1950 Formula 1

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France Carlos 'Charles' Pozzi

1950Talbot-Lago T26C Formula 1 image Carlos 'Charles' Pozzi

Formula 1 image Louis Rosier 

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By Jeremy McMullen

The term 'starving artist' evokes images of there being little reward financially for what a person loves to do. Yet, there are those that find what they are passionate about being an impetus for financial reward.

Born in 1909 in Montmartre, a part of Paris, France, Charles Pozzi had to learn quite early on about being responsible, perhaps in lieu of chasing after dreams. Charles' father died in World War I when he was still just a child. As a result, Pozzi looked at the world practically. Seeking to be able to afford the necessary things of life, Charles dropped the idea of being an agricultural engineer in favor of buying and selling automobiles. Car manufacturing was really starting to take off and appeared to offer financial reward for anybody with even a little drive to succeed. Sure enough, by the time Charles was in his 20s and 30s his car brokering was prospering.

Growing in success, Pozzi came to be entranced by more luxurious models of automobiles. As a result, just prior to World War II, Charles switched to focus more on buying and selling luxury cars. While this obviously would not be lucrative during the years of the war, Pozzi was positioned well when the war came to an end.
During the war, Charles used his talents to develop coal from wood. He even developed cars that were able to run off of charcoal.

After the war's end, many people had zest for life; not wanting to miss out on anything this life had to offer. This meant good things for a man like Pozzi. Charles went out rounding up cars left after the war and had them rebuilt for sale. Pozzi offered those with means the latest and most luxurious models of luxury cars. But buying and selling luxury cars wasn't good enough for Pozzi. Not only was he enabled to pay the bills, but now, he had the means to dabble in something which greatly interested him. Deciding not to remain something of an 'armchair quarterback', Charles decided to go racing.

Charles was already 37 years old when he competed in the Grand Prix of Nice in April of 1946. Charles arrived for the race with his own Delahaye 135CS. The Grand Prix of Nice consisted of 65 laps of the 2 mile circuit. Pozzi qualified 16th for the event. Despite his inexperience, Charles drove consistently to end up 8th, though 14 laps down to Villoresi who won the race in his Maserati 4CL.

From Nice on, Pozzi competed in about one grand prix race a month, with the exception of July when he competed in two races. One of the highlights for Pozzi during this period was the fact he did not suffer a did not finish (DNF) at any of the races. Pozzi's best results, during the span of five races, was a 4th and a 5th place finish.

In July, at the Grand Prix de Bourgogne, Charles, once again, drove his Delahaye 135S at the Circuit de Dijon-Prenois. Ten entrants, mostly French, took part in the 100 lap race. The course was 1.2 miles of the streets around Dijon, France. Jean-Pierre Wimille ended up winning the race. Only four entrants finished the race, and Pozzi was that caboose of four cars. Charles finished some 12 laps down to Wimille.

Charles' next 'best' result of 1946 came the very next race, the Grand Prix des 24 Heures du Mans. Held in Nantes, France, sixteen competitors vied for the victory at the 2.5 mile street course. Pozzi showed rather good form during this race. Despite coming in 5th, he did so while only losing two laps to race winner 'Raph'.

1947 started early and cold for Charles as he travelled to Stockholm, Sweden for the Stockholm Grand Prix. Charles navigated the 3 mile road course in his Delahaye 135 and ended up finishing the race 5th. Reg Parnell ended up winning the race in his ERA A type chassis. In all, the race took just over one hour and at an average speed of 68mph.

After the race at Vallentuna, Charles would drive in the next four events for Ecurie France. Ecurie France's car of choice was the Delahaye 135CS, of which Pozzi was quite familiar. Over Charles' next two events he did not achieve any results of great note. Then, in June of 1947, Charles attended the Grand Prix of Nimes, which took place at the Aerodrome de Nîmes-Courbessac. Pozzi was one of 26 entrants for the race, which took place on the 3.2 mile street course that ran around the Nimes aerodrome. Luigi Villoresi ended up winning the 70 lap race for Scuderia Ambrosiana in a Maserati 4CL with Chiron and Parnell coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Charles ended up the race in 5th place, finishing four laps down.

Pozzi would follow up his 5th at Nimes with a 7th place finish at the Grand Prix de Reims. This was his last race for Ecurie France. After the race at Reims Charles went back to driving his own car for the remainder of '47 and throughout the rest of the '40s decade. His next race was the Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, which took place near Albi, France.

