- August 03, 1899
- June 22, 1979
- Not Active
Louis Chiron (1899-1979) was a racing driver from Monte-Carlo and one of the heroes of the early days of Grand Prix racing. He was active from the early 1920s to 1958, recording his last appearance in the 1958 F1 Monaco Grand Prix and becoming the oldest ever Formula 1 driver.
He recorded 19 entries (15 starts) in the Formula 1 World Championship, scoring one podium at 1950 Monaco Grand Prix. He won many races in a period before the F1 Championship has been established, including all major Grand Prix races (Monaco, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium). He also won Spa 24 Hours in 1933 and Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1954. He participated nine times at 24 Hours of Le Mans but never managed to finish the race.
Recording victories from the beginning
Born in August 1899 in Monte-Carlo, Louis Alexandre Chiron has been interested in cars and racing already as a teenager, then served as a driver to French marshals during the World War I and started his racing career during the 1920s. His first recorded victories were at Grand Prix de Comminges and at Circuit de Gattieres in 1926, where he was driving Bugattis.
In June 1928, he made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the #5 Chrysler 72 with Cyrilde Vere. They didn't finish the race due to a clutch problem. A month later, Chiron finished sixth in the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring. In 1928, Chiron scored four Grand Prix victories, winning the Italian Grand Prix, Spanish Grand Prix, Rome Grand Prix and Marne Grand Prix.
Seventh place at 1929 Indianapolis 500
In 1929, Chiron added German Grand Prix victory to his list, but also repeated a victory at Spanish Grand Prix. In May 1929, Chiron was one of two non-American drivers at Indianapolis 500. Driving the #6 Delage, he completed all 200 laps and finished seventh.
In June 1929, he had no luck at Le Mans 24h again. He was sharing the #4 Stutz DV32 Bearcat with Edouard Brisson, not finishing the race due to mechanical problems.
Victory at 1930 Belgian Grand Prix, DNF at Spa 24 Hours
In 1930, the highlight of the season was Chiron's victory in Belgian Grand Prix at 14.9 km long Spa-Francorchamps circuit, in the #9 Bugatti T35C. He won ahead of Guy Bouriat in the same car. Earlier that month, Chiron and Bouriat were teammates at Spa 24 Hours race, not finishing the race in a Bugatti T43.
Besides two races at Spa, Chiron successfully competed at Monaco Grand Prix and Targa Florio in 1930, finishing second in both races.
Winning Monaco Grand Prix and French Grand Prix in 1931
In 1931, Chiron recorded three great wins in Grand Prix races. One of those wins was at Monaco Grand Prix. Until today, he remained the only Monaco-born driver to win Monaco Grand Prix. He also won the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix at Masaryk Circuit, what was his first of three consecutive wins in that event.
The third great win was in the French Grand Prix at Montlhery circuit, sharing a Bugatti T51 with Achille Varzi. Chiron and Varzi were sharing a car also at 24 Hours of Le Mans, not finishing the race. The French Grand Pix was a part of the AIACR European Championship. Chiron retired in other two races, at Monza and Spa, finishing sixth in the championship.
In 1932, Chiron was 5th in the AIACR European Championship after finishing fourth in France and retiring in Italy and Germany. In non-championship events, he won the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix, Dieppe Grand Prix and Nice Grand Prix. At 1932 Le Mans 24 Hours, Chiron retired again, sharing a Bugatti T55 with Guy Bouriat.
Victory at Spa 24 Hours in 1933
In 1933, the highlight of the year was Chiron's victory at 24 Hours of Spa. He was driving the #68 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, sharing a car with Luigi Chinetti. Chiron was also driving an Alfa Romeo in that year Le Mans race, sharing a car with Franco Cortese. They retired after 177 laps, what remained Chiron's longest race at Le Mans.
In the 1933 Grand Prix season, Chiron scored his third consecutive win at Masaryk Circut and third win in the Spanish Grand Prix. His third win that year was in the Marseille Grand Prix.
Victory at 1934 French Grand Prix
In the 1934 Grand Prix season, Chiron's greatest win was in the French Grand Prix at Montlhery. He added Grand Prix wins at Casablanca and Reims. In sports car races, his most notable result was the third place at Mille Miglia, together with Archimede Rosa in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300.
