Grand Prix’s World War


One hundred years on from the out-break of the first world war the impact on drivers in Grand Prix Racing would be mixed for some drivers and teams. Some who be sent to fight while other would be used to development of arms and some would escape the war all together. This is the story of Grand Prix’s World War both before and after.

1914 season

The 1914 ran from 26 February until 22 August with races in France, United States, Russia, Britain and Italy. This was a season which would see many American winning races this would be the last season before the outbreak of the first world war which started on the 4 august when Britain declared war on Germany.


Drivers of 1914

Christian Lautenschlager

Christian Lautenschlager start working at 14 because his family was poor after a series of jobs across Switzerland he headed to Germany and got a job working Gottlieb Daimler working his way up to the position of test driver and then as a mechanic for the company’s race cars.

With the onset of the war he returned to his factory job in Germany to aid the war effort against Britain. After the war Lautenschlager soon realised that the best of his racing career was over. But he did compete at Indianapolis 500 in 1923 500 in a three-car Mercedes team. Driving vehicles equipped with the first supercharged engine in the race’s history, their effort proved less than successful and Lautenschlager finishing 23th crashing out after just 14 laps.

Lautenscher went onto work for Daimler (now Mercedes Benz) and died in 1954 age 76 in Stuttgart.

Georges Boillout

Georges Boillout was a racing driver who at the start of the war joined the French Army as a fighter pilot. Boillot before the war worked as a mechanic and helped drivers Paul Zuccarelli and Jules Goux to help create a novel range of racing cars as part of the Lion-Peugeot Voiturette team.

While working on the car he helped to make the first car to have an engine with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. During the war his plan was shot down over the French town of Verdun-sur-Meuse April 1917 he died in a military hospital shortly after.

His son, Jean joined the racing world after the war and would become the director-general of Peugeot Talbot cars and in 1981 was responsible for involving Peugeot in motor sport again and died in Paris in 2010.

Guiennes brothers

Kenelm and Algy Guienness joined the navy but neither ended up in France the both brothers where assigned to jobs in Britain. Algy became a rescue pilot with the Navy he assumed the baronetcy and assumed the title of Sir Algernon Guinness.

Algy before the war set the world Land Speed Record in 1908. He also took part in the the Isle of man TT between 1905 and 1908 in Darracqs. He finished third in the 1906 race and second in 1908. He died in 1954.

Kenelm was like a mechanic to his brother who based their operation in old pub called The Bald Faced Stag in Putney Lane. He also race crashing out in 1913 French Grand Prix killing a spectator.

They were members of the Guinness brewing family. Kenelm was found dead in a bedroom at his home near the KLG factory, having apparently gassed himself in 1937.

Kenelm develops sparkplug

Kenelm soon work on spark plugs was considered to be more valuable to the war effort.

The role of a spark plug is to send an electrical spark trough the engine to push the piston up and down. This allows the fuel to move through the engine quicker meaning that your racing car will move quicker. Algernon went on to serve in WWII in Portsmouth Agly was caught in trouble after a monkey escaped. Algy volunteered to capture the monkey and, after climbing a ladder and making his way along a roof, he hit the monkey on the head and brought it down in his jacket.

1915 & 1916

The next few seasons took place in United States with races in San Francisco, Indianapolis, Chicago and Santa Monica. If there was a world championship it would have been won by Earl Cooper. Cooper begin racing in 1908 but this lead to him leading to him losing his job as a mechanic after he beat one of his bosses, so he became a full-time racer.

Again in 1916 Grand Prix racing continued in the US with Indy 500 in May but with a myth that the race was shortened due to the demand fuel and parts by the allies in Europe. This has been the only time that the race been shortened in its history to this date.

But, when America entered the war in 1917 that meant the end of Grand Prix racing across the world until 1919.

Post war

When the guns fell silenced on the Eleventh day of Eleventh month didn’t mean that the racing was resume because Europe was in talks to end the suffering first race was in Sicily. The 1920 season began at Mugello Circuit.

Grand Prix would evolve due to the war as new technology and would improve the cars and racing of the era. But, some would say countdown to WWII was already going after Armistice Day and that would have more of an impact on Grand Prix.

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