolm Campbell Bugatti Type 39A Report
16 Oct   II Grand Prix du Salon Montlhéry AIACR ? 50 km 24m   Michel Doré Corre-La Licorne Report
28 Oct   Apuano Circuit Carrara Formula Libre ? ? ?   "Niccoli" Bugatti Report

Note: *Race stopped because of crowd-invasion of track

Teams and driversEdit

These tables only intend to cover entries in the Championship Grands Prix and the major non-Championship races, as keyed above. Sources: [1][27][2][7][28][29][30]

Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Tyre Driver Rounds
  Usines Bugatti Bugatti Type 39A
Type 37A
Type 35C
Bugatti 1.5L S8 s/c
Bugatti 1.5L S4 s/c
Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c
  Emilio Materassi [2], 3, [4], 5; A, C, E
  Conte Caberto Conelli [2], 3, [4], 5; A, C
  André Dubonnet [2], 3; A, C
  Jules Goux [2]
  Louis Chiron 3, [4], 5; C
  Meo Constantini [2*]; C*
  “Sabipa” (Louis Charavel) 3*
  Ferdinando Minoia A
  Automobiles Delage Delage 15 S8
2LCV
Delage 1.5L S8 s/c
Delage 2.0L V12 s/c
  Robert Benoist 2, 3, 4, 5; [E]
  Edmond Bourlier 2, 3, 5
  André Morel 2, 3, 5*
  Albert Divo 5
  Robert Sénéchal 2*, 3*, 5*
  Guy Bouriat 3*
  Duesenberg Bros Duesenberg Type 91 Duesenberg 1.5L S8 s/c F   Wade Morton 1
  Benny Shoaff 1
  Babe Stapp 1
  Ralph Holmes 1*
  Fred Winnai 1*
  George Souders 4; E
  Miller Automobiles Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Charles Bauman 1
  Cooper Engineering Cooper
Miller
FD
Type 91 FD
Miller 1.5L S8 s/c
Miller 1.5L S8 s/c
F   Earl Cooper 4; E
  Peter Kreis 1, 4; E
  Bennett Hill 1
  Bob McDonogh 1
  Jules Ellingboe 1
  Locomobile Junior 8 Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Frank Elliott 1
  Boyle Valve Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Cliff Woodbury 1
  Ralph Hepburn 1
  Jack Petticord 1
  Fred Clemons / Jynx Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Wilbur Shaw 1
  Louis Meyer 1*
  F. P. Cramer Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Earl Devore 1
  Zeke Meyer 1*
  Harry Hartz Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c F   Harry Hartz 1
  Eddie Hearne 1
  Ira Vail 1*
  Bill White Race Cars Duesenberg Type 91 Duesenberg 1.5L S8 s/c F   George Souders 1
  STD Motors Ltd
 
Talbot 700 GPLB Talbot 1.5L S8 s/c   Albert Divo 2, [3]; [C]
  Louis Wagner 2, [3]; [C]
  William Grover-Williams 2, [3]; [C]
  Jules Moriceau 2*
  SA des Automobiles
Jean Graf
Jean Graf Spéciale Dorman 1.5L S6   Jean Graf [3]
  Fiat SpA Fiat 806 Fiat 1.5L L12 s/c   Pietro Bordino [4], [5]; E
  Carlo Salamano [4], [5]
  Felice Nazzaro [5]
  Officine Meccaniche O.M. Tipo 8C GP O.M. 1.5L S 8s/c   Ferdinando Minoia 4; E
  Giuseppe Morandi 4; E
  Alvis Car & Engineering Co Alvis GP Alvis 1.5L S8 s/c   Maurice Harvey [5]; F
  George Duller F
  Officine Alfieri Maserati SpA Maserati Tipo 26
Tipo 26B
Maserati 1.5L S8 s/c
Maserati 2.0L S8
  Alfieri Maserati A
  Ernesto Maserati A
  Conte Aymo Maggi A
  Baconin Borzacchini [D]
  SA des Autos
et Cycles Peugeot
Peugeot Type 174 Sport Peugeot 3.9L S4   André Boillot A
  Louis Rigal A
  Société Nouvelle de
l'Automobile Amilcar
Amilcar C6 Amilcar 1.1L S6   André Morel C, F
 ? Charles Martin C, F
  Vernon Balls F
  Bucciali Frères Bucciali Buc AB6 Bucciali 1.5L S6   Jean de Maleplane C
  Frazer Nash Ltd Frazer Nash Slug Frazer Nash 1.5L S4   Archie Frazer Nash F
  Brian Lewis
Baron Essendon
F
  Société des Moteurs
Salmson
Salmson VAL Salmson 1.1L S4   Georges Casse F
  Pierre Goutte F
  Lionel de Marmier F
  George Newman F

