Thursday, December 4, 2008

French F1 Drivers, Marcel Balsa

Marcel Balsa

Marcel Lucien Balsa (January 1, 1909 in Creuse – August 11, 1984 in Maisons-Alfort) was a French racing driver.

His first mention in a racing event was at 38 years old in the French Grand Prix of Pau in 1939
Balsa started racing competitively after World War II, when he acquired a Bugatti Type 51 and became quite competitive in the French national events.

  • in 1945 "Coupe des Prisoniers" ( Prisoner's Cup) in Paris he finishes 5th
  • Then in 1946 at the second leg of the Marseilles GP manages to get Pole position but only finishes 5th once again.
He later built a BMW-engined Formula 2 car, being disapointed with being always left behind with his Bugatti, and had a good reputation. he manages a 4th position in the Luxembourg GP.

He then tried a Jicey-BMW developed by Jean Caillas. With it he finished third in the Grand Prix of Cadours, the same event where fellow racer Raymond Sommer was killed. Spectators could even spot his Jovial self in Paris GP starting grid in 1952. ( F2 Race)

Marcel Balsa was another one-time guest in Germany, taking part in the 1952 German Grand Prix with his special, when he retired after the 5th lap with a broken rear axle. The car is reported to have been based on a Gordini chassis with a BMW engine installed... Quite strange indeed.!

While Felice Bonetto spins his Maserati on the opening lap of the 1952 German Grand Prix, Marcel Balsa in his BMW special (110, in the foreground) and Hans Klenk in the Veritas Meteor (128) manage to avoid collision.

He was then 51 years old, making him the 9th oldest driver to ever compete in an international F1 event.

In 1953 he won a race at Montlhery facing little opposition from a few local drivers.

His last apparitions will be in Montlhery and in Cadours where he finishes 5th, in 1954.

Here is what his daughter had to say about him upon his death:
"C’était un homme heureux, il n’a fait de sa vie que ce dont il avait envie…, et il m’a appris à écouter un moteur."
"He was a very happy man, he only did what he loved to do..., and taught me to listen to an engine roar"

All photos with permission from Mr paul Henri Cahier

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