Jean Chassagne

Born:
26th July 1881
La Croisille-sur-Briance, Limousin
Died:
13th April 1947 (Aged 65)
La Croisille-sur-Briance, Limousin
Nationality:
French
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The young Jean Chassagne was a mechanic whose interest in the sport was awakened by friendship with René Hanriot. He joined Darracq’s race department and was Hanriot’s riding mechanic for the 1906 French Grand Prix.

Switch to Clément-Bayard and the driver's seat

Chassagne moved to Clément-Bayard two years later and was alongside Lucien Hautvast in the 1908 American Grand Prize as they finished fifth. His own racing career began in 1910 with a Hispano-Suiza voiturette – third in the Coupe des Voiturettes at Boulogne proved to be the highlight.

By 1912, Chassagne had moved to England and Sunbeam as an engineer/driver. He finished third on his French GP debut for the marque in 1913 and started the 1914 Indianapolis 500 from pole position (as drawn by lot) but crashed in Turn 4 after just 20 laps.

World War 1 and racing return

Chassagne served as a fighter pilot in the French Air Force during World War 1 before returning to Sunbeam once peace had been restored to Europe. He did not qualify for the 1919 Indy 500 but drove as relief for Paul Bablot only to crash over the wall on the backstretch after 63 laps.

Seventh in the 1920 Indy 500 for Ballot, Chassagne’s Ballot 3L led the 1921 French GP at half distance before retiring. His best GP result followed in that year’s inaugural Italian GP at Brescia when second behind team-mate Jules Goux.

Tourist Trophy winner

Back behind the wheel of a Sunbeam in 1922, he won the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man (his highest profile triumph) although he was lucky two months later at Brooklands when a puncture sent him over the Byfleet banking without injury. He ran second in the Coppa Florio in November but broke an oil pipe. According to the report in Motor Sport, he was initially able to continue after "buying up all the salad oil in a village" before soon retiring.

Sports car success

He joined Bugatti in 1924 but almost exclusively raced sports cars thereafter. He combined with Sammy Davis to finish second overall for Sunbeam in the 1925 Le Mans 24 Hours – winning the 3-litre class in the process. He retired an Ariès for the next two years and finished third and won his class in the 1927 Spa 24 Hours.

Chassagne became an honorary "Bentley Boy" in 1928. Tim Birkin started the race but suffered a puncture at Mulsanne on the 20th lap and crashed their 4.5-litre car at Arnage while returning to the pits. Chassagne (dubbed "Petit Jean" by the team) ran from the pits carrying heavy jacks to help extricate the car from the ditch and repair the collapsed wheel. They eventually recovered to finish fifth.

Fourth a year later with Frank Clement, Chassagne retired Hon Dorothy Paget’s "Blower" Bentley from his final Le Mans in 1930. He raced for the last time in that year’s Irish GP for sports cars and worked for Castrol France before he retired to the village of his birth some nine years later.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1921 AAA National Championship
Jean Chassagne
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1920 AAA National Championship
Automobiles Ballot
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 50
1919 AAA National Championship
Automobiles Ballot
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1914 AAA National Championship
Sunbeam Motor Co
1 1 0 0
0% win rate
0