Significant Privateer driversEdit

Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Driver Rounds
Private Entrant Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c   Pete DePaolo 1
Private Entrant Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c  Leon Duray 1
Private Entrant Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c   Tony Gulotta 1
Private Entrant Miller Type 91 Miller 1.5L S8 s/c   Frank Lockhart 1
Private Entrant Halford
Bugatti
Special
Type 39A
Halford 1.5L S6 s/c
Bugatti 1.5L S8 s/c
  Capt George Eyston 2, [3], 5; F
Private Entrant Maserati
Bugatti
Tipo 26
Type 35C
Maserati 1.5L S8 s/c
Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c
  Joaquin Palacio 3; A, [C]
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 39A Bugatti 1.5L S8 s/c   Capt Malcolm Campbell 5; [F]
Private Entrant Thomas Special ... 1.5L S6   Harold Purdy 5; [F]
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 35C Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c   Renato Balestrero A, B
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 35C Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c   “Sabipa” (Louis Charavel) A, C
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 35B Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c   Gaspare Bona B, D, E
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 35B Bugatti 2.3L S8 s/c   Conte Aymo Maggi B, E
Private Entrant Bugatti Type 35C Bugatti 2.0L S8 s/c   Tazio Nuvolari B, E
Private Entrant Alfa Romeo P2 Alfa Romeo 2.0L S8 s/c   Giuseppe Campari D, E

Note: * raced in event as a relief driver. Those in brackets show, although entered, the driver did not race

Regulations and TechnicalEdit

The AIACR (forerunner of the FIA) kept with its 1.5-litre formula, despite the low manufacturer interest. The only modification to the regulations was that the minimum dry weight of the car was increased from 600 to 700kg. Although two seats were the usual, a single-seat was now also accepted if the seat was a minimum 80cm wide and 25cm high. This year, the European Grand Prix was awarded back to the Italian Automobile Club. Once again, each team had to compete in at least three of the races, including the mandatory Italian Grand Prix to qualify for the championship.[31] All races were supposed to be at least 600km long, however the Italian and British Grand Prix did not meet this, and there is no apparent explanation why.[32] At its October 1926 meeting, the AIACR had faced its reality that the 1.5-litre formula had not worked. The committee therefore agreed that the current format would only extend for one more year, to be replaced in 1928 by an open engine regulation.[31]

With the Targa Florio, the organisers reduced the classes to just three – up to 1100, to 1500 and over 1500. This put the 2-litre Bugattis in the same category as the bigger-engined Peugeot and Alfa Romeo.[33] The 1100cc cars only ran three laps, while the rest did five laps (with a maximum of 9 hours). Two occupants were mandatory for all cars.[34] This year, as part of the ongoing stipulations from Peugeot who had won the Coppa Florio in 1925, that race was not held in conjunction with the Targa Florio.[35] Instead, the Coppa was raced in France as a sports and touring car event.[36][37][38][39]

Motorsport now started getting political. Italian leader Benito Mussolini, a keen follower of motor-racing, saw it as a propaganda advantage and an opportunity to enhance national prestige. So, this year the Italian Automobile Club set up its first national championship. It was to comprise twelve events, including the major races of the Italian and Rome Grands Prix and the Targa Florio, with a view of increasing competition and experience of Italian drivers.[33] To promote Italian car manufacturers, a new event was organised – the Mille Miglia (“1000 Miles”). The concept planned by four wealthy gentlemen-drivers from Brescia, it was a race for touring and sports cars on public roads from Brescia to Rome and back and would soon become an iconic annual event.[40]

Technical InnovationEdit

 
Bugatti Type 35C

Ettore Bugatti had a winning formula with his Type 35 chassis and its variants, and changed little over the close-season aside from fitting a larger supercharger to the Type 39A grand prix car.[36] However, after the exhaust debacle of the previous year, Delage set about making fundamental changes to their car. The two superchargers replaced by a single one, while the engine block was reversed and offset from centre to move the exhaust away from the driver. The result was a greatly improved car.[41][42][43]