At the Circuit des Planques, Pozzi brought his Delahaye 135CS yet again. Pozzi would start the race from the 15th starting spot on the grid. Out of the twenty-five entrants only eight remained running at the end of the 40 lap race which took part on the 5.5 mile street course near Albi, France. In the end, Charles had the best result of his career finishing the race 3rd, one lap down to Louis Rosier and his Talbot-Lago T150. Pozzi ended up beating the likes of Ascari, Villoresi and Parnell.

After Albi, Charles followed up his 3rd with two-straight 5th place finishes at the Grand Prix de Nice and the Grand Prix d'Alsace. After a DNF at Les Rues de St.-Gaudens, which was only the third DNF of his career, Charles finished 7th at Sempione Park in September of 1947. After Sempione Park, Charles would have a string of three races where he did not finish worse than 5th, and in two of the races he finished 3rd.

Charles' worse result of the three races came at his very next event, the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F., held in Lyon, France that year. The race consisted of 70 laps of a 4.5 mile street course. Over half of the field failed to finish the race as the attrition was high. But this did not hamper Pozzi who drove his Delahaye up through the field and finished 5th, three laps down to Chiron who won the race.

A month later, Pozzi took part in his first sports car race. Charles traveled to Torino, Italy with a new Talbot-Lago T26 to compete in the Grand Prix of Torino. The race was 105 laps of the 2.98 mile road course. Many grand prix regulars were present for the race including; Ascari, Villoresi and Sommer. Pozzi put his new Talbot-Lago to good use as he took pole for the race. This was impressive considering the fact this was Charles' first sports car race. Unfortunately, Charles wasn't able to hold onto the lead. Sommer and Chaboud's pace were just too fast for Pozzi. After being lapped twice by Sommer, and once by Chaboud, Charles had to settle for 3rd. This wasn't a bad result given his limited sports car experience.

After his rather successful bid in sports cars, Pozzi was back behind the wheel of his Delahaye and looking to close out 1947 with a successful grand prix. Charles' last race for the year was the Grand Prix du Salon held at the popular Montlhery track outside Paris. The race was held on the shorter 3.9 mile street course and was 48 laps in length. The successful run Pozzi had been experiencing continued at Montlhery. What is interesting is that Eugene Chaboud seemed to have Pozzi's number. At Torino, Chaboud was driving a Delahaye and beat Pozzi, who was driving a Talbot-Lago, for the 2nd place finishing spot. Then, at Montlhery, Pozzi was back driving his Delahaye 135CS and was beat out for 2nd by Chaboud who was driving a Talbot-Lago T26C. Yves Giraud-Cabantous ended up winning the race driving for Ecurie France in a Talbot-Lago T26.

1947 was a very successful year for the rather inexperienced Pozzi. He looked to keep the positive momentum going into 1948.

Charles got his 1948 campaign off to a positive start at the Grand Prix du Pau. Charles took part in the event with a new car, a Talbot-Lago T150C. He started the race from well back in the field, but the race was contested over 110 laps of the 1.7 mile street course and would provide ample opportunity for cars to break. And break they did. In all reality, only seven cars were still running at the end of the race out of the fifteen that started. Raymond Sommer ended up coming in 2nd despite the fact he lost a wheel on what was his last lap of the race. He had over a lap lead on 3rd place finisher Giraud-Cabantous. Therefore, despite losing the wheel he still finished 2nd. Charles was still running at the end and came across the line in 4th, two laps behind race winner Nello Pagani.

Unfortunately for Pozzi, his 4th place at Pau would be his best finish throughout the rest of the year. He would score a few top-tens at the Grand Prix of the Nations, the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten and at the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F. Charles took part in one sports car race that year. Charles decided to stop doing battle with his good friend Eugene Chaboud and ended up co-driving with him at the 12 Hours of Paris race, which was held in September of '48. Forty-eight entrants took part in the race. Pozzi and Chaboud started from well down in the field but were able to finish 11th overall.

