Jean-Pierre Wimille  France

  • Full name Jean-Pierre Wimille
  • Birth date February 26, 1908
  • Birthplace Paris, France
  • Date of death January 28, 1949 (40 years 337 days)
  • Place of death Parco Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jean-Pierre Wimille was the leading driver immediately after World War Two and but for his death in Argentina in 1949 would almost certainly have been there or thereabouts during the early years of the Formula One World Championship.

He made an impression in the 1930s when he turned in some excellent drives in uncompetitive cars, but he was till good enough to finish second in the 1936 South African Grand Prix and then win the French Grand Prix. In 1937 and 1939 he was victorious in the Le Mans 24 Hour. His progress was halted by the war, during which he served with distinction in the French Resistance.

After the war he was signed by Alfa Romeo, and with a good car his natural ability made him the man to beat. He won the 1947 Swiss and Belgian GPs, and in 1948 the French and Italian, and was the leading driver of the season.

But at the start of 1949 he crashed into a tree while practising for the Argentinian GP. Some said he was blinded by a shaft of sunlight coming between the trees, others that he had swerved to avoid a dog. It was the first time he had driven in a crash helmet.

Martin Williamson

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