 
Delage 15 S8

The Maserati Brothers developed their first model, the Tipo 26, as the 26B with its supercharged straight-8 engine bored out to 2.0-litres.[44] Fiat had retired from racing at the end of 1924. Yet in September, the astonishing new 806 model appeared at the Italian Grand Prix weekend. Designed by Carlo Cavalli and Tranquillo Zerbi, the V12 1.5-litre engine had two 6-cylinder engine-blocks mounted side by side on a common crankcase and geared together. With the valves driven by three overhead camshafts it could develop 185 bhp at 8500rpm.[45] The engine unit itself was offset to the left with the driver in the right-hand seat and the fuel-tank beside him. The low profile gave it a blistering top speed of 250 km/h, easily 40 km/h faster than any of the current competition. That it only ever competed in one race left many commentators wondering what might have been.[46][47][41]

In the US, Harry Miller continued developing his supercharged 1.5-litre engines. Bred for the oval tracks, his sleek single-seater was now putting out an incredible 230 bhp running on alcohol fuel – making it easily the most powerful racing engine across the world. During the year Eddie Rickenbacker, decorated war-hero and former racing driver, bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Carl Fisher and Jim Allison for $700 000.[36][48]

On 29 March, Henry Segrave became the first man to break the 200 mph land speed barrier in a Sunbeam 1000 hp Slug. Called Mystery, the car was powered by two 22-litre V12 aircraft engines.[36]

Manufacturer Model[49]<[50][1] Engine Power
Output
Max. Speed
(km/h)
Dry Weight
(kg)
  Bugatti Type 37A Bugatti 1496cc S4 supercharged 90 bhp 180 720
  Bugatti Type 39A Bugatti 1492cc S8 supercharged 120 bhp 190 740
  Delage 15 S8 Delage 1487cc S8 supercharged 170 bhp 210 750
  Fiat 806 Fiat 1484cc V12 supercharged 187 bhp 250 700
  Maserati Tipo 26 Maserati 1491cc S8 supercharged 120 bhp 200 720
  Officine Meccaniche 865 GP OM 1496cc S8 supercharged 118 bhp 195 715
  Miller Type 91 1927 Miller 1468cc S8 supercharged 230 bhp
  Duesenberg Type 91 Duesenberg 1.5L S8 supercharged
  Alvis GP Alvis 1498cc S8 supercharged 95 bhp 190 750
  Talbot
 
700 GPLB Talbot 1489cc S4 supercharged 140 bhp 210 700
  Bugatti Type 35B Bugatti 2.3L S8 supercharged 140 bhp 210 770

Season reviewEdit

The Italian road-racesEdit

A new event in March started the racing season. Four young gentleman-drivers (including Conte Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti), wanting to restore Brescia's former pre-eminence in Italian motorsport, put a proposal to the government for a national road-race that was promptly approved. The race for touring and sports-cars harked back to the city-to-city races from the turn of the century. Called the Mille Miglia, as it covered a non-stop run across one thousand miles of public roads. It ran from Brescia to Rome via Bologna, before crossing the Apennines to Ancona and back to Brescia via Ferrara, Padua and Vicenza. It attracted many of the top Italian drivers and captured the imagination of country. Aymo Maggi himself, driving an Isotta Fraschini with Alfieri Maserati, was the first away at 8 am as the largest car in the field.[51] Although Gastone Brilli-Peri in his Alfa Romeo led into Rome, after 21 hours, it was Ferdinando Minoia who arrived at Brescia first. In OM's finest hour, their cars finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural race of this iconic event, made all the better as the cars were built in Brescia.[52][53][54][55]

The Targa Florio, in April, was the opening round of the new Italian Championship. Peugeot and Bugatti returned to renew their rivalry. This year Peugeot only had a single 174 S 4-litre sports car for André Boillot. Former Targa winner Bartolomeo Costantini was now the Bugatti team manager and brought four cars. Caberto Conelli had a 1.5-litre Type 37A, while the other drivers, veteran Jules Goux and Ferdinando Minoia, Emilio Materassi and liqueur-heir André Dubonnet, had the new 2-litre Type 35C. They were supported by a squadron of seven privateers making up half the field. In the absence of Fiat and Alfa Romeo, Italian honour would be upheld by Maserati. Alfieri Maserati drove the new Tipo 26B himself, while his brother Ernesto and Aymo Maggi had older Tipo26s. As the initial car was a non-starter, the first car left at 8:04 am. At the beginning Dubonnet and Boillot duelled for the lead. Conelli was first to arrive back at the line, but on elapsed time, Minoia had a five-second lead over Dubonnet with Materassi and female Czech driver Eliška Junková less than a minute behind. But going into the second lap, the order changed significantly. A third of the way around, Junková slid off the road when the steering rod broke.[56] Soon after, Minoia retired with a broken universal joint and Dubonnet was having engine problems. Materassi set a new lap record opening a 6-minute lead over Maserati (who pitted with a flat tyre) and Conelli. Three Bugattis were fighting with the three Maseratis with Boillot's Peugeot in seventh. Rain started falling on the fourth lap making the roads treacherous, and causing several drivers to go off the road. But Materassi kept control throughout with he and Conelli getting a comfortable 1-2 victory for Bugatti, the third straight win for the team. Alfieri Maserati was twenty minutes back with Boillot in fourth, over fifty minutes behind the winner. Only six of the 22 starters were classified at the finish.[57][58][36] Two weeks later, another race - the Coppa Messina - was held on the mountain roads of Sicily. Materassi crashed his Bugatti in practice but bought one of the works Maseratis to race instead. A Bugatti won again, but Alfieri Maserati was severely injured when he crashed, blinded by dust, overtaking two other cars. Several major newspapers mistakenly reported his death, however he did slowly recover despite losing a kidney.[59][60]

