Racing drivers' memorials

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Memorials are erected in memory of statesmen, politicians, Sherlock Holmes and rightly, to deceased racing drivers. I have stood respectfully before a few. In 1922 in the French GP at Strasbourg, won by Felice Nazzaro in one of the outstanding Tipo 804 Fiats on which the following year’s victorious Segrave Sunbeam was based, Nazzaro’s nephew Biagio overturned when his Fiat shed a wheel after five hours of racing, and he was killed. Two laps from the end of the 499 miles Bordino also lost a wheel, otherwise it would have been a Fiat 1, 2, 3.

Years later, in the ’50s, I was going with Michael Tee to report another race and realised we would be on part of the old circuit. I suggested that at the Entzheim hairpin there might be a memorial to Nazzaro. And sure enough, there it was, undefaced, the French properly respecting such things.

In 1913 the ex-Hispano Suiza racing driver Paul Zuccarelli had been killed testing a Coupe de L’Auto Peugeot, when at a crossroads at Nonancourt he had swerved to avoid an emerging horse and cart.

We were going over the same route in Michael’s fast driven Austin-Healey 100 and I wanted to find the memorial. So we stopped at a police station. Our lack of French was a stumbling block but the gendarme comprehended, and asked “Was it `teuftee or ‘roar-roar’?” Telling him the latter, he said we were a long way from the spot but to carry on and it would appear on the right side of the main road. Which it did. Imagine that of an English policeman so many years after the stone had been erected! This one, again, was undefaced and the protective chain railings around it intact.

Which reminds me of being told a memorial to an RFC pilot killed in 1912 stood beside the A303 near Stonehenge. Jenks and I, being in the vicinity, looked for it. It was at night but having found it Jenks said that if we shone our car’s headlamps on the stone we might get a photograph. As we were doing this a high-ranking police officer arrived and enquired what was going on. We told him and he asked whether we knew of a more elaborate memorial to another pre-WW1 pilot, a few yards back up the road. That we also paid homage to in the dark. Do these memorials still stand, I wonder?

Not in quite the same category is my relic of the circuit used for the 1912 GP at Amiens. Having been given a nicely-mounted piece of Brooklands’ concrete, I thought to add to it, and driving back with John Blunsden from Monte Carlo I found we were on part of the old circuit, where a concrete loop had been built before the 1912 GP to by-pass the nearby route nationale. Spotting a patch of concrete used now as a camion park I called for a halt while I secured a piece of broken concrete from the edge of this historic loop. John thought I was mad, as did Michael Tee when I shouted for his Healey to stop, as we had passed another memorial. “Probably an American war-memorial”, he said, not wanting to spoil a good journey average-speed. but he went back and I discovered it was in memory of Cugnot, builder of that steam tractor in 1771. We were presumably at his birth place. There are others, but this must suffice.

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