Little Bits of History

Fast France

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 26, 2014


June 26, 1906: The first Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France begins. Commonly called the 1906 French Grand Prix, it was a motor race held for two days on closed public roads outside the city of Le Mans. It was organized by the Automobile Club of France (ACF) at the urging of the French automotive industry. It was hoped that it would compliment the Gordon Bennett races which limited each competing country’s number of entries regardless of the size of its industry. France had the largest automobile industry in Europe at the time and opted to not limit the number of entries by any country.

The course was 64.11 miles long with the circuit going over mostly dust roads sealed with tar. Six laps were to be completed each day by each driver for a combined 769.36 miles driven. The race lasted for more than twelve hours and was won by Ferenc Szisz from Hungary. He was driving for the Renault team. Coming in second was Felice Nazzaro of Italy who was driving a FIAT and third place was won by Albert Clement of France driving a Clement-Bayard. The fastest lap of the race was driven by Paul Baras, also of France but driving a Brasier, who completed the first lap of 64.11 miles in 52:25:4. He held onto the lead for three laps when Szisz took the lead and held onto it for the rest of the race.

Hot conditions melted the road tar and dust was kicked up by the speeding cars and hit the drivers of following cars with the plume of dirt often blinding them and making driving even more dangerous. Several tires were punctured and Michelin had introduced a detachable rim with a tire already in place which could be quickly swapped, which saved a great deal of time. This allowed for Nazzaro to pass Clement on the second day since the FIAT used the tires and Clement’s card did not. The Renault victory led to an increase in sales of the French car in the years following the race. The success of the race prompted a repeat the next year and incited the Germans to create their own German Grand Prix in 1907.

Many other nations joined in the fun of the endurance road race between 1906 and 1949. By the end of World War II, only four races of Grand Prix caliber were held. They restructured in 1947 and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) was formed. Beginning in 1950, the FIA would link several national Formula One Grands Prix to create a world championship for drivers. A points system was developed and seven races were granted championship status. The first World Championship race was held at Silverstone in the United Kingdom. Ferrari appeared in the second World Championship race and is the only manufacturer to compete throughout the entire history of the event and is still competing in 2014.

Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines. – Enzo Ferrari

It is amazing how may drivers, even at the Formula One Level, think that the brakes are for slowing the car down. – Mario Andretti

To achieve anything in this game you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster. – Sterling Moss

Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary… that’s what gets you. – Jeremy Clarkson

Also on this day: Helicopters – In 1934, the FW-61 helicopter is flown for the first time.
Cyclone – In 1927, Coney Island opened a new ride.
Pied Piper – In 1284, a piper led 130 children out of Hamelin.
CN Tower – In 1976, the Ontario tower opened to the public.