Ferenc Szisz  Hungary

  • Full name Ferenc Szisz
  • Birth date September 20, 1893
  • Birthplace Szeghalom, Hungary
  • Date of death February 23, 1944 (50 years 156 days)
  • Place of death Auffargis, France
driver portrait
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Ferenc Szisz trained to be a locksmith but in his early twenties the growing proliferation of automobiles fascinated Szisz and he studied engineering. In the spring of 1900 he ended up in Paris, France where he found work at the new Renault Automobile company. At Renault, Szisz's engineering talent made him an integral part of the testing department, and when the company became involved in racing in 1902 he was chosen as the riding mechanic for Louis Renault. Following the death of Marcel Renault in the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, Szisz took over as a driver. In 1905, he finished fifth in the Gordon Bennett Cup elimination race on the Circuit d'Auvergne at Clermont-Ferrand. In October of that year, along with other French and Italian automobile manufacturers, Renault sent a team to the United States to compete in the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island, New York. In a field that included Felice Nazzaro and Louis Chevrolet driving for Fiat, Ferenc Szisz finished in fifth place behind the winner,fellow Frenchman Victor Hémery driving a Darracq.

Szisz's primary duties as the head of testing at Renault limited the number of races he could compete in. However, in 1906 he achieved a permanent place in the annals of auto racing when he and his riding mechanic M. Marteau drove a Renault AK 90CV to victory in the first Grand Prix in Le Mans. He drove at an average speed of 62.9 mph. His victory and the commercial success of the race soon led to the establishing of other Grand Prix races throughout Europe. The following year, Italy's Felice Nazzaro, who had finished second behind Szisz, captured the second French Grand Prix. Szisz competed in the 1908 race but did not finish and suffered a similar fate following mechanical problems in Savannah, Georgia at an American Grand Prize race organized by the Automobile Club of America.

In early 1909 Szisz left the Renault company to open his own garage in Neuilly-sur-Seine. In July 1914, Fernand Charron lured him out of retirement to drive an Alda in the French Grand Prix at Lyon. In a race won by Christian Lautenschlager in a Mercedes, Szisz was honored with the No.1 designation on his vehicle but an injury forced him out a little more than halfway through the race. European automobile racing ended in September with the onset of World War I and Ferenc Szisz joined the French army, serving as head of the transport troops in Algeria until being hospitalised with typhoid fever. At the end of the war he went to work for an aircraft company until his retirement. The Szisz Museum is part of the Renault Museum located near the Le Mans racetrack.
Adapted from Wikipedia

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