Louis Chiron and Mariette Delangle had a lot in common. They were born in 1899 and 1900 respectively. Neither came from a wealthy background: Chiron’s father was a hotel worker, Delangle’s was a postman. At the end of World War I, they were both in their late teens – and both attractive. By then, Chiron’s father was the maitre d’hotel at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and so Louis found work as a professional dancer, twirling wealthy women around the dance floor. Delangle too became a professional dancer, using the name Hélène Nice, which she would later shorten to Hellé Nice. Both were keen on motor racing and Chiron was able to get his hands on a Brescia Bugatti in 1923, thanks to the support of a wealthy American lady. It took Hellé Nice a little longer, but by 1929 she had started racing too. She acquired a Bugatti Type 35 from her “friend” Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Chiron also found a wealthy supporter in Alfred Hoffmann, heir to the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical fortune. Chiron would later become the lover of Hoffman’s wife Alice, which ended up with him being fired and the Hoffmans divorcing.
Once established, both Chiron and Hellé Nice enjoyed successful careers in racing in the 1930s. Neither married and Alice Hoffman left Chiron and married Rudolf Caracciola instead.
After World War II, Chiron denounced Hellé Nice as having been a collaborator. This destroyed her career as her sponsors immediately stopped supporting her. There was no evidence to support Chiron’s claim, although it is clear that in 1939, before the war began, Hellé Nice did have an affair with Baron Fritz Von Hanstein, who raced BMWs at the time, sponsored by the SS… There seems to be nothing more to it than that.
No-one really knows why Chiron did what he did to Hellé Nice. Perhaps it was just because they were too alike…
Chiron went on to become the oldest F1 driver ever when he raced in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix – at the age of 55.