1906 Grand Prix season

1906 Grand Prix season
Previous: Pre-1906 Next: 1907

The 1906 Grand Prix season is regarded as the first Grand Prix racing season. It marked the advent of two iconic races: The French Grand Prix and the Targa Florio.

Major racesEdit

Sources: [1][2][3][4]

Date Name Circuit Race
Winning driver Winning constructor Report
12 Feb Cuba Cuban Race Havana France Victor Demogeot France Renault Report
6 May Italy Targa Florio Madonie 450 km Italy Alessandro Cagno Italy Itala Report
26–27 Jun France French Grand Prix Le Mans 1240 km Flag of Hungary (1896-1915; 3-2 aspect ratio).svg Ferenc Szisz France Renault Report
13 Aug Belgium Circuit des Ardennes Bastogne 960 km Belgium Arthur Duray France De Dietrich Report
Belgium Liedekerke Cup Bastogne 450 km H. Wilhelm Belgium Métallurgique Report
22 Sep United States Vanderbilt Elimination Race Long Island 285 miles United States Joe Tracy United States Locomobile Report
27 Sep United Kingdom Tourist Trophy Isle of Man 160 miles United Kingdom Charles Rolls United Kingdom Rolls-Royce Report
6 Oct United States Vanderbilt Cup Long Island 300 miles France Louis Wagner France Darracq Report
12 Nov France Coupe de L’Auto Rambouillet 7 days France George Sizaire France Sizaire-Naudin Report

Season reviewEdit

The season started with the first ever motor-race in Cuba, won by Victor Demogeot in a 1904 80-bhp Renault.[5]

To raise the profile of Italian motorsport, the wealthy 23-year old Conte Vincenzo Florio devised a course across the middle of his native Sicily. The circuit ran from Campofelice di Roccella on the northern coast up 3600’ into the Madonie mountains to Petralia Sottana before returning to the coast.[6] The roads at this time were unsealed and very rudimentary and windy.[7] The race would be three laps of the 150km circuit. Florio went to great lengths to promote the event, with a solid gold trophy.[6] and an elaborate grandstand for VIPs at Petralia Sottana, overlooking the valleys.[8]

Cars had to cost less than FF20000 and have had at least ten models built.[5] They could be any engine size, but had to under 1300kg in weight.[8] There were ten entries in this first edition, including five Italas. Vincenzo Lancia, in the sole FIAT, took the lead initially before being forced to retire when a stone punctured his fuel tank. Itala team-mates Alessandro Cagno and Ettore Graziani then vied for the lead before the experience of Cagno showed through and he pulled away to win the inaugural Targa Florio. He had covered the 447km in 9hrs 33 minutes, finishing 32 minutes ahead of Graziani.[6]

The French Automobile Club (ACF) had grown more dissatisfied with the format of the inter-nation Gordon Bennett Cup. Each nation would enter a 3-car team for those races, but France had many more manufacturers than the other competing nations.[9][8][7] In 1906, as current holders, it was the turn of the ACF to host the next Gordon Bennett race. Instead it proposed a new race with far larger Grand Prix (‘Big Prize’) of FF100 000 (equivalent to about €400 000 in 2015)[10] to the winner, and open to all car-companies. Interest from manufacturers was high and in October 1905, promoted by the sports newspaper L’Auto, tenders were opened to the French auto clubs for hosting rights. The newly formed Automobile Club de la Sarthe, forerunner of the ACO, won the contract, starting construction on a 103km triangular circuit to the east of Le Mans.[10]