 
Materassi and his Bugatti, winner of the Targa Florio
 
Ernesto Maserati before retiring in the Targa Florio

IndianapolisEdit

Once again, the Indianapolis 500 would be a two-way contest between Duesenberg and Miller. All cars had either of those two engines. Harry Miller had dramatically developed his engine to an impressive 230 bhp. Rookie Charles ‘Dutch’ Bauman drove the works car, while a number of customer teams backed them up with experienced drivers like previous winners Frank Lockhart and Peter DePaolo, as well as Ralph Hepburn, Leon Duray, Harry Hartz and Eddie Hearne. The Duesenberg brothers had three works cars for Wade Morton and rookies Babe Stapp and Benny Shoaff. Another ten rookies started this year's race including Wilbur Shaw, Louis Schneider, Cliff Bergere and Fred Frame. Two-time winner Tommy Milton had been working on Cliff Durant’s new Detroit-Miller Special, and when the latter was too ill to race, Milton qualified the car.[61] Former racer and champion Earl Cooper built four Miller-powered front-wheel drive specials, sponsored by the Buick Motor Company. His drivers were Bennett Hill, Peter Kreis, Bob McDonogh and Jules Ellingboe.[62]

In qualifying, the 1927 winner Frank Lockhart set a new lap record of 120.9 mph. Joining him on the front row were DePaolo and Duray. Lockhart dominated the race for 120 laps until he was put out by a broken con-rod. In a race of attrition only ten cars were flagged. Rookie George Souders drove a reliable race in his Duesenberg and came through for the victory.[36] It was the same car that Peter DePaolo had won with in 1925[53] although Souders had denied that at the time. Duesenberg was in line for a 1-2 finish until, with two laps to go, the rear gearing broke on Babe Stapp’s car that he was running relief for Benny Shoaff. Earl Devore inherited second place, finishing 12 minutes (effectively 8 laps) behind Souders. It was the largest winning margin since 1913 and Souders was the first driver to win the race without the help of a relief driver or a riding mechanic. There were several major incidents in the race. On lap 24, Norman Batten’s Miller caught fire. The driver stood up in his seat to drive it away from the pits to safety before jumping out. Soon after Jules Ellingboe was seriously injured when his car crashed into the wall and rolled.[63][40]

In an abbreviated season of only 11 races, the 1927 AAA championship was won for the second time by Pete DePaolo, with 3 wins and 4 seconds. That consistency was better than second-placed Frank Lockhart's 4 wins alone.[64][65] In 1926, after his mathematical work for college football, Professor Frank G. Dickinson at the University of Illinois developed a points system for the AAA. The 1927 championship used that, and the AAA retroactively calculated it on the previous seasons’ results going back to 1909 that would be published in their February 1929 bulletin.[66]

 
George Souders, winner of the Indianapolis 500

The Championship in EuropeEdit

The start of the European leg of the World Championship was the French Grand Prix, held at Montlhéry. Ten cars were entered, from four manufacturers. Bugatti had their drivers from the Targa Florio – Materassi, Conelli and Dubonnet. The Delage cars had been considerably revised and upgraded over the close-season. The team drivers were Robert Benoist, Edmond Bourlier and André Morel. The third trio was the Talbot team of Albert Divo, veteran Louis Wagner and William Grover-Williams. The final entry was the Halford Special, recently sold by Frank Halford to George Eyston.[36] Earlier in the weekend, Divo had won the Course de Formula Libre in his Talbot, while Wagner and Williams raced Sunbeams but retired. After race-practice, Ettore Bugatti withdrew his team saying his cars were too uncompetitive, much to the anger of the big French crowd. Despite that, there was a close race with Divo leading Benoist and Williams at the end of the first lap. Wagner's Talbot had been left on the start line, unwilling to start, and he lost five minutes getting going. On the fourth lap Benoist and Williams both passed Divo, taking turns setting the fastest lap. But when Williams joined Morel and Eyston in the pits with engine issues, Benoist was able to open up a 2-minute lead over Divo. Just before the halfway point, Divo retired with a failed supercharger and the Talbot challenge was blunted with Wagner now a lap behind. While all the other cars had assorted issues, Benoist kept circulating at a rapid pace. Benoist ran away to lead a 1-2-3 victory for Delage.[36][67][68] After the French Grand Prix, Louis Wagner announced his retirement. After a notable career, he was the last active driver from the original 1906 Grand Prix.[36]

