GRAND PRIX D'OUVERTURE
Linas-Montlhéry - Paris (F), 17 May 1925.
200 laps x 2.500 km (1.553 mi) = 500.0 km (310.7 mi)
George Duller wins the Montlhéry Opening Race
by Hans Etzrodt
A great event was expected due to 28 entries but on race day only 16 cars started at the 500 km race over 200 laps on the Montlhéry oval circuit. This minor event was limited to 1500 cars without
supercharger and provided the 1500 Talbots with a great opportunity for another victory. Although various record runs had been carried out in early January of 1925, the Opening Race was the first
1925 race at Montlhéry. After the Bugattis and Chiribiris did not appear, the Talbots of Duller, Conelli and Segrave dominated the dull race and won in this order. Eldridge (Eldridge Special)
finished fourth, 20 laps behind the leading trio. De Joncy (La Perle) and A. Bucciali (BUC) were 50 and more laps behind and were quoted as finishers. Ten cars retired. Conelli was injured when
he crashed at the finish.
The Linas-Montlhéry Autodrome, which had been built in 1924, was situated 15 km south of Paris. One lap around the concrete oval was 2.500 km. 200 laps had to be completed driving anticlockwise, a
total of 500 km. The Grand Prix d'Ouverture, which was held for the second time, was endowed with 150,000 francs in prizes.
In his Montlhéry book Bill Boddy wrote that Ettore Bugatti built two straight-eight 1½-litre cars devoid of back springs. He drove one himself from Molsheim, but his theory that rubber blocks could
replace leaf springs on Montlhéry was soon proved completely false and the cars were withdrawn. After the Chiribiri team also did not appear, the interest in this race had waned because the Talbots
which had won the 1924 200-Miles race at Brooklands were now deprived of any serious adversaries and their victory was now certain. After other withdrawals, only 16 cars lined up at the start: three
Talbots of Segrave, Conelli and Duller, two British Thomas Specials of Thomas and Morgan, two BUCs of Célerier and Bucciali, two Salmsons of Casse and Goutte, three La Perles of Franz Lefèvre, Louis
Lefèvre and Guerin, two Jean Gras of Weyling and de Joncy, one Eldridge Special of Eldridge and one Collet-Anzani of Collet. The Jean Gras cars, which were racing for the first time, were not specially
built for racing. A complete list of entries is at the beginning of this report.
Sunday started out sunny with a crowd of about 45,000 spectators attending the race. At 1:30 PM, Robert Sénéchal, President of the M.C.F., gave the signal for the mass start of the 16 cars. Duller
took the immediate lead ahead of Segrave, Thomas and Eldridge. Conelli had fallen behind but steadily reduced the gap to the two leading Talbots and passed Thomas in third place by lap 10. From that
moment on the three Talbots were in the lead which they maintained until the end. Gradually the trio broke away from everyone except Perry Thomas who followed 150 meters behind in fourth place.
After 10 laps, 25 km, there was a fall by one of the La Perles which overturned in one of the bends, luckily without harm to the driver. Franz Lefèvre (La Perle) and Goutte (Salmson) retired.
After 20 laps, 50 km, Segrave had taken the lead ahead of Duller and Conelli. Eldridge in his Eldridge Special lost time at the pits due to tire failures. Casse (Salmson) had retired earlier, including
the three La Perles. The order was Segrave, Duller and Conelli close together with the Talbots in the lead, followed by Thomas (Thomas-Special) on the same lap, Eldridge (Eldridge Special) one lap behind
after changing a tire, further behind followed Morgan (Thomas-Special), de Joncy (Jean Gras), Weyling (Jean Gras), Bucciali (BUC), Célerier (BUC) and Collett (Collet-Anzani) had dropped way behind.
The first 100 km, 40 laps, were completed by Segrave leading the Talbot trio at 159.221 km/h average speed with the cars in the following order:
|5.||Eldridge (Eldridge Special)|| 1 lap behind|
|6.||Morgan (Thomas-Special)|| 1 lap behind|
|7.||de Joncy (Jean Gras)|| 8 laps behind|
|8.||Weyling (Jean Gras)||14 laps behind|
|9.||Bucciali (BUC)||14 laps behind|
|10.||Célerier (BUC)||14 laps behind|
|11.||Collett (Collet-Anzani)||way behind|
Segrave had to stop on lap 70, after 175 miles, to change the right rear tire which had burst. He lost two laps and dropped to third place behind Duller and Conelli. Segrave raised his pace and managed
to make up ground. Thomas stopped twice at his pit due to magneto trouble with his Thomas Special.