The inaugural French Grand Prix took place on the weekend of 26-27 June. Cars had a maximum weight of 1000kg (excluding lights, wings and upholstery) and sufficient gasoline was allocated for a fuel consumption of 30 litres per 100km.[8] Run over the two days, the cars had to run six laps of the circuit each day, locked up overnight, for a total distance of 1240km.[6] Twelve manufacturers entered, most in 3-car teams, with nine from France, two from Italy (FIAT and Itala) and Mercedes from Germany.[11] The fastest cars were the Brasier team,[6] but at the end of the first day, it was the 13-litre Renault AK of Ferenc Szisz – a Hungarian émigré now resident in France – that led. He had taken 5 hours 45 minutes, at an average speed of 107 km/h. Second was Albert Clément in his Clément-Bayard ahead of Felice Nazzaro in the 16.2L FIAT. All three teams were greatly helped by the installation of the new Michelin detachable-wheel units that saved about ten minutes at each pit stop for changing tyres.[11][8] Szisz carried on his advantage into the second day to win, taking a total of just over twelve hours to complete the 12 laps, at an average speed of just over 100 km/h. Nazzaro got up to finish second ahead of Clément.[8] Over the course of the race, as the sun melted the newly-laid tar and the road-surface broke up, tyre changes were common. Szisz himself needed 19 tyre-changes during the course of the race – good pitwork had brought him victory.[11][12] It established Renault and their car sales rose from 1600 in 1906 to 3000 in 1907 up to 4600 in 1908.[5]

A large contingent of European drivers, including Nazzaro, Cagno and Wagner, had entered the American Vanderbilt Cup race in October. In response, an elimination race was organised beforehand to select the five drivers to represent the US in the main race. A new circuit through New York city was set up, but yet again, crowd control was a constant problem with one spectator run over and killed when crossing the track during the race. The end of the race was signalled with a black and white chequered flag, marking the first instance that format was used. Frenchman Louis Wagner won in a Darracq, but yet again the crowd surge onto the track after the race endangered the remaining speeding cars.

The final new race of the year was also promoted by L’Auto. The Coupe de l’Auto was developed to promote engineering advances. Regulations dictated the size of single and two-cylinder Voiturette engines with a minimum weight of 700kg. It was a true endurance race, with cars having to do eight laps of the 20-mile Rambouillet circuit, west of Paris, each day for six days to qualify for a final race on the 7th day. Georges Sizaire won in his own car – an 18hp Sizaire-Naudin.[5]

At the end of the year, Vincenzo Lancia founded his own car-company, while still staying on as a FIAT works-driver.[5]

In 1906 Charles Jarrott, a British amateur racing driver, wrote the book "Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing" about the years of open-road city-to-city racing.[13] He noted then "The result is that only men who make it their business to drive these cars can hope to be successful... the curse of commercialism is the ruin of every sport".[14]

  1. ^ "Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing". kolumbus.fi. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  2. ^ "GEL Motorsport Information Page". teamdan.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  3. ^ Monkhouse 1953, p.232-79
  4. ^ "Autosport Nostalgia Forum". forums.autosport.com. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Rendall 1993, p.49
  6. ^ a b c d e Rendall 1993, p.46-7
  7. ^ a b Legate 2006, p.10
  8. ^ a b c d e f Cimarosti 1997, p.25-7
  9. ^ Spurring 2015, p.17
  10. ^ a b Spurring 2015, p.18
  11. ^ a b c Spurring 2015, p.19
  12. ^ Rendall 1993, p.48
  13. ^ Rendall 1991, p.15
  14. ^ Rendall 1991, p.35


  • Cimarosti, Adriano (1997) The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing London: Aurum Press Ltd ISBN 1-85410-500-0
  • Georgano, Nick (1971) The Encyclopaedia of Motor Sport London: Ebury Press Ltd ISBN 0-7181-0955-4
  • Legate, Trevor (2006) 100 years of Grand Prix Kent: Touchstone Books Ltd ISBN 0-9551-0201-4
  • Ludvigsen, Karl (2008) Racing Colours - Italian Racing Red Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-7110-3331-5
  • Monkhouse, George (1953) Grand Prix Racing Facts and Figures London: G.T. Foulis & Co Ltd
  • Rendall, Ivan (1991) The Power and The Glory – A Century of Motor Racing London: BBC Books ISBN 0-563-36093-3
  • Rendall, Ivan (1993) The Chequered Flag – 100 years of Motor Racing London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd ISBN 0-297-83220-4
  • Spurring, Quentin (2015) Le Mans 1923-29 Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes Publishing ISBN 978-1-91050-508-3
  • Venables, David (2009) Racing Colours - French Racing Blue Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd ISBN 978-0-7110-3369-6

External linksEdit