Jean Behra

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Jean Behra
Born (1921-02-16)16 February 1921
Nice, France
Died 1 August 1959(1959-08-01) (aged 38)
Berlin, Germany
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality France French
Active years 19521959
Teams Gordini, Maserati, BRM, Ferrari
Races 53 (52 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 9
Career points 51 17
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 1
First race 1952 Swiss Grand Prix
Last race 1959 French Grand Prix

Jean Marie Behra (born in Nice, France, 16 February 1921 – died in Berlin, Germany, 1 August 1959) was a Formula One driver who raced for the Gordini, Maserati, BRM, Ferrari and Porsche teams.

Appearance and personality[edit]

Behra was small in stature, stocky, and weighed 178 pounds.[1] Behra had big shoulders and was scarred from 12 crashes. In 1955 he had an ear torn off from a collision. He sometimes drove magnificently and at others he drove with a lack of enthusiasm.[2]

Career synopsis[edit]

He raced motorcycles for Moto-Guzzi prior to changing to sports cars and Grand Prix racing. Behra began driving cars competitively in 1952. Joakim Bonnier claimed that he learned the majority of his racing skill from Behra.[1] Although he never achieved victory in a World Championship Formula One race, he managed an unquenchable thirst for motorsport, being considered a formidable competitor to the day he died. He hit the headlines when he won the non-title 1952 Reims Grand Prix. Between then and 1959 he scored many victories, but none in Formula One championship races.

Gordini[edit]

Behra was in a Gordini in the Panamericana road race in the Mexican state of Oaxaca in November 1952. He won the first stage of the five-day race from Mexico's southern border to the United States border at Ciudad Juárez near El Paso. He started 19th and finished with a time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, and 44 seconds.[3] On the second day of competition Behra crashed his car on a curve approximately fifty miles from Puebla.[4] In April 1954 Behra passed the leader in the last ten minutes on his way to victory in the Grand Prix of Pau, France. He finished 200 yards (180 m) ahead of Maurice Trintignant after having to make many pit stops due to mechanical trouble. Behra drove a six cylinder Gordini.[5]

Maserati[edit]

Behra finished first at the Grand Prix de Pau for a second consecutive year, this time at the wheel of a Maserati. Alberto Ascari led until the 19th lap but dropped back after brake failure. A crowd of 50,000 watched as only eleven of sixteen starters finished the race.[6] Behra and Luigi Musso were teammates in the 1,008 kilometer super-Cortemaggiori Grand Prix at Monza, Italy. The two Italians shared a 3,000 cubic centimeter Maserati that won and established course and lap records for 6.3 kilometer track.[7]

Behra had surgery on his leg in June 1956, forcing him to miss a 1,000 kilometer Monza Grand Prix.[8] He earned the pole position for a Grand Prix at Rouen, France in July 1956. His Maserati was clocked at an average speed of nearly 155.46 kilometers per hour.[9] Behra drove a Maserati to capture the Grand Prix of Rome, a 2,000 cubic centimeters sports car event, in October 1956. His winning distance was 166.030 kilometers. He covered one lap in 2 minutes, 16.9 seconds, to average 174.003 kilometers an hour. This established a record for the Castelfusano track.[10]

In April 1957 Behra turned in the quickest time for the Pau Grand Prix. He circuited the 2.77 meter course in 1 minute 35.7 seconds, which was a half second slower than his lap record time. The race covered a distance of 304.6 kilometers or about 190 miles (310 km).[11] Behra won the race which was run through the streets of Pau, with an average speed of 62.7 mph (100.9 km/h).[12] Behra was injured while testing a car for the Mille Miglia in May 1957. He recovered and entered a Maserati in the 24 hours of Le Mans on 22 June.[13] Behra was triumphant in a Maserati at Kristianstad, Sweden in August 1957. He drove in a Swedish 6-hour Grand Prix at the Rabelov, 6,537 meter, asphalt track.[14] He followed this with a win in the Grand Prix of Modena, Italy in September.[15]

Porsche[edit]

Behra drove a Porsche to victory in the 6th Rouen Grand Prix. He bested the British drivers, Graham Hill and Alan Stacey.[16] Behra took 4th place at Oporto in the 1958 Portuguese Grand Prix, driving for British Racing MotorsBRM.[17] He drove a Porsche to achieve first place in the Grand Prix of Berlin, Germany held in September. He navigated the twenty circuits of the 5.19-mile (8.35 km) track with a time of 128.2 mph (206.3 km/h). in 48 minutes, 14.8 seconds.[18] Altogether he scored wins in 8 straight European races in 1958. In each sports car event he piloted a Porsche Spyder. In Formula One he drove exclusively for BRM that year.[1] Behra finished 4th at Riverside International Raceway in a small Porsche RSK, in October 1958. He made a quick exit and took an airplane to Europe, where he left for the Grand Prix of Morocco at Casablanca. He was in such a hurry that he left Riverside, California in an ambulance to make his flight.[19]

Final season and death[edit]

In 1959 he moved to Ferrari where he partnered with Tony Brooks. Behra won a 200-mile (320 km) international race of Formula One cars at Aintree, in April 1959. He averaged 88.7 miles per hour in an event in which Brooks took second place, 10 seconds behind.[20] When he retired in the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux after a piston failure, Behra was involved in a strong discussion in a restaurant in which he punched team manager Romolo Tavoni and another patron, and was instantly dismissed from the team.

