Robert Benoist  France

  • Full name Robert Marcel Charles Benoist
  • Birth date March 20, 1895
  • Birthplace Rambouillet, Île-de-France, France
  • Date of death September 9, 1944 (49 years 173 days)
  • Place of death Buchenwald, Germany

Robert Benoist started racing bicycles before World War One, joining the fledgling French air force as a fighter pilot and instructor. After the war he raced cyclecars and was the national champion in 1923. As a result he secured a drive with Delage, making his grand prix debut in 1924 and finishing third in the European GP. In 1925 he shared a win with Albert Divo in the French GP, and his success continued in 1926 and in 1927, when, driving a Delage 15-S-8, he won the French, Spanish, Italian and British grand prix.

Delage then withdrew from racing, forcing Benoist to take a job as a garage manager in Paris. He continued racing intermittently, finishing second in the 1928 San Sebastian GP in a Bugatti and winning the 1929 San Sebastian GP. He retired at the end of the season but in 1934 made a comeback with Bugatti, becoming the head of their competition department and partnering Jean-Pierre Wimille to win the 1937 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race. He again retired while continuing to spearhead the Bugatti racing team.

At the outbreak of World War Two he escaped to England with two other drivers - William Grover-Williams and Wimille - and joined the Special Operations Executive, returning to France to help the local resistance. Betrayed by an informer, Grover-Williams was captured by the Gestapo and executed and three days later Benoist was also arrested. While being transported for interrogation he jumped from a car, escaped and made his way to England.

He returned to France but was again captured and this time he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp where he was executed three months later.
Martin Williamson

Top of the PageTop