|By Jeremy McMullenThere are events that take place in life that people become remembered for, instead of that for which they should have been remembered. Guy Mairesse is most notably remembered during a dark period of grand prix and endurance racing's history. Instead of his talents, Mairesse's death and the effects of it, coupled with the tragedy at Le Mans only a year later, is what most often comes to mind.|
Born in France in August, 1910, Mairesse came onto the grand prix racing scene in the post-World War II years. In 1948, Guy first appeared with a Delahaye 135CS for the Les Rues de Chimay, held in Chimay, Belgium. This race was a 10 lap sports car event held on the 6.7 mile circuit that wound through the small villages and countryside near Chimay. Guy, though an inexperienced amateur, even in sports car racing, ended up winning the race, beating out Henri Louveau and Johnny Claes.
In May, Mairesse entered the Grand Prix de Paris with a Delahaye 135. The event was held on the Montlhery road course. Guy finished the race in 4th place, three laps down to race winner Yves Giraud-Cabantous.
Mairesse was back behind the wheel of his Delahaye 135CS sport car for the 24 Heures de Spa in the early part of June. Guy finished the event in 4th place overall sharing the driving duties with Edmund Mouche. The pair completed a total of 187 laps in 24 hours.
Mairesse returned to Montlhery in September but, this time, for a sports car race. Guy switched drives for the race as well. Guy entered the race driving for team Ecurie France, which meant He switched from his Delahaye to a Talbot MD. It seemed to be working out perfectly for Guy as he started the 12 Heures de Paris from the pole position. However, the Talbot's engine could make it the 12 hour distance and expired.
The rather successful year, up to this point, seemed to encourage Mairesse to stick around the Montlhery track to race in the Grand Prix du Salon, held in October of that year. Back to driving his Delahaye 135, Mairesse showed rather good form once again finishing the race 5th. Louis Rosier ended up winning the race, but Guy ended up beating the likes of Parnell, Manzon and Bira.
Despite not really being too well known, Guy was showing he had the talent and the speed to compete in whatever form of racing he took part. He was proving to be successful without having the best equipment.
The success Mairesse enjoyed in 1948 led him to take part mostly in grand prix races the next year. Starting in April of '49, Guy took part in the Grand Prix du Pau, competing with Fangio, Rosier and Etancelin. To be truly competitive Mairesse had to switch to a more competitive car, and so, he ended up purchasing the popular Talbot-Lago T26C (see Talbot-Lago T26C article).
The first race didn't prove to be anywhere near as successful as his first race did in '48. Mairesse's race came to an end after completing only 9 of the planned 110 laps around the 1.75 mile circuit due to a problem with an oil pipe.
This did not deter Guy, especially given the next event he took part in was the Grand Prix de Paris, which took place at the familiar Montlhery circuit. Despite finishing 8th in the results, Mairesse was not running at the end of the race. Guy suffered from a fuel leak. Etancelin ended up winning the race.
In June, Mairesse competed against four other drivers in the Grand Prix des Frontieres, held in Chimay, Belgium. Driving his Talbot-Lago T26C, Guy started the race from pole. He then went on to win the 15 lap race on the 6.7 mile street course.
Two weeks later, Mairesse arrived with his Talbot to compete in the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. The field was loaded with top names; Fangio, Ascari, Farina, Etancelin, Rosier, Villoresi, Claes and Parnell were all there. The 35 lap event came to an end on lap 15 for Mairesse as he suffered an accident that did not allow him to finish the race.
The damage to his car meant he had to switch out of his T26C for the next smaller grand prix event, the Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, held near Albi, France in July of that year. The grand prix was contested over 34 laps of the 5.5 mile street course. Guy started the race from 6th. Fangio started from pole. Fangio would end up winning the race, while Guy finished 5th, two laps behind. Guy ended up beating Sommer, Farina and Claes in the race.
1949 did not end well for Guy, who finished the year competing in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September. Guy started the race 19th. The 80 laps on the 3.9 mile circuit was punishing for the Talbot-Lago T26 Guy was driving. And after 29 laps his race came to an end with suspension problems.
As with most cases, the second year invariably is not as good as the first. And this was true in Mairesse's experience.
The costs to compete, especially in grand prix racing, were incredibly high, almost unsustainable for a private entrant unless they were very healthy financially. Opportunities to see Mairesse behind the wheel in 1950 were few and far between. But he did not disappoint when he co-drove with Pierre Meyrat in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June of that year. The two drove a 4.5 liter Talbot-Lago Decalee and finished the endurance race 2nd behind the winning father and son duo of Louis and Jean-Louis Rosier.
Prior to his entry at Le Mans, Guy raced at the Grand Prix de Paris at the very familiar Montlhery road circuit. The race was 50 laps of the 4+ mile course, a total of about 206 miles. Guy wasn't able to see lap three as his T26C had problems with its fuel tank again.
Besides the 24 hour race at Le Mans in June, Mairesse didn't really enter any large racing event until the Italian Grand Prix, the last event of Formula One's inaugural season. Driving his own Talbot-Lago T26C again Guy qualified 11th for the race. The race wasn't kind to Guy. The race suffered from a high attrition rate and Mairesse was not immune. Guy's race came to an end on lap 42 of the planned 80 lap race. Mairesse goes down in the record books having competed in Formula One's first season but only did so at the last event on the calendar and without scoring a point.
Guy continued to show strong in sports cars though as he would finish the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans again in 2nd, co-driving with Meyrat again in a 4.5 liter Talbot-Lago T26 GS. The two completed 258 laps within the 24 hours.
Mairesse could always be found racing, it seemed, at a couple of tracks. Unfortunately, it was Montlhery, a track with which Mairesse was very familiar that would claim the Frenchman's life in 1954. Mairesse veered to avoid hitting another driver who had spun in front of him. Guy struck a concrete wall and struck and and killed a 6 year-old boy. Mairesse died himself due to the crash. This accident, followed on by the incredible tragedy at Le Mans a year later shook the racing world. Unfortunately, it is Mairesse's involvement in this chain of events for which he is remembered most. Cut short, Guy, though in his 40s at the time, never really had the opportunity to fulfill, perhaps, his full potential and to be remembered in different circumstances.Sources:Wikipedia contributors. '1951 24 Hours of Le Mans.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 24 May. 2010.
Wikipedia contributors. 'Guy Mairesse.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 May. 2010. Web. 24 May. 2010.
UltimateRacingHistory contributors. 'Guy Mairesse.' Ultimate Racing History. Ultimate Racing History, 27 May. 2008. Web. 24 May. 2010.