Less than a month later he crashed his Porsche RSK in rainy weather in the sports car race that preceded the German Grand Prix at AVUS, in Berlin, Germany.[21] He was thrown from his car and fatally injured when he hit a flagpole, causing a skull fracture.

The sports car race featured entries of small, under 1,500 c.c. engine capacity. After three laps Behra was third behind Wolfgang von Trips and Bonnier, who eventually finished one and two. The AVUS was unique among race tracks. It used a strip of the Autobahn 2.5 miles (4.0 km) in length. The north and south bound lanes were fifty feet apart. At one end was a hairpin turn which drivers negotiated at around 30 mph (48 km/h). At the other end was a 30-foot (9.1 m) high, steeply banked loop. Behra lost control in the pouring rain, while going 110 mph (180 km/h). The Porsche began to fishtail with the tail of the car going higher and higher up the slick, steep bank. Then the Porsche spun and went over the top of the banking, with its nose pointing toward the sky. It landed heavily on its side on top of the banking. It remained there wrecked, while the race continued on underneath. Behra was thrown out and for a fleeting moment he could be seen against the background of the sky, with his arms outstretched as though attempting to fly. He impacted one of eight flagpoles arranged at the summit of the embankment which bore the flags of the competing nations. The flagpole toppled over when Behra collided with it, about halfway to its top.

Behra came down into trees and rolled almost into a street where drivers and cars often waited in a paddock to practice. A doctor arrived from a Red Cross ambulance close by. He examined Behra briefly and shook his head. A hospital bulletin stated that Behra broke most of his ribs in addition to the skull fracture which killed him.[21] Currently AVUS is a vital part of the German public highway system as Autobahn A 115.

Mourning[edit]

Behra was buried in Nice, France six days after the crash in which he died on 1 August. In between there were three funeral services. 3,000 mourners in Nice lined the streets from wall to wall. The first funeral service was in Berlin, followed by another in Paris.

Behra left a nineteen-year-old son, Jean Paul. Behra's demise left only Maurice Trintignant among living French drivers of fame. Trintignant comforted Behra's family and called on the young men of France to defend the colours of their country in international motor racing. Conspicuously absent among those present in the racing community was Enzo Ferrari. He dropped Behra as a factory driver ten days before his death and sent no remembrance to the funeral masses.[22]


Racing record[edit]

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key) (Race in italics indicates fastest lap (shared))

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 WDC Points
1952 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
SUI
3
500
BEL
Ret
FRA
7
GBR
GER
5
NED
Ret
ITA
Ret
11th 6
1953 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
ARG
6
500
NED
BEL
Ret
FRA
10
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
SUI
Ret
ITA
NC 0
1954 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
ARG
DSQ
500
BEL
Ret
FRA
6
GBR
Ret
GER
10
SUI
Ret
ITA
Ret
ESP
Ret
26th 17
1955 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati
Straight-6
ARG
6 *
MON
3 †
500
BEL
5 ‡
NED
6
GBR
Ret
ITA
4
9th 6
1956 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati
Straight-6
ARG
2
MON
3
500
BEL
7
FRA
3
GBR
3
GER
3
ITA
Ret
4th 22
1957 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati
Straight-6
ARG
2
MON
500
FRA
6
GBR
Ret
GER
6
PES
Ret
11th 6
Maserati V12 ITA
Ret
1958 Ken Kavanagh Maserati 250F Maserati
Straight-6
ARG
5
11th 9
Owen Racing Organisation BRM P25 BRM Straight-4 MON
Ret
NED
3
500
BEL
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
POR
4
ITA
Ret
MOR
Ret
1959 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Dino 246 Ferrari V6 MON
Ret
500
NED
5
FRA
Ret
GBR
17th 2
Jean Behra Behra-Porsche RSK Porsche Flat-4 GER
DNS
POR
ITA
USA
* Indicates shared drive with Harry Schell
† Indicates shared drive with Cesare Perdisa
‡ Indicates shared drive with Roberto Mieres

Non-Championship Formula One results[edit]

