DRIVERS: LOUIS CHIRON

Name: Louis Chiron
Nationality: Monaco
Date of birth: August 3, 1899 - Monte Carlo
Date of death: June 22, 1979 - Monte Carlo

The son of the maitre d'hotel at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, Chiron was born in the Principality in 1899. Legend has it that towards the end of World War I he served as a driver for Marshals Foch and Petain. He returned to Monaco after the war to become a professional dance partner. Despite the money to be made whirling appreciative ladies around the dance floor, it was motor racing that stirred Chiron's passion and, thanks to a wealthy American woman who was particularly impressed with his footwork, he was sponsored to take part in some minor races in 1925.

The following year he met Alfred Hoffmann, heir to the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical riches and motor racing fan, who funded a Type 35 Bugatti for the aspiring star. Chiron stole victory from the works teams at the Grand Prix du Comminges, and then Hoffmann's cosmopolitan and beautiful wife Baby, before joining Bugatti for 1927. After a slow start with the team and little success Chiron began winning in 1928 and 1929. As Bugatti began to wane Chiron could still conjure up the odd win - most notably at Spa in 1930 and at his home Grand Prix in Monaco the following year.

For 1933 Chiron joined forces with Rudolf Caracciola to found the ill-starred Scuderia CC, from which Caracciola was sidelined almost immediately with an horrendous, career-threatening shunt at Monaco. Chiron pressed on in his private Alfa-Romeo until mid-season when he accepted an offer to join the works Alfa team and won in Marseilles, the Masaryk Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix. Chiron took Alfa Romeo to victory at Monthlery at the start of 1934. After that he struggled with Alfa Romeo and in 1936 jumped ship to join Mercedes, but Auto Union was ahead at that point and so Chiron left Grand Prix racing to focus on sports car events with Lago-Talbot.

After the war Chiron returned to Grands Prix with Lago-Talbot, winning the French Grand Prix in 1947 and 1949. For the first five years of the new Formula 1 World Championship Chiron was a regular contender despite it being two decades since he was at his peak. In 1954 Chiron won his last event, the Monte Carlo Rally, and in 1955 he was entered in a Lancia D50 for the Monaco Grand Prix in which he finished sixth. After failing to compete in the Monaco GPs of 1956 and 1958, he retired and eventually became the Clerk of the Course for the Monaco Grand Prix, a task he relinquished to Paul Frere in the late 1960s. He died at the age of 79.

Print