Louis Wagner  France

  • Full name Louis Wagner
  • Birth date February 5, 1882
  • Birthplace Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
  • Date of death March 13, 1960 (78 years 37 days)
  • Place of death Montlhéry, France
driver portrait

Louis Wagner began racing cars while in his teens and in 1903 as a 21-year-old won his first race in Belgium; a month earlier he took part in the infamous Paris-Madrid race which marked the beginning of the end for races on open public roads. In 1904 he drove for the Darraq team in the prestigious Gordon Bennett Cup, and buoyed by his success in Europe he headed to the USA where he won the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island. A year later he won the inaugural US Grand Prix at Savanagh - a victory tarnished for him by his being arrested for driving the wrong way down Broadway.

In 1907 he was hired by Fiat but he had to wait until the following year for his next major triumph, again in the USA, when he won the American Grand Prize and with it the considerable prize of $5000.

His racing participation reduced after he took a post as a pilot with the Hanriot company but he still featured in major races and in 1914 came second in the French Grand Prix.

After the war he continued competing on both sides of the Atlantic, albeit irregularly, and in 1924, aged 42, he was hired to drive for Alfa Romeo. In that year he finished second behind the legendary Antonio Ascari as Alfa took the first four places at the Italian Grand Prix. In 1925 he became a privateer, finishing second in the Targa Florio after he stopped to take another injured driver to hospital.

In 1926 came arguably his greatest win in the RAC Grand Prix at Brooklands (considered the first British Grand Prix) when he took over Robert Sénéchal's Delage 155B to win the race even though he was suffering from a leg so badly burned that at one point he was forced to stop to stand in a bucket of water.

His final major race was in 1929 but he remained involved in motorsport as director of the circuit at Montlhery, the town where he died in 1960.
Martin Williamson

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