The tension had deeper roots than a mere motor race when teams and drivers gathered at Lyon in July 1914. Little more than a month afterwards, the world would be at war.
In a parallel universe, 37 cars representing 14 manufacturers took part in the final race of a great era, with Mercedes and Peugeot to the fore. Peugeot had been experimenting with aerodynamics – with assistance from respected tower designer Gustav Eiffel – and had four streamlined cars ready for its home race. Mercedes brought five cars – but unlike the Peugeots its cars had brakes only at the rear. Drivers would set off two at a time, at half-minute intervals, and fight against the clock rather than wheel to wheel.
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National hero Georges Boillot started fifth, but his Peugeot was first to show at the opening lap’s end. The crowd’s delirium was offset only by the news that Mercedes rival Max Sailer was ahead on corrected time – and would remain so until his engine blew on the sixth lap of 20. That left Boillot alone against the surviving Merc quartet and, despite making more tyre stops, he maintained a slight lead. No matter how hard he pressed, however, there was always a Mercedes lurking. Not until lap 18, though, did Boillot cede, Christian Lautenschlager moving ahead as the Peugeot began falling apart: its brakes were shot and a misfire had set in. It expired during the final lap and Lautenschlager went on to spearhead a Mercedes 1-2-3.
It was Boillot’s finest race but also his last. He died on May 19, 1916, shortly after his fighter plane had been shot down. SA
About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.
It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…
Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.
Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!
Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.
You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.