André Simon

André Simon has died at the age of 92. The Frenchman was one of the mainstays of the Gordini team in the 1950s, but also drove for Mercedes-Benz.

The son of a garage owner who ran a Mathis agency in La Varenne, Simon was brought up by his uncle after his father died when he was only nine years of age. He started working in the family automobile business at the age of 13. The war came at the wrong for him and so he did not begin racing until 1948, by which time he was 28 years of age. he started out in an old Talbot-Lago T150 at Montlhéry, loaned to him by Pierre Boncompagni and won. He was then loaned a Delahaye 155 by Charles Pozzi, although the car was delivered in kit form and he had to build it himself. He finished seventh at Comminges, albeit six laps behind Luigi Villoresi, but was then asked by Eugene Chaboud to drive with him in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1949 in a Delahaye 175S entered by Pozzi. He set the fastest lap of the night hours in the car and although it did not make it to the finish, retiring with engine failure in the closing hours, it was sufficient to attract the attention of Amédée Gordini, who hired Simon to race in Formula 2 for him in 1950 and 1951, as the junior team member alongside Maurice Trintignant, Robert Manzon and Jean Behra. He won the Circuit of the Médoc and beat Trintignant on the Circuit du Lac at Aix-les-Bains. At Angouleme he finished second to Juan Manuel Fangio, but ahead of Jose Froilan Gonzalez; and at Reims was runner-up to Alberto Ascari, but ahead of Stirling Moss. He battled Ascari for the lead at the German Grand Prix around the Nurburgring, despite being in a car that had less power than the Ferrari, causing Alfred Neubauer to note down the name for future reference. In 1951 at Sables d’Olonne he beat the entire Gordini team of Manzon, Jean Behra and Maurice Trintignant, but decided to take up the offer of a Ferrari drive in 1952, alongside Giuseppe Farina, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi. The deal was that he had to hand over his car to the Italians if they had problems. He did six races for Scuderia Ferrari, retiring in Naples, being forced to hand over his car when running second in Berne. At Monlhéry he was second with Farina having taken over his car, he was second in the Autodromo GP at Monza, without any other driver being involved and then shared a non-championship F1 victory with Ascari at Comminges in August. He also did sports car races for Ferrari and finished fifth at Le Mans in one of Luigi Chinetti’s cars.

At the start of 1953 Simon was badly burned in a garage fire. he spent most of the year recovering and signed for Gordini in 1954 and scored some notable results including third in the International Trophy behind Gonzalez (Ferrari) and Behra and fourth in Rome. In 1955 he bought his own Maserati 250F and scored some decent results with the car before joining up with Louis Rosier’s team. In Monaco he was asked to drive a Mercedes after Hans Herrmann was injured in an accident and qualified 10th. He retired in the race after 25 laps. A week later he took his Maserati to victory at Albi. He was then asked to drive for Mercedes at the ill-fated Le Mans 24 Hours, alongside Karl Kling. The pair were running fifth when the car was withdrawn following Pierre Levegh’s accident. Later in the year he raced for Mercedes again the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod and finished third with Wolfgang Von Trips.

Simon continue to race in F1 in 1956 and 1957 but results were few and far between. In 1959 he bought a Ferrari 250GT and turned his attention to GT races and rallies and in May 1960, he won the Paris GP at Montlhéry and took on a new navigator for rallies by the name of Jean Sage, later to become the Renault F1 team manager. He also finished third in the Paris 1000km at Montlhéry. He continued to race 250GTs and in 1962 won the Tour de France with Maurice Dupeyron as his co-driver. He switched to Maseratis in the mid 1960s and achieved some promising results. In 1966 he suffered life-threatening injuries in a road accident, which left him in a coma for two weeks.He recovered and then concentrated on his family business until he retired in 1984.

4 thoughts on “André Simon

  1. Joe

    Do I remember correctly that André Simon became a recluse, in the French Alps or perhaps another mountainous area of France, very bitter that his career had not worked out better for him?

    Perhaps he saw himself as the next Fangio but his ambitions were derailed by teams who tried him and dropped him.

    I am sure I read something along these lines in Motor Sport, many years ago now, but the memory can play tricks!

    Perhaps I have the wrong man.

    R.I.P. André

    Martin

  2. Another sad day.

    But what an awesome career. I heard or read of Simon too many times, en passant. You do a service.

  3. Martin,

    I was in contact with Mr. Simon through his son a couple of years ago and they both came across as most pleasant people, very happy to talk about his racing career and I certainly didn’t feel any negativity in anything they said. I don’t know how satisfied he was with his career, but a bitter recluse he most certainly wasn’t.

    I hope this clears it up a bit 🙂

    RIP, Mr. Simon.

    Kind regards,
    Gab

  4. To add to my previous post, a story by “r.atlos” on the Atlas board from 2007:

    “At some point in 1982 or so (and when living just outside Paris), I needed a new 2nd hand day-to-day (and tow) car and found a suitable low-mileage Alfetta TD in the small ads. You may imagine my surprise when I realised that this address in St.Cloud was that of Thepenier, previously Maserati importer and closely linked to the history of Colonel Simone’s Le Mans cars. I was taken care of by a gentleman who introduced himself as André Simon.

    Once the deal was struck I asked him whether he was “THE” André Simon. He was delighted to hear I had an interest in sports and race cars of the 50s and 60s, knew a bit about racing “in the old days” and that I was myself in Historic Racing. We started chatting about his racing career and in the end he took me to the top floor of their building to show me the GTO and A6 that were still in Thepenier’s possession back then.

    This gentleman was so delighted and enthusiastic to speak to someone who knew and understood what he was talking about – a real pleasure. “

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