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  Delage 15 S8      

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Country of origin:France
Produced from:1926 - 1927
Numbers built:4
Designed by:Albert Lory
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 30, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAfter campaigning in minor classes successfully for many years, Delage constructed the company's first Grand Prix car for the 1913 season. Following Peugeot's groundbreaking designs, the four cylinder engine featured double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. In its first season of racing the Delage Type Y struggled somewhat, but by 1914 the advanced Delage was fast and reliable enough to win the American Grand Prix before the First World War raged over Europe. Immediately after the War, racing throughout Europe was banned to preserve the fresh peace. Nevertheless a new international formula for Grand Prix racing was set with a maximum displacement of three litres. Even though the ban was eventually lifted, Louis Delage was not ready to pick up Grand Prix racing yet as the company's chief engineer was lost in the War.

For the 1923 season the regulations were changed again with the engine displacement limited to two litres. While not campaigning in the top level of motorsport, several custom built Delage racers took prestigious high speed records and hill climb wins. These successes convinced Louis Delage that his new chief engineer, Charles Planchon, was up to building a car for the new 2 litre class. He came up with a hugely complex twin-overhead camshaft V12 engine. Dubbed the 2LCV, the car was rushed to be ready in time for the Tours Grand Prix. It failed horribly and a furious Delage immediately fired Planchon. He was replaced by Albert Lory who gradually turned the V12 racer into a winner. The hard work payed off, highlighted by a victory in the 1925 French Grand Prix at Montlhéry. By this time the engine was equipped with two Superchargers and produced 190 bhp; more than twice that of the original. This time it was further rule changes that ground Delage's racing program to a halt once the first victory was scored.

In an attempt to prevent the racing cars from literally reaching terminal velocity, the displacement limit was further lowered to 1.5 litre and a minimum weight of 600 kg was set. While a two-seater body was still mandatory, the riding mechanic was no longer required. Encouraged by Lory's achievements, Delage commissioned him to build a completely new Grand Prix car for the 1926 season. For his first clean sheet Delage design he picked the very popular straight eight layout with twin, gear driven cams. To get the most out of the engine two Superchargers were installed next to the engine. The beautiful engine produced a staggering 170 bhp, which was very close to the 2LCV's performance despite the 25% reduction in displacement. Directly bolted onto the engine was a five speed gearbox, creating an unusually long drivetrain. Installed in the simple ladder frame, only a very short prop-shaft was required to connect the gearbox to the differential. Dubbed the 15 S8 for obvious reasons, the new Delage was very low and sleek.

Underlining the seriousness of Delage's Grand Prix campaign, the company fielded three 15 S8s for every race. Despite the complexity of the engine, the racers were fairly reliable from the get-go. At the new car's debut in the Spanish Grand Prix, the cars finished in second, fourth and sixth among strong competition from Bugatti and Talbot. Less than a month later in the British Grand Prix at Brooklands (with chicanes), the Delage 15 S8 scored its first major victory and this time Delage was able to continue racing their winning machine for once. Over the winter a variety of minor modifications were carried through on the four cars constructed to perfect the car's handling and performance. The most notable changes were installation of single front-mounted Supercharger and the switch of the exhausts from the right side to the left side of the engine. Although the engine's output did not increase, the sum of these changes brought even more success to Delage. With Robert Benoist winning all five of the Grands Prix in 1927, the company won the much coveted constructor's World Championship.

All this success came at a price though and at the end of the very successful season, a virtually bankrupt Delage was forced to withdraw from racing and concentrate on building new road cars. It was by no means the end of the racing career for the four 15 S8s, which continued to see active service for many years to come in the hands of privateers. In the mid-1930s it proved to be the perfect weapon in the very popular voiturette class. In the hands of Richard Seaman, the then ten year old Delage regularly beat the much more modern Maseratis and ERAs in 1936. Around that same time Delage did return to racing, but never to the Grand Prix level. Despite the long racing career three of the four examples constructed in 1926 survived. The fourth car was stripped of its drivetrain in 1936, which was installed in a new chassis built by Lory for the Thai Prince Bira. In the 1950s the engine was blown and with no spare block available it was discarded in favour of an ERA 'four'.

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  Article Image gallery (48) Specifications User Comments (1)