 
Benoist in the French GP at Montlhéry

By the time of the next Grand Prix, in Spain, Talbot had withdrawn from motor-racing with the company facing an uncertain financial future. Bugatti did arrive to contest the race with Delage. The seventh and final starter was local Bilbao driver José Joaquín Palacio driving a Maserati Tipo 26. At noon, from a rolling start, Benoist took the lead. Palacio's Maserati was immediately in trouble and out of the race. Benoist and Materassi pulled away from the others, over a minute behind by lap 5. Materassi lost a minute when he skidded at a corner and bumped a wall, but pitted early to refuel to get him to the end of the race. At halfway Benoist had his fuel stop and came out less than a minute ahead of Materassi. Conelli was a further minute behind for Bugatti, now well ahead of Louis Chiron (reserve driver for Dubonnet) and Bourlier. When Benoist had to stop again five laps later to change spark plugs, Materassi took the lead. When he then stopped to change a wheel, Materassi came out barely a car-length ahead of Benoist. They duelled back and forth for thirty minutes until Materassi cut a corner too tight, went off the road and hit another wall. Although uninjured, this time his car's suspension was too damaged to continue. Benoist only narrowly missed both the Bugatti and a quarry-wagon. Chiron crashed with four laps to go, and was fortunate not to get a serious head injury as he had chosen to wear a hard crash-helmet. These left only three cars in the race, leaving Benoist to take another comfortable victory, ahead of Conelli's Bugatti, and teammate Bourlier's Delage.[69][36][70]

Bugatti failed to show, once again, at the nominally mandatory Italian Grand Prix. Fiat withdrew their entries for Pietro Bordino and Carlo Salamano, citing that the new cars were untested over a grand prix distance. But the Americans returned after a year away, with Indianapolis-winner George Souders in his Duesenberg, and Earl Cooper and Peter Kreis in front-wheel-drive Cooper-Millers. Delage confidence was such that only Benoist was entered. The American cars were designed for oval-racing and unsuited to the European road-courses. Compared to the five-speed gearboxes of the Delage, the Miller (used to rolling starts) only employed a two-speed gearing. It was ironic, that even though there were only six starters, the race had more manufacturers represented than in any GP race of the 2-year 1.5-litre formula.[71][72]

 
Start of the 1927 Italian GP

The race started in pouring rain, with Benoist jumping into the lead followed by Souders and Minoia. Cooper and Kreis crawled off the line and Morandi's OM would not start. The American cars were very disappointing: Kreis’ Miller did not finish the first lap, retiring with a broken crankshaft. Souders was running in second until he had to retire a dozen laps with rainwater in his fuel. Cooper was finding his car almost undriveable in the wet weather and stopped soon after to be relieved by Kreis. Meanwhile, Benoist had established his dominance, having lapped the field after ten laps and holding a 15-minute lead after thirty (300km). Benoist went on to win by over 20 minutes (4 laps) back to Morandi. Kreis had driven hard and was able to get up to pass Minoia for third on the last lap.[32][73][36][70]

The British Grand Prix at Brooklands would be another Delage-Bugatti contest. This last race of the 1.5-litre formula provided the biggest entry list of any of the European rounds. Souders’ Duesenberg and the Fiats withdrew. The Bugatti team were Materassi, Conelli and Chiron. Delage's cars were driven by Benoist and Bourlier. Albert Divo was hired by Delage after the Talbot team was folded. British car company Alvis entered its latest front-wheel drive Grand Prix car for regular team driver Maurice Harvey.[74] There were also three privateer Bugattis run by Malcolm Campbell, George Eyston and the Parisian-resident Romanian Prince Gheorghe Ghica-Cantacuzino. The final entrants were two Thomas Specials driven by Harold Purdy and William “Bomber” Scott. They were built by J.G. Parry-Thomas, based on the Leyland Eight luxury saloon chassis. The cars had been sold after Parry-Thomas was killed earlier in the year making a Land Speed Record attempt at Pendine Sands. For the sake of the neighbouring farms and houses, all the cars had to be fitted with noise-reducing exhaust mufflers.[32]

