Teams Ecurie Lutetia
|By Jeremy McMullen|
Motor racing, from the driver's perspective, is very much an individual effort. The team is very important. The race engineer and mechanics do their best to give the driver the best car, make the driver as comfortable on the limit as possible. Yet while the race engineer and team director would wish their driver would take each corner just that little bit faster, and the car mechanic longs to see their driver get on the gas just that bit earlier, ultimately, it is up to the driver to make those decisions and take those actions based upon how things feel for them.
The driver fraternity is very much made up of individuals. The race driver needs to make the best decision possible based upon his or her abilities and how well the car is feeling underneath him or her. Motor racing is a team effort, each team trying to best the other. But while on the track, it becomes an individual effort. Each driver's fight is with themselves, their car and the other driver out there with them. The driver fraternity is a cordial community bonded together by shared dangers and the experiences of successes and failures. But this community, while cordial, is a very competitive community and, therefore, it is very rare to see two or more drivers come and work together. Sharing notes about car setup is one thing. It is another thing to start a team together. Such endeavors undertaken by such competitive people represents a friendship that transcends the nature present at the race track. And this describes the bonds that formed the basis behind Ecurie Lutetia.
Eugene Chaboud began racing before the outbreak of World War II and experienced some wonderful successes. Among those successes was an overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1938 with Jean Tremoulet in a Delahaye. Tremoulet gave Chaboud experience working in the garage preparing race cars. Soon, Chaboud began driving his own cars under his own team name Ecurie Francia, which he started with a couple of associates. Eugene was a talented driver and was often mentioned to be as good as Sommer and Wimille.
Charles Pozzi was the luxury car dealer turned racing driver. He was a very consistent driver and very competent behind the wheel. In fact, Charles never suffered from an accident, though he said that was because he 'was not fast enough'. Pozzi, too, was a rather successful driver. He was known for his ability in endurance and grueling events. He scored a victory in grand prix racing, as well as, a few victories and many other top results in sports car endurance racing.
Pozzi and Chaboud developed a close relationship while teamed together at Ecurie France. Chaboud advised and mentored Pozzi who came into the racing scene rather late in his life. As a consequence, Charles willingly helped Chaboud, the most notable event being Eugene's bid to become the French champion in 1947. Eugene very much owes his French championship to Pozzi as Charles lent him his faster car to enable Chaboud to win the championship. This was during their time as teammates at Ecurie France, of which Chaboud was technical director.
Chaboud was a talented driver and director but was difficult on his drivers, and was even more of a mystery figure to spectators and the press. Eugene was a hard-charging, passionate and professional man that never fell victim to much emotion. Unfortunately, this meant his dealings with other drivers and other teams members could be difficult and this strained relationships within teams. Chaboud's temper and intensity made it difficult for him to remain with teams, but it also meant that for him to leave and start his own would take an equally special person that could understand and put up with him. Enter Charles Pozzi.
From 1946-'47, Chaboud and Pozzi were teammates at Ecurie France. The teamwork of the two led to Chaboud becoming the French champion in 1947. After 1947, the two friends left to start their own team which they called Ecurie Lutetia, which stood for the stable of Lutetia. Lutetia reaches back into ancient days and was a town that once existed where Paris is currently located. This made perfect sense given the fact Pozzi was a Parisian.
What also made sense was that these two started a team together. Pozzi revered Chaboud a bit, as the fellow Frenchman took Charles under his wing and shared tips with him and coached him in how to become a faster driver. This relationship enabled Charles to not be so bothered by, or even think about, Eugene's nature because he knew the man on a deeper level than say what the press did. However, despite starting the team together, Pozzi still drove his own cars in races. This probably also helped the relationship as Eugene was criticized for being the type that manipulated in order to get better rides, especially in the later years of his life when the car needed to make up the difference over the degradation of driver skill and reaction.
Throughout the later part of the 1940s Ecurie Lutetia took part in a number of different levels of racing. The team was involved in F2 and achieved mixed results. F2 was a junior formula that teams used to develop talent for Formula One. In the old days, it also was a place to test different technology.
