Paul Frere

Born:
30th January 1917
Ste-Adresse, Le Havre, Normandy (F)
Died:
23rd February 2008 (Aged 91)
St-Paul-de-Vence, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (F)
Nationality:
Belgian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Paul Frère was a respected motoring journalist whose impressive double life as an amateur racing driver gave him a unique perspective on the sport. The son of a Belgian government official, he was born in Le Havre where that institution was based during World War I.

Background and early careers

With his family posted throughout Europe during his childhood, Frère was fluent in four languages. Trained as an engineer at Brussels University during World War II, he started racing motorcycles and his writing career in 1946 – including being published in the December 1947 issue of Motor Sport.

He switched from motorcycles to cars by sharing an MG PB with Jacques Swaters in the 1948 Spa 24 Hours. Victory in a 1952 production car race at Spa-Francorchamps drew national acclaim after being recommended for that Oldsmobile drive by fellow writer Jacques Ickx – whose son would also make his mark in the sport.

Grand Prix debut with HWM

Frère was a late addition to the HWM Formula 2 team for the 1952 GP des Frontières and he responded by narrowly beating Ken Downing’s Connaught when it started to rain on the tricky Chimay road course. That led to his world championship debut for the team when fifth in the Belgian GP at a drenched Spa-Francorchamps. That was HWM’s best result at that level.

His prowess when racing in the rain was again rewarded when second in the 1953 Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring and further success that year included class wins in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans 24 Hours. He finished second overall in the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours with Peter Collins and a works Aston Martin DB3S but that event was overshadowed by the sport’s worst tragedy.

Despite professional commitments preventing a complete campaign in any category, Frère invariably raced in his home GP for five seasons. Never out of his depth against Formula 1’s professionals, he finished fourth when invited to race a Ferrari 555 Supersqualo in the 1955 Belgian GP. His best such result came in his 11th and final start in the world championship when he was second behind Collins’ sister Lancia-Ferrari D50 in the 1956 Belgian GP.

Sports car success culminates at Le Mans

Frère excelled in endurance racing and won the 1957 and 1958 Reims 12 Hours for Ferrari. That was the start of a partnership with Olivier Gendebien that would soon be rewarded at Le Mans. He enjoyed consistent success at in that 24-hour classic. Fourth in 1957 with an Ecurie Nationale Belge Jaguar D-type, he repeated that result a year later with a class win in a works Porsche 718RSK. Frère and Maurice Trintignant then finished second for Aston Martin in 1959 with a DBR1.

The 1960 season was due to be Frère’s last in racing and he mixed endurance racing with a return to F2. His F2 ENB Cooper T45-Climax inherited victory in the Formule Libre South African GP after Stirling Moss’s Borgward-powered car was slowed by a misfire. The year ended with another sports car win at Spa-Francorchamps but his crowning glory came at Le Mans. He joined Gendebien in a works Ferrari 250TR and the Belgians won by four clear laps.

Frère remained an active journalist long after most would have retired and was the European editor of Road & Track for 24 years. He continued to test cars into old age but the 89 year old broke his pelvis in a road accident near the Nürburgring in January 2007. He never fully recovered and he died little over a year later.