Monaco, 1967: Bandini’s Fiery Crash

Dealing with Death in Sport

Death in sport is not easy for me, as a writer, to deal with. But, for some races, death is the story. It’s unavoidable. I do not desire to be exploitative, but rather to speak honestly about the tragedy. Certainly, the loss of any life—be it a spectator or driver—is truly regrettable. Is death in motorsport a stain? Or, is it inevitable result of forward progress? There are no easy answers, only acknowledgments of what has come before.

Lorenzo Bandini

Lorenzo Bandini died three days after the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. He had lived to race. Speaking of his path to racing, he once said, “I always wanted to be a driver, but I had to wait and wait. It was like being madly in love with a beautiful girl and holding one’s emotions in check, without being able to explain it to her.”

Born in North Africa in December 1936, his parents settled in Florence, Italy three years later. His father died when Lorenzo was fifteen years old. He went to work as an apprentice at a local garage.

Five years later, at age 20, Lorenzo Bandini opened his own shop. Late in 1957, he raced a Fiat 1100 borrowed from a generous customer. He ran in a Hill Climb at Emilia, Italy and was fifteenth in his class. Undeterred, he borrowed a better Fiat 1100 from his old boss. He scored a third place and was offered a Fiat V8. He did even better with the bigger engine. In 1958, he purchased his own Volpini Formula Junior open-wheeled car to race with. He was considered a natural at the wheel by contemporaries and critics.

Mimmo Dei, patron of Scuderia Centro-Sud, gave Bandini his first shot at Formula 1 at the 1961 Pau GP. In 1962, the Scuderia Centro-Sud disbanded. Enzo Ferrari signed Bandini; however, at first, he confined Bandini to sports car work.

Mimmo Dei came to the proverbial rescue in 1963. Dei had just purchased Graham Hill’s winning BRM. For the first part of 1963, Lorenzo drove the BRM in Formula 1 races. Later, he became Ferrari’s number two driver on the Formula 1 squad. He was behind the late John Surtees through the end of 1966. By 1967, Bandini had become Ferrari’s number one driver, ahead of Chris Amon.

Coming Up to Speed at the 1967 Monaco GP

May 1967. The South of France. The cars of this era were squishy. Getting around Monaco took more art than science. They drove by the seat of their pants, feeling the changes in grip corner by corner. Aerodynamic grip was nowhere to be found; the driver was limited to the small contact patches between his tires and Monaco’s historic streets.

There were 22 entires for 16 places on the starting grid. Of those 16 places, 11 were already guaranteed to works teams that had been in existence for at least three years.

Of note, Jackie Stewart was in a V8 BRM, but also had the option of driving an H16 BRM. Mike Spence was in a H16 BRM. John Surtees had access to two virtually identical Honda V12 cars. Jack Brabham did require his spare car, as his new reversed port engine blew up during the first practice session. Dennis Hulme had his reliable 1966 Repco-Brabham, with side exhausts.

Practice

Bandini held the previous Monaco race lap record at 1:29.8, set in 1966. However, in light of recent design improvements, speeds were expected be even faster for the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix.

The first practice was on Thursday afternoon and speeds started off slow on the oily street circuit. All the cars set about practicing right away, except for Clark and Hill. Their cars had been held up and were not yet delivered. The first laps were around 1:35.0 as each team began to dial in their cars.

Lorenzo Bandini set a 1:30.4 in the Thursday afternoon practice. At the end of practice, Bandini was happy with his car; however, the other Ferrari driver—Chris Amon—complained of throttle response issues. Jackie Stewart, piloting a BRM, was the only driver to dip below 1:30.0.

The next practice took place on Friday morning, where a sense of urgency pervaded the paddock. Everyone quickly got down to business. Clark, finally able to test his recently arrived Lotus, was first quick in his Lotus-Climax V8.

In this Friday morning practice, Bandini was only able to get down to about 1:33.0 before opening up the throttle too soon around the Mirabeau hairpin. He broke his front suspension, as a result of hitting the course wall. John Surtees set the fastest time in his Honda V12 at 1:28.4.

