Maurice Benoist? Wouldn't it be Robert Benoist

Thierry Chargé : Site designer

Questioning official, widely-publicized results is a bit like climbing Everest in flip-flops. However, thanks in part to online access to numerous digitized newspapers, it is possible to build up solid arguments that, while failing to remake history, at the very least cast doubt on certain truths.

The massive arrival of the Internet in the home has led to the emergence of neighborhood digital bistros known as 'forums', where, if you can't quench your thirst, you can exchange views on your favorite subjects. Unfortunately, you won't find any peanuts or pastis here, but it's a great way to chat, exchange, share and compare opinions, sometimes divergent, with other enthusiasts from distant regions or countries, but with a common passion.

The topic of the moment raised by Marc, a Belgian Internet user, concerned Maurice Benoist and his doubts about taking part in the first edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Endurance Grand Prix in 1923.

Maurice Benoist ? Ne serait-ce pas plutôt Robert Benoist qui pilotait la Salmson aux 24h du Mans 1923 ?

Indeed, books, magazines, reports and official rankings all mention a Maurice Benoist-Ramon Bueno crew on the Salmson n°33. No one doubts that Maurice Benoist was a driver at Le Mans on EHP and then Tracta in 1925, 1928 and 1929. However, the question is legitimate, since his brother, Robert Benoist, was a Salmson racing driver at the time, representing the brand in competitions all over Europe.

Is it a reversal of first names? How do you explain the fact that Robert, an official Salmson driver, missed the Le Mans race, while at the same time his brother Maurice, hitherto unknown in motorsport circles, took his place at the wheel?

In the absence of living witnesses, the key to the enigma can be found in writings or photos. Online digital archives abound, but photos of the Salmson team drivers at the 1923 Le Mans 24 Hours are rare, and writings of the period rarely mention first names.

An important first step was taken with the visual and unambiguous identification of Robert Benoist as a passenger in the Salmson n°33 during the technical scrutineering at the 1923 weigh-in.

It's certainly not enough to prove that Robert Benoist drove the car in the race, but this first clue proved that the original question was well-founded, and above all that Robert was present at the 1923 Endurance Grand Prix.

If Robert was part of the team, why would he give up his steering wheel to his brother, who is not in any photos of the event ?

Digging through the press and personal archives is not made any easier by typos and sometimes contradictory writings. Salvation came from the newspaper l'Auto, co-organizer of the event, which on its 1st page of May 28 1923 published an article devoted to Salmson:

« It's also worth noting the sportsmanship of the brand and its representatives, who were the only ones to race in the Bol d'Or on the previous Sunday, and who will be representing our colors in the Trophée Armangué on Sunday. Desvaux and Benoist, Salmson's runners in the latter race, were forced to take their twelve hours' driving time at the start of the race, and immediately board the train for Spain, leaving their steering wheels to team-mates Casse and Bueno. »

The article in the Spanish newspaper Stadium comments extensively on the 1923 Armangué Trophy. Lucien Desvaux and "R.Benoist" stand out, finishing 1st and 2nd respectively. The photo of R.Benoist at the wheel of the #14 Salmson is unmistakably Robert Benoist.

The La Jordana Deportiva article confirms the same information, explicitly and repeatedly mentioning Robert Benoist. Photos and even an autograph back it all up.

Robert Benoist was therefore the driver of the Salmson #33 as Ramon Bueno's team-mate in the 1923 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Remerciements :

This survey was conducted by ACH24

Details of research on the forum motorlegend, with photographic evidence, the investigation begins from page 13 with a message from Marc C on January 25, 2015 at 6:08 pm.

The 1923 classification, revised and corrected : Apart from this site and, you're unlikely to find an up-to-date ranking of this race on the internet.

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