Thursday 7 August 2014

1914 Grand Prix de France

The world was at the edge of the huge turmoil that was to be World War I.

Just a few days before the 1914 Grand Prix de France, Archduke
Franz Ferdinand was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo, so rumours of imminent war ran wild.

But near Lyon, France on July 4th 1914, there was only talk of French victory on the track, with Peugeot’s Georges Boillot, winner of the 1912 and 1913 Grands Prix, being favoured by the partisan crowd of over 300,000.

Mercedes showed up with an effective-looking team of 5 white cars (and one spare), and white-dressed mechanics and drivers, along with colour-coded containers (red, white and black) for fuel, water, and oil.

The Mercedes engineers had even made earlier visits to the circuit to test the cars and make the appropriate improvements.

Pen&ink and white paint markers on gray archival paper © Paul Chenard 2014

It was the first return of Mercedes to racing since they had won the 1908 race, which was still stingingly fresh in the minds of the French. Still, they expected a French win in a French car in their French race …

Of the 37 cars that started the race, only 11 finished. After 20 grueling laps totaling 752 kms, Mercedes took the top 3 places, with Jules Goux’s Peugeot coming in 4th. After 7 hours of racing, the brilliant Christian Lautenschlager, winner of 1908 event, earned the victory laurels yet again for Mercedes.

One mouth after the race, the world was plunged into World War I, and the race would disappear from the spectators’ memories …

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