Mercedes & the 1914 French Grand Prix
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