The young Englishman Raymond Mays had learned of the Bugatti racecar’s legendary success in the 1921 race at Brescia and fell instantly in love with the Bugatti racecar; however, his father only assented to fund a Hillman.
But the son pulled some strings, found a willing accomplice in a Bugatti importer, and soon thereafter chalked up his first racing wins.
Then one day a letter arrived from Ettore Bugatti, inviting the young man to visit him in Molsheim – and to bring his car with him. Raymond Mays took a few days off, but he needed to borrow a friend’s Vauxhall for the journey from England to France. Ettore Bugatti warmly welcomed the two car aficionados. After a few initial drinks, he asked to see Mays’ Bugatti and to inspect the engine. Mays hesitatingly told him that he had come with his friend’s car, leaving the Bugatti at home. “Well then, go and get it! What are you waiting for?” The young man couldn’t oblige him – though not for lack of wanting. But infected by his host’s high-spirited mood, he confessed his passion for car racing and Bugatti was convinced of his true dedication. By the night’s end, Mays had gained the master’s backing for the coming season and a new Bugatti model to boot.
So how did Raymond Mays manage to lose a back wheel complete with the brake drum during the mountain race? First off, the young talent had tuned the Bugatti motor to match the requirements of English mountain racing; then he pushed it to engine speeds (6000 rpm) that Ettore Bugatti had only begun to dream of. Unfortunately, the half-axles on his car were still the old-fashioned kind. But apart from that, Mays’ luck didn’t abandon him, his car skidding to a halt just inches from a precipice.
Every Bugatti fan will recognize this photo immediately. It shows Raymond Mays in 1924, at the „Shelsley-Walsh Mountain Race“ in Wales.