Kimi Räikkönen to Louis Chiron

(Addendum: It is red-faced I have to correct this entry with the information that Kimi Räikkönen was not the first driver to score World Championship points in both Formula One and Rallying, Carlos Reutemann was. I cast my eye down all the WRC driver-points lists from 1979 onwards looking for familiar F1-names, so that I missed Carlos not once but twice is very embarrassing. Carlos Reutemann, from Argentina, raced in Formula One from 1972 to 1982. He drove for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams, winning 12 Grands Prix, beaten by a single point by Nelson Piquet for the 1981 World Championship. He entered just two rounds of the WRC, the 1980 Rally Argentina in a Fiat 131 Abarth, and the 1985 Rally Argentina in a Peugeot 205, very impressively finishing third in both, so remains the only driver with podiums in F1 and WRC. I include a longer profile of Reutemann here, with this link also at the end of this entry.)

It came to my attention that Kimi Räikkönen scored a point in the Portugal round of the World Rally Championship. Because of a predictions competition I play in, I was aware he had stopped finding bits of scenery to collide with to put in some finishes, and with the paucity of WRC-class entries had been finishing top-ten in recent events contested, even if still some way off the pace of the top runners. None the less, it did not click he had scored points, for 8th in Jordan and 5th in Turkey, or I probably would have written this sooner. (The top class of the World Rally Championship (WRC) is confusingly World Rally Cars (WRC). FIA in their infinite wisdom…)

This makes Kimi Räikkönen the only driver in history to score points in both the Formula One World Championship and the World Rally Championship. Time will tell if he can be the first to win events in both. If he does not return to F1, it is looking as if he will need seasons to possibly make it as a top driver in WRC, and I wonder if he will be given that much patience at the top level.

The World Rally Championship was only a manufacturers’ championship until for its seventh season, in 1979, the World Rally Championship for Drivers was introduced. The first ex-Formula One driver to score points was Frenchman, Stéphane Sarrazin. His F1 racing career consisted of substituting for Luca Badoer with Minardi at the 1999 Brazilian GP, resulting in a retirement. He was test-driver with Prost ’99 to ’01, and with Toyota in 2002.

Sarrazin tried three WRC events in 2004 in a Subaru Imprezza, finishing 9th, 6th and 4th, leading to selected drives as a tarmac specialist, by the works team for the following two years. He did not live up to his early promise with another fourth his best result, and 20 points from his total 15 starts (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring).

In 2009, he finished third for Peugeot in the Monte Carlo Rally, fourth in 2010 (both were rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge). Stéphane has been driving for Peugeot in their diesel-fueled Le Mans prototypes since 2007, winning, with Pedro Lamy, the 2007 Le Mans series, and getting second places in the 2007 and 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Stirling Moss, subsequently winner of 16 World Championship Formula One races and World Championship runner-up four times, finished second in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally, driving a Sunbeam-Talbot in a one-off appearance. (His sister, Pat Moss, a winner of international rallies, only managed a best of third in 1967.) The modern WRC events centre around the Special Stages, that is fast timed runs on closed stages. Old rallies featured long runs on public roads, and arduous hours, over several days. Often this featured timing-points that the competitors had to reach at set times as well as speed-test stages. With Moss’s experience in events such as the Mille Miglia, an open-road endurance event he had first entered for Jaguar the year before, doing the blue riband rally probably did not seem so different. Stirling went on to win the Monaco Grand Prix three times.

However, this is not the best performance by a driver in both Monte Carlo events. Louis Chiron in 1931 became the only Monaco-born driver to win the Monaco Grand Prix, and won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954.

Born in 1899, Chiron’s career spanned the Second World War. He won his first local race in 1926. By 1928, he was driving for Bugatti and won the Spanish Grand Prix. In 1929, he came seventh in a Delage in the Indianapolis 500. The first European Drivers Championship was in 1931 featuring only three rounds, Louis winning the French Grand Prix in a shared drive with Achille Varzi. He competed again for Bugatti in 1932, finishing fifth-equal in the title-chase. The European Championship did not reappear until 1935, in which he was ninth driving for Scuderia Ferrari (then running Alfa Romeos). He then gave his services to Mercedes, but in 1936 they only entered Chiron in two ‘Championship races, netting two retirements, and they did not keep him for long. Chiron had won over a dozen major non-Championship Grands Prix, but after 1934, his career seemed to peter out with his only subsequent semi-notable pre-war victory being the 1937 French GP in a Talbot-Lago, which that year was held for sportscars without a strong field.

Post-war, it seemed to slip the Monégasque’s mind he had retired in 1938, and there was a shortage of drivers and racing machinery (the F1 World Championship was not won by a driver that started his racing post-war until Mike Hawthorn in 1958). Louis Chiron won the French Grand Prix for Talbot-Lago in 1947 and 1949, setting what was then a record of winning that event four times.

In the first year of the World Championship Louis drove for Maserati, retiring at Silverstone, and his only points finish being a third at his home-race, Monaco. In 1951, he struggled on with customer-car teams finishing seventh in a Maserati in round one in Switzerland, and a sixth place (points only went down to fifth) the only non-retirement in a Talbot-Lago for the rest of the season.

Chiron sustained serious burns in a Maserati-Platé at the non-championship Syracuse GP, missing all the 1952 WC races. In the second year of the World Championship being run to F2 rules, he entered a private O.S.C.A. in four rounds, not starting twice, and a best of tenth.

Paired with Swiss driver, Ciro Basadonna, Chiron won the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally in a Lancia Aurelia GT. He made a Grand Prix return in 1955 at Monaco, in what was to be his last start. In a factory Lancia D50 he finished sixth in front of his home crowd. This makes Louis Chiron, then aged 55-plus-292-days, the oldest driver to start a World Championship race. He made two more entries in customer Maseratis for Monaco, but in ’56 he withdrew after the engine blew, and in ’58 failed to qualify.

Louis Chiron had a terrible time at Le Mans, entering nine times between 1928 and 1953, failing to finish each time.

After retirement, Chiron was asked to run the Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix, which he did until 1979, the year of his death.

(The youngest driver to start was Jaime Alguersuari, 19-plus-125-days old, at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher will be 42 in January.)

(So I start an article about Räikkönen scoring WRC points and end up doing a bio on Chiron. I did start a piece on the history of the USA GP, as I mentioned I might, but the research delayed it, and compromised its topicality. It seems that this is what I do, topical history! I might finish it next week or save it for when they race in Austin.)

(Link to Carlos Reutemann profile)

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3 Responses to “Kimi Räikkönen to Louis Chiron”

  1. Mark Vice Says:

    I love it!

  2. Andrea Corbetta Says:

    Very interesting article!

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