No fanfare for Montlhéry's première
In contrast to the opening of Brooklands there was no opening ceremony at Montlhéry.
On October 4-5 in 1924 the Montlhéry banked track was ready for racing. The opening race was for cyclecars up to 500cc and had only three entries; the last race was 108 miles long for 750cc cars, which had seven entries – four Austin Sevens from England, a Benjamin and two Sandford three-wheelers. Gordon England won with an average speed of 73.25mph compared to his 75.6mph in the 1924 200-mile race at Brooklands.
The Sunday opened with three monotonous motorcycle races followed by a 124-mile 1100cc light car race, with Waite being the only Austin Seven and three Salmsons, of whom Goutte won at 85.58mph. The real excitement was provided by a six-lap match race between Parry Thomas in his Leyland Eight, Eldridge’s 300hp chain-drive Fiat and Duray’s eight-cylinder 120hp D’Aoust. Eldridge turned out the winner by 200 yards ahead of Thomas, but it was Thomas who made the fastest lap of 131.89mph, getting round in 42.4sec. Montlhéry’s lap length was measured three feet from the inner edge, whereas Brooklands’ was measured on the 50ft line.
Montlhéry was only 1.58 miles to the lap and had two much steeper bankings than those at Brooklands. Built using prefabricated ferro-concrete, the aim was to make this the fastest track in the world.
It was the brainchild of Alexandre Lamblin, the proprietor of L’Aero-sport and owner of the Lamblin radiator manufacturing company, who bought a chateau and its 12,000-acre estate about 15 miles south-west of Paris, between the villages of Linas- Montlhéry and Arpajon, where the last Land Speed Record to be set on a road was taken by Ernest Eldridge in 1924 in his 300hp Fiat, at 146.01mph.
When Montlhéry was ready for racing Brooklands was already being handicapped by complaints of noise from local householders, so silencers became necessary and 24-hour endurance attempts had to have their vehicles locked away offi cially at night. Motorcycle competitors went on strike. All this benefi ted Montlhéry, as no such impositions existed there, so many British contenders travelled to the French track to set records.
In 1925 a road circuit was added, using one of the bankings and featuring two hairpins, providing various track options up to 7.7 miles. This allowed the 621-mile French GP to be held at Montlhéry the same year. Ascari in an Alfa Romeo had a fatal accident but the race continued, with Benoist and Divo in a V12 Delage winning at 69.7mph.