GRAN PREMIO de SAN SEBASTIAN
Circuito de Lasarte - San Sebastián (E), 27 July 1923 (Friday).
25 laps x 17.815 km (11.070 mi) = 445.375 km (276.743 mi)
|1||Albert Guyot||SA des Etablissements Rolland-Pilain||Rolland-Pilain||2.0||S-8|
|2||Jean de Marguenat||J. de Marquenot||Bugatti||2.0||S-8||DNA - Did not appear|
|3||Gaston Delalande||SA des Etablissements Rolland-Pilain||Rolland-Pilain||2.0||S-8|
|4||Jean Haimovicci||Dr. J. Haimovicci||Ballot||2LS||2.0||S-4|
|5||Jaques Ledure||Automobiles Bignan||Bignan||11CV||2.0||S-4|
|6||Jean Martin||Automobiles Bignan||Bignan||11CV||2.0||S-4|
Guyot wins the San Sebastian Grand Prix with Rolland-Pilain
by Hans Etzrodt
The Grand Prix for 2-Liter racecars was the main event of the 1923 San Sebastian Automobile Week, but turned out to be the worst race with only five starters. The fight was limited to
the Rolland-Pilains of Guyot and Delalande, against the Ballot of Haimovici and the slow Bignans of Ledure and Martin. Enduring rain badly affected the roads, making high speeds impossible
and delayed the start. The only moment of any interest was the Guyot-Haimovici duel between Rolland-Pilain and Ballot. When the leader Haimovici had trouble with his Ballot, Guyot took
the lead and won ahead of Delalande, Haimovici and Martin. Ledure retired just after mid-race. This was Rolland-Pilain's only victory in Grand Prix racing.
The 1923 Automobile week of San Sebastian, which was organized by the Real Automóvil Club de Guipúzcoa, began on Monday July 23 for motorcycles with sidecars under the official title Gran
Premio de Motocicletas con Sidecars, followed on Wednesday July 25 for touring cars, called Gran Premio de Turismos, on Thursday July 26 for cyclecars with the title Gran Premio de Autociclos,
on Friday July 27 for racecars, called I Gran Premio de San Sebastian and the conclusion by voiturettes on Saturday July 28, called I Gran Premio de Voiturettes. The five races were held on
the 17.815 km Lasarte circuit, south of the Atlantic seaside resort of San Sebastian. The grand prix cars were limited to 2-Liter and had to lap the course 25 times, a total of 445.375 km.
It was a natural road circuit, winding counterclockwise through the foothills of the Pyrenees. At the start and finish, between the villages of Lasarte and Oria, there were tram lines.
The road then led through Andoain after 5 km, Urnieta at half distance, Hernani after 11 km, and Lasarte only 1.3 km before the start and finish. On the straights, beginning after km 5
and up to km 10.7, there were several opportunities to go full throttle.
The small number of 2-Liter entries was further reduced by the withdrawal of the Bugattis of Friedrich and de Vizcaya with their cars from Tours, which were considered extremely probable to appear.
However, only six cars were entered, two Rolland Pilains, two Bignans, a Ballot and a Bugatti by De Marguenat. But on the day of the race the Bugatti did not appear.
The Rolland-Pilains had showed good performance in the French Grand Prix at Tours. François Rolland and Emile Pilain, were both present at the race. The cars had been designed by engineer Grillot
and were made in Tours. For 1923 Grillot improved the 1922 2-Liter car with hydraulic front brakes and a nice streamlined tail, painted light blue. The 1983 cc (59.7 x 90 mm) straight-eight engine
with a ball bearing crank, twin o.h.c. 16-valves, produced 75 hp and propelled the car to speeds of 175 km/h. Albert Guyot, a racing veteran, and Victor Hémery were the contracted drivers. Both
had driven the cars at Tours where they had retired with mechanical problems. When Hémery became ill just before the start in Spain, his mechanic Gaston Delalande had to replace him to start
in the race.
