18 – 1924 French GP

by Simon Arron on 2nd September 2016

A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

It meant an early start on central France’s eastern fringe – but the reward justified the effort. A local newspaper reported a record crowd, with more than 100,000 people lining a 14.38-mile course described in The Brooklands Gazette as “comparatively short”… 

With cars due to assemble at 8.30am, half an hour before the start, a crepuscular invasion was essential.

Timed qualifying having yet to be invented, Henry Segrave drew pole for Sunbeam in a pre-race ballot and led away a strong, 20-car field representing the cream of France (Bugatti, Delage, Rolland-Pilain), Italy, (Fiat, Alfa Romeo), Britain (Sunbeam) and America (Miller): blue vs red vs green vs white.

Segrave retained his advantage after an opening lap in 12min 22sec, but soon ceded to Pietro Bordino (Fiat), Antonio Ascari (Alfa Romeo) and Sunbeam team-mate Kenelm Lee Guinness. Ascari took the lead when Bordino stopped for brake repairs, fresh tyres and a steering alignment check – and appeared to be in a strong position for much of the contest’s balance.

View this race on the Database

With two laps to go, he and Alfa team-mate Giuseppe Campari were little more than a minute clear of Albert Divo’s Delage… but then a fouled plug condemned the leader to make a pit stop from which he was unable to rejoin. Campari was thus free to cement an Italian victory, from Delage duo Divo and Robert Benoist, Louis Wagner (Alfa P2) and Segrave, Lee Guinness having retired with engine problems.

The race lasted little more than seven hours and passed off without serious incident and, contrary to predictions, more than half the starters were still running by the end – a triumph for both strength and depth. 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.

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