Bugatti 57G - 1937

Cette collection est une adaptation de 24H Le Mans ® Le auto delle corsa più leggendaria al mondo Éditeur : Centauria Editore s.r.l. 

Bugatti 57G

While Bugatti's cars had been racing and winning almost everywhere for ten years and more, Ettore Bugatti still hadn't had the pleasure of seeing one of his drivers on the podium of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the mid-1930s. In 1937, his dream finally came true.

The chassis and engine of the 1937 57G, and those of the 57S "Atlantic" with aerodynamic bodywork but without a compressor, were the basis for Bugatti and Jean-Pierre Wimille's first victory at Le Mans. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

Since 1930, cars from Molsheim took part in the Sarthe Marathon on several occasions. But apart from a few class victories, including the one achieved in 1934 by Norbert Mahé and Jean Desvignes in the 3-litre class with a Type 44, successes for Molsheim were rare. The Italian-born manufacturer ( who became a naturalised French citizen) prepared two units of a competition car derived from the outstanding Type 57, destined to become one of its most famous creations and available in various road versions (including the magnificent Atlantic on the S chassis). This competition model, called Type 57G, was powered by an in-line 8-cylinder 3.3-litre engine rated at 200 bhp with compressor (180 bhp with no compressor), with a lighter crankshaft and dry sump lubrication. Their special streamlined and aerodynamic bodywork earned them the nickname 'tank', reminiscent of the 1923 Type 32 racing model with a simpler body.

The only three cars ('four' according to some sources) built at the factory in early 1936 were soon to win the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France at Montlhéry, followed by the GP de la Marne at Reims. 

 1. 1. Its elegant, aerodynamic design allowed the Type 57G to reach the remarkable speed of 220 km/h, and beyond.

2. Only one of the three (or four) 57Gs built by Bugatti survived: it was the 1937 Le Mans winner, restored in the 1960s and now kept at the Simeone Foundation Museum in Philadelphia.

3. The special 19-inch spoke wheels are those fitted to the Type 59 Grand Prix, a racing model produced by Bugatti from 1933 onwards.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

In 1937, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which reappeared after the cancellation of the 1936 edition due to the strikes that followed the election of the Front Populaire, two 57Gs ( with heavily tuned engines but no compressors) were in the line-up with the Roger Labric team, backed up by a 57S and a Type 44 with a 3-litre engine. The start of the race was dominated by a terrible accident that cost the lives of two drivers (including the Frenchman René Kippeur at the wheel of the Bugatti 44), followed by a large number of withdrawals: almost thirty out of the nearly 50 cars that started. One of them, in the 130th lap, was Labric, who shared the wheel of his No. 1 57G with Pierre Veyron. 

The number 2 car with Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoits, performed better, setting the fastest lap of the event with a time of 5 minutes 13 seconds. The two Frenchmen finished the race after 243 laps at an average speed of almost 137 km/h and with a seven-lap lead over the two Delahaye 135CS that were chasing them. 

1. The 1937 chassis retained the 2.98 m wheelbase of the Type 57S street car. The car that raced and won two years later, and which resembled it, was built on the standard Type 57 chassis with a 3.30 m wheelbase.

2. The sidelights on the 57 'Tank' at Le Mans were used to provide better illumination of the track, especially in poor visibility and during night time.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

This was Benoist's only absolute victory at Le Mans after his first class victory in 1928 with an Itala. Wimille repeated this success two years later, in partnership with Veyron, behind the wheel of a new tank built on a standard wheelbase 57C chassis and fitted with a compressor engine. Just in time: 1939 would be the last edition before the war interrupted the event for nine years.

A. The front is fitted with five headlights protected by trellis screens: the two main headlights are complemented by two small headlights in a low position and a third central headlight behind the radiator grille. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

B. In the 1930s, all cars were required to carry a spare wheel and spare parts in addition to the tools needed for repairs. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

C. Drivers of the Bugatti 57G, from left to right: William Grover-Williams, Pierre Veyron, Jean Bugatti, son of the brand's founder Ettore, and Jean-Pierre Wimille. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

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