Louis Chiron

Full Name:
Alexandre Louis Chiron
Born:
3rd August 1899
Monte Carlo
Died:
22nd June 1979 (Aged 79)
Monte Carlo
Nationality:
Monegasque
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Debonair and dashing, Louis Chiron enjoyed 29 years as a Grand Prix driver – longer than anyone else in the sport’s history. He had an ultra-smooth style in the car and apparently with the opposite sex.

Early life and racing career

The son of the maître d’ at Monaco’s Hôtel de Paris, Chiron served in the French Army during World War I reputedly as the personal chauffeur to Generals Foch and Pétain. He caught the racing bug on his return to the Riviera and – financed by a rich admirer – Chiron started to compete in 1925. He later claimed to be the only racing driver to start his career as a gigolo.

Within a year Alfred Hoffmann – heir to Hoffmann-La Roche healthcare fortune – had bought Chiron a Bugatti T35B, the car to have at the time. He caught the eye by beating the works cars in the Comminges GP at St Gaudens.

Grand Prix winner

Bugatti’s Nice representative Ernest Friedrich then arranged for Chiron to join the factory team in 1927, which was just as well as Louis was by now having an affair with Hoffmann’s wife Alice – known to all as "Baby". Chiron finished fourth in that year’s British GP and although Europe was now in the midst of economic depression, 1928 was a particularly good year for him. His position among racing’s elite was confirmed by late-season victories in the Spanish and Italian GPs.

Chiron’s Delage was seventh in the 1929 Indianapolis 500 and, reunited with Bugatti in Europe, he won that year’s German (to loose sports car rules) and Spanish GPs. He was narrowly beaten by René Dreyfus in the 1930 Monaco GP but made amends a year later by winning with a Bugatti T51. Most GPs in 1931 were run over 10 hours and he shared these with Achille Varzi – winning in France.

Chiron led the 1932 Monaco GP but rolled at the chicane while trying to lap Count Czaikowski. Thrown clear in the accident, he escaped with cuts and bruises.

Chiron switches to Scuderia Ferrari

As Bugatti’s competitiveness waned, Chiron formed Scuderia CC in 1933 with close friend Rudolf Caracciola to run a pair of Alfa Romeos. However, the German was injured while practising in Monaco. The partnership disbanded and Chiron joined the Scuderia Ferrari-run factory team instead. Victories flowed in a season dominated by the team.

But 1934 would to be altogether more difficult. The German government funded the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union GP teams and they were expected to dominate both their debut in the French GP and the new 750kg formula as a whole.

Although the latter would prove correct, Chiron made an exceptional start at Montlhéry and controlled the race as the new German cars one-by-one retired. His greatest victory was achieved against the odds and Chiron was fortunate on a couple of occasions. Lucky to escape injury during the Belgian GP, his car was engulfed in flames during a pitstop at Pescara with Chiron dragged clear by his quick-thinking mechanics.

Awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1935, he joined Mercedes for the following season and qualified on pole position for his debut in Monaco. But it was not a happy association and Chiron raced just five times before leaving after a huge accident during the German GP. The period was also difficult for his friendship with Caracciola was strained when Baby Hoffmann married the German.

Beaten time and again by the German teams, France had abandoned GP racing in 1936 and switched all its races to sports car rules. Chiron’s Lago-Talbot T150C won the 1937 French GP against largely local opposition but he was no longer at the forefront of the sport.

Post-war career

However, he returned to racing as soon as the sport resumed after World War II. Now driving a Lago-Talbot T26, he won the 1947 French GP and finished second at Monaco a year later despite the unwieldy normally-aspirated machine being unsuited to the twisty streets. While the 1949 GP de l’Automobile Club de France (the traditional title for the French GP) was being held for sports cars, Chiron won the rival GP de France Formula 1 race at Reims.

He was one of the inaugural world championship drivers at Silverstone in 1950 and his works Maserati 4CLT/48 was third in Monaco. Now in his fifties, Chiron missed the 1952 season after being burnt when his Platé-modified Maserati caught fire during practice for the opening non-championship race at Syracuse. Chiron continued in F1 until 1956 but was now well past his prime.

Victory in the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally with a Lancia Aurelia was his last high profile success but it was marred by protests so Chiron only received his trophy a year later. Having retired, he remained inextricably linked with the sport in the principality as clerk-of-course for the Monaco GP and Monte Carlo Rally from the late 1960s until his death in 1979.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1956 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Centro Sud
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1955 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Lancia
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1953 F1 World Championship
Louis Chiron
2 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1953 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Lancia
1 0 0 0 0
1951 F1 World Championship
Ecurie Rosier
Ecurie France
Enrico Plate
7 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1950 F1 World Championship
Officine Alfieri Maserati
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
9th 4
1936 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
2 1 0 0
0% win rate
0
1935 European Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
4 0 1 0
0% win rate
0
1929 AAA National Championship
Louis Chiron
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1927 World Championship
Usines Bugatti
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0