The Ballot 2LS grand prix car appeared first at the 1921 French Grand Prix where it finished third with Goux. The car had a 2-Liter, 4-cylinder twin o.h.c. 16-valve engine, giving 90 hp at
5000 rpm, capable of 170 km/h. At the 1922 Targa Florio, two Ballot 2LS placed second and third, came third at Indianapolis and second at Monza. In 1923 Campbell came first at Brooklands and
a Ballot 2LS was entered at the San Sebastian Grand Prix by Dr. Jean Haimovicci, a Romanian living in Paris. Amongst the many people present was also Ernest Ballot who told Charles Faroux
before the event that Haimovici was an amateur who raced in his production car and said, "what Haimovici will do is therefore an indication of what my 2-Liters can do without special
preparation." However, looking at a photograph of the Ballot with a barrel tank in the back, the car resembled the 1922 Targa Florio Ballot. Very likely this entry received works assistance.
In 1922 the Bignan company produced the 2-Liter 11 CV for touring and sports car events with four-wheel servo-assisted brakes. Besides the 50 hp production models, only two of these cars were
built for racing with a 4-cylinder o.h.c. engine, desmodromic valve gear operating the 16-valves, producing 75 hp. In 1923 this car was very successful at Le Mans. Two cars were entered at
the Spanish Touring Car Grand Prix where Martin won the 2-Liter class. After stripping the cars of fenders and lights with rear seats covered, both cars were entered at next day's Grand Prix
for racing cars. Martin drove one car and Ledure the other.
One of the Bignan drivers was named Elgy in almost all reports. Robert Dick informed us, that Elgy stood for L.J. short for Jaques Ledure, from "Les Ailes". On 29 May 1948 Ledure was one of the marshals
at the Chimay races and was killed when hurt by a wheel lost by the Dalahaye of French driver Pierre Meyrat, as confirmed by Marc Ceulemans, who also
explained that the riding mechanic of Jaques Ledure was Barthélemy Bruyère, born 1881 in Spa, former "chauffeur" of Theodore Pilette. As riding mechanic he also won the 1922
RACB Grand Prix with the driver Raymond de Tornaco,
Marc Ceulemans made us aware that the fourth finisher Martin, was actually the Parisian Jean Martin (not Edoardo Martin) and was chief tester at Bignan.
Interest for the San Sebastian Grand Prix was enormous, as a massive crowd, larger than the day before at the Touring Car Grand Prix, wanted to see the cars that had raced at Tours. It had rained
all night and at ten o'clock it was still raining and had badly soaked the roads. The Queen Mother Christine along with Prince D. Raniero attended the race. At the time of the start, the weather
was appalling with heavy rain. In addition, an unfortunate incident happened when Albert Guyot and Victor Hémery were suffering from food poisoning and had just vomited. It was doubtful if the
drivers would be able to race under these conditions. Before starting the race, opinions differed about whether or not to suspend the event but the majority of the drivers and manufacturers
expected good speeds. The general commissioner, Mr. San Gil, decided to postpone the start by an hour. Some official stewards finally left for a test-drive to inspect the circuit. On their
return, seeing that although the roads were wet and muddy, they still allowed the race. In view of the delayed start and the rain, it was agreed that the race should be only 25 laps instead
of 33, thus reducing the total distance to 445.375 km. Hémery, still very ill, decided to give up taking the wheel and passed it off at a moment's notice to his mechanic Gaston Delalande, who
had never driven the car or done the circuit. As for Guyot, despite his indisposition, he was going to drive.
The rolling start was given at the country house Chartel about 150 meters away from the starting line near the grandstand at 10:35 AM. The drivers took off in line, Guyot in front, followed by
Delalande, both in Rolland-Pilains, ahead of Haimovici in the Ballot, then the Bignans of Ledure and Martin. After 3 km, Haimovici was in the lead. The rain stopped, but the slippery road kept
the speed down. After the first lap, Haimovici held the lead at 90.6 km/h average speed with the field in the following order:
As the road began to dry, Guyot closed up on Haimovici. Ledure hit a bridge, started off again, but stopped a short time later, then rejoined the race. Delalande who had replaced Héméry, had never
driven the car before and had to learn the circuit. His first laps were covered at 72 km/h average speed, then he progressively raised his speed to 75, 80, and 90 km/h. After 150 km on the eighth
lap Delalande was lapped by Haimovici while Ledure had dropped behind and completed his sixth lap. On the tenth lap Haimovici made a fast lap in 10m42s at 99.897 km/h average speed, leading the
field with the following times after 10 laps:
|4.||Delalande (Rolland-Pilain)||1 lap down|
|5.||Ledure (Bignan)||4 laps down|
After the 12th lap, Haimovici was leading in 2h14m33s, only twelve seconds ahead of Guyot who was followed by Martin. On the 16th lap Haimovici held the lead 43 seconds to Guyot. The fight between
Ballot and Rolland-Pilain continued bitterly, separated by less than one minute. Ledure retired for unknown reasons on lap 16. His teammate Martin, distanced from the two leaders, drove a very
regular race. At this time Delalande was driving superbly at a speed of 90 km/h and covered his last laps at 94 km/h.
