Teams1951 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
So many names of Formula One drivers live on only in history. Georges Grignard would take part in, and, help to preserve and maintain pieces of Formula One's past.
Born in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges in 1905, Grignard took place in auto racing from almost the first years of his life. By his late-teens and early twenties, Grignard was competing in rallying events all-around France, including the Monte Carlo rally in 1928 and '29.
During the 1930s, Grignard was able to start up his own garage business. Throughout the decade, he would race on the weekends and fix cars throughout the week. Automobiles and racing were very much a part of Grignard's life.
It was during the mid-1930s Georges had been able to get some money together to go and buy an Amilcar C6, which he used to compete in the Bol d'Or race in Saint Germain, France in 1936, and again, in 1938.
In the first Bol d'Or race Grignard competed, in 1936, Georges followed Amedee Gordini and Philippe Maillard-Brune home to a 3rd place finish. Race winner Gordini averaged just over 56 mph.
In Grignard's second attempt at the Bol d'Or, the results would not be anywhere near as good as they had been after the first one. Grignard took part in the race, this time held at Montlhery, but was unable to even finish in the top-ten. Once again, Amedee Gordini won the race in a Simca T8, followed by de Burnay and Polledry.
Toward the later part of August, Grignard took part in the voiturette race, the Grand Prix de la Baule. Grignard could mount no real challenge to any of the front-runners over the course of the 40 lap race and ended up finishing the race 9th.
A month later, at the sports car 12 Hours of Paris race, Georges' current run of bad results continued. A problem with the Delahaye 135CS he was co-driving with Chotard had problems that couldn't be resolved in time for the race. Therefore, Grignard did not start the race.
In 1939, though he had been entered in another couple of races, Grignard only actually took part in one race the entire season. Of course, the season was threatened by the German western advance at the time.
The one race in which Grignard took part was the minor Formula Libre race at Montlhery, France, which was the Coupe de Paris. Of course at the time, Jean-Pierre Wimille was one of the best drivers in the world. He showed up with the large 4.7 liter-powered Bugatti T59. Raymond Sommer arrived with an Alfa Romeo Tipo 308. The rest of the field consisted of a couple of Talbot MD90s, couple more Bugattis, a Amilcar, a Maserati and about a half-dozen Delahaye 135Ss. Grignard drove one of the 3.6-liter Delahaye 135Ss.
At the very start of the race, Wimille took the lead of the race and would never relinquish it over the course of the race. By the end of the race, Wimille had beaten Sommer in his Alfa Tipo 308 by over nine seconds and was a further thirty-five seconds in front of Rene Le Begue who finished in 3rd. Grignard came home very quietly in 11th place, four laps down to Wimille.
The Second World War was right there on the very near horizon. Therefore, Grignard's racing career, like so many others of the day, came to an involuntary end. Throughout the war years, Grignard was just itching for the war to come to an end so he could get back to racing. This was obvious given the fact he was present at one of the first races held after the European theater of the war had drawn to a close.
Merely five months after Germany's surrender and the end of the European theater of war, and, only one month after the end of the Pacific theater, a grand prix race was held in Boulogne, France.
The 1st Coupe des Prisonniers race took place on a 1.75 mile street course laid out in Boulogne, France. Many manufacturers' locations had been bombed or moved because of the war. And, because of the war, there were no new advancements in car chassis for the race. Therefore, the grid of sixteen starters was mostly made up of pre-war machines, driven by those who had raced them before the war. Jean-Pierre Wimille, Philippe Etancelin, Pierre Levegh, and Raymond Sommer were all in attendance besides Grignard.
In a virtual repeat of the very last race he had contested before the war, Grignard finished the 43 lap race, though not officially classified, in 11th. Wimille would command the race almost throughout, and, would go on to win the race over Raymond Sommer. Wimille and Sommer had a three lap advantage over 3rd place finisher Eugene Chaboud.
In another race later that day, called the 1st Coupe de la Liberation, Henri Louveau won a 36 lap event in a Maserati 6CM. Auguste Veuillet finished 2nd in an MG K3 and Lascaud ended up 3rd in an Amilcar G36. Grignard took part in his Amilcar C6 but was too slow and ended up the race also not classified.
