Journalists are told not to reveal their news sources, which in politics has led to tragic results. I wonder who in motor racing got it wrong in 1921.
Before WWI, Georges Boillot was one of the greatest drivers, with the revolutionary Henry-designed twin-cam 16-valve Peugeots. He won the 1913 and ’14 French GPs and the 1913 Coupe de L’Auto race. He then joined the French Air Force and earned top honours, until one day over Verdun in 1916 his Nieuport was attacked by five Fokkers and shot down. He was laid to rest at Valdelaincourt.
His brother Andre was also a pilot and had earned similar honours, but was not quite as successful a racing driver as Georges. But in 1919 he won the Targa Florio for Peugeot in very difficult conditions, ending with that dramatic finish. He was successful in later sportscar endurance contests, after a terrible accident in the 1921 Sanvenier hillclimb when his Talbot-Darracq hit a tree and caught fire. His passenger, Eyekenn, who was Darracq’s Brussels sales rep, died from burns; Andre broke his jaw.
It was thought by a news agency that Georges had lost his life, and soon the world’s newspapers were broadcasting this mistaken sensation. The Daily Express had a two-page spread illustrated with Georges’ picture and The Autocar fell for it too, but quickly published a correction.
In fact, Andre was killed in 1932 when the 996cc Bugatti-engined Peugeot 301X he was driving in the local La Chatre hillclimb skidded on a wet course, crashed into a tree and caught fire — an almost exact replica of his accident in ’21.
His skull was fractured and he died six days later in Chateauroux Hospital. One report had it that he was practising for the Cote d’Ars race, another that he was testing the 301X, a third that he was on his way to compete in the hillclimb…
How careful one must try to be!