The interval between Haimovici and Guyot remained the same until lap 19 when Guyot attacked again with both cars passing the grandstand only 25 meters apart. But on this tricky circuit, full of
bends, the leading man was hard to pass with the outside of the road still muddy. Guyot had wisely waited to let the sun dry the road. Then on the 20th lap Guyot overtook his rival at Hernani
and established the lap record in 10m09s, at 105.310 km/h. When Haimovici burst a tire on one of his front wheels, he had to slow down as he carried no spare wheel and reached the pits only
after a great time loss. The positions were as follows after 20 laps:
|1.||Guyot (Rolland-Pilain)||21 laps|
|2.||Haimovici (Ballot)||20 laps|
|3.||Delalande (Rolland-Pilain)||18 laps|
|4.||Ledure (Bignan)||15 laps|
Guyot was now in the lead but after a few more laps the fight began again, as Haimovici tried to pass, but Guyot resisted superbly. At a refueling stop Guyot vomited and had to stop twice on the
penultimate lap, momentarily overcome with pain. Frequent stops for fuel and tires had lowered the pace, but the ranking remained the same. Then Haimovici no longer appeared passing the
grandstand at the expected time. News circulated that he had overturned but this was later denied. The Ballot driver had run into an embankment, but only after a long time he was able to
rejoin. In the meantime Delalande had advanced to second place. Martin followed in last place, driving the Bignan at more than 90 km/h average speed.
At 3:20 PM, Guyot finished his 25th and final lap, securing a long-awaited victory for Rolland-Pilain, 33 minutes ahead of his teammate Delalande. Guyot was widely applauded including his
riding mechanic Létigny. The governor of the Guipúzcoa province congratulated François Rolland and Emile Pilain, which were both present. The Queen Mother Christine and Prince D. Raniero
attended the prizegiving. Guyot received the first prize of 25,000 pesetas, which, at the exchange rate, represented 60,000 francs, plus 2,000 pesetas, the prize for fastest lap. Delalande,
who had successfully completed his first race ever, received 10,000 pesetas. Haimovici was third, two laps behind. He was the formidable animator of the race and deserved great ovations.
Martin finished in 4th place and could have been third, had he not lost 20 minutes due to a simple breakdown. He also received well-deserved applause at the end.
|1.||1||Albert Guyot||SA des Etablissements Rolland-Pilain||Rolland-Pilain||2.0||S-8||25||4h45m57s|
|2.||3||Gaston Delalande||SA des Etablissements Rolland-Pilain||Rolland-Pilain||2.0||S-8||25||5h19m12s||+ 33m15s|
|3.||4||Jean Haimovicci||Dr. J. Haimovicci||Ballot||2LS||2.0||S-4||25||5h37m16s||+ 51m19s|
|4.||6||Jean Martin||Automobiles Bignan||Bignan||11CV||2.0||S-4||25||5h47m23s||+1h01m26s|
|DNF||5||Jaques Ledure||Automobiles Bignan||Bignan||11CV ||2.0||S-4||15|
Fastest lap: Albert Guyot (Rolland-Pilain) in 10m09s at 105.3 km/h (65.4 mph).|
Winner's average speed: 93.5 km/h (58.1 mph).
Weather: intermittent rain showers .
Repeated mistakes in the various reports mixed-up the two Bignans of Ledure (Elgy) and Martin. Only the more detailed reports by El Mundo Deportivo and L'Écho de Paris show Martin finishing
fourth and Ledure retired.
The correct circuit length of 17.815 km x 25 laps = 445.375 km race length, was used by all sources except by El Mundo Deportivo & Automobil-Revue. Both used wrong numbers of
17.750 km x 25 laps = 443.750 km race length.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona
L'Écho de Paris, Paris
Le Figaro, Paris
Le Matin, Paris
Special thanks to:
Angel Elberdin, his book Circuito de Lasarte, Kutxa fundación, Bilbao, 1998