Though 1948 proved to be less than spectacular; 1949 proved to be memorable for Charles, though the year began rather unremarkable.
In April, Charles took part in the Grand Prix du Pau with a Talbot-Lago T26. Pozzi's race came to an early end when he was forced to retire from the race after only 23 laps. Charles' next race was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Charles once again partnered with Chaboud, driving a Delahaye 175S. After only 52 laps completed, the Delahaye developed problems that were not able to be rectified. As a result, Pozzi and Chaboud had to retire from the race. Though the end result of his race at Le Mans was not memorable, Charles did provide one special memory that will live on in motor racing legend. Pozzi will be remembered for his car spewing hot latté (or lait, since it happened in France) down the straightaway. Charles' car was overheating and was led to substitute milk when no water could be found. One other interesting thing to note about the race was that the number 4 car of Charles Pozzi, driven by Pierre Flahault and André Simon, set the fastest lap of the race.

Things changed in August though. August 7th was a big day for Charles. Charles went to Saint-Gaudens, France to take part in the Grand Prix de l' A.C.F. The street circuit in Saint-Gaudens was over 6.8 miles in length. The race's total number of laps was 46, which meant the race distance would cover over 300 miles. For the grand prix race, Pozzi used his older Delahaye 135. Charles was always known for his consistency and endurance and these two attributes needed to pay dividends for Charles at some point, and at Saint-Gaudens, they did. Charles was able to wield his Delahaye around for those 46 laps and took his first ever victory!

Charles then finished 1949 with a couple of races at Montlhery. Charles took part in the Coupes du Salon sports car race and the Grand Prix du Salon. For the Grand Prix du Salon the field was a little thin. Only nine drivers took the green flag. However, there were some competent and competitive drivers that entered the race besides Pozzi. Raymond Sommer and Harry Schell came with their own Talbot-Lago T26Cs and Pierre Meyrat also came with a Talbot-Lago. The race was 64 laps of the shorter 3.9 mile street course. Driving his Delahaye 135, Charles finished the race 5 laps down to the winner Raymond Sommer but he did finish the race 4th.

The Coupes du Salon faired a bit better for the Frenchman. The event ran a total of 19 laps. In the end, Harry Schell won the race in a Talbot MD and Pozzi finished 3rd in his Delahaye 175S.

As 1949 drew to a close, Charles enjoyed probably one of his most successful seasons in motor racing. 1947 was still perhaps his best overall year as he had a number of top-five finishes in many events. However, 1949 provided Pozzi his first victory.

Heading into 1950, and Formula One's inaugural season, Charles began to start focusing more on sports cars though he was still present at many grand prix. In fact, Pozzi would only compete in one sports car race in 1950, but the long endurance-type races were more suited to his style of racing, especially since he would never have an accident behind the wheel throughout his career. Of course Charles had said that was more because of the fact he 'didn't drive fast enough' to have them.

Anyway, the 1950 season got started for Pozzi in April once again with the Grand Prix du Pau. Pretty much all of the heavyweights of grand prix racing at the time were there. Scoring a good result would be no easy task for any driver with the talent that was present that weekend. Charles battled these talented drivers in a new car for him, a Talbot-Lago T26C (see Talbot-Lago T26C article). This car had been owned by Georges Grignard a couple of years prior, but was to be the car Pozzi would use as he attempted to compete in Formula One first season. Charles finished the race with a rather good result. He finished 8th, but some 10 laps down to Fangio in his Maserati 4CLT/48.

Pozzi's first Formula One event he attempted to take part was the Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately, Charles suffered problems with the Talbot-Lago and couldn't get them sorted in time to take part in qualifying or the race.

Charles' friendship with Chaboud led to the two drivers starting Ecurie Lutetia. Charles would co-drive under this banner, along with Flahault, in a Delahaye 175S for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Over 160 laps into the event, Charles' Delahaye started to develop overheating issues again. While Charles was able to find water this time, a seal worked loose and Pozzi and Flahault were disqualified after 165 laps.

Charles' next race was his first and only race he ever competed in Formula One. After failing to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix, Pozzi waited until grand prix racing returned to French soil. At the French Grand Prix at Reims, driving a Talbot-Lago T26C, Charles started the race from 17th on the grid. He was assigned this starting spot as he did not post a time during qualifying. His consistent driving style paid dividends during the race, however, as he was able to steadily make his way up through the field. Pozzi then turned the car over to Louis Rosier and the paired missed out finishing in the points by one spot. The two Frenchmen finished the race 6th. Most of the credit for the result does need to be given where it is most deserved. Ten laps into the race Louis Rosier developed overheating problems and was forced to retire from the race. Being the sportsman he was, Charles then pulled over on lap fourteen and gave his drive to Rosier. Pozzi's good friend Chaboud could have taken over but he was preparing to take over for Philippe Etancelin who came in after completing the first twenty-six laps.