The Saturday was cold and wet. In the morning, Harvey's Alvis broke its oil-pump and could not take the start. The remaining eleven cars could be lined up in a single row across the wide Railway Straight. In the heavy rain, Bourlier could not start his Delage, leaving his mechanics working on the car as the flag dropped. Materassi jumped into the lead, yet by the second lap, Bourlier had caught up and taken the lead. After only ten of the 125 laps both Thomas cars had dropped out and Eyston was having the first of many stops for sparkplugs. The Delage team had taken control, with Divo leading Bourlier and Benoist. Around the halfway point, most drivers stopped to refuel but Conelli, running in fourth, ran out of petrol and spent half an hour pushing his car back to the pits in the lashing rain. Chiron inherited his place but was already six laps behind the leader. Louis Delage issued team orders for his cars to finish in numerical order, which by opportune pit-stops was what happened - with Benoist winning from Bourlier and Divo. Chiron finished the 125 laps nearly half an hour later, and Materassi was flagged off still a further seven laps back.[32][36]

 
Benoist in his Delage at the British GP

The British drivers returned to Brooklands a fortnight later, in much better weather, for the JCC 200-miles. Campbell and Eyston both ran Bugatti T39As and had a terrific duel for the first half of the race until Eyston retired. This left Campbell to run away with a victory.

The other races and a single flash from FiatEdit

Throughout the year, a number of races had promising fields but then many drivers and teams would fail to show up for raceday. This frustrated the spectators, and early on in the season at the Provence Grand Prix, held at the Miramas oval, they expressed their displeasure. Heavy rain in the morning had delayed the qualifying races, then in the warm-up for the final, Robert Benoist crashed his Delage into two other cars forming up on the grid. Bruised and with a damaged car, he could not take the start. When the Talbot team then withdrew from the final, the crowd's disappointment turned to anger. With inadequate communication and security from the organisers, spectators starting spilling onto the track by the third lap. Some drivers kept racing, until the race had to be flagged after the fifth lap when Chiron was in the lead. People got to the Talbot pit and vandalised the cars, forcing Divo and Moriceau to make a hasty exit. After this fiasco, the organising company soon went bankrupt and the circuit fell into disuse.[75] The Marne Grand Prix, held just after the French GP, was a win for Bugatti to a future star: Philippe Etancelin.[70][76]

The San Sebastián Grand Prix was held the week before the Spanish Grand Prix. Both were held on the 17km Lasarte road circuit in the Basque country of Spain. Run to Formula Libre rules, a big field of 34 was whittled down to 17 starters mainly of 2-litre Bugattis and 1.1-litre voiturettes. Emilio Materassi led home his three Bugatti works teammates leading from start to finish, with Charles Martin finishing almost an hour later in sixth in his works Amilcar, as the first voiturette home.[77]

 
Pietro Bordino and the Fiat 806 at the 1927 Milan GP

Throughout the year, the inaugural Italian Championship had attracted big fields of 20-30 cars and good crowds. The Rome Grand Prix, back on the calendar after a year's absence, was held in the city on a circuit just south of the River Tiber. It was significant as it gave future great racer Tazio Nuvolari his first major win in a car. Previously a motorcycle champion he, like many compatriots, were swapping over to four wheels. His skills in his regular Bugatti, not needing pit-stops, gave him victory over a number of more powerful supercharged Type 35s. Unfortunately, there were several bad crashes when cars went off the road into spectators. They included Materassi, who crashed his Itala special, killing a young boy.[78] Held on the same day as the Italian GP, the Milan Grand Prix saw the surprise appearance of a brand-new Fiat model. The 806 had a supercharged 1.5-litre engine, but Fiat chose not to enter it in World Championship race, despite its obvious power and speed. In a strange format, the 50km final would include the top-three finishers from three heats (divided by engine-class) along with the top-three placings after the fifth lap of the Italian GP. Unsurprisingly, after running a 4-hour, 500km Grand Prix, none of those three qualifiers (Benoist, Souders and Minoia) chose to then run in the Milan GP final.

