PEOPLE: AMEDEE GORDINI
Name: Amedee Gordini
Date of birth: June 23 1899 Bassano, Italy
Date of death: May 25 1979 Paris, France
Amedee Gordini was born in a village near Bologna and at the age of eight was captivated by automobiles when he saw his first motor race. He began working in a garage at the age of 11 and later joined a Fiat dealership in Bologna and came under the guidance of Eduardo Weber, who would later make his name as a carburetor manufacturer. At 14 he moved to Isotta-Fraschini where he worked with Alfieri Maserati and after serving in the Italian infantry in World War I he returned to Isotta-Fraschini and built his first car, using Isotta-Fraschini parts and an old Bianchi engine. After that he moved to Mantua and there began a tuning business for Hispano-Suiza engines before going on holiday to Paris in the early 1920s and deciding that he would like to stay. To begin with he worked for a company which specialised in repairing Hispano-Suizas but in 1925 he set up his own business in Suresnes, close to Henri-Theodore Pigozzi's Fiat assembly plant. He began to modify and tune Fiats and in 1934, when Pigozzi began to build Fiat copies under the Simca name, he began to tune Simca engines. His first successes came that year with victory in Bol d'Or at Saint-Germain and this was followed by many other class victories including the Index of Performance at Le Mans in 1938 and 1939.
In September 1945 Gordini became the first man to win a post-war event when he triumphed in the Robert Benoist Cup in the Bois de Boulogne. He moved his operations to the Boulevard Victor and built his first proper racing cars and in 1946 scored an important win in the Grand Prix de Marseille and in the years that followed as he developed the cars the Simca-Gordini team became a force to be reckoned with, notably with Jean-Pierre Wimille at the wheel.
Alas Wimille was killed racing a Simca-Gordini in Argentina in January 1949 and although Gordini stretched his engines and supercharged them for the new Formula 1 in 1950 he was always struggling to compete with the Italians. He built new engines for the World Championship in 1952, the year in which Jean Behra scored Simca-Gordini's most famous victory at Reims but Simca's support of the programme waned as available money was used to invest in production to meet the huge demand for small cars.
In 1953 the man who was nicknamed "The Sorcerer" was recognised by France with his appointment as a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur.
In 1956 Simca stopped all support for Gordini but Renault came to his rescue and asked Gordini to develop the Dauphine into a competitive rally car. Gordini closed down the workshops in the Boulevard Victor and joined Renault. In th years that followed he developed the Renault 8 for racing and helped Alpine with its efforts at Le Mans.
At the end of 1968 the Gordini company was merged into Renault and the following year moved to the Usine Amedee Gordini at Viry-Chatillon, which eventually became the headquarters of Renault Sport. Many of Gordini's young engineers went on to play important roles in the Renault F1 programme.