Gentlemen driver

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Men's driver Marcel Renault in the 1903 Paris-Madrid race

As gentlemen drivers in the early were motorsport racers referred to in the competitions with their own cars as amateurs competed - unlike the workers employed by the automotive company works drivers who contributed racing company car.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were men's drivers 'associations in the entire German-speaking region, such as the Vienna Motorsport Men's Drivers' Association .


The term gentleman driver  - formed analogously to gentleman rider - was used for coachmen , cyclists and motorcyclists as early as the 19th century. The gentlemen's driver was a common term for particularly agile coachmen in the Wiener Sportblatt: Centralblatt for the interests of horse breeding and sport :

The highlight of the evening [in the Tippelt'schen Reitschule] will undoubtedly be the driving school, as the drivers of the teams are some of the men’s drivers that are well known in our sporting circles, whose sleek jerks are an adornment of our Pratercorso and, as far as we know, such a production has been in Vienna did not take place.

Even particularly sporty cyclists, such as in the cycle race ("Fernfahrt") Vienna - Berlin on June 29, 1893, were called gentlemen's cyclists.

It was only with the mass production and the associated affordability of small automobiles for middle-income citizens in the 1920s that the term established itself in the world of motorsport. Before that, only the rich could afford automobiles and usually had employees chauffeured them who could also repair the vehicles.

In the Anglo-American-speaking world, gentlemen drivers are called gentleman drivers , in contrast to the pay drivers , who were not paid to drive, as is often assumed, but instead sit in the cockpit for free and provide the team with sponsorship money or other support from their personal assets let.


Men's driver: Carl Graham Fisher (1874–1939), American entrepreneur and racing driver, on Harlem Racecourse, Illinois, 1904

In Germany, between 1924 and 1928, a monthly magazine was published with the title Der Herrenfahrer  - the newspaper about the car and other comforts in life . Right from the start, this magazine dealt with the car as the epitome of a new lifestyle, mobility, independence and technical progress. In addition to reports on automobile fairs, car tests, fashion for drivers, and car races, the magazine also printed comics , glosses (for example, about buying a car or about the woman at the wheel) and scientific papers (for example, about the technology of the compressor engine). It is considered to be the forerunner of modern car magazines. At first, Der Herrenfahrer was also the organ of the Motorcycle Club of Germany (MvD).

The first car races since the mid-1890s in Europe and the United States were initially contested by the designers and their employees themselves in order to test their machines and measure them against the competition. In Europe they preferred city-to-city races, which were given up after Marcel Renault's fatal accident on May 24, 1903 in the Paris – Madrid race ; in further accidents in this race, several racing drivers and spectators lost their lives. Amateurs, the so-called men's drivers, also always started the race. They all came from the wealthy upper classes and were enthusiastic motorists, for example Emil Jellinek , Viennese businessman and diplomat, who won the 1901 race week in Nice with a Daimler racing car . Already after the First World War and in the 1920s and 1930s, most of the gentlemen's drivers were competing with the factory drivers from Alfa Romeo , Auto Union , Maserati and Mercedes-Benz  - including Rudolf Caracciola , Hans Stuck , Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari  - successful of it.

Today, amateurs still occasionally take part successfully in cycling races and motorcycling as so-called men's riders.

Well-known gentlemen drivers

Well-known gentlemen's drivers were among others Philippe de Rothschild , who took part in numerous Grand Prix races in a Bugatti T35 in 1929 , including the Monaco , San Sebastián and Germany Grand Prix . Prince Georg Christian Lobkowitz from Czechoslovakia had a fatal accident in the Avus race in 1932 . The last male descendant of the Austrian Prince Metternich , Paul Alfons von Metternich-Winneburg , who also served as President of the FIA from 1975 to 1985 , took part in the Le Mans 24h race in his private Mercedes-Benz 300 SL in 1956 , but retired 58 laps prematurely. Carel Godin de Beaufort , a Dutch aristocrat, who competed in 28 Formula 1 world championship races in his private Porsche 718 is considered one of the last “real” gentlemen's drivers . He had a serious accident during training for the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring and died a day later.


  • Handbook of the independent men's rider associations in Germany-Austria  : namely: Steirischer Radfahrer-Gauverband Niederösterreich, Cyclist Association "Ostmark", Carinthian Cyclists Association, Tyrolean Cyclists Association, Regional Association of Cyclists of Upper Austria and Salzburg , Klagenfurt, 1899, digitized: Klagenfurt University Library .
  • Bugatti . Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg 1983.
  • Barbara Walter: From men's driver to works driver. The early era of automobile racing 1896 to 1910 , 2000.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, June 15, 1924
  2. ^ Sportblatt: Centralblatt for the interests of horse breeding and sport, January 8, 1876, p. 7. About the database of the Austrian National Library
  3. Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung, January 8, 1893, p. 36
  4. The first editions appeared in the Almanach Kunstverlag, Berlin, from 1926 in the Hermann Meister Verlag, Heidelberg. See German National Library
  5. ^ Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Volume 9. Leipzig 1907, p. 231
  6. Emil Jellinek & his daughter Mercedes . (accessed on March 24, 2012)
  7. Bugatti (1983), p. 339