The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing by Adriano Cimarosti
Buy from Amazon

Auto Racing Comes of Age
Buy from Amazon

Grand Prix
1906 Frenc Grand PrixThe A.C.F. decided after many disagreements with the organizers over regulations limiting the entrants from any one country to hold their own races. In 1906 The French held the very first Grand Prix for manufactures over a 64-mile triangular course 130 miles west of Paris near the quiet town of Le Mans with the Bollee automobile factory close by. Route 23 - the Paris road - was the scene of the start. Each leg of the course was approximately 20 miles in length with sharp corners at La Ferte Bernard, St Calais and St Mars-le-Briere. In a couple of places short sections of wooden track connected the roads. Forty miles of barricades were constructed to control the spectators with a tunnel under the race track to allow safe passage.

The race had 32 starters from 12 manufacturers, three cars each from Brasier, Clement-Bayard, Darracq, FIAT, Hotchkiss, Lorraine-Dietrich, Itala, Mercedes, Panhard and Renault, with single-car entries from Gobron-Brillié and Gregorie. Each team had a number with a letter identifying the individual cars. The red painted Renault cars had the codes 3A, 3B and 3C to be driven by Szisz, Edmond and Richez. The first car started at 6 AM and was followed in 90 seconds intervals. The day turned out to be extremely hot with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. Of the cars that started the race 11 remained after 12 laps split over two days. The winner was Ferenc Szisz, a Hungarian, driving a 90hp Renault. His Renault utilized detachable rims created by Michelin which enabled him to change tires in 2 to 3 minutes instead of the normal 15 minutes. Another important event that year was the inaugural Targa Florio. Organized by the wealthy Sicilian Vincenzo Floria, the race covered three laps of 148.832 km over mountain roads unchanged since the Punic Wars.

Camille JenatzyIn 1907 the Germans held their own race, the Kaiserpreis, for touring cars of under 8 liters and weighing less than 1165 kg. The race was won by Nazzaro in a Fiat. France, the birthplace of auto racing was finding itself among the also-rans. After dominating racing up until 1906 they were supplanted by the Alfa of Italy and Mercedes of Germany. Still the race that mattered the most was the Grand Prix and in 1908 the organizers set a weight minimum of 1100 kg and limited the bore to 155 mm. At the time it was believed that the bore was the determining fact in engine performance. Daimler redesigned the massive four cylinder engine of the 1907 car with a bore of 154.7 mm and a stroke of 170 mm, giving a displacement of 12.8 litre. The engine was cast in pairs and featured overhead intake valves and side exhaust valves. Each set of valves was actuated by a lateral camshaft fitted in the crankcase. The approximately 130 bhp was transferred to the rear wheels through a separate four speed gearbox and by massive chains. The drivetrain was installed in straightforward pressed steel ladder frame, which was suspended all-round by live axles and semi-elliptic leaf springs. Fitted with very minimal bodywork, the completed car weighed in just over 1100 kg minimum.

With the company's and country's honor at stake, Mercedes left little to chance. The new cars were seen testing at the Dieppe track three months before the Grand Prix. On race day three meticulously prepared examples of the '140 hp' were lined up. The pit crew was also well prepared to handle the many tire/wheel changes expected due to the poor track surface. The cars were fitted with revolutionary one-bolt wheels and the pit crew had pneumatic jacks to further speed up the work. The total number of cars entered was an unprecedented 48 and half of them were French.

In the race Salzer took off to a flying start by recording the fastest lap on the opening one. He retired shortly after with mechanical problems. After almost seven hours and eleven tire changes Lautenschlager, the factory's official test driver in his very first race came through to take Mercedes' first Grand Prix.

1914 PeugeotRacing Peugeots of 1912-1919 were considered by many the forefather of modern racing cars. The first car was built in 1911 and the results were not long in coming with Boillot winning the 1912 Grand Prix of France followed by victories at the Coupe de la Sarthe and the Indianapolis 500 the following year. The team persevered with a 3-litre voiturette as well as a 5.6 litre Grand Prix car winning numerous races and making 1913 their most successful year.. Many consider the 3-litre car Peugeot's masterpiece that was producing for that time an astonishing 30 bhp/litre. Ironically Peugeot management made it a policy to sell the GP cars as soon as they had run a race or two and a buyer had come forward. The market for these world beating cars were as you can imagine quite vast and soon copies of Grand Prix Peugeots could be seen on both sides of the Atlantic. Sunbeam of England went so far as to taking apart and copying every piece of their recently purchased example only to put it together again and loan it to other British engineers, somewhat akin to what transpired when the Mercedes and Auto Union Silver Arrows cars fell into Allied hands after World War II. Victories continued in 1914 leading up that years Grand Prix.

1914 French Grand PrixThe defining race of the pre- WW1 era was the ACF Grand Prix of 1914. The race was held on a 36.63 km circuit near Lyons and would last 20 laps.  The formula for that year restricted engine capacity to 4500cc and weight to 1100kg. Peugeot, determined to maintain France at the front ranks of motor sports entered three cars. The main challenge for France were the Germans led by five Mercedes. With the political tensions in Europe coming to a head the race could not escape from having political overtones.

Max Sailor, a Mercedes director and race car driver led from the start with the Peugeot of Georges Boillot in second. The leading Mercedes developed engine trouble and on the sixth lap the Peugeot took the lead. The French crowd erupted into patriotic demonstrations. The order was now Peugeot, the Mercedes of Lautenschlager, another Peugeot and the Mercedes of Wagner. It was now Wagner's turn to make a charge and on the 11th lap he forced his way into second. The second Peugeot, driven by Goux began to overheat and was destined to retire. This left the Peugeot of Boillot still in from ahead of the on coming Germans. The 15th lap had now been completed with the Peugeot 2 minutes and 28 seconds ahead of the Mercedes driven by Wagner. After running a conservative race in the early laps Lautenschlager was now poised to begin his march. Passing his teammate he began to close the gap on the leading Peugeot. Boillot drove for all he was worth but nothing could stop the Mercedes from taking the lead. The Peugeot, not able to withstand the strain broke a valve and retired. Mercedes now owned the first three places and so they finished with Lautenschlager claiming his second ACF Grand Prix title. The sullen crowd responded with only a smattering of applause while the Mercedes pits erupted in joy. On this bitter note, for France, racing stopped on the European continent. Several leading drivers without a European outlet crossed the Atlantic and entered the Vanderbilt Cup, Indianapolis and the American Grand Prize.

Be sure to visit our Auto Racing Book Store
Mon Ami Mate by Chris Nixon A Racing Motorist  by S.C.H. Davis Gentlemen, Start Your Engines by Wilbur Shaw Grands Prix 1934-1939 by Rodney Walkerley Full Throttle by Tim Birkin Auto Union V16 - A Technical Appraisal by Ian Bamsey Sir Henry Segrave by Cyril Posthumus Managing a Legend by Robert Edwards It was Fun!: My Fifty Years of High Performance Power and Glory by Wiliam Court My Cars, My Career by Stirling Moss

online betting site betway