At the end of July, Pozzi took part in his only other race for 1950. The event was the Grand Prix of Rouen. Not only did Charles take part but he also fielded two other cars for Guy Mairesse and Pierre Meyrat. Charles went back to driving his old Delahaye 135CS. Pozzi started the race on the 3 mile circuit from 3rd. Despite the car's age, Charles was able to muscle his Delahaye around the track to finish the race 2nd behind his co-driver earlier in the month Louis Rosier.

After 1950 Charles took part in only a handful of grand prix races, and instead, focused on sports car and endurance racing. Charles finished Formula One's first season having competed in one race, failing to qualify for another and scoring no points.

The next year, Charles took part in a sports car race in Nice and finished 2nd in an Aston Martin DB2. He was beaten by one of the talented women drivers of the day Yvonne Simone in the powerful Ferrari 166MM.

Some of Charles' most impressive results came over the next few years. In 1952, Charles took the victory at the 12 hours of Casablanca, Morocco driving a Talbot-Lago T26GS. Paired with Lucien Vincent, Charles was able to complete 264 laps in 12 hours.

1953 provided Pozzi with some of his most impressive highlights. In February of that year Charles travelled across the Mediterranean again to take part in the 12 hour Grand Prix of Agadir, Morocco. Driving a Lancia Aurelia, Charles was able to finish the race 3rd.

Then, in the very early part of June, Pozzi drove a 2.0 liter Ferrari 166MM in the 12 hours of Hyéres. Along with co-driver and car owner François Picard, the pair drove to a 3rd place finish overall and 1st in the 2 liter class. What was really impressive about Picard and Pozzi's result was the fact they had a 12 laps lead in class at the end of the event, and were only another 12 laps behind the Jaguar C-type of the overall winners Whitehead and Cole.

One week later, Pozzi co-drove with fellow Frenchman Pierre Levegh in a Talbot-Lago T26GS in the 24 hours of Le Mans. The two, driving for the factory Talbot-Lago team, were able to finish the 24 hour race 8th overall.

A couple of weeks after Le Mans, Charles was back behind the wheel of François Picard's Ferrari 166MM for the 12 hours of Reims. Once again driving in the 2 liter category, the two French drivers were able to score a 2nd place finish in class and a 6th place overall finish. Peter Whitehead and Stirling Moss won the race overall in a C-type Jaguar, completing 243 laps. Picard and Pozzi were able to finish 209 laps in the 12 hours.

By the time of the 12 hours of Hyères in 1954, Charles was already 45 years old. The Frenchman's best years were slipping into the past and, besides, he truly knew where his real talent was to be employed. But that didn't mean he didn't want to go out on top. In 1954 Charles only took part in three races and he gave it his best to out on top. Returning to the site of his class victory one year prior, Pozzi once again paired with François Picard, but this time, in a Ferrari 500 Mondial. The two drivers took part in the 2 liter category and this proved successful once again. The paired roared to a 2nd place overall finish and a 1st place finish in class for the second-straight year. This was to be Charles' highlight in his last year of racing.

Although having earned a few victories and scoring numerous top-five and top-ten finishes, Charles Pozzi experienced what it took to be a champion and was under no illusion as to his talent and ability. Yet, his experiences behind the wheel would only further his real calling. After retiring from racing, Charles threw himself back into buying and selling top-end luxury cars. In time, he became an importer for Ferrari and Rolls Royce in France. Eventually, Charles would become the exclusive importer for these marks in France. The name Pozzi became synonymous with Ferrari in France. This became even more evident when, upon his death in 2001, Ferrari purchased Charles' outlets throughout France in their new direct-ownership business structure. The fact Ferrari wanted to purchase Pozzi's outlets instead of just closing them and starting their own is a testament to Charles' ability as a business owner and his dedication to being a champion in his field.

Charles Pozzi didn't just sell the ultimate in driving machines. For a few years, he lived and breathed amongst them. Charles experienced, first-hand, what it took for a car to become a race champion. This led to his passion and zeal as a car dealer and becoming, ultimately, synonymous with the great elite car manufacturers. The very same manufacturers that engineered some of the greatest cars for the race track.


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