The ACF Grand Prix held in Lyon in 1914 was one of the last races before the outbreak of the Great War, and saw a pitched battle between the Peugeot of Boillot and the Mercedes of Lautenschlager, Wagner and Otto Salzer (pictured). Ultimately the Peugeot failed, in the dying laps of the race, to leave Mercedes to take the first three places. Seemingly a righteous victory but the drivers were met with reticent applause at the finish line. For the first time in motor racing history Mercedes overruled the autonomy of the drivers and it was the pit crew that called the shots. At the time this was not seen to be playing the game and that, combined with the rising political tension, meant there was little celebration at Mercedes’ success.
The Lyon Grand Prix heralded the end of an era: a period in motor racing when drivers and mechanics raced unaided and unrested across enormous back-breaking distances, their hands torn from wrestling the rudimentary, heavy steering and their bodies battered from prehistoric suspension and flying rocks from the rutted tracks they drove. It was at this time that the pioneers of motor racing were really developing: Marcel Renault, Vincenzo Lancia, Felice Nazzaro, Arthur Duray, Camille Jenatzy and Otto Salzer, to name but a few. Strong, stubborn, relentless heroes.
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