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1923 A.C.F. Grand Prix of Tours

The narrow lightweight cars of the previous year having proved so effective, Voisin was determined to secure a second victory at the 1923 Grand Prix de 1923 near Tours. He had not, however, reckoned with the rule changes which the organisers had introduced specifically to outlaw Voisin's ingenious interpretation of the bodywork regulations in the Touring car class for the 1922 race.

Feeling personally affronted by this development, Gabriel Voisin wrote the organising committee a public letter denouncing the stupidity of the new rules; refusing to comply with them, he announced somewhat foohardily his intention to compete in the racing car class instead. This was on December 21st - a mere seven months before the race.


The start of the "Grand Prix de Vitesse" (Photo Le Sporting)

Starting such a project from scratch was a daunting task, especially for someone who had no experience whatesoever of racing car design. Not only did a team of cars have to be conceived, drawn up, built and tested - but the firm had no 2-litre engine with which to contest the event!

Gabriel Voisin developed an aerofoil-inspired aluminium semi-monocoque on an ash frame, and a 1992 cc six cylinder engine based on the smooth but gutless little four-cylinder unit that Marius Bernard was in the final stages of producing for the forthcoming C4S model.

The rest is history. The newly completed team of four pale blue 'Laboratoires' were driven from Issy to Tours by the drivers who would be competing in them: veteran racer Arthur Duray in No.5, Voisin's 'spiritual son' André Lefebvre in No.10, team boss Henri Rougier in No.15 et André Morel in No.17. Only Lefebvre's car finished, a creditable fifth...

Duray and Blanc in #5 (Photo from Rol-BNF/Gallica), note the third passenger between the pilot and his mechanic!

Lefèbvre and Fortin in #10 (Photo from Rol-BNF/Gallica)

Rougier and Lalaurie in #15 (Photo from Rol-BNF/Gallica)

Morel and Chanut in #17 (Photo from Rol-BNF/Gallica)
- because despite their low frontal area, aerodynamic efficiency and light weight, they were lamentably underpowered compared to the sophisticated racing engines in the Bugatti Type 32s, Rolland-Pilains, Delages, Sunbeams et Fiats that opposed them. On the long fast straights of the road circuit around Tours, the 80bhp Laboratoires never stood a chance...
Final classification of the speed race
1st Seagrave (Sunbeam) 6h 35mn 19s
average speed 121,400 km/h
2nd Divo (Sunbeam) 6h 54mn 25s
3rd Friedrich (Bugatti) 7h 00mn 22s
4th Guiness (Sunbeam) 7h 02mn 03s
5th Lefèbvre (Voisin) 7h 50mn 29s

It seems that the doll ran the race beside Duray and Blanc, note its hair tousled by the speed!
...but considering that 11 of the 16 starters fell by the wayside, at least the C6 proved strong enough to stay the course.

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