THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS WINNER’S CAR THAT DIED WITH HIM

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Jean-Pierre Wimille is one of the few lost heroes from the golden age of motorsport. The 1920s and 30s saw motor racing in Europe reach new heights. Most major car makers of the time like Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Auto Union, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and so on battled each other in race tracks all over. The French racing scene, however, was on the decline from the heights of the 1920s and Wimille was arguably one of the last French greats.

Wimille, the son of a Parisian motoring journalist, began his racing career in 1930 driving a Bugatti 1.5-litre Voiturette (light car). His talent drew the attention of Ernest Friderich, an ex-Bugatti driver, who supported him with the Bugatti Type 51. However, his racing season came to a halt when both cars ended up written off. A string of good results in 1932 which included a victory on the La Turbie hill climb and wins at Nancy and at Oran in Algeria, and a few more in 1933, saw him race for the Bugatti works team 1933 onwards. However, unluckily for Wimille and Bugatti, 1934 saw the beginning of the fierce rivalry between Mercedes and Auto Union in Grand Prix racing. The Bugattis were relatively uncompetitive and eventually, the team decided to withdraw from Grand Prix racing to focus on sports car competitions. Eventually, in 1937, Wimille became the fourth person ever to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his first attempt driving the Bugatti 57G along with his teammate and mentor, Robert Benoist. He won the race again in 1939 with Pierre Veyron.

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