After 200 km, 80 laps, Duller was still leading at an average speed of 162.016 km/h as Segrave was trying to catch up with his teammates. But on lap 97, Segrave stopped for the second time with a
After 250 km, 100 laps, mid-race, the field as down to 9 cars, all others had retired, including Weyling (Jean Gras) and Morgan (Thomas-Special) who retired with a blown gasket. Parry Thomas who had
dropped to seventh place gave up and retired with continuing magneto problems. The order was as follows after 100 laps:
|3.||Segrave (Talbot)|| 1 lap behind|
|4.||Eldridge (Eldridge Special)||13 laps behind|
|5.||Bucciali (BUC)||15 laps behind|
|6.||de Joncy (Jean Gras)||20 laps behind|
|7.||Thomas (Thomas-Special)||23 laps behind|
|8.||Célerier (BUC)||34 laps behind|
|9.||Collett (Collet-Anzani)||55 laps behind|
After 300 km, 120 laps, Duller was still in the lead at an average speed of 160.547 km/h. At this time, a rain storm was seriously threatening and around lap 128, the clouds were bursting, slowing the
speed of the cars. Seven cars still remained on the track as the others had abandoned including Célerier (BUC) and Collett (Collet-Anzani) who was very far behind.
After 400 km, 160 laps, Duller and Conelli were leading at 159.690 km/h average speed. Segrave was 1 lap behind, Eldridge 19 laps, de Joncy 35 laps, Bucciali 39 laps. Segrave stopped for the third time
for a tire change and lost several laps.
After 450 km, 180 laps, Duller and Conelli were still in the lead as Segrave was now 3 laps behind, Eldridge 20 laps, de Joncy 40 laps and Bucciali 45 laps. A brief moment of excitement happened as
Bucciali skidded in the second turn on the slippery track due to the rain. He plunged down to the infield while zigzagging, but caught the car, regained the track and carried on. There were no changes
until the end.
After 500 km, 200 laps, Conelli finished the race a few meters behind Duller when an accident happened as Conelli hit the outer retaining wall and overturned. He was granted second place as, before the
crash, he crossed the line a length behind Duller. Segrave finished third, officially quoted 5 laps behind, but probably less. Eldridge who was delayed by repeated tire trouble finished fourth, 20 laps
behind. De Joncy in the Jean Gras finished fifth, 50 laps behind, followed by Bucciali's BUC, 52 laps behind. Mysteriously, both cars were officially classified in 5th and 6th position.
The accident on the last lap happened on the wet slippery track due to the rain that had fallen for the past hour mixed with clay soil blown from the unfinished midfield. Conelli followed very closely to
his teammate Duller at 170 km/h. At the exit of the last turn Duller slid lightly to the outside, possible due to the rain, so that Conelli who attempted to pass, was forced to steer to the side. His
Talbot skidded, the back wheel hit the outer retaining wall, causing the car to spin twice around and overturn. It then settled back on its wheels, left the track to the infield where the front of the
car crashed against the inner retaining wall, hitting an official standing there and crushed his leg. Conelli had been ejected from the car and lay on the concrete face down. He was lifted up with a
bleeding face but had the courage to walk to the first aid station, assisted by a large group of helpers. His injuries were minor, superficial leg wounds, a slight tear in his scalp and facial injuries.
But the condition of the race official was alarming who had to have a leg amputated. The car was scarcely damaged and Moriceau drove it back to Paris.
For some reason the spectators hissed and jeered John Duller, who was entirely blameless. It was said that Duller had touched his competitor who was finishing strong and that he was therefore thrown into
the barrier. The photographs contradict this opinion. Conelli simply slipped, the rain caused its skidding, and wanting to straighten his car abruptly, threw it into the outer concrete retaining wall.
