Stories of 18-19 June... 1938: Delahaye and Peugeot, the pride of France

Stories of 18-19 June... 1938: Delahaye and Peugeot, the pride of France

This year will be the eighth time that the 24 Hours of Le Mans has fallen on the weekend of 18-19 June. In 1938, Delahaye triumphed after a superb performance from Peugeot.

First win for Delahaye - In its third year at Le Mans Delahaye clinched a one-two finish with the 135 S for René Trémoulet and Eugène Chabaud followed by Yves Girau-Cabantous and Gaston Serraud. René Biolay and Louis Villeneuve just missed a one-two-three podium sweep, but managed fourth place. It was a just reward for the pioneering and versatile carmaker, based in Tours, whose product line included competition cars, heavy goods vehicles and fire engines.

The Delahaye 135 S that won in 1938 was adapted from the 135 road car launched three years earlier. The company had a ten-year break from the race after World War II but went on to participate a further seven times from 1949 onwards.

Peugeot and the De Cortanzes - Peugeot dealer and bodywork repairer Emile Darl’mat was persuaded by his friend, racing driver Charles de Cortanze, to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1937, Darl’Mat’s three Peugeot 302 DS finished seventh, eighth and tenth. The following year, the dealer entered three 402s. Two retired but the third car driven by De Cortanze and Contet was fifth overall.

After that superb performance, the French brand was absent from Le Mans until 1991 when a Peugeot designed by Charles’s son André was entered for the race. At first, De Cortanze senior was not at all happy about his son’s vocation although he eventually came round. André de Cortanze drove for Alpine five times and his best result was eighth place in 1968. When Peugeot head Jean Rédélé asked André to choose between driving and engineering, the latter elected to hang up his helmet and became one of the most brilliant engineers of his generation, working in Formula One and for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His most remarkable accomplishment was the Peugeot 905 that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1992 and 1993. Not bad for a second career!

The 1938 24 Hours of Le Mans: podium
1-Jean Trémoulet-Eugène Chaboud (Delahaye 135S n°15)
2-Yves Giraud Cabantous-Gaston Serraud (Delahaye 135S n°14)
3-André Morel-Jean Prenant (Talbot Lago SS n°5)

Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO - Translated from French by Emma Paulay