Despite a slow start, Pietro Bordino was able to bring that power to the fore to easily win the short race.[32][45]

The new NürburgringEdit

The official opening of a major new racetrack in Germany happened in June. The Nürburgring was similar in concept to the 22km Solitudering near Stuttgart: a windy circuit in the hills centred around the local Nürburg castle, near Koblenz. It came from a project driven by the mayor of Cologne to draw tourism to the Ardennes area in the west, as well as creating work for many unemployed in the region. Despite a 2.2 km main straight, the track had 172 corners and comprised the main 23 km Nordschleife as well as the 8 km Sudschleife.[79][80][81] The opening race used the combined track and was won by Rudolf Caracciola in a 6.8-litre Mercedes sports-car.[82] A month later, the second German Grand Prix was held at the track. Held for sports cars again, it was won by Otto Merz in a similar car.[47][80][81] In Berlin, the AVUS circuit was modified with an intimidating 43 degree banking built on the Nordkurve.[83]

Louis Delage had reportedly invested £36000 in improving his Grand Prix cars and announced his withdrawal from racing at the end of the season,[80] selling the four cars. They continued to be very successful in voiturette racing well into the 1930s and beyond, last appearing in an F1 race in 1950.[70] At Fiat, their pro-racing managing director, Guido Fornaca, died in January. The government-appointed board were shocked to discover the cost of developing the fantastic 806 and immediately closed down the racing department. They also ordered the 806, and earlier 804 and 805 models, destroyed instead of selling them to recover costs to a prospective queue of privateer racers.[32][49][41] Italy's 1926 economic depression pushed many of the small manufacturers out of business.[44]

After a successful season running his own Maserati 26, Itala 55 special and Bugatti 35, Emilio Materassi was declared the first winner of the new Italian national championship.[33] With the shutdown of the Sunbeam-Talbot racing team, Materassi bought the three works Talbot 700s to start his own racing team, the first of its kind.[84][85] In the United States, Tommy Milton, 1921 AAA champion and two-time Indianapolis winner retired, taking up an engineering position at Packard. [61] For Robert Benoist, with his unbeaten run in the World Championship, the reward was even greater – the president of France awarded him the country's highest honour, making him a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.[86][70][87]

The end of the season marked the end of the 1.5-litre formula. Increasing development costs and poor competition had conspired to discouraged manufacturers from entering. The next year would see an open engine limit, although the chassis weight minimum remained to ensure structural integrity and safety.[80]

Championship final standingsEdit

The table lists the highest race position for each manufacturer. Only the best finishing car gained points for its manufacturer.[88]
Note: To be eligible for the championship, manufacturers had to take part in three of the five Grand Prix including the Italian GP. * non-participation disqualified the manufacturer from the championship

Pos Manufacturer 500
 
FRA
 
ESP
 
ITA
 
GBR
 
Pts
1   Delage 1 1 1 1 10
  Miller 2 3 * [23]
  Duesenberg 1 Ret * [24]
  Bugatti 2 * 4 [24]
  O.M. * 2 * [26]
  Talbot 4 * * [28]
  Cooper-Miller 6 * * [28]
  Detroit-Miller 8 * * [28]
  Fengler-Miller Ret * * [29]
  Halford Special NC * * [29]
  Maserati Ret * * [29]
  Thomas Special * * Ret [29]
Pos Manufacturer 500
 
FRA
 
ESP
 
ITA
 
GBR
 
Pts
Colour Result Points
Gold Winner 1
Silver 2nd place 2
Bronze 3rd place 3
Green Other finishers 4
Red Non-finishers 5
Blank Did not participate 6


[89][90][91][92]