|1.||3||George Duller||Automobiles Talbot||Talbot||1.5||S-4||200||3h11m45.0s|
|2.||2||Caberto Conelli||Automobiles Talbot||Talbot||1.5||S-4||200||3h11m45.1s||+ 0.1s|
|3.||1||Henry Segrave||Automobiles Talbot||Talbot||1.5||S-4||195||or 197|
|4.||24||Ernest Eldridge||E.A.D. Eldridge||Eldridge||Anzani||1.5||S-4||180|
|5.||21||Henny de Joncy||SA des Automobiles Jean Gras||Jean Gras||La Perle||1.5||S-6||150||or 156|
|6.||6||Augusto Bucciali||Bucciali Frères||Buc ||AB5||1.5||S-6||148||or 150 or 155|
|DNF||22||R. C. Morgan||J. G. Parry-Thomas||Thomas||Special||1.5||S-4||<100||blown gasket|
|DNF||5||Jean Célerier||Bucciali Frères Buc ||AB5||1.5||S-6||94>||94 or more|
|DNF||20||Georges Weyling||SA des Automobiles Jean Gras||Jean Gras||La Perle||1.5||S-6||<86||86 or less|
|DNF||4||John G. Parry-Thomas||J. G. Parry-Thomas||Thomas||Special||1.5||S-4||77>||magneto|
|DNF||25||Emile Collet||E. Collet||Collet||Anzani||1.5||S-4||45>||45 or more|
|DNF||15||Paul Guérin||L. Lefèvre||La Perle||1.5||S-6||10>||10 or more|
|DNF||14||Louis Lefèvre||L. Lefèvre||La Perle||1.5||S-6||10>||10 or more|
|DNF||11||Georges Casse||SM Salmson||Salmson||VAL||1.1||S-4||10>||10 or more|
|DNF||12||Pierre Goutte||SM Salmson||Salmson||VAL||1.1||S-4||<10||10 or less|
|DNF||13||Franz Lefèvre||L. Lefèvre||La Perle||1.5||S-6||<10||10 or less|
Fastest lap: Henry Segrave (Talbot) in 53.0s = 169.8 km/h (105.5 mph).|
Winner's average speed: 156.5 km/h (97.2 mph).
Weather: warm, dry up to lap 120, thereafter long-lasting rain.
The official timekeeping was superficial and insufficient, lacking accurate information, which is reflected in the vague and varied results published in the various reports.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
L'Écho de Paris, Paris
Le Figaro, Paris
Le Miroir des sports, Paris
Special thanks to:
CIRCUITO DEL SAVIO
Circuito del Savio - Ravenna (I),, 21 May 1925 (Thursday).
21 laps x 14.385 km (8.938 mi) = 302.1 km (187.7 mi)
Materassi wins the Savio Circuit with his Itala Special
by Hans Etzrodt
The 29 starters were divided into four categories. The cars over 2000 cc dominated as Materassi (5.8-L Itala Spl.) led the first lap of the 21-lap race ahead of Foroni (Itala Spl.) and
Bertocchi (3.0-L Alfa Romeo). On the second lap Foroni took the lead as Bona (2.0-L Bugatti) had passed the larger cars and was leading on the fifth lap. When Bona slowed on the ninth
lap Foroni took first place ahead of Bona and Materassi. After Bona retired, the battle returned to the two large Itala Specials until the end when Materassi won ahead of Foroni,
Ceratto (3.0-L Alfa Romeo) was third, Platè (1.5-L Chiribiri) fourth, Compagnoni (1.5-L Bugatti) fifth and Bertocchi in sixth place, followed by seven other finishers. There were
The Circuito del Savio race south of Ravenna, which was organized by the Automobile Club di Ravenna, had been held annually since 1923; so, this was the third in the series. The first
event was won by Enzo Ferrari with an Alfa Romeo on a 44.6 km circuit with the start in Savio. Ferrari also won the 1924 event, which was held over a 14.385 km course, bypassing Savio.
21 laps had to be completed, a total of 302.085 km. The start was at the town of Classe from where the circuit led south through Fosso Ghiaia and Casetta, then further on at Campo
Aviazione G. Novelli, the course turned west with Savio village further south. Next a turn to the right took a road north to the town of Ponte Nuovo where a sharp right turn headed
south back to the start and finish line at Classe.
The cars were divided into Category I from 500 to 1100 cc, Category II from 1101 to 1500 cc, Category III from 1501 to 2000 cc and Category IV over 2000 cc. The maximum allowable time
limit was set at 45 minutes after the arrival of the first classified driver in each category.
Prize money was the same for each of the three categories: first place 4,000 lire, second 1,800 and third 800. For the cars up to 1100 cc the first place received 2,000 lire, second
1,000 and third 500. The prize for the outright fastest lap was a gold medal. The overall winner received 10,000 lire. The King's Cup was awarded to the manufacturer which obtained
the best time of the race. The Mussolini Cup was awarded to the manufacturer which had the most classified cars in maximum time in the various categories.
