Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hotel de France, La Chartre sur-le-Loir

This hotel is on my Bucket List if I get to France again.  John Wyer scouted it when he first took the Aston Martin team to LeMans.  (It is about 20 miles southeast of the circuit.)  He chose it because he liked Five Star food and drink--his teams never stayed anywhere else in the decades that Wyer raced at LeMans.

Wyer was famously tight-fisted with pay and autocratic in management style, but he never scrimped on accomodations and always insisted that the entire team, including the drivers, stay together in one hotel.  He felt it built team spirit, and it served his control-freak purposes.  The only driver to successfully rebel was Stirling Moss.  Some very famous people have stayed here, and partied in the restaurant.

Hotel de France, La Chartre sur-le-Loir, 1950's.

1953: Aston Martin DB 3 S's.  The entire team was DNF.  George Abecassis/Roy Salvadori
(26) were out with clutch failure, Dennis Poore/Eric Thompson (27) had ignition failure,
and Reg Parnell/Peter Collins (25) had an accident.

1954, Left to right: Paul Frere, Reg Parnell, Graham Whitehead, Carroll Shelby, Ian Stewart, David Brown, Peter Collins,
Roy Salvadori, and Prince Bira.  All four Aston Martin DB 3 S's were DNF.  The Shelby/Frere car broke its axle, the
Parnell/Salvadori car broke its engine, and the Collins/Bira and Whitehead/Stewart cars were out with accidents.

1957: Aston Martin DBR 1's and another miserable year.  Tony Brooks/Noel Cunningham-Reid (20) were out with an
accident and Roy Salvadori/Les Leston (19) were DNF with clutch failure.  Two years later, Carroll Shelby and Roy
Salvadori delivered Aston Martin's first win after years of trying (and some good finishes).

1964: Aston Martin had retired from racing and John Wyer was running Ford Motor Company's first year of racing the
Ford GT 40.  Phil Hill/Bruce McLaren (10) and Richie Ginther/Masten Gregory (11) were out with gearbox failure.
The Richard Attwood/Jo Schlesser car (12) burned to the ground on the Mulsanne Straight.

1965: Wyer had been demoted to running Ford Advanced Vehicle's customer support program (Carroll Shelby was running
the factory team), but was allowed to enter a car for "research."  John Whitmore is barely visible behind the camera man;
Innes Ireland is partially obscured, and John Wyer is hoping they don't say something Ford will object to.  The #14 car
was out with overheating, a chronic problem with the "dry deck" engine that Wyer didn't want to run.

1968:The first of two consecutive wins for the famous Chassis 1075.  This one was dominant, with Pedro Rodriguez/
Lucien Bianchi winning easily.  1969 was a nail-biter, barely ahead of a Porsche 908. 

1971: By now Wyer (and Steve McQueen's film) had made the Gulf blue and orange colors famous.  But both Wyer
Porsche 917 LH's were DNF, this Jo Siffert/Derek Bell car with engine failure.  Wyer's 917 K entry came second in
1971, but he never won LeMans for Porsche.

Dining room of the Hotel de France.  Some raucous victory parties were held in this room.  And some very quiet
drown-our-sorrows "Wait 'till next year[s]."

The Hotel de France is now a regular stop for historically-minded gearheads and car clubs touring France by car.  This is
Stirling Moss (seated) holding forth to the Aston Martin Owners' Club of the U.K.

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