The knights of the racetrack. Just count those Counts: Paris-born, Le Mans-based Comte Guy Bouriat, third at Monaco and moral victor of the European GP at Spa – he obeyed orders and allowed Bugatti team leader Louis Chiron to win – in 1930, he crashed fatally in 1933.
MAY 04th 2017
The knights of the racetrack – aristocracy and royalty in motorsport
‘Caberto’ Conelli, Conte de Prosperis, of Piedmont, Italy, winning co-driver to William Grover-Williams at the 1931 Belgian GP; Comte Stanislas Czaykowski, born in The Hague and of Polish extraction but a French national, another 1920-’30s Bugatti man, with wins in Casablanca, Dieppe and at Brooklands, and one of three killed in the 1933 Monza GP; Lombardy’s ‘Johnny’ Lurani, Conte di Calvenzano, a Mille Miglia class-winner before and after WWII; and, best of this bunch, Biella’s Conte Carlo Felice Trossi, a founding father of Scuderia Ferrari and much admired by Enzo, who won the Italian and Swiss GPs for Alfa Romeo in the immediate post-WWII era.
There have been princes among racing men, too: Prince DeCystria, full name and title Bertrand Marie Ponce François Raphael Lucigne, Prince de Faucigny-Lucinge et Coligny, who finished ninth in the 1923 Indianapolis 500 in, you’ve guessed it, a Bugatti; Prinz Hermann Viktor Maximilian zu Leiningen of Bavaria, son of a grand-nephew of Queen Victoria, was a member of Auto Union’s original GP line-up and shared second place with Hans Stuck in the 1934 Italian GP; and, most famously, Prince Bira of Siam, full name Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, a young sensation in his blue-and-yellow ERAs and Maserati in the second half of the 1930s, and a seasoned veteran capable of good results until the mid-1950s.
More recently there have been: London-born Spaniard Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquis de Portago, nicknamed ‘Fon’, an all-round sporting icon – swimming, fencing, Olympic bobsleigh, Grand National rider – who was killed in a works Ferrari during the 1957 Mille Miglia; and Rhineland’s Wolfgang Alexander Albert Eduard Maximilian Reichsgraf Berghe von Trips, nicknamed ‘Taffy’, a 1961 Formula 1 title contender for Ferrari when he was killed in the Italian GP at Monza.
Britain has had its fair share of aristocratic petrol heads, too. Among them were: Sir Henry Birkin, a Third Baronet from Nottinghamshire, the Boy’s Own Hero who held the Brooklands Outer Circuit’s lap record in his famous ‘Blower’ Bentley and won the 1931 Le Mans 24 Hours in an Alfa Romeo; Earl Howe, Birkin’s entrant and co-driver on the latter occasion; Peter Mitchell-Thomson, Lord Selsdon, who in 1949 played a vital role in Ferrari’s maiden Le Mans victory; and the Marquess of Bute, 59 this week, who, as Johnny Dumfries, was the dominant winner of the 1984 British Formula 3 Championship, a Lotus F1 team-mate to Ayrton Senna in 1986 and won the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours with Jaguar.
And then there was the Earl of March, winning co-driver at Brooklands of the 1931 BRDC 500-Mile Race and 1931 JCC Double-Twelve, in Austin 7 and MG Midget respectively. In 1935, he inherited four Dukedoms – Aubigny (France), Gordon, Lennox and Richmond – as well as the Goodwood Estate. And in 1948, he converted the perimeter road at RAF Westhampnett, a WWII emergency landing strip for fighter aircraft, into a motor racing circuit. By the time he closed it in 1966, it had fired the enthusiasm for speed and spectacle of his imaginative grandson, the current Earl of March and Kinrara, creator in the 1990s of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and Revival Meeting.
Images courtesy of LAT
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