Results of the season's major racesEdit

Pos Driver Team TGF
 
IND
 
ROM
 
FRA
 
SEB
 
ESP
 
CAC
 
ITA
 
MIL
 
GBR
 
JCC
 
  Robert Benoist Automobiles Delage 1 1 1 DNS 1
  Emilio Materassi Usines Bugatti 1 Ret DNS 1 Ret Ret Ret Ret
  Giuseppe Campari Private Entry 1 2
  George Souders Bill White Race Cars
Duesenberg Brothers
1 Ret DNQ
  Tazio Nuvolari Private Entry 1 DNQ
  Pietro Bordino Fiat SpA 1
  Malcolm Campbell Private Entry Ret 1
  Caberto Conelli Usines Bugatti 2 3 2 Ret
  Edmond Bourlier Automobiles Delage 2 3 2
  André Morel Automobiles Delage
Soc.Nouvelle de l'Automobile Amilcar
3 Ret Ret 2
  Carlo Tonini Officine Alfieri Maserati 5 2
  André Dubonnet Usines Bugatti 6 DNS 2 Ret
  Earl Devore F.P. Cramer 2
  Mario Lepori Private Entry Ret 2
  Giuseppe Morandi Officine Meccaniche 2 DNQ
  Salvatore Marano Private Entry Ret 10 3
  Alfieri Maserati Officine Alfieri Maserati 3
  Tony Gulotta Private Entry 3
  Renato Balestrero Usines Bugatti Ret 3
  Earl Cooper Cooper Engineering 3 DNQ
  Aymo Maggi Officine Alfieri Maserati
Private Entry
Ret Ret 3
  Albert Divo STD Motors Ltd
Automobiles Delage
Ret 3
  Vernon Balls Soc.Nouvelle de l'Automobile Amilcar 3
  Louis Chiron Usines Bugatti 4 Ret 4
 ? Charles Martin Soc.Nouvelle de l'Automobile Amilcar 6 4
  André Boillot SA des Autos et Cycles Peugeot 4
  Wilbur Shaw Fred Clemons / Jynx 4
  Gaspare Bona Private Entry 4 Ret DNQ
  William Grover-Williams STD Motors Ltd 4
  Innocenzo Ciri Private Entry DNS 4
  Ferdinando Minoia Usines Bugatti
Officine Meccaniche
Ret 4 DNQ
  Alfonso Zampieri Private Entry 4
  Joaquin Palacio Private Entry 5 Ret
  Dave Evans Private Entry 5
 ? Edward Bret Private Entry 5
  Guido Ciriaci Private Entry 5
  Abele Clerici Private Entry 5
  Harold Purdy Private Entry Ret 5
  Bob McDonogh Cooper Engineering 6
  Antonio Caliri Private Entry Ret 6
 ? Lionel Lipmann Private Entry 6
  Bill Urquhart-Dykes Private Entry 6
Pos Driver Team TGF
 
IND
 
ROM
 
FRA
 
SEB
 
ESP
 
CAC
 
ITA
 
MIL
 
GBR
 
JCC
 

italics show the driver of the race's fastest lap.
Only those drivers with a best finish of 6th or better are shown. Sources:[93][94][95][96][97][98][99]

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ReferencesEdit

  • Acerbi, Leonardo (2015) Mille Miglia – A race in pictures Milan: Giorgio Nada Editorie ISBN 978-88-7911-618-3
  • Cimarosti, Adriano (1997) The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing London: Aurum Press Ltd ISBN 1-85410-500-0
  • Fondi, Pino (2006) Targa Florio: 20th Century Epic Milan: Giorgio Nada Editore ISBN 88-7911-270-8
  • Fox, Charles (1973) The Great Racing Cars & Drivers London: Octopus Books Ltd ISBN 0-7064-0213-8
  • Georgano, Nick (1971) The Encyclopaedia of Motor Sport London: Ebury Press Ltd ISBN 0-7181-0955-4
  • Higham, Peter (1995) The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing London: Guinness Publishing ISBN 0-85112-642-1
  • Legate, Trevor (2006) 100 years of Grand Prix Kent: Touchstone Books Ltd ISBN 0-9551-0201-4
  • Ludvigsen, Karl (2008) Racing Colours - Italian Racing Red Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-7110-3331-5
  • Monkhouse, George (1953) Grand Prix Racing Facts and Figures London: G.T. Foulis & Co Ltd
  • Montagna, Paolo (ed.) (1989) The Legendary Italian Grand Prix Milan: A.C. Promotion
  • Rendall, Ivan (1991) The Power and The Glory – A Century of Motor Racing London: BBC Books ISBN 0-563-36093-3
  • Rendall, Ivan (1993) The Chequered Flag – 100 years of Motor Racing London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd ISBN 0-297-83220-4
  • Venables, David (2009) Racing Colours - French Racing Blue Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd ISBN 978-0-7110-3369-6

External linksEdit

  • 1927 Race Season – comprehensive race reports of most events, also listing entries and results. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • 1927 World Championship – several detailed investigation articles about the first championship year. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • Grand Prix Winners 1895–1949 : History – Hans Etzrodt's description of the annual regulations, and changes. Retrieved 21 Apr 2020
  • TeamDan  - list of the major races, entrants and results. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • SpeedFreaks  - list of the major races, entrants and results. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • 6th Gear  - list of the major races and winners each year. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • MotorSport magazine – list of the year's races, entrants and results, by category. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • Grand Prix History – history of the Targa Florio race. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • La Targa Florio – race report and pictures of the Targa Florio. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • F2 Register – race results of the Targa Florio. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • Motorsport Memorial – motor-racing deaths by year. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • Racing Reference.com – list of all the AAA Championship results. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • ChampCar Stats – list of all the races, entrants and results of the AAA Championship. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway.com[permanent dead link] – Indy 500 race results. Retrieved 21 May 2020