Gérard Laureau

Gérard Laureau

22/3/1920 - 27/11/2002

Gérard Laureau was born in Saint-Cyr-l'École in western suburbs of Paris, and  grew up on the family's country estate, Les Ferme de Gally, very close to the Palace of Versailles. His grandfather Georges Laureau had started sheep farming on the sprawling 18th-century estate in the 1940s. Later, arable and ornamental plants were added. Gérard Laureau founded one of the first garden centers in France in 1968. In 2011, Gerard's son Xavier ran a farm with 500 employees, 150 hectares of arable land, 60 hectares of specialized crops and 7,000 square meters of retail space in seven locations in France. The family was also involved in the drilling for water and developed technology that was later utilised in drilling oil wells.

Gérard became interested in racing in the early 1950s when drilling a well for Raymond Sommer, who died a short time later (10-09-1950) when he crashed in Cooper in the Haute-Garonne Grand Prix. So it was that in 1953 Gérard bought a Jaguar XK 120 and entered the 12-hour race in Hyères with Henri Simonot with no previous experience. It rained for the entire race but the pair finished in a respectable 8th place eighth overall place. Sadly in race, Pierre Boncompagni was killed when he crashed his Superleggera 340 MM Touring Spyder while leading.

He then entered the Jaguar in the Tour de France (for automobiles) and led the race for some time before having to retire with a broken hand which apparently he got from the gear lever. The following year, with his hand fully recovered, he finished second. It was there that he met fellow driver Georges Trouis who was looking for a team mate to join him driving the Deutsch and Bonnet cars he had just purchased.

They entered the RAC Tourist Trophy that year but Trouis, who was travelling in his own boat, missed the race when he was forced to seek sheleter in England due to a violent storm. Claude Storez, who was to partner Paul Armagnac, had also not turned up much to the annoyance of René Bonnet. Thus Bonnet had no choice than to partner Laureau, who had been there for four days, with Armagnac in the DB HBR. 

They took a class win which led to a multi-year contract with Deutsch & Bonnet, signed by René Bonnet right after the race and a long standing friendship with Paul Armagnac until his death in practice for the Paris 1000 km at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in 1962.

Laureau contract with Deutsch & Bonnet was unusual in that he drove for free but had the right to pick and choose which races he did. This way his racing did not interfere with he business commitments.

With DB he took 15 class wins, including Le Mans in 1956, 1960 and 1961. After Bonnet and Deutsch split up in June 1962 he stayed with Bonnet and drove his new car called the René Bonnet Djet. 

In 1964 his teammate, a young Jean-Pierre Beltoise, crashed heavily in the Reims 12-hour sports car race. He broke his arm so severely that it was permanently restricted. Gérard's wife asked him to quit racing which he agreed to do.

He died in 2002 afer a serious illness.

historicracing.com

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