This interesting photograph was taken in the paddock behind the pits at the old Reims Grand Prix circuit on July 6, 1947 prior to a “voiturette” race for smaller displacement open wheel cars which was called the Coupe des Petites Cylindrées. This was a support race before the Grand Prix de Reims, an event for Grand Prix cars which was not, this year, the French Grand Prix which would be held at Lyon in September.
The car is a Gordini T11, a very light and maneuverable little car with an 1100cc Simca engine (based on a Fiat unit) which had been extensively modified by the car’s designer Amédée Gordini. Gordini, because of the success of his small and relatively underpowered creations, was known as Le Sorcier (The Wizard). He is right here standing by the left rear wheel of the car with a pair of goggles around his neck – and a rather fancy set of shoes for a race circuit! One of his mechanics stands behind the car.
Lest we forget, sitting in the car is Prince B. Bira of Siam who was a very effective “gentleman driver” both before and after World War II. Although this Gordini was a “works” car, one of four in this race, it was entered by Bira’s White Mouse Garage. In fact, Bira would emerge the winner of the race after the car of his teammate, the great French ace Jean-Pierre Wimille who had a faster Gordini T15, suffered a head gasket failure on the final lap when his victory seemed assured.
Even though this was an important French car, a well-known international driver and a very famous French designer, the group at the left seems totally involved in other concerns, an amusing counterpoint to the seriousness of Bira and Gordini.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection