„Race like Chiron!“
One of the most famous natives of Monaco, the charming companion, “livestock” of the automaker Bugatti and three-time winner of Grand Prix of Czechoslovakia at the Masaryk Circuit (1931-1933) who by his fast ride originated saying from the title above. During his long life he managed much more. To celebrate Louis Chiron 100 Anniversary Birthday, Bugatti named their supersport model 18/3 Chiron after him.
Louis Alexandre Chiron was born on the 3rd of August 1899 in the Principality of Monaco, but his parents were French – in the future the dual citizenship helped him. During the First World War was for his driving skills transferred from the artillery to position of the personal chauffeur of the French army prominent, Marshal Pétain (during the Second World War, became the head of the collaborationist government in Vichy) and Foché (the First republic today called Vinohradská Třída after Stalinova in Prague, was named after him).
At the beginning of the 20s Chiron in his home in Monaco went through all sorts, small garage wasn’t enough for living, so he wandered around the rich guests of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. It’s been said, that the main source of his living was a Gigolo for the rich and old ladies.
He was twenty – four, when he began racing in a hillclimb races, that were very popular at the Riviera – like La Turbie. He started with the Bugatti type 13, but also excelled in cockpit without any exaggeration of the “Legendary” thirty-five.
In 1924 when this breakthrough model from Ettore Bugatti debuted, Chiron was still a novice, so “Patron” who knew Mr. and Mrs. Junek entrusted the appearance of the new car through the correspondence. Louis Chiron had a very good friendship with the Juneks and on Eliška invitation joined the Rallye Vltava in 1963. He even posed with the Škoda Felicia. Indeed, thanks to the trio victories in Brno enjoyed great popularity.
But let’s go back to 1926, when Chirons dazzling career started. Wealthy sponsor Alfred Hoffman whose family controlled pharmaceutical company La Roche (currently Europe’s most valuable company). One of Hoffman’s Offshoots Empire also produced the spark plug. The deployment of the compressor 35B Bugatti with the smiling and handsome racer Chiron seemed to him as a great publicity stunt. He bets on the right horse.
The men were divided by Hoffman’s wife Alice, also known as baby. With Louis she was more than close, Alice’s repeated questions whether he will marry her, but he apparently replied evasively. It didn’t help him much and when Hoffman found out about their public secret, Chiron was sacked from the team. Baby later on met Rudi Caracciola and they soon became a couple.
And the actual racing? Monaco patriot Chiron was at the beginning of the Monaco Grand Prix, but in terms of his own results, the season 1930 was rather thin, and he flourished in the 1931. He won the Grand Prix in Monaco, even France and Czechoslovakia on Bugatti 51. The success on our soil repeated even in the next two years and in 1933 he drove instead of Bugatti an Alfa Romeo.
In 1932 after disagreement with the manager Constantin, reportedly for his irresponsibility Louis had to leave the Bugatti team. At that time even Rudi Caracciola became freelancer as the Mercedes-Benz under the pressure of the global economic crisis cut off their engagement at the racing competition. Louis and Rudi obtained an eight cylinder Alfa Romeo P3 and established their own racing team, Scuderria C.C. (Chiron – Caracciola). Incomes from the competitions were divided in half, regardless of the success of either particular driver in more or less profitable business.
At the same time stood on his own feet also Enzo Ferrari, whose fate with Chiron was crossed on a bet of the same brand Alfa Romeo. With the Ferrari team Chiron won in 1934 in Brno. Even Varzi, Moll and Trossi were a part of the team.
Chiron star was shining also in 1934 season, the last when French and Italian cars still managed to win over the dominance of the German Nazis heavily subsidized Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union racing teams.
In 1936 after failing for last few years, Chiron pragmatically transferred to “Tricuspid Star”. Rudy Caracciola, the number-one driver recommended his old friend Louis to the manager Alfred Neubauer. However the 1936 season belonged to Auto Union, especially to Bernd Rosemeyer. Chiron star hazed over, so he was fired from Mercedez-Benz. The Auto Union at the end of the 30s was also fading and to get reinforcements for 1939 season arranged the test drives even with Louis.
The first of September 1939 Germans attacked Poland and beginning WW II, racing was over for now. Chiron as a French citizen joined up the army, which in 1940 under the assault by German soldiers collapsed very quickly. The racing driver managed to escape to an unoccupied part of France. There he participated in smuggling downed Allied aviators from the neutral Switzerland through occupied France and Pyrenees to Spain, where they had chance to get to UK.
After the war Chiron was 46, but still he wouldn’t give up his racing career as it was everything he had left. His rapid response capability was already weaker, he raced most of the time instinctively and benefited from years of experience. On the racetrack returned also his old colleague from the Ferrari Achille Varzi, who recovered from the addiction to morphine. In 1948 Chiron witnessed Varzi’s death after a fatal crash at the GP of Switzerland in Bern, where the Italian didn’t have a chance to survive among the other things due to the fact that he refused to wear a standard helmet.
Chiron couldn’t miss the successor in the Grand Prix series called Formula 1. In 1958 Louis as 58 years old attended to a race for a last time – as a sovereign oldest driver on the grid. Specifically said, he did not start as he didn’t qualify. For the last time Chiron raced in his native Monaco in 1955. With the Lancia D50 he finished in sixth place. Big Louis still participated at small regional races until he turned 60.
Generally speaking he was known for rather less technical tracks, he loved the street circuits like Monaco GP. The races like Targa Florio and Mille Miglia weren’t for him. However he won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954! Louis was famous for precision and elegant style for what the Germans called him Willy Fox and the others the Perfectionist. Many people remembered him even after several years, when a similar style was coined by Alain Prost, known as the Professor. Louis Chiron died on the 22nd of June 1979.
- 1928 – Grand Prix Rome – Bugatti
- 1928 – Grand Prix Marne – Bugatti
- 1928 – Grand Prix Spain – Bugatti
- 1928 – Grand Prix Italy – Bugatti
- 1929 – Grand Prix Germany – Bugatti
- 1929 – Grand Prix Spain – Bugatti
- 1930 – Grand Prix Europe – Bugatti
- 1930 – Grand Prix Lion – Bugatti
- 1931 – Grand Prix Monaco – Bugatti
- 1931 – Grand Prix Czechoslovakia – Bugatti
- 1931 – Grand Prix France with Varzi – Bugatti
- 1932 – Grand Prix Czechoslovakia – Bugatti
- 1933 – Grand Prix Czechoslovakia – Alfa Romeo
- 1937 – Grand Prix France – Talbot-Lago
- 1947 – Grand Prix France – Talbot-Lago
- 1949 – Grand Prix France – Talbot-Lago
- 1954 – Rally Monte Carlo – Lancia
- 1950 the 9th place and 4 points Maserati 4CLT/48
- 1951 without any points Maserati 4CLT/48, Talbot T26C
- 1953 without any points OSCA 20
- 1955 without any points Lancia D50
- 15 Grand Prix
- 0 Victory
- 0 Pole positions
- 0 Fastest wheels
- 1 Stage
- 4 Points
The best place in the world championship:
- 1950 – the 3rd place Grand Prix Monaco