One year after the end of the war grand prix racing resumed at an almost feverish pitch. The continent was in the mood to celebrate, and one of those pleasures lost during the war was auto racing. Therefore, a number of races popped up all over the continent. Georges would end up taking part in ten races throughout the year.
At the 5th Grand Prix of Nice in April of '46, Grignard started the race 9th. Luigi Villoresi started on the pole in a Maserati 4CL. Luigi Villoresi won the 65 lap race having led almost from beginning-to-end. He averaged just under 65 mph over the 2 mile street course and had a lap advantage over 2nd place finisher Raymond Sommer. Grignard drove a splendid race to finish just off the last step of the podium. He finished 4th, six laps down.
At the 1st Grand Prix of Marseilles in the middle of May, Grignard would tie his best result ever with a 3rd place finish. Driving his old Delahaye 135S, Grignard would hold off Arialdo Ruggieri over the course of the 35 lap race to take the final spot on the podium. Raymond Sommer took the victory in a Maserati 4CL. Sommer had lapped the entire field, and therefore, finished comfortably in front of Enrico Plate in another 4CL.
After a retirement at the 1st Grand Prix of Forez in the middle-part of May, and, a decent 7th place finish at the 1st Coupe Rene le Begue at the Circuit de St. Cloud in Paris, France, Grignard put together a very impressive string of finishes. Over the course of five races in '46, Grignard put together a run where the Frenchman finished no worse than 4th. He managed to finish 4th four times and those 4th place finishes bookmarked his best finish to date, which took place in July in Dijon, France at the 3rd Grand Prix of Bourgogne.
The race in Dijon, France was a 100 lap event through the streets of Dijon. Though long in lap count, the length of the street course was not. At only 1.28 miles, the total race distance was only 128 miles, but, that was more than enough for many of the cars.
Only ten cars started the race. Jean-Pierre Wimille, as many had grown accustomed to seeing and hearing by this time, had the pole in an Alfa Romeo 308. Within the first three laps of the 100 two cars were out of the race. Three more fell out of contention between laps 31 and 35. One more would drop out after 84 laps due to a cracked fuel tank. With so many cars out of the race, it turned into a Wimille demonstration.
At the end of the race, Wimille's advantage was such that he could have gotten out on the last lap and pushed the car to the finish and still won. At the end, Wimille won over Grignard in his Delahaye 135. Wimille's advantage was over five laps. Grignard could have coasted to the finish as well. He had a six lap advantage over 3rd place finisher Pierre Flahaut.
Though Grignard competed in a number of races in 1946, from 1947 through 1949, he would only compete in four grand prix races and a couple of sports car races. Throughout this period he would only score a couple of top-five finishes. One of those came during the one grand prix race in which he participated during the 1947 season. Grignard's result was a 5th place at the Circuit de Perpignan during the 2nd Grand Prix du Roussillon. Then, in 1949, Grignard co-drove with Brunet at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving a Delahaye 135CS, the pairing was able to achieve a 5th place result.
During the 1949 grand prix season Grignard would end up making a shift that would affect the rest of his life. It was during that season that the Frenchman switched to the Talbot-Lago T26C. It wasn't quite a match made in heaven, but, it did provide Grignard improved performance. In his first year with the car, Grignard was able to score a season-best 6th place finish at the Grand Prix of Pau during the middle-part of April that year.
1950 would start out on a high note for Georges. April 30th of 1950 Georges was in Montlhery, France for the 4th Grand Prix of Paris. Due to the fact it was Formula One's first official year a number of the top teams and drivers were not present for the 50 lap race. Instead, a number of private and smaller teams comprised the eleven starters for the race.
Attrition would be horrible. The goal became merely finishing instead of worrying about winning. The 4.12 mile road course took a terrible toll on the competitors, and, in the end, only three cars would finish the race. Grignard cake-walked the field. In a little over two hours, Grignard came home in 1st—his first ever win. He did it in grand style as well. Grignard dominated. Louis Gerard was the 2nd place finisher and he was four laps down to Grignard at the end. Marc Versini finished 3rd, another lap further down.
