Wednesday 26 January 2011

The Bugatti Queen

Hellé Nice (born Mariette Hélène Delangle) was born on 15 December 1900 in Aunay-sous-Auneau, Eure-et-Loir, France.

At the age of 16, she moved to Paris and eventually became a successful dancer in the city's music halls. As her fame and popularity grew, she performed throughout Europe, and spent time with the rich and famous, such as Philippe de Rothschild, Jean Bugatti and Count Bruno d'Harcourt.

She love speed, and was an avid skier. Unfortunately a skiing accident damaged her knee and ended her dancing career. She quickly turned to racing cars, winning some races and breaking some speed records.

Markers on plywood
© Paul Chenard 2011

After a tour through the United States, where she raced a Miller racing car, she was introduced by de Rothschild to Bugatti. This lead Nice to race Bugattis, usually against men. Between 1931 and 1936, she raced Bugattis and Alfa Romeos.

In Brazil for two Grand Prix races, she had a major crash in her Alfa Romeo, but miraculously survived after a three-day coma.

After recovering, she competed in various endurance trials for Yacco, breaking ten records that still stand today.

During World War II, Hellé Nice moved to Nice. In 1949, Nice attended a party celebrating the first post-war Monte Carlo Rallye. During the evening, driver Louis Chiron publically accused Nice of being an agent of the Gestapo.

With these accusations, Nice was dropped by her sponsors and her friends. Her life collapsed around her and she live out her last decades in a back-alley apartment in complete poverty, under a fictitious name. She died penniless and alone in 1984.

In 2001, author Miranda Seymour came across some material on Nice and decided she should be honoured with a biography The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a Motor-Racing Legend in 2004. In her research, Seymour found no evidence of Chiron's claims.

In September 2010, a proper grave marker was placed at her grave in a celebration of her life and great accomplishments.

In doing renovations recently in our home, I was left with a blank canvas after I pulled up our old carpet. I decided to honour Hellé Nice's accomplishments with a sketch.

Markers on plywood
© Paul Chenard 2011
The new carpet was laid down over the sketch, waiting for years from now when new owners will discover this important personality.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Sir Moss’s Gift

In the past year or so, I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with a gentleman from Scotland named John.

We share the same passion for motorsports history, and it’s heroes. One of our shared heroes is Sir Stirling Moss, who happens to be an acquaintance of John’s.

John had the great idea of asking Sir Moss to autograph one of my limited editions, namely my triptych of him winning the 1955 British Grand Prix in a Mercedes W196.

The signed print has just arrived, and I’m thrilled to the bone!

A huge THANK YOU to my friend John, and to his friend Sir Stirling Moss!

Thursday 13 January 2011

Red No.5

British driver Nigel Mansell was Formula 1 Champion in 1992, quickly followed by CART Champion in 1993, a feat never matched by any other driver.

The tifosi (Ferrari fans) gave him the nickname "il leone" ("the lion") when he drove for Ferrari (1989-1990) because of his fearless driving style.

He won his F1 Championship racing a Williams-Renault, but in 1986, his Williams FW11 was powered by the Honda engine.

Pen&ink and Prismacolor sticks on white archival stock 12"x 9" © Paul Chenard 2011

He won five races in 1986, and finished 2nd in the Championship to winner Alain Prost.

His car was famously labeled with a red No.5, which was carried on his later Williams racecars.

Friday 7 January 2011

Creative moments ...

We are into the New Year, which can be a time for spiritual renovations. In our house, it’s time for basement renovations.

We are repainting our basement, along with replacing old furniture and old carpets.

I’ve spent over a week painting, so I’ve not had time to do any of my racing history art. To keep my creativity flowing, I decided to do a quick painting with the 2-inch brush I was using on a wall we were repainting before the roller-paint was put down.

It shows Peter Collins driving a Ferrari-Lancia D50 in 1956.

The painting is gone now, but it was worth the creative moment!