1912 France
1913 Coupe de l'Auto
1913 France

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Georges Boillot

Georges BoillotGeorges BoillotGeorges Louis Frederic Boillot was born in Valentigney, France on August 3rd, 1884 A mechanic by training he began automobile racing in 1908. He went on to join drivers Paul Zuccarelli and Jules Goux to help create a novel range of racing cars as part of the Peugeot team. He debuted with them in 1909 in the Coupe de l'Auto at Rambouillet and in 1910, went to Italy to compete in the Targa Florio. The domination of big displacement engines (14 liters and over) ended around 1908 and development was stagnating until Lion Peugeot built three, lightweight, medium displacement, cars . A young Swiss draftsman-designer, Ernest Henry and factory engineer Vasselot, gave shape to the engineering ideas, and the wishes of the three drivers. To the engineering staff at Peugeot this almost to much to bare, a small team of drivers and outsiders designing their racing cars, they labeled the group Les Charlatans. The Peugeot L76 was powered by a 7598 cc monobloc unit with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Provided with a hemispherical combustion chamber, a five-stage crankshaft and a dry sump, this large four-cylinder engine developed 148 hp, allowing the car to reach 190 km/h.

Georges BoillotAt Dieppe, France, on June 26, 1912, Georges Boillot won the French Grand Prix, in his Peugeot L76. This was the first motorcar in the world to have an engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The Peugeots were also record-breaking cars in the guise of a specially built L76 called "la Torpille" (torpedo) because of its streamlined bodywork and long tail. In April 1913, on the Brooklands racetrack in England, it beat the world speed record of 170 km/h previously held by an aircraft! Boillot won the Coupe de l'Auto in 1913 and became the darling of French racing fans when he won his second straight French Grand Prix at Amiens in an improved L5 with a 5,655 cc engine that included a ballbearing crankshaft, gear-driven camshafts, and dry sump lubrication thus becoming the first driver to win the French Grand Prix twice. After the Grand Prix the circuit- which included an 8-mile (13 km) long straight was never used again for motor racing.

Georges BoillotThat same year, his Peugeot teammate, Jules Goux became the first Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500 beating the field by 13 minutes. The following year, France sent a number of competitors to the Indiana speedway where on May 27, during qualifying, Boillot came tantalizing close to breaking the 100 mile-an-hour (161 km/h) barrier when he set a new speed record of 99.86 mph (160.70 km/h). Much faster than any other driver, Boillot would most likely have won the race with ease had it not been for repeated tire trouble. He ended up finishing 14th while his fellow Frenchmen finished in the top four positions with René Thomas getting the win. In what would turn out to be his last and maybe most heroic race, the 1914 French Grand Prix at Lyon, his Peugeot was literally falling apart at the end. After demonstrating his tremendous skills by keeping the vehicle running and near the lead, all the while fighting for French honor in the face of the German Mercedes onslaught his car finally overheated on the last lap and he was forced to retire.

Georges BoillotWith the outbreak of World War I, Boillot joined the new French Air Force but initially was tasked as a driver for General Joffre. Frustrated at his duties away from the front lines he requested to join a fighting unit and promptly embarked on becoming an Ace flyer who quickly won the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur. His luck ran out on April 21, 1916 when his plane was shot down in a dogfight with five German Fokkers, of which he was able to shoot one down before he himself was downed over Verdun-sur-Meuse, the wreckage finally coming to rest near Bar-le-Duc. Severely injured, he died in a military hospital at Vaudelaincourt, Meuse. He was slightly under average height, powerfully built with a ruddy complexion his face playing host to a bushy moustache he looked the part of a warrior on wings as well as four wheels. Boillot was in the eyes of his fans no less than heroic and he died a hero's death.

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