From 53 entries only 29 cars appeared at the start. Noteworthy was the withdrawal of Count Antonelli who did not yet have his own new car which left only Bona with his new Bugatti in the
two-liter category for his first race with the new and very fast car. Vittorio Foroni appeared with a Itala Special. According to historian Alessandro Silva, Foroni's car was the ex-Alfieri
Maserati Isotta Fraschini Spl, called the Itala Spl and later in 1926 changed to Foroni Spl when it was powered by half of a Hispano-Suiza aero engine, originally 6.3-Liter 4-cylinder. In the
company of these very large cars there was the 3-Liter Alfa Romeo RL TF from 1923 of Luigi Bertocci. Alfa Romeo RLs were also raced by Marquis Massimiliano Strozzi, Luigi Nardi Pelagalli and
According to historian Alessandro Silva, Francesco Corà usually raced an Ansaldo. But all our sources stated that Corà raced the Spa which was originally assigned to A. Spadoni who usually drove
a Spa. But then the driver was changed to Corà.
The 2000 category comprised five Ansaldos, two 8-cylinder Bugattis and two 4-cylinder Diattos. Azeglio Pedroni, who entered a 2000 Ansaldo, should not be confused with
Remo Pedroni who was another driver. Giovanni Garavini with a 2000 Ansaldo, lived in Ravenna. A complete list of the entries is shown at the beginning of this report.
Most drivers preferred to start in pairs, but the favorites demand the single start. Eventually 29 cars lined up, two per row in numerical order. The largest cars started first, with one-minute
interval to each category.
At 2:30 PM the chief timekeeper Del Grano launched the eight cars of over 2000 cc category. After one-minute, the 12 cars of the 2000 category lined up and Del Grano gave the start by
lowering the flag again.
After another interval of one minute, the seven cars of the 1500 category started.
After a one-minute break the two cars of the 1100 cc category started.
Immediately after the start Malinverni (1500 Bugatti) punctured a tire and at the end of the lap changed the wheel at the pits. Nardi Pelagalli (3.0-L Alfa Romeo) and Tarabusi (3.0-L Fast)
collided and crashed passing Fosso Ghiaia and retired. Materassi finished the first lap in the lead followed by Foroni and Bertocchi.
On the second lap Foroni took the lead ahead of Materassi. Bona in the 2.0-L Bugatti had started in last position of his category but on the first lap he overtook all opponents of his category
and some of the larger cars and was in fourth place overall on the second lap.
On the third lap Marino retired and Mincotti stopped at the pits. Materassi, Foroni and Bona fought for first place and the lapping by these cars was endless. It was impossible to follow the
race progress, given the very fast pace of the race and the number of cars that chased each other over the short circuit.
On the fifth lap, Bona was first, followed after 47 seconds by Foroni and Materassi. The average speeds until now were not very high due to the numerous lapping of slower cars, influencing
the times. The best drivers were obliged, who often found mysterious and false resistance on the part of the slower cars. After Nardi Pelegalli, Tarabusi, Marino and Strozzi retired, the
field was down to 25 cars after five laps:
|1.||Bona (Bugatti)||39m33.2s||2000 cc|
|2.||Foroni (Foroni Spl)||40m20.2s||over 2000 cc|
|3.||Materassi (Itala Spl)||40m20.4s||over 2000 cc|
|4.||Bertocci (Alfa Romeo)||40m47.4s||over 2000 cc|
|5.||Stefanelli (Diatto)||41m58.0s||2000 cc|
|6.||Ceratto (Alfa Romeo)||42m45.2s||over 2000 cc|
|7.||Tassara (Bugatti)||42m46.2s||1500 cc|
|8.||Platè (Chiribiri)||43m45.6s||1500 cc|
|9.||Compagnoni (Bugatti)||43m49.0s||1500 cc|
|10.||Weber (Fiat)||44m07.0s||1500 cc|
|11.||Corà (Spa)||over 2000 cc|
|12.||Mincotti (Bugatti)||2000 cc|
|13.||Clerici (Salmson)||1100 cc|
|14.||Graziani (Fiat)||1500 cc|
|15.||Amadio (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|16.||Sidoli (Fiat)||1500 cc|
|17.||Minguzzi (OM)||2000 cc|
|18.||Pedroni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|19.||Trevisan (Diatto)||2000 cc|
|20.||Malinverni (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|21.||Levoni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|22.||Montanari (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|23.||Neri (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|24.||Balestrero (OM)||2000 cc|
|25.||Bacchilega (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
On the sixth lap, after leaving the road, Materassi stopped to change a tire. Balestrero and Bertocchi also stopped at the pits. Malinverni was forced to retire his small Bugatti.