The rest of 1950 was nothing short of a frustrating disaster for the Frenchman. Grignard's next race, almost three months later, was the Grand Prix of Bari. With only about a third of the race left to go, Grignard's race came to an end due to a mechanical problem.
A more destructive end awaited the Frenchman at his next race, the Grand Prix of Pescara. On the first lap of the 15 mile circuit, Grignard made a mistake and suffered an accident in his T26C, thus ending his race.
Georges set to work repairing his car in order to compete in one more race during the 1950 season. That one more race was the 10th Grand Prix of Penya Rhin at the end of October.
By this time Alfa Romeo had sown up the World Championship. Farina was the first World Champion. But the Pedralbes circuit wasn't without competition when Grignard went there to take part in the 50 lap race.
Scuderia Ferrari came to the race with three cars. A number of other very good private entrants had also made it to Barcelona for the race. Twenty-two drivers qualified to start the race. Grignard would start the race from 17th on the grid. The three Scuderia Ferraris would sweep the top-three spots during qualifying.
As the race got underway Ascari and Serafini pulled away from the rest of the field. Their pace was such that there would be at least a ten lap difference between themselves and the cars who finished in 10th and 11th. Ascari won the race, chased seconds later by Serafini. The two of them had a two lap advantage over their teammate Taruffi in 3rd. Grignard had his best result since his victory at the start of his season. He would finish the race 7th, four laps down. He would be the last car to be classified as finishing the race.
Coming into the 1951 season, Grignard was forty-five years old. His prime had passed. He still took part in grand prix and sports car races, but in much fewer numbers.
In 1951, Grignard would end up competing in just three races throughout the year. One was during the very early part of spring, the other two were toward the later-part of fall.
The first race of his '51 season was in Pau. In March of '51 Grignard took part in the 12th Grand Prix of Pau. The field was filled with Scuderia Ferraris and Simca-Gordinis. Ascari took the pole in a Ferrari 375. Villoresi would start 2nd and Dorino Serafini 3rd. Fifteen drivers would start the race and Grignard would start dead-last.
The 110 lap race definitely didn't fare any better for the Frenchman at a French race. After having completed 43 laps of the 1.76 mile street course, Grignard's race came to a premature end due to gearbox problems. Villoresi would end up going on to win the race over Rosier and Farina.
Not all was bad for Grignard in 1951. In early October, the Frenchman took part in the Coupes du Salon race at Montlhery. Georges brought a Talbot T26GS to the race and promptly took the pole for the event.
Though Grignard would not be able to turn the great starting spot on the grid into a win, he did hold on to earn a great result nonetheless. Guy Mairesse would end up winning the race in another Talbot T26GS. However, Grignard, who was forty-six by that point in time, was able to muscle his car around and bring his T26GS home in 2nd.
Grignard competed in just one more race during the 1951 season. That last race of his season was the last race of the Formula One season as well, the Spanish Grand Prix.
This was Grignard's first race in Formula One and it would end up being his last race altogether. Race weekend was extremely hot and oppressive. Twenty drivers would qualify for the 70 lap race that was to be fought out on a 3.92 mile course laid out in the streets of Pedralbes, outside of Barcelona.
Alberto Ascari took the pole for Scuderia Ferrari. Championship leader, at that point in time, was Fangio. He qualified right beside Ascari in 2nd. Georges Grignard couldn't match the pace of the front-running cars and could only do a lap good enough to have him start 16th on the grid.
One entrant was out of the race before it began due to engine problems. In the heat, many other cars would suffer throughout the 274 mile race distance. As the race started, three more cars dropped out of the race before ten laps had been completed. Unfortunately, the next car to drop out of the race was Grignard. On the twenty-third lap Grignard was forced to retire as his engine had decided it had enough of the southern Spanish heat. Just like that, Grignard's Formula One experience was over. He had only completed twenty-three laps in his entire Formula One career, despite a grand prix career that spanned a good deal of either side of the Second World War.
After retiring from racing, Grignard still kept his hand in things. He returned to working in his garage. In 1959, Grignard purchased all of what remained of the Talbot-Lago company and provided parts to collectors. Grignard had experienced a good deal in grand prix and sports car racing. From infancy to an organized world championship series, Grignard had seen and been part of an important and intriguing part of grand prix history.