It rained on Saturday morning. Therefore, many thought that no faster times would be set at the next practice on Saturday afternoon. However, wind plus intervening support races sufficiently dried and rubbered in the track to allow the Formula 1 racers to set more fast times. Bandini certainly had some work ahead of him for the final qualifying practice.

Bandini was quite successful in his attempt to improve his race grid position. With his front end suspension fixed, Bandini set a blistering Monaco lap of 1:28.3. However, Jack Brabham was even faster; he set a lap at 1:27.6. Brabham and Bandini made up the front row of the Monaco grid for the race. Behind them it was Surtees and Hulme on the second row. Clark and Stewart rounded out the third row.

Race

The Monaco Grand Prix is an elegant paradox. The course is unyielding and confining. The cars that race it are fiery beasts aching to be free. At a course like Monza, the car and track act in synthetic harmony to slingshot cars out of the curva parabolica. However, at Monaco, the car and track become diametrically opposed forces. Perfect concentration is the only solution to the paradox.

The weather was beautiful for the ’67 Monaco GP. The cars formed on the grid and revved their engines as they waited for the flag to drop. Tires screeched as the cars launched into action. The crowd watched Lorenzo Bandini lead the field into the first corner. Jack Brabham got a slow start away from his number one grid position. Brabham’s brand new Repco engine broke a connecting rod, which punched a hole in the block. Still operating on seven cylinders, Jack’s Repco sprayed oil all over the track.

At the end of the first lap, Bandini led Hulme, Stewart, Surtees, and Gurney. In the pits, Brabham was surprised to learn that his engine was terminal.

By the end of lap 2, both Dennis Hulme and Jackie Stewart had passed Lorenzo Bandini. Cement dust was laid down over the spilled oil as the cars continued to matriculate at full speed. This was a marginal solution, at best, and the track remained extremely slippery, particularly from the hairpin through the tunnel. By the end of the fourth lap, Dan Gurney had also edged past Bandini’s scarlet Ferrari; however, Lorenzo retook this position on the next lap when Gurney’s Eagle-Westlake lost function of its fuel pump.

Stewart and his BRM overtook Hulme and his Repco-Brabham for the lead by the end of lap 6. By the end of lap 15, Bandini was back in second place, because Stewart broke his crown wheel and pinion. Surtees’ V12 growled as he stayed on the heels of Bandini’s Ferrari.

By lap 20, it looked like Dennis Hulme was running away with the race. He was leading by 20 seconds over Lorenzo. According to Denis Jenkinson, on lap 42, “Bandini was now beginning to get his second wind and he slowly reduced the gap between the leading Brabham and his Ferrari down to 7 seconds, but Hulme was equal to the challenge and held his lead to about 8 seconds and it became a trial of strength with the rugged New Zealander coming out on top.”

At 50 laps, half distance, the order was Hulme (Brabham-Repco V8), Bandini (Ferrari V12), McLaren (McLaren-BRM V8), Amon (Ferrari V12), and Hill (Lotus-BRM V8). The rest of the field was either out or lapped.

The stalemate between Hulme and Rodriguez continued for 15 laps, with neither driver able to make headway against the other. Around lap 70, according to Jenkinson, “Hulme’s superior physical condition [was] obviously coming out on top and poor Bandini was beginning to flag and he began to show signs of tiredness and lack of concentration, occasionally being untidy and ragged on some of the corners.”

Then on lap 82, disaster. Bandini flew through the tunnel, down the hill, and into the chicane. Again, according to Jenkinson’s first-hand contemporary description, “the Ferrari struck the wooden barriers and was immediately out of control. It mounted the straw bales on the outside of the corner, a wheel was broken off, and the car landed upside down in the middle of the road with the driver trapped underneath.”

The video is disturbing. One commentary that I came across even suggested that the helicopter’s downwash only worsened the deathly flames.

