France, Creator of Motor Sport, Century of Innovation and Continuity
It is often forgotten that motor racing started in France and French teams have a long and distinguished history. Some of the original French teams are still competing.
French teams have worn their national racing blue with pride for over a century and continue to do so. Indeed they carried on using national colours well after most teams had switched to the livery of their commercial sponsors.
International Motor Racing Starts in France
French Racing Blue by David Venables is the story of both international motor racing and the French role in its creation. As with many nationalities the French involvement and success has ebbed and flowed over time. France has played an important part in the development of the sport over more than one hundred years and continues to do so with success in Formula One and at Le Mans.
The first recorded motor race took place in France over 80 miles (130km) between Paris and Rouen. Although there were 102 entries, many claiming rather fanciful technology, 21 actually came to the starting line. A steam powered de Dion crossed the finishing line first but as it needed two people to operate, drive and stoker, it was demoted to second behind the Peugeot.
First International Motor Races – All in French Racing Blue
Gordon Bennett, an American newspaper instituted a motor race between national teams of three cars to be built entirely in the country of origin. It was in those races that national colours were introduced and France was allocated blue – French Racing Blue.
French Grand Prix was created in 1906 because there were so many French teams they were frustrated by the restriction of 3 cars from each country in the Gordon Bennett races. Renault won the first 1906 Grand Prix but in 1907 and 1908 it was run by Italian teams and the race was subsequently not run for several years.
In America he Indianapolis 500 was started in 1911 and in 1913 Peugeot won the 1913 race, the first non-American winner demonstrated the French lead in motor racing technology at the time.
Great Names, Innovation and Continuity
The 24 hour race at Le Mans in France is still the leading endurance motor race and as this review is being written 115 years after their first race win; Peugeots, painted in French Racing Blue, are leading the Le Mans 24 hour race. There are not many teams or manufacturers who can claim more than a 100 years of competition at the highest level. But another that can is also a French team, Renault which competes in Formula One.
French Racing Blue chronicles the great history of French motor racing including the years after the domination by teams such as Bugatti in the 1920s when French motor racing was in the doldrums, at least on the international stage.
Since the 1930s there has been success and disappointment. But France still keeps making an impact both with results and innovation. Renault created the era of turbocharged grand prix cars and has won many championships as a racing team and as an engine builder. They continue to compete in Formula 1 albeit no longer wearing French Racing Blue having given in to the pressure from commercial sponsors. Teams such as Peugeot and Pescarolo continue to fly the flag for France and French Racing Blue in endurance racing .
Part of the Definitive History of Motor Racing
As with other titles in the Racing Colours series French Racing Blue is an intensely detailed narrative history of the teams, manufacturers and people which in this case made France a founder and leading player in top-level motor racing. The text is fast-paced, if a little dense, but is well illustrated with contemporary photographs and cameos of key cars, drivers, designers and circuits.
The Racing Colours series is an important collection that documents the history of motor racing by chronicling the participation of major competitor nations in grand prix and sports car racing. French Racing Blue compliments British Racing Green, by the same author, Italian Racing Red and German Racing Silver.
French Racing Blue (ISBN: 978-0-7110-3369-6, 2009) by David Venables is published in hardback by Ian Allen Publishing at £24.99