For the most part, since both Pozzi and Chaboud drove their own cars, the two rarely drove under the Ecurie Lutetia banner. Mostly, the team was involved in racing in the lower formulas, as well as sports car racing, and were driven by up-and-coming drivers. Case in point was the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans was one of the team's big events in which it took part. In fact, it was one of the few top-level events in which the team competed. Otherwise, Pozzi and Chaboud drove their own cars under their own names. But at the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans Ecurie Lutetia fielded two cars. One was driven by Charles Pozzi and Pierre Flahault, and the other, by Gaston Serraud and André Guelfi. Pozzi and Flahault's drive was probably the most memorable for its overheating issues where the car spewed milk. The pairing were disqualified as a result of car problems. But they were also the most memorable from the team point-of-view since the car of Serraud and Guelfi never got out of the gate. The car developed problems right before the start of the race. These problems could not be rectified in time and, as a result, the race was over before it started for the second car in the Lutetia stable.
Ecurie Lutetia's first appearance in Formula One history came at the 5th round of the first world championship, the Belgian Grand Prix. Eugene Chaboud appeared with a Talbot-Lago T26C and qualified 11th for the race, some 36+ seconds behind the pole time set by Nino Farina for the Alfa Romeo SpA team. The Belgian Grand Prix took place on the old road course circuit that was 8.8 miles in length and included such famous corners as Stavelot and Burneville. The race distance was 35 laps, covering a total of about 309 miles. Chaboud's race was going rather well but after 22 laps Eugene suffered from problems with an oil pipe and was forced to retire from the race.
The only other race Ecurie Lutetia appeared at was the next round of the first Formula One championship season, the French Grand Prix at Reims. While Charles Pozzi came to the race driving his own Talbot-Lago T26C, Eugene also appeared with a Talbot-Lago T26C but was driving under the name of his own team.
Despite not setting a qualifying time, Chaboud drew a very favorable starting spot on the grid. He would start the French Grand Prix from 10th in his Talbot-Lago T26C (see Talbot-Lago T26C article). The grid arrangement for the race was a 3-2-3 pattern. This meant Eugene started the race from the outside of the 4th row. Although Chaboud had a decent starting spot on the grid for the race he would not take advantage of it. Chaboud was approached before the start by Philippe Etancelin and was offered the opportunity to share the drive with Etancelin. Eugene jumped at the chance, abandoning his own team's entry in the race. It was a smart move for Chaboud as he was able to share the ride with Philippe and brought the Talbot-Lago of Etancelin home in 5th place. Chaboud finished the race one place ahead of his fellow Ecurie Lutetia co-founder friend Charles Pozzi, who shared his drive with Louis Rosier. Pozzi just missed out on the points. Chaboud, however, scored one point for himself toward the world championship by abandoning his own car and driving with Etancelin. So, thus ended Ecurie Lutetia's place in Formula One's first season history. In fact, Ecurie Lutetia would never appear in Formula One history ever again, and only existed for a few more short years.
Charles Pozzi left racing after 1954, but put to good use his experiences in motor racing to establish many successful car dealerships. When Eugene Chaboud suffered from a bad wreck at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953, whereby he was trapped inside his car, upside-down, right then and there he decided it was a good time to walk away from racing. With the two team principals walking away from racing by the middle of the 1950s, Ecurie Lutetia drifted off into a place of vague memory, survived only by the record books and some anecdotal stories.
Throughout the early and golden years of grand prix and endurance racing it wasn't all that unfamiliar for drivers to share drives, or even sell racing cars to one another. Many drivers started their own teams. Many drivers who have started their own teams have experienced much more success than Ecurie Lutetia. The timing, it could be said, was well and truly not right for Ecurie Lutetia. For many, it would even seem the team existed, but perhaps only on paper. The team's contribution to history, given the mere fact of its existence, can only be found in the bond of friendship. One of its founders was difficult and misunderstood by the press, while the other was to achieve more notoriety being a car dealer than a racer. However, they did it. These two friends achieved their desire of starting a racing team and, as a result, the team will always live on in history, albeit rather obscure.Sources:
Silva, Alessandro 'A Hard-Fought Championship: Championnat de France 1947 Part 1: Cars and Drivers', (http://www.forix.com/8w/40s-france47-1.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://www.forix.com/8w/40s-france47-1.html. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
Silva, Alessandro 'The Right Place to Start: Cosmopolitan Riviera, France' (http://forix.autosport.com/8w/40s-nice.html) 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://forix.autosport.com/8w/40s-nice.html. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
'Formula 2 Register', (http://www.formula2.net/index.html) Formula 2 Register. http://www.formula2.net/index.html. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
Wikipedia contributors, '1950 Formula One season', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 July 2010, 14:22 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=1950_Formula_One_season&oldid=371206396 accessed 2 July 2010