Video: French GP history 1906-79

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Juan Manuel Fangio, Reima, Mercedes, 1954, 470150

Journeyer is back with another two-part look at Grand Prix history. This week it’s the turn of the French Grand Prix.

France has always been an important country for motorsport – for it has contributed so much. It is most noted for two things. It is the home of the Le Mans 24 Hours and held the first Grand Prix (also at Le Mans).

The French Grand Prix has been held as part of the World Championship since 1950*. Although the races haven’t been as good lately as those in previous decades, this GP’s history is stacked with action. So let’s take a look at some of France’s magic moments.

1906: The first ever Grand Prix was held that year. The leading competitors for the win emerged to be Renault and Fiat (both of which are still in F1 today, Fiat owning Ferrari). But it was the Regie who took the win for France, thanks to Hungarian Ferenc Szisz.

1961: This was one of the last races held at Reims and was the first victory for Ferrari’s Giancarlo Baghetti – on his first attempt! Unfortunately, he would not win any more races, but his claim to the F1 record books is still unchallenged today.

Read more about how Giancarlo Baghetti won the 1961 French Grand Prix here

1967: This was the only year that a world championship French Grand Prix was held at Le Mans, using the shorter Bugatti layout. Jack Brabham won easily and the unpopular track was never used again. However, I’m putting this video in as it showed the paddock of the time in great detail. The French voiceover adds a nice touch as well.

1970: A very nice win for Jochen Rindt, who went on to win the title that year (in dire circumstances, as he was killed at Monza). Following him that day was Chris Amon, who did well to finish second, but couldn’t pull off the win. Indeed, he never did.

1973: This race was Super Swede Ronnie Peterson’s first Grand Prix victory. He had a good helping of luck though, after early leaders Jody Scheckter and Emerson Fittipaldi took each other out in a racing incident. That left the door wide open for Peterson, who was Fittipaldi’s teammate at the time. This was the beginning of the end of Fittipaldi’s stay at Lotus, with the Brazilian leaving for McLaren at season’s end.

I just love Colin Chapman’s victory jump at the end of this video – it was one of his more emotional ones.

1979: This one needs no explanation. Gilles Villeneuve versus Rene Arnoux – quite probably the greatest battle in F1 history – and it wass for second place! Two years ago it was rated the best F1 video ever in the Top 100 F1 videos on this very site.

*Except in 1955, following the Le Mans Disaster.

Join us tomorrow for the second half of Journeyer’s history of the French Grand Prix. If you would like to write a guest post for F1 Fanatic you can find more information here.