On the ninth lap Foroni took the lead from Bona who followed 22 seconds behind. Balestrero (OM), was forced to retire with a leaking radiator and Weber (Fiat) arrived slowly at the pits to retire
as did Amadio (Ansaldo). After Sidoli, Malinverni and Neri also retired the field was down to 19 cars after ten laps:
|1.||Foroni (Itala Spl)||1h20m05.0s||over 2000 cc|
|2.||Bona (Bugatti)||1h20m27.2s||2000 cc|
|3.||Materassi (Itala Spl)||1h22m14.4s||over 2000 cc|
|4.||Stefanelli (Diatto)||1h24m25.0s||2000 cc|
|5.||Ceratto (Alfa Romeo)||1h24m48.4s||over 2000 cc|
|6.||Mincotti (Bugatti)||2000 cc|
|7.||Platè (Chiribiri)||1500 cc|
|8.||Compagnoni (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|9.||Tassara (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|10.||Corà (Spa)||over 2000 cc|
|11.||Pedroni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|12.||Graziani (Fiat)||1500 cc|
|13.||Minguzzi (OM)||2000 cc|
|14.||Clerici (Salmson)||1100 cc|
|15.||Trevisan (Diatto)||2000 cc|
|16.||Montanari (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|17.||Levoni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|18.||Bertocci (Alfa Romeo)||over 2000 cc|
|19.||Bacchilega (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
On the 12th lap Platè (Fiat) changed a tire. Materassi stopped on lap 14 to fill up his oil, after he made a fast lap in 7m20.2s at an average of 117.640 km/h, higher than Ferrari's record set
last year. Meanwhile, Bona retired and the struggle for first place was now reduced to Foroni and Materassi in the large Italas. The spectators followed the two bolides with keen interest and
excitement. Tassara, who was leading the 1500 category, stopped to change one tire. When Bona, Corà, Minguzzi and Trevisan retired, the field was down to 15 cars, with only the first six cars
in correct order after 15 laps:
|1.||Foroni (Itala Spl)||1h59m00.0s||over 2000 cc|
|2.||Materassi (Itala Spl)||1h59m55.0s||over 2000 cc|
|3.||Ceratto (Alfa Romeo)||2h05m22.0s||over 2000 cc|
|4.||Stefanelli (Diatto)||2h06m52.0s||2000 cc|
|5.||Platè (Chiribiri)||2h09m08.6s||1500 cc|
|6.||Tassara (Bugatti)||2h09m15.2s||1500 cc|
|7.||Compagnoni (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|8.||Graziani (Fiat)||1500 cc|
|9.||Montanari (Bugatti)||1500 cc|
|10.||Bertocci (Alfa Romeo)||over 2000 cc|
|11.||Clerici (Salmson)||1100 cc|
|12.||Pedroni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|13.||Bacchilega (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|14.||Levoni (Ansaldo)||2000 cc|
|15.||Mincotti (Bugatti)||2000 cc|
On the 17th lap, Materassi was leading and almost lost his first place to Foroni at the finish line. In the 1500 category the struggle was between Platè, Tassara and Compagnoni who were within
seconds of each other. After Bona's retirement, Steffanelli (Diatto) had a clear advantage in the 2000 category where he had an excellent run. Mincotti retired on lap 18 with an engine fire on
his 2.0-L Bugatti. The advantage of Materassi seemed to increase but the fight between him and Foroni would only be decided on the last lap. Meanwhile, Clerici in the 1100 Salmson continued his
regular and fast run. Platè who drove excellently forced his Chiribiri towards the end of the race and went to lead his category.
On the penultimate lap Tassara (1500 Bugatti) overturned near Ponta sul Savio which made him lose all hope for first place in his category. Steffanelli who led the 2000 category, retired on the
last lap when Materassi and Foroni were separated by only 29 seconds and finished with a 55 seconds gap. Materassi was warmly applauded for his impressive victory. Ceratto finished third ahead
of Platè who won the 1500 category ahead of Compagnoni in fifth place. Bertocci finished sixth, followed by Tassara and Graziani. Clerici in the 1100 Salmson finished ninth ahead of Montanari's
1500 Bugatti. As last finishers arrived the three 2.0-L Ansaldos, a short distance from each other and were awarded the Coppa Mussolini.
1. The official average speeds as taken from Gazzetta dello Sport were as follows: Materassi 108.290 km/h, Pedroni 91.502 km/h, Platè 101.346 km/h,
Clerici 92.279 km/h. Materassi's and Platè's speeds correspond to a circuit length of 14.438 km, Pedroni's to 14.385 km
Primary sources researched for this article:|
ACI - rivista, Torino
AC Ravenna - Program, Ravenna
La Domenica Sportiva, Milano
La Gazzetta dello Sport, Milano
La Stampa, Torino
Special thanks to: