I have recently posted about the road near Jabbeke, Belgium that was used for establishing top speed records or measurements in the early 1950s. The other major record-setting venue for speed-distance records was the Montlhery track near Paris, France. This track complex which included a road course and an oval course is shown below. The oval which was the scene of the record-setting runs is located on the right side of the image below.
The Montlhery Race Track Complex
The 1.58 mile long (2.584 kilometers) oval track at Montlhery was built in 1924. Similar to the Brooklands track in England,the Monza track in Italy, and the Sitges track in Spain it had substantial (up to 51 degree) banking. When it was built it was thought to be capable of producing speeds up to 155 miles per hour. It is interesting to note that even in 1924 the Brooklands track was falling out of favor as a record-setting venue because of noise limitations. At Montlhery, the track owner used an estate that was quite large, so noise was not an issue in the early days.
The extent of the impressive banking at Montlhery can be seen in the image below.
The Substantial Banking At The Montlhery Track
I suspect that a racer looking at the above photo would think that the sedan in the French racing blue color is heading off the track, but in recent years the track has been modified as shown in the image below. Now there are some chicanes that reduce the speeds at the track.
Current Layout At The Montlhery Track
Much of the information that I have included in this post is from the book “Montlhery, The Story Of The Paris Autodrome” written by William “Bill” Boddy in 1961. Bill Boddy was a very well-known and respected motoring journalist who was still writing about motor sports when he passed away in 2011 at the age of 98! Boddy was probably the most knowledgable person about the Brooklands track which probably tweaked his interest in the Montlhery track due its similarity to Brooklands.
Not only was the Montlhery track used for high-speed tests, it was also a venue for major race events. The French Grand Prix was held at Montlhery in 1925, 1927, 1931, and from 1933 to 1937. Sadly, Antonio Ascari was killed in the 1925 French Grand Prix at Montlhery.
The Controversial Bugatti “Tanks” at Montlhery During The 1936 French Grand Prix
The banked track at Montlhery allowed for high-speed lapping for hours, even days. For example in 1930, a Voisin ran for 18 days to break a record for 30,000 miles! This makes me wonder how many long distance speed records are available nowadays, if you could only rent the Daytona or Talladega tracks for the needed number of consecutive days.
In October 1950, Leslie Johnson took his Jaguar XK120 to Montlhery. He and Stirling Moss drove the car for 24 hours at an average speed of 107.46 miles per hour.
Leslie Johnson’s Jaguar At Montlhery in October 1950
In 1952 Jaguar set another impressive mark at Montlhery. Leslie Johnson returned along with co-drivers Stirling Moss, Jack Fairman, and Bert Hadley to drive a XK120 fixed-head coupe Jaguar for seven days at an average speed of just over 100 miles per hour. Near the end the Jaguar was running on a broken spring, likely caused by some rough spots on the concrete track surface.
The Jaguar XK120 Coupe During Its Week-Long Run At Montlhery
The Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupe shown below is a current view of the same car that ran at Montlhery for a week at more than 100 miles per hour.
The Montlhery Jaguar Coupe
In 1955 the British Motor Corporation took several cars to Montlhery to show that their cars were capable of maintaining 100 miles per hour for long periods of time. They took a Riley Pathfinder saloon, an Austin-Healey 100, a MGA, a Wolseley 6/90 saloon, and an Austin A90 Westminister saloon to Montlhery. They were successful in that each of these cars were able to drive at more than 100 miles per hour for over an hour.
Ron Flockhart Driving An Austin-Healey 100 At Montlhery In 1955
The number of speed records that were set at Montlhery are many. Almost from the day that this track opened Montlhery was used for record-setting. Again, I would recommend Boddy’s book for a complete story about the records set at Montlhery.