- April 12, 1917
- January 19, 2015
- Not Active
- Equipe Gordini
Robert Manzon (1917-2015) was a French racing driver who recorded 28 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1950 and 1956. He scored two podiums.
Manzon spent the most of a career driving for Equipe Gordini, although he was Ferrari driver for one season in 1954. When he died in 2015, at the age 97, Manzon was the last surviving driver from the inaugural F1 Championship.
He was also active in sports car races, recording seven participations at 24 Hours of Le Mans but he didn't reach the finish line in either one of those seven attempts.
Gordini driver from the beginning of a career
Born in April 1917 in Marseille, Robert Manzon was first working as a mechanic and then started to race in 1947, initially with a Cisitalia D46 and then as Gordini factory driver since 1948.
He managed to win some minor races such was Bol d'Or at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery, but had no success in major races, recording DNFs at Paris 12 Hours in 1948 or Spa 24 Hours in 1949.
Formula 1 Championship debut at 1950 Monaco Grand Prix
Manzon was a regular Grand Prix driver for Amedee Gordini's team and when the Formula One World Championship was established in 1950, Manzon took part in it.
The team skipped first race at Silverstone but came to Monte-Carlo in May, with two Simca-Gordini T15 cars for Robert Manzon and Maurice Trintignant. Manzon was the 11th fastest qualifier but his race ended in a massive wreck on the opening lap.
Three starts in the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship
Later in the season, Manzon made two more starts in the championship. He managed to score three championship points by finishing fourth in the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux circuit. He was driving the #44 Simca-Gordini T15, finishing the race three laps behind the winner Juan Manuel Fangio.
In the next race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Manzon retired with broken transmission after seven laps after starting tenth on the grid. In other races besides F1 Championship, Manzon's most notable result was the fifth place at Pau Grand Prix.
Le Mans 24 Hours debut in 1950
Parallel to his Formula 1 commitments, Manzon continued his participation in sports car races. In June 1950, Gordini came to 24 Hours of Le Mans with new supercharged T15S cars.
Manzon was sharing the #32 car with Maurice Trintignant but they retired after 34 laps with a broken radiator. Juan Manuel Fangio and Jose Froilan Gonzalez in another car also didn't finish the race.
A year later at Le Mans, Manzon was sharing the #38 Gordini T15S with Andre Simon, They were fastest in their class but a broken engine stopped them after five hours.
Maiden F1 Championship podium at 1952 Belgian Grand Prix
In Formula 1 Championship, Manzon participated in four races in 1951. He scored no points, retiring in France and Italy, finishing seventh in Germany and ninth in Spain.
In 1952, Manzon participated in all F1 Championship races except Indianapolis 500. After retiring in Switzerland he scored his maiden podium by finishing third in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, behind Ferrari drivers Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina. Later in the season, Manzon scored points two more times, finishing fourth in France and fifth in the Netherlands, to end a season sixth in the points.
Winning the Prix de Monte Carlo in 1952
In 1952, the Monaco Grand Prix was not a part of the F1 World Championship. There were two races in two days and Manzon participated in both. On June 1, he won the Prix de Monte Carlo in the #14 Gordini T15S, ahead of Franco Bordoni in an Osca MT4 and Tony Crook in a Frazer Nash LM. The next day, Manzon retired in the Monaco Grand Prix race which was won by three Ferrari 225S cars.
In another sports car races that year, Manzon recorded his third consecutive retirement at Le Mans. He and Jean Behra were leading in the #34 Gordini T15S but stopped after 13 hours. Later that year, Manzon recorded DNFs at Reims GP, Nurburgring GP and Carrera Panamericana but also scored a victory at Coupes du Salon at Autodrome de Lines-Montlhery.
Moving to Scuderia Lancia in 1953
In January 1953, Manzon was driving Gordini T16 in the Argentinean Grand Prix, the opening race of the F1 season, retiring late in the race. After that, he left Gordini and spent a season with Scuderia Lancia in sports car races, including Le Mans 24 Hours. He retired at again at Circuit de la Sarthe, driving the #31 Lancia D20 together with Louis Chiron.
Manzon continued to drive for Lancia in 1954, making a debut at Sebring 12 Hours in March. He retired in the #38 Lancia D24, sharing a car with Piero Taruffi. In May, Manzon also retired at Targa Florio after an accident.
Le Mans attempt and five F1 starts in a Ferrari
In June 1954, Manzon joined Scuderia Ferrari to drive the #5 Ferrari 375 Plus at Le Mans 24 Hours. He was sharing a car with Louis Rosier. They were among the front-runners when a transmission broke after fifteen hours, forcing them to retire.
In July, Manzon was driving Ferrari 625 for Louis Rosier's team in the French Grand Prix at Reims. He finished third, behind Mercedes drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling. Later that year, Manzon started four more times in F1 Grand Prix races with Rosier's Ferrari. He was ninth in Germany and retired three times in GB, Italy and Spain.
Returning to Gordini in 1955
In 1955, Manzon returned to the Gordini team but the results were disappointing. He recorded three DNFs in F1 Grand Prix races (Monaco, Netherlands, GB). In sports car races, he came to Sebring 12 Hours in an unusual race car, a Renault 4CV. He was sharing a car with Louis Pons and Jean Hebert, not finishing the race.
At 1955 Le Mans, Manzon didn't start in a Gordini T24 S because of an accident during practice. In October 1955, he finished third at Targa Florio together with Eugenio Castellotti in a Ferrari 857 S.
1956 – the last season in racing
Manzon's last season in Formula One was 1956. He was driving Gordini T16 at Monaco Grand Prix (DNF) and then Gordini T32 in four races, scoring no points. He was ninth at Reims and Silverstone, not finished races at Nürburgring and Monza. However, he scored some success, winning the non-championship Gran Premio di Napoli.
In sports car races, Manzon had no luck again at Le Mans, retiring in the #15 Gordini T15S which he was sharing with Jean Guichet. In August 1956, Manzon scored his last victory in a career in the Pescara Grand Prix for sports cars, driving a Gordini T15S.
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