Chiron was without wins in the 1935 AIACR European Championship, driving an Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 for Scuderia Ferrari. He won just one non-championship race at Nancy. In the AIACR European Championship. In 1936, Chiron joined Mercedes factory team in two championship events, retiring both at Monaco and Nurburgring.
Two more unsuccessful Le Mans attempts in 1937 and 1938
In 1937, Chiron returned to Le Mans for the first time since 1933, driving a Talbot-Lago T150C. He was sharing a car with Luigi Chinetti, not finishing the race. Later that year, he won Grand Prix de l'ACF in the same car.
In June 1938, Chiron recorded his seventh attempt at Le Mans, recording seventh DNF. He was driving the #1 Delahaye 145, sharing a car with Rene Dreyfus.
Two more wins in the French Grand Prix
When racing resumed after the World War II, Chiron returned to a cockpit of a race car in June 1946, driving a Talbot-Lago T26 in the Belgian Grand Prix. His first great success in the post-war period was a victory in the 1947 French Grand Prix at Lyon-Parilly, where he was driving a Talbot-Lago T26C. That year, he won one more race, the Comminges Grand Prix.
Two years later, at Reims, Chiron clinched his fifth victory in the French Grand Prix, driving a Talbot-Lago T26C again. He was the most successful driver in the history of the French Grand Prix until Alain Prost surpassed him in 1993 with his sixth win.
Monaco Grand Prix podium in the inaugural F1 Championship season
In 1950, when the Formula 1 World Championship has been established, Chiron entered the competition as Maserati factory driver. He raced in a Maserati 4CLT in five championship events. After retiring in the British Grand Prix, he scored a podium in his home race at the streets of Monte-Carlo. Driving the #48 Maserati, he finished third, behind Juan Manuel Fangio (Alfa Romeo) and Alberto Ascari (Ferrari).
In the rest of the season, Chiron was ninth in Switzerland and recorded DNFs in France and Italy. With four points on his account, he was 10th in the inaugural F1 Championship.
Seven starts in the 1951 Formula 1 Championship
In 1951, the F1 Championship was expanded to eight events and Chiron raced in seven, skipping only Indianapolis 500. He raced with Enrico Plate's Maserati 4CLT in Switzerland and then with Ecurie Rosier's Talbot-Lago T26C in other races. He scored no points, finishing best in the sixth place in France.
Outside F1 Championship, he returned to Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing a Ferrari 340 America with Luigi Chinetti. They were disqualified after a mechanic delivered him a fuel to the track. In other sports car races, he finished third at Coppa Inter-Europa and retired at Carrera Panamericana, driving a Delahaye.
Slowing down with racing activities after 1951
The season 1951 was the last in which Chiron was fully active. After that, he raced occasionally, recording seven more entries in Formula One Championship and one last start at Le Mans 24h.
In 1953, he started with his own OSCA in the French Grand Prix (15th) and Italian Grand Prix (10th). In the same year, he raced at Le Mans with Scuderia Lancia, sharing the #32 Lancia D20 with Robert Manzon. They retired after 174 laps.
Victory at 1954 Rallye Monte-Carlo
In 1954, Chiron scored one more milestone victory, winning at Rallye Monte-Carlo. He was sharing the #69 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT with Ciro Basadonna, taking the victory among more than 360 crews that participated in the rally.
It wasn't Chiron's first appearance in the Monte Carlo Rally. Previously, he raced there in 1932 with Bugatti, finishing 9th, and in 1953 with Lancia, finishing 18th.
The oldest driver to start Formula One race
Chiron recorded next F1 start in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, finishing sixth in the #32 Lancia D50. His start made him the oldest driver to start Grand Prix race, as he was 55 years and 292 days old.
After that, he appeared in two more Grand Prix events but failed to start the race. In the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix, an engine blew off on his Maserati 250F while in the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix he was too slow in qualifying in a Maserati 250F.
After retiring from racing at the age of almost 59 years, Chiron stayed involved into motorsport by having a role in organizing a Monaco Grand Prix. One corner at Monaco street circuit had been named after him. Bugatti also honored him by naming some cars after him, the 1999 Bugatti 18/3 Chiron concept car and the 2016 Bugatti Chiron production supercar.
Photos: Getty Images,