Philippe Maillard-Brune

Philippe Maillard-Brune

25/2/1910 - 27/8/2007

Philippe Maillard-Brune was France's oldest racing driver. He raced MG and Delahaye with considerable success, taking a class win at Le Mans in 1935 with an MG Magnette K3.

Born in 1910 Philippe Maillard-Brune's first interest was motorcycles and in 1926 he passed his test. He continued with his engineering studies at Bréguet and the following year he took part in his first competition, the endurance test from Paris to the Pyrenees and back, organised by Moto-Revue riding a 500cc Gnome & Rhône which his father, a doctor, had bought him. Entered as in the amateur class he won a gold medal.

On graduating from Bréguet, he joined Gnome & Rhône on the Boulevard Kellermann in Paris as an apprentice in their aero engine factory, transferring to their motorcycle division a few months later where he worked until he was called up for National Service.

A year later, on completion of his duty, he joined the French MG importer, Moto-Comptoir based in Paris at 167 Boulevard Pereire. Under the supervision of Mr Candelier he took on the role of sales and technical advisor with particular responsibility for demonstrating the cars to potential customers one of whom was the King of Spain.

It was at this time that fortune smiled on him. One day Jacques Menier, part of the Menier Chocolate empire and one of the richest men in France, visited the showroom with an interest to buy an MG Midget with the aim of entering the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Unfortunately or fortunately for Philippe, there was no car available in time, so Candelier suggested that Philippe should lend him his personal MG J2 Midget.

Although slightly reticent, Philippe accepted the proposal. Jacques Menier then mislaid the paperwork and invited Philippe to his Chateau in Noisiel in Seine-et-Marne in order to explain and apologise. At this meeting Menier explained that he was interested in getting involved in motor sport by forming his own team. He charged Philippe with the task of setting everything up un the name 'Ecurie Jacques Menier'. The team of MGs, with works support for French races, was ready by January 1934. Philippe Maillard left Moto-Comptoir to become the Team Manager and lead driver.

The team were based in workshops at 5 Rue Alfred-de-Vigny near the Parc Monceau in Paris and the ten mechanics and engineers also had a mobile workshop for use at race meetings.

Menier purchased a supercharged 750cc MG J4 and a supercharged 1100cc 6 cylinder MG Magnette K3. Both cars had Wilson four speed pre-selector gearboxes. In 1935 they added a MG R-Type Midget to the stable.

Maillard-Brune enjoyed considerable success with these cars taking class wins in the Bol d'Or at St-Germain in 1934, 1935 and 1936. At Le Mans in 1935 driving with C. Druck, he finished 9th overall and 1st in 751-1100 class in the MG Magnette K3 and came 4th overall in the Grand Prix d'Albi that year with the R-Type Midget.

He set a number of 24 Hour 750cc International Records at Montlhéry and won the hillclimbs at Mount-Ventoux, La Turbie and elsewhere.

In 1936 Menier acquired a brand new short frame Delahaye 135 Special with a 3.6 litre 6 cylinder engine. In a similar deal to the one he had with MG, he managed to get an identical car to the current works entries. He finished 6th in the Les Trois Heures de Marseilles, Miramas behind five other Delahaye 135S but retired in the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.. At the Grand Prix de la Marne he finished ninth, three laps down on the winning Bugatti T57Gs of Wimille and Benoist.

But 1936 was a difficult year for Jacques Menier. Politically, the rise of the Popular Front was to have serious consequences.  There were a series of strikes and demonstrations with factories being occupied by protestors (of which was the Menier chocolate factory in Noisiel).

The wealthy, which included Menier, were particular targets of these troubles. Le Mans was cancelled and Menier decided to wind up the team at the end of December 1936, entrusting the Delahaye to Maillard-Brune.

Thus in 1937 he found himself without a sponsored drive. He drove the Delahaye 135 in the Grand Prix de Pau in February, finishing 8th after clutch problems and then teamed up with Amédée Gordini. They drove a Simca-Fiat