Before the Great War

Mercedes, Lyon, French Grand Prix

Now some ancient history for a change. This is a scene from the 1914 Grand Prix de l’A.C.F. (the French Grand Prix) which was run on July 4, 1914 for 20 laps over a 23.4 mile triangular circuit on public roads lying north of the city of Lyon. This was the last major race before the First World War. Seen here is the eventual winner, Christian Lautenschlager, who drove one of the five Mercedes which had been entered. Briggs Cunningham owned a wonderful Peter Helck painting of this scene which is now with an important Mercedes-Benz collection on the American West Coast.

The main competition for the new Mercedes were the three technically advanced Peugeots which had been dominant the year before and their lead driver Georges Boillot. This notwithstanding, the total entry was 37 cars with all the well-known drivers of the time and cars from Sunbeam, Delage, Opel and several other manufacturers. It would indeed be a long test, lasting over seven hours. With the cars starting in pairs every 30 seconds, this gave plenty of continuous action for the huge crowd of spectators.

As in other early races, the difference between winners and losers would once again be tires. The Mercedes which took the first three places used Continental tires and Lautenschlager made only one tire change during the race. Peugeot ran on Dunlops which were far more fragile, Boillot having to stop at his pit to change one or more tires no less than eight times. This important race was the first in what would be a series of Mercedes dominations of Grand Prix racing.

The Great War as it became known was now not far distant from reality and S. C. H. Davis, the well regarded British journalist and racing driver who was at this race wrote as follows later. “Though we knew nothing of it, there had come faintly on the winds the echoing thud of guns.”

Photo by W. F. Bradley, an early racing photo-journalist –

To see more photos from our archive go to:




  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply


    Not only did Briggs Cunningham have a painting by Peter Helck of the winning
    Mercedes, he owned the car driven in that Grand Prix by Pilette.!

    Briggs was indeed fortunate to acquire the car from close friend,
    D. Cameron Peck of Chicago, who had the finest early race cars
    at the time. When Peck, the President of SCCA decided to dispose
    of his collection, he let Briggs have first choice before public auction

    Another indication of their friendship was Briggs selling his ” extra ”
    Bugatti Royale for just One Dollar.!
    Cunningham acquired pair of them from Ettores daughter in 1950.
    (and yes I have seen the actual bill of sale)

    Appreciate this scene from early event as departure from your weekly

    Jim sitz


  2. Dale LaFollette · · Reply


    I am enclosing three scans that I think will help establish that the photo in your latest Post was actually taken by Henri Meurisse. The first photo is of Lautenschlager and you can see the similarities in the hand that wrote the number on the negative, on mine a mistake was made with the last two numbers on top of each other. This photo has been stamped with Meurisse as the second scan of the back shows. This photo is one of 32 Meurisse photos of the 1914 Grand Prix that I purchased many years ago, while I sold many several are still in my personal collection.

    The third photo is of Meurisse (on running board) and Bradley (in cap) at the Targa in 1928, a poor photo but I am sending it to underline that they travelled together to racing events. I have been a big fan of Meurisse for many years and while he was a very active photographer very little is known about his personal life, he died sometime between 1933 and 1935. (I have seen both dates published.)

    All the best,

    Dale LaFollette Vintage Motorphoto 19363 Willamette Drive PMB 166 West Linn, OR 97068 USA



    1. Dear Dale,

      It is possible that either Meurisse or Bradley took our photo. We have a number of Bradley photos taken at the 1914 French GP. These were all acquired when we purchased the photos archive owned by

        l’Année l’Automobile

      . If they worked together it is possible that they swapped photos and that one or another’s image ended up in the other’s archives.

      Best regards,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: