Robert Manzon

Full Name:
Robert Jean Joseph Manzon
Born:
12th April 1917
Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
Died:
19th January 2015 (Aged 97)
Cassis, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
Nationality:
French
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The story of French Grand Prix racing during the 1950s was largely one of glorious failure and at its heart were Robert Manzon and the Gordini marque. Underpowered and underfunded, the light blue cars were no match for their continental rivals.

Grand Prix driver for Gordini

Manzon’s racing career began immediately after World War II. He bought a Cisitalia D46 in 1947 and won a heat at Angoulême. Second in the final was just one of a number of placings as he harried more fancied runners. He joined Gordini in 1948 and retired from his GP debut in the Italian GP but won the 24-hour Bol d’Or at Montlhéry a year later.

Manzon finished a distant fourth in the 1950 French GP although the Simca-Gordini T15 was better suited to Formula 2. He won minor races at Mettet and Périgueux and retired when running second in the non-championship German GP. That year’s French F2 Champion, he again won at Mettet in 1951 although his Simca-Gordini retired all-too-often.

Gordini introduced the new 2000cc T16 for the 1952 F2 season and Manzon enjoyed his best campaign. With F2 rules adopted for the world championship, Manzon finished third in the Belgian GP, fourth in France and fifth in Holland to be classified sixth in the standings. Winner of the Mont Ventoux hillclimb (for a third time), Prix de Monte Carlo and Coupe du Salon sports car races during 1952, he led the Le Mans 24 Hours until his Gordini T15S retired in the night.

Lancia sports cars F1 with Louis Rosier

He ran second in the 1953 Argentine GP before his wheel fell off at high speed. The Frenchman promptly left Gordini to drive sports cars for Lancia with second in the Coppa Inter-Europa at Monza his best result.

The 1954 season provided a combination of Formula 1 with Louis Rosier’s Ferrari 625 and further sports car outings for Ferrari and Lancia. He finished a lapped third in the French GP behind the dominant Mercedes-Benz W196s and shared the third placed Lancia D24 in the Tourist Trophy.

The return to Gordini

He returned to Gordini for 1955 and 1956 but the blue cars proved as unreliable as ever. Continuing in sports cars, Manzon shared the third placed Ferrari 860 Monza on the 1955 Targa Florio with Eugenio Castellotti.

His 1956 campaign began with a welcome non-championship victory at Naples on a rare day when his Gordini lasted longer than the faster Ferraris. He was catching Castellotti for fourth a week later at Monaco when his brakes failed with 10 laps to go and Manzon crashed. The Pescara GP for 2-litre sports cars was Manzon’s final victory – his Gordini T15S beating Piero Taruffi’s Maserati by just 0.5 seconds.

Robert Manzon retired from racing at the end of 1956. He ran a garage and became a distributor of Bosch diesel equipment in his native Marseille.

Championship seasons