Dennis Hulme went on to win the race. But, there was little cause for celebration. The 31 year old Bandini had been extricated from the car alive. He would live three more excruciating days before succumbing to his burns and injuries.

 

–Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

A Death at Speed Week, 1900

The Speed Week events in the south of France, around Monaco, were not the first races of the season.  The new 24 horsepower (some reports suggest a rating of 30 horsepower) had just been released.  The newly lightened Panhard et Levassors could not match the power of the Mors at 16 horsepower.  The great early racer, René de Knyff had been driving the wheels off his 16 horsepower Panhard, though many other drivers were still competing with the less powerful 12 horsepower Panhards.  New to the racing scene were the Cannstatt Daimler cars were now being called Mercedes.  They were heavy and notoriously difficult to handle, while racing.

Gottlieb Daimler Dies in March 1900.

Gottlieb Daimler (1834—1900)
Gottlieb Daimler (1834—1900) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The so-called speed week along the southern French coast was a yearly affair taking place around late March.  This year, the week started on Sunday, March 25 (1900).  Just a few weeks earlier, on March 6, 1900, Gottlieb Daimler had died.  Gottlieb Daimler’s legacy had already been cemented by his death; however, he was likely unaware of just how pervasive his influence would be on modern life.

It was Gottlieb Daimler who first miniaturized and made mobile the internal combustion engine.  Simply, Gottlieb Daimler was the first to have the insight, vision, and practical engineering knowledge to create an automobile engine.  Certainly, the autonomous mobile vehicle (requiring only a driver but no horses or other propulsion) had been conceived by great thinkers such as Francis Bacon.  Yet, it was many centuries before someone with the correct set of talents was able to make this vision a reality.  Now, the old Daimler may have been a visionary, but–like many visionaries–was stubborn, unbending, and often extremely difficult to work with.  His death, in some ways, allowed Daimler–the company–to have more freedom to develop the automobile.

The first races following the death of Gottlieb Daimler were the Speed Week races in the South of France.

1900 Nice to Marseilles

In years past, the race had been run from Marseilles heading into Nice, near Monaco.  However, for 1900, a roundtrip race from Nice to Marseilles and back was planned.  However, bad weather forced the race to be run in only one direction, with the return trip to Nice untimed.        .

Emil Jellinek
Emil Jellinek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was a big week each year for Emil Jellinek to garner interest in his Monacan import of the Cannstatt Daimler’s, including the new Mercedes models.  In fact, 1900 was the first year that the label “Mercedes” shows up in official racing charts and results.

The Jellinek camp, heavily connected to the Daimler factory operation, entered two short-chassis Pheonix’s under the label of Mercedes, according to Robert Dick.  Both cars were rated at 26 horsepower and weighed in at 1,400 kilograms.   Herman Braun drove the relatively longer 217 cm. framed Mercedes.  Wilhelm Bauer, the Cannstatt factory foreman entered to extremely short wheel-based (190 cm.) Mercedes.

The comparatively lighter 16 horsepower Panhards were present in numbers. Names such as Charron, De Knyff, Pinson, and Hourgieres all entered Panhard et Levassor models.

The new, massive-engined Mors was entered by Alfred Velghe.  Alfred Velghe always entered under a moniker, as was fashionable at the time (and confusing for researchers!).  He entered as “Levegh” an anagram of his last name.  Students of motorsport history may recognize this notorious name.  Alfred was the uncle of the driver that caused the disaster at Le Mans in 1955, which arguably remains the worst disaster in all motorsport history.

Prior to the race, DeKnyff’s car was fired up and ready to race.  With old-timey splendor, Gilles Hourgieres rolled up behind De Knyff’s car.  Failing to brake in time, he bumped the back of De Knyff’s Panhard.  This caused De Knyff’s car to drop into gear and take off without a driver.  Fortunately, it drove itself into a nearby barrier and did not do any damage to the new Mercedes.