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
1951 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
SYR PAU RIC SRM BOR INT PAR ULS SCO NED ALB
6
PES BAR GOO
1952 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 11 Gordini
Straight-6
RIO SYR VAL RIC LAV PAU
3
IBS
Gordini Type 15 MAR
NC
AST INT
Ret
ELÄ NAP EIF
Gordini Type 16 PAR
Ret
ALB
Ret
FRO ULS MNZ LAC
1
ESS MAR
1
SAB
DNS
CAE
2
DAI COM
3
NAT BAU
Ret
NAT BAU MOD
Ret
CAD SKA MAD AVU JOE NEW RIO
1953 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
SYR PAU
Ret
LAV AST BOR INT ELÄ NAP ULS
DNA
WIN FRO COR EIF ALB PRI GRE ESS MID ROU
Ret
STR CRY AVU USF LAC
Ret
DRE BRI CHE SAB
NC
NEW CAD
3
SAC RED SKA LON MOD
Ret
MAD BER JOE CUR
1954 Equipe Gordini Gordini Type 16 Gordini
Straight-6
SYR PAU
1
LAV BOR
Ret
INT
2
BAR
3
CUR ROM
4*
FRO COR BRC CRY ROU
DSQ
CAE
3†
AUG COR OUT
Ret
RED PES
5
SAC JOE CAD
1
BER
Ret
GOO DAI
16
1955 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati Straight-6 BUE VLN
Ret
PAU
1
GLV BOR
1
INT NAP
4
ALB CUR CRN LON REC RDX TLG OUL AVO SYR
1956 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati Straight-6 BUE
3
GLV SYR
Ret
AIN INT NAP 100 VNW CAE SUS BRH
1957 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati Straight-6 BUE
2
SYR
Ret
PAU
1
GLV NAP RMS
2
MOD
1
MOR
1
Jean Behra BRM P25 BRM Straight-4 CAE
1
INT
1
1958 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P25 BRM Straight-4 BUE GLV
Ret
SYR AIN
Ret
INT
4
CAE
Ret
1959 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Dino 246 Ferrari V6 BUE GLV AIN
1
INT OUL SIL
* Indicates shared drive with André Simon
† Indicates shared drive with Jacques Pollet

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Behra Arrives To Drive In $14,500 U.S. Grand Prix, Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1958, Page C1.
  2. ^ Grand Prix Drivers Accentuate The Positive, New York Times, May 3, 1959, Page S7.
  3. ^ Behra and Faulkner Lead Sections On First Leg of Mexican Auto Race, New York Times, November 20, 1952, Page 41.
  4. ^ Italian Auto Pilot Paces Mexican Race, New York Times, November 21, 1952, Page 32.
  5. ^ Behra Wins Pau Auto Race, New York Times, April 20, 1954, Page 37.
  6. ^ Behra Takes Pau Race; Italian Driver Is Killed, New York Times, April 12, 1955, Page 34.
  7. ^ Behra, Musso Take Monza Race, New York Times, May 30, 1955, Page 9.
  8. ^ Behra Faces Surgery, New York Times, June 20, 1956, Page 37.
  9. ^ Behra At Pole Position, New York Times, July 8, 1956, Page 144.
  10. ^ Behra Of France Takes Auto Race, October 22, 1956, Page 47.
  11. ^ Behra Has Fast Trial, April 21, 1957, Page 183.
  12. ^ Behra's Auto First In Pau Grand Prix, New York Times, April 23, 1957, Page 37.
  13. ^ Jean Behra Rides Again After Accident, Washington Post and Times Herald, Page C5.
  14. ^ Behra Takes Auto Race, New York Times, August 12, 1957, Page 23.
  15. ^ Briefs, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1957, Page C2.
  16. ^ Behra Takes Rouen Race, New York Times, June 9, 1958, Page 32.
  17. ^ Moss Wins Portugal's Grand Prix, The Washington Post and Times Herald, August 25, 1958, Page A15.
  18. ^ Behra's Porsche Wins, New York Times, September 22, 1958, Page 36.
  19. ^ Behra Makes Hurried Departure From Race, Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1958, Page C2.
  20. ^ Behra's Ferrari First At Aintree, New York Times, April 19, 1959, Page S1.
  21. ^ a b Jean Behra Killed In Race Crack-Up, New York Times, August 2, 1959, Page S1.
  22. ^ A Tribute To Behra, New York Times, August 11, 1959, Page 30.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Stirling Moss
BRDC International Trophy winner
1957
Succeeded by
Peter Collins
Records
Preceded by
Juan Manuel Fangio
52 entries, 51 starts
(19501958)
Most Grand Prix entries
53 entries, 52 starts
(19501959),
53rd at the 1959 German GP
Succeeded by
Harry Schell
56 entries (56 starts),
54th at the 1959 Italian GP