On July 4, 1914, 14 manufacturers representing six different countries lined up on the start line for the French Automobile Club’s first ever Grand Prix de Lyon. Among them were Opel, who entered the race with three different Grand Prix cars. The event did not take place on purpose-built race tracks, but used closed, specially prepared public roads. The 36.7 km long course had to be lapped 20 times making for a total race distance of nearly 750 kilometers.
The drivers of Opel’s three white GP cars were contracted Opel driver Carl Jörns, the undisputed number 1 driver at Rüsselsheim, Emil Erndtmann and Franz Breckheimer. At the time, race rules stated all cars had to have 4.5-liter engines and a weight limit of 1,100 kilograms. The technology packed under the hood of the Opel’s was significant for the time, with four valves per cylinder, a vertical drive shaft and an overhead camshaft. The exterior had a slippery ‘torpedo’ shape, which contributed to its 160 km/h top speed, while rear drum brakes and a heat-sensitive driveshaft brake helped slow things down.
There were no qualifying laps in 1914, with racers instead drawing their starting position out of a hat. Opel was lucky that day, with all three of their cars starting near the front of the pack. Opel’s best finish came from Carl Jorns, who finished in eighth place after battling it out with rival French automakers over the course of the eight hour race.
All three Opel cars from that 1914 race will line-up for this year’s historic rerun of the Grand Prix de Lyon. One car comes from Adam Opel AG’s historic collection, while another is being brought down by its owner from Munsterland, Germany. The longest trip however will be for Carl Jorn’s former car, which is making the pilgrimage all the way from California to the original site of the race in Brignais, France.
Another historic participant Opel will field in the event the“Green Monster”. It also dates from 1914, but has a huge, 12.3-liter engine, which caused it to be unable to compete in the Grand Prix de Lyon. The centenary Grand Prix de Lyon event is scheduled to take place from May 1-3.