Maurice Trintignant

Maurice Trintignant was the first Frenchman to win a World Championship Grand Prix. He was unfortunate in that the war took away his best years between the age of 22 and 28.

He was introduced to the sport at a young age because his brother Louis raced a Bugatti Type 35 in the early 1930s. Louis was killed while practising for the 1933 Grand Prix de Picardie. Maurice was 16 at the time and the mourning family sold the car. Five years later Maurice bought the Bugatti back from its new owner and began racing in the months before World War II began. He did well enough to attract the attention of Jean-Pierre Wimille, the big Bugatti star of the day.

During the occupation of France the old Bugatti, which Trintignant called "Grandma", was hidden under a haystack in a barn but as soon as the war ended Trintignant took Grandma out from under the haystack and took her up to Paris. He competed in the Bois de Boulogne in an event which is remembered as the Grand Prix de la Liberation. In fact the main race was called the Coupe des Prisonniers (The Prisoners Cup) and was won by Wimille. Trintignant retired from the event with a mechanical problem which was later traced to the fuel filter which had served as a nest for rats during the war and was full of rat droppings. Wimille was so amused by this that he nicknamed Trintigant "Le Petoulet" (little rat shit) and the name stuck throughout his entire career. When he finally stopped racing Trintignant took over the family vineyard and began producing a wine called "Le Petoulet".

He was very active in the years that followed until a major accident in a voiturette race at the Swiss Grand Prix meeting at Bremgarten in 1948. After recovering from multiple injuries he was able to build a reputation as a very versatile driver with Gordini and then Ferrari. In 1954 he won the Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing a Ferrari with Froilan Gonzalez.

The following year he won the Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari after Fangio went out with a broken axle, Stirling Moss suffered an engine failure and Alberto Ascari crashed into the harbour.

In 1956 Trintignant drove for the the abortive Bugatti team and with Vanwall and in 1957 he was back at Ferrari driving a Lancia-Ferrari. He did a stint with BRM in 1958 but drove mainly for Rob Walker and won Monaco again as the opposition once again fell by the wayside. In 1960 he was briefly with the Aston Martin F1 team before moving on to Scuderia Centro Sud. His career in F1 petered out after another short stint with Rob Walker after Stirling Moss's accident in 1962.

After he retired he returned to his home town of Vergeze, where he was elected the local mayor for a period. He died in 2005 at the age of 87.