Braun, in his brand new Mercedes, managed to end up in a ditch a mere 15 kilometers from the starting line.  A privately entered Daimler, entered by Prince Lubecki, broke two wheels when attempting to give Charron room to pass.  These events, perhaps, were a harbinger of what was to come later in the week.  These accidents were compounded by the sheer difficulty in driving the short wheel-based Daimlers.

As the race progressed, Levegh’s 7.5 liter Mors was clearly the fastest car.  However, power and speed are only good so long as they can reliably transmitted into motion.  Levegh lost over 30  minutes dealing with torn up tires.  One might recall that the modern pneumatic tire was but in its infancy in 1900.

Due to the difficulties of Levegh, De Knyff was able to carry the day in his lightweight 16 horsepower Panhard.  He averaged a shocking 43.8 miles per hour.

Death at the La Turbie Hillclimb

For several years, a hillclimb outside of Monaco, leading up to La Turbie followed the touring car race.  For the Cannstatt Mercedes entry, Bauer was driving, while Braun was riding with him.  According to Gerald Rose, Bauer “ran wide at the first corner into the rocks which bordered the road, and was killed.”  This, as far as I can recall, is the first death of a notable driver occurring as a result of racing incident.  As such, it signals the inclusion of a certain darkness that has continued to be a part of motorsport to this day.

Certainly, attitudes toward death in sport have changed dramatically in the last century.  In fact, it is probably fair to say that modern attitudes toward death in general differ significantly from those a century ago.  However, one result of Bauer’s death is certain: it was terrible “PR.”  Specifically, following Bauer’s death, Cannstatt-Daimler’s were often viewed as dangerous, difficult to handle, and unrefined.

A notable automotive journalist from Paris, the epicenter of the turn of the century automotive scene, defended the Cannstatt Daimler’s.  He noted that, “Before the race, Bauer had practised the hill forty time.  He knew it better than anyone else.”  He suggested that his death was the result of spectator placement and a lighter, better handling car would still have likely met the same fate given the speed the field was racing at.

Conclusion

In summary, the 1900 season is witnessing the beginning of the race toward giant displacement engines.  The Daimler’s were over 5 liter engines.  The new Mors, the benchmark of speed for the 1900 season, was up to 7.5 liters.  In coming years, the engines would grow to staggering sizes.  These giants came about from limitations in engine design.  Given an inability to raise engine revolutions, the next obvious way to increase power was to increase engine size and displacement. Ultimately, it would take the advances in technology from the first world war to design smaller, but more efficient engines.

 

Sources

Robert Dick, Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915 (2005).

Gerald Rose, A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908 (1949).

Early Automotive Races in 1899

While Jenatzy was still perfecting La Jamais Contente, the 1899 racing season got underway.  As was quickly becoming tradition, the season began with a “speed week” of sorts in the south of France along the Riviera.

Nice – Castellane – Nice, 1899

The first race of the 1899 season took place on March 21st.  The Riviera speed week, or semaine automobile, was organized by the automobile club of Nice.  The club was headed by Jacques Gondoin.  According to Robert Dick, the speed week was a complete affair including a long distance race, a touring car race, a one-mile sprint, a hill climb, and an exposition at the end of the week.

As for the long distance event from Nice to Castellane and back, there were some last minute changes to the route due to narrow roads; however, nobody seemed too dissatisfied.  Albert Lemaitre’s Peugeot was the popular favorite for the week.  His Peugeot was rated at 20 horsepower, with a two cylinder engine (140 x 90 mm.).  The Panhard and Levassor’s of 1899 were four cylinders (80 x 120 mm); however, they were only rated at around eight horsepower.  Only Lemaitre had the new, faster Peugeot.

According to Gerald Rose:

“The only important incident in the race was the accident to Marcellin.  The redoubtable cyclist had started ten minutes late and was going at top speed behind a car, as the habit was of tricyclists, and so failed to see a turn in the road in the cloud of dust which encompassed him.  He collided with the parapet that edged the corner, and short over it, rolling down the slope beyond.

