AMEDEE GOR­DINI: A True Rac­ing Leg­end

Classic Driver - - HOLMAN -

Roy Smith, pub­lished 2013 by Ve­loce who sup­plied the re­view copy (www.ve­loce.co.uk) Also avail­able from Oc­tane Books at $140.

Roy Smith is mak­ing a spe­cialty of good qual­ity books on French rac­ing mar­ques and peo­ple. This lat­est one is a beauty.

The Gor­dini team raced al­most ev­ery weekend be­tween 1945 and 1957, with very mixed re­sults. But the book in­di­cates how suc­cess­ful they re­ally were, in terms of the re­sources the team they had avail­able. Amedee Gor­dini could be a frus­trat­ing and stub­born team boss but there was no doubt­ing his pas­sion for com­pe­ti­tion and tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment, and he be­came some­thing of a folk hero in France (though he had been born in Italy).

In those days there were far more non-cham­pi­onship races, many of which paid rea­son­able start and prize money. Class wins were im­por­tant, as were the ma­jor hill­climbs. The Gor­dini team cov­ered enor­mous dis­tances in Europe to get to some events – ei­ther in their in­creas­ingly tired old Lan­cia truck or by driv­ing the sin­gle seaters on the road, sandwiched be­tween other team ve­hi­cles! But the team also ven­tured to Amer­i­can events like the Car­rera Panamer­i­cana and F1 races in Ar­gentina.

Driv­ers and me­chan­ics had run-ins with Gor­dini over non-pay­ment of wages and would some­times ‘am­bush’ him as soon as he’d col­lected the team’s start money! The cars got tired and less re­li­able- of­ten they were run­ning in 3 events at a time and the strain told. Yet he never gave in or stopped look­ing for the next de­vel­op­ment. Spon­sor­ship came from Simca for many years- though they were more in­ter­ested in ral­ly­ing and sports car suc­cesses – sup­ple­mented by some trade sup­port and even funds from the pub­lic.

The flag fi­nally came down on the race team at Le Mans in 1957 which was the last time a Gor­dini ‘works’ en­try raced. But some fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity fi­nally came through his ar­range­ments with Re­nault and the suc­cess of the Dauphine and the R8.

From Grands Prix to the Monte Carlo Rally, Le Mans, Montl­h­ery and the Tour de France, Le Sorcier (so named for his ear­lier tun­ing abil­i­ties) was there, with driv­ers of the qual­ity of Fan­gio, Behra, Trintig­nant and Schell. The cars were al­most al­ways less pow­er­ful than their main ri­vals. There would be lean pe­ri­ods and then sud­denly a ma­jor win would en­sure the wages could be paid for another month!

There’s a de­tailed re­sults sec­tion, plenty of pho­tos and a real feel for the at­mos­phere of rac­ing in the pe­riod. Well done, Mr Smith!

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