The Grand Prix de Reims was a non-championship race held on the triangular Reims public road grand prix circuit, which was also the usual site of the French Grand Prix. In 1947 this race was held on July 6 and used the layout which ran through the village of Gueux. Note that a helmet was not yet required. Although it was listed as the 16th running of this event, that numbering referred to its prewar predecessor the Grand Prix de la Marne which was run, mostly at Reims, from 1925-1937. This superb image was taken by Klemantaski kneeling in the grass at the edge of the circuit as Luigi Villoresi roared by in his Maserati 4CL which was entered by Scuderia Ambrosiana, an Italian racing team named after the important saint of Milan, Saint Ambrose.
The Maserati 4CL with its 1.5 liter supercharged motor was a staple of many private entrants in the immediate postwar years. Designed and introduced in streamliner form at the Tripoli Grand Prix in 1939, driven by Villoresi, the 4CL came into its own after the war with repeated successes. It was then updated in 1947 as the 4CLT.
Villoresi, long known by his nickname Gigi, had an important and interesting racing career but like other young 1930s drivers his racing was unfortunately interrupted by the war. He had begun it in 1931 at the age of 22 in rallies with his older brother Emilio in a Lancia Lambda. The brothers came from a wealthy Milanese family and were able to obtain competitive cars in their early years. Villoresi had strong success with Maseratis, winning his first international race with a Maserati 6CM at Brno in Czechoslovakia in 1937.
Gigi joined the Maserati works team in 1938 and returned to driving the cars of the trident after the war years before going to Ferrari in 1952. He had joined in a close mentoring friendship with the upcoming driver Alberto Ascari who became World Champion in 1952 and repeated the title in the following year. He then followed Ascari to Lancia in 1954 and was deeply affected by Ascari’s death in a testing accident at Monza in 1955. Gigi Villoresi retired from racing in 1957 but lived on in retirement until his death in 1997.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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