Het pièce de résistance van het Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême is ieder jaar opnieuw de moordende strijd tussen de pre-war Bugatti’s. Dit is waarom.

Pre-war racing holds a special place in our hearts here at the CineCars office. Understandable engineering, well-crafted machinery and true heroism on the track. A tiny Austin 7 special is just as exciting as the astonishing racing lorries by W.O. Bentley. Frazer-Nash, Vauxhall, Alvis, Riley, Amilcar, Salmson, Delage, the list of makes and specials is sheer endless. In September we use to travel down to the French town of Angoulême for a weekend of classic racing mayhem. The absolute pinnacle being the annual battle amongst the Bugatti’s. If there is one manufacturer from these pioneering days of motorsport that juggles the imagination, it is Ettore Bugatti and the creations he unleashed from Molsheim to the tracks of the 1920’s.

Like today successes on the circuit counted for higher sales numbers, even a hundred years ago. Ettore Bugatti like no other knew this and although his ‘normal’ range wasn’t quite pointed at the average Joe, the successes of his racing cars brought the Bugatti name the fame that is still sounding as confident as it did in the day. The biggest successes for Bugatti were achieved in the Type 35 and its derivates. A spartan one and a half seater with a two-litre straight eight engine. And what an engine it is. A true gem with an overhead camshaft, three valves per cilinder and a crankshaft bearing in five roller bearings, providing it with the capability to easily rev up to an for these days astonishing maximum of 6000 revelations per minute. The Type 35 was an instant track success in the twenties and if I’m truly honest, it still is.

It all commences with the introduction of the new car at the Lyon Grand Prix in early August of 1924. That very first Type 35 develops 90 bhp, which is largely sufficient to propel the 750 kg light vehicle to great speeds in no-time. A forged hollow front axle and cable operated rear drum brakes are only sufficient to keep all this power on the road in the capable hands of the greatest drivers of their times. It gets even more frantic with the introduction of the Type 35C in 1925. Although Bugatti has a general dislike of force feeding his engines, the adding of a compressor to the straight eight provides it with a staggering 128 bhp. The ultimate Type 35, the 1929 35B even manages 138 bhp. The little Bugatti is hard to beat. The Italian Grand Prix, the Spanish and the list goes on. They’re all on the Type 35’s list of honors. However the greatest achievement remains winning the Targa Florio five times on a row from 1925 up to 1929.

Those who ever saw these Bugatti’s race will agree, the sheer violence in which a Bugatti Type 35 thunders uphill is nearly as beautiful as the way it shudders and drifts through a hair pin. The pilots that dare to hurl these beautiful machines around the circuit on the edge of human comprehension are true heroes. They were then and they still are today. Four narrow tyres, that, with a frightening negative camber, transfer all that power to the asphalt. Remaining fuel pressure by hand, adjusting the ignition on the go, shifting gear and managing the manual support brake with one hand, all in the same time they need to work the slim steering wheel to correct the mountain of oversteer. It’s a feast to the eyes. To see, hear and smell. The Bugatti T35 is a pleasure to all senses.
Marc GF Zaan

Pictures Raymond van der Meij