Marcellin was shaken, but unhurt.  Another driver, Ducom, experienced a similar incident where he was blinded by dust and collided with a hall.  His car was out of the race, but Ducom was also unhurt.  Giraud, driving a Bollée had transmission  problems, an apparently recurrent problem for him.

There were only a few spectators waiting when the first cars and tricycles began to roll in.  Lemaitre, as was the favorite, won with an average speed of 26.0 miles per hour.  Girardot, rocking a Panhard et Levassor was second in his eight h.p.  Koechlin was third, averaging 22.2 miles per hour.

Lemaitre also won the standing mile and the Le Turbie Hill Climb.

Pau – Bayonne – Pau

This race took place four days after the final day of the Riviera speed week.  It was organized by A.C. Bearnais.  Lemaitre and his badass 20 h.p. horsepower won this event as well.  The weather was terrible.  There were not many competitors.  Nevertheless, the event was considered a great success.

Paris – Roubaix

On April 2, 1899, La Vélo hosted its annual trike race.  Again, according to the authoritative Gerald Rose, “It was won by Osmond on his de Dion in 5 hrs. 35 mins. 30 secs., which represents an average speed of about 32 m.p.h.”

On April 11, 1899, Le Matin  announced the creation of event to be known as the “Tour de France.”  It was to be a massive race of around 2,500 kilometers.

Paris – Bordeaux

This race returned to an only rarely used method of racing that we now associate as critical to motorsport: a mass start.  The Paris to Bordeaux race took place on May 24, 1899 and was something of a preview of the new cars that would be seen at the Tour de France.

74 entries were received.  65 entries showed up on race day.  There was 37 motorcyclists and 28 cars.  The en bloc start was something of a train wreck, of sorts.  Lemaitre ran into another racer, and his mechanic–seeing that an accident was about to occur–just got up and jumped off.  Yes, at high speed, he simply jumped.  He was severely injured, though Lemaitre escaped by running off the road.  Lemaitre could have continued; however, he opted to remain with his badly injured riding mechanic.

“At Venome, the first important pace on the route, Leys and Charron were leading with De Knyff 11 minutes behind, closely followed by Giraud.  Unfortunately, Giraud took a turn too fast, burst a tire, and turned his Bollée over in a ditch.

Hourgieres, who was the one to nearly collide with Lemaitre, was shaking down a brand new Mors for the Tour de France.  At Poitiers, his car was in third.  Charron remained in the lead, but Leys was down to fourth.  De Knyff was about 12 minutes back from the leaders.

In the end, Charron drove with excellence and won the race in his 12 h.p. Panhard with an average pace of 351 miles of 29.9 miles per hour.  René de Knyff was second, averaging 29.6 miles per hour.  Girardot was third, with an average of 28.0 miles per hour.

Touring Car verses Thoroughbred Racer

To date, the so-called voiture de course (racing car), was merely a stripped down touring car, often with a more powerful engine than would otherwise have been fitted to the car.  Previously, there was little differentiation between touring cars and racing cars.

Suddenly, changes started to become apparent in the race entries.  The new breed of cars, especially those to be shown at the Tour de France, were lower, sleeker, and faster.  The center of gravity was dropped significantly from touring models.  Engine sizes began to increase dramatically around this time.  This is, in fact, the beginning of the lead up to the massive displacement engines seen in the early 1900s.

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick (2005)

A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 -1908, Gerald Rose (1949)

A Daughter Named Mercedes: The 1898 Races Begin.

Mercedes Jellinek the name of Mercedes-Benz
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek calle...
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek called Mercédès (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is about the story of the new-fangled automobiles in the court of France and a a young daughter named Mercedes Jellinek.  In the spring of 1898, Emil Jellinek was just an observer–a member of the Rivera elite–however; he knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

The Marseilles to Nice run of January 1897 had been a huge success.  For 1898, the race was moved to March.  Ending so close to Monte Carlo had been a huge success.  The Rivera crowd of the day, with money to burn, were able to see motorsport in action.

It was in the south of France that Emil Jellinek ran into the automobile.  Described in his detailed work, Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick writes about a number of events that week in March 1898, making up something of a speed week.

Emil Jellinek

The firms of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler did not merge until 1926.  Emil Jellinek was instrumental in the direction of Daimler-Moteren-Gesellshaft (DMG).  The story of the name “Mercedes” lies at the heart of this story.

Emil Jellinek
Emil Jellinek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DMG came into existence in March 1890.  As described by Robert Dick in detail, DMG would go on to license its engine to Panhard et Levassor.  They were the marque doyenne.  However, Emil Jellinek though he had better ideas for DMGs.

Emil Jellinek, the son of an Austrian Rabbi was born on April 16, 1853 in Leipzig.  He grew up in Vienna.  At age 19, he was sent to Morocco, to make his fortune.  In 1874, he injured his leg.  As the story goes, one Mademoiselle Rachel Goggman came to his aid.  They married.  Her parents were in the tobacco business.

Mademoiselle Rachel and Emil had three children.  The oldest was born in 1889 in Vienna.  her name was Mercedes Adriana Manuela Romona Jellinek.  Tragically, her mother died of cancer in 1893.  During the winter months, Emil Jellinek had been setting up proverbial shop in Nice.  After seeing the cars in March 1898, he travelled to Constant, the home of DMG, with a crazy idea.

As it stood, Panhard et Levassor held the patent and licensing rights to sell the DMG system and engine in France.  Not a single part from a Daimler could legally be sold in France as a result of this agreement.

But, like all good businessman, Jellinek found a loop-hole.  He would semi-officially sell DMG’s in Monaco, which was outside the jurisdictional limits of French law.  More than that, Jellinek had a vision, one so influential the it inextricably altered the course of Mercedes-Benz history.

As the story suggests, Jellinek–in the future–made his interests known.  He first named his Monte Carlo cars “Mercedes.”  Eventually, his brand became so influential, that all of DMG absorbed his moniker.

Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car
Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter with bright green eyes, did not live a long or happy life.  According to the New York Times, “During World War I, her father, then a diplomat, was accused of espionage and fled from Nice.  The French Government seized his villa, yachts, and cars, and he died in exile in Switzerland in January 1918.  Mercedes was forced to beg from neighbors.”

The article continues, “Her adult years will filled with illness and tragedy.  Her two marriages, both to barons, failed.  She died in a small Vienna apartment in February 1929, not yet 39 years old.”

But, history teaches us that the 1898 Marseilles to Nice race played a part, through Emil Jellinek, in shaping the entire future of motorsport history.

So, what about the race itself?

The 1898 Marseilles to Nice Race.

There were four classes; two for cars and two for motorcycles.  However, the vast majority of the competition was in the first class of cars–those weighing over 400 in kilograms.  Charron’s Panhard et Levassor attracted considerable attention by being painted white.  Also notable was the fact that a lady, Madame Laumaillé, competed on a De Dion tricycle.

Charron started second.  He soon stock the lead, with bearded De Knyff and Hourgieres following.  They were not only close together, but only one minute behind Charron.

The next morning, the cars rolled out in a fine mist.  The fine mist quickly turned into a torrential downpour.  The sheer amount of rain turned the roads to mud.  The cars’ tiny pneumatic tires slid along the surface.

In the end, Charron won again.  Hourgieres ended up second and good old De Knyff was third.  The cars were exhibition the next day, on Tuesday.

The rain from this race also stablished gear drive as being superior over belt transmission.  The rain caused the belts to slip.

 

/ Travis Turner for GPevolved.com

 

Sources:

Mercedes-Benz: Quicksilver Century, Karl Ludvigsen

A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose

Her Name Still Rings a Bell, New York Times (October 19, 2001)

The Lady with the Green Eyes, Mercedes-Benz.com