Mercedes & the 1914 French Grand Prix

Classic Driver - - HOLMAN - STORY BY EOIN YOUNG PHO­TOS DAIM­LER-BENZ AG & TERRY MAR­SHALL AR­CHIVE

The re­sult was just the be­gin­ning. The white works Mercedes with their dis­tinc­tive v-shaped ra­di­a­tors fin­ished a dom­i­nant 1-2-3 in the Grand Prix on the long Lyon road course be­fore a silent French crowd. For them it was the first act of the war with Ger­many that would en­gulf them within weeks. That the race hap­pened at all is the thing of won­der. Ten days be­fore the event, the Arch Duke Fer­di­nand had been as­sas­si­nated in Sara­jevo. His driver was Otto Merz, who kept driv­ing af­ter the first shots, hop­ing that he could out­dis­tance the gun­men. He couldn’t, but he would be back on stage win­ning mo­tor races for Mercedes when the war was fought and over.

The French Grand Prix in 1914 was a sin­gle event that counted as a full-scale mod­ern World Cham­pi­onship. It car­ried the rep­u­ta­tion and fame of a sea­son. For the first time it was for cars with a max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 4.5-litres and a min­i­mum weight of 1100 kgs. Grand Prix cars and en­gines had never been so small.

The win­ning car of Chris­tian Laut­en­schlager, now fully re­stored, at the Peb­ble Beach con­cours

Grid po­si­tions were de­cided by bal­lot with cars start­ing two-by-two at 30 sec­ond in­ter­vals. French hero Ge­orges Boil­lot in the pre­vi­ously in­vin­ci­ble Peu­geot lined up along­side Rene Cham­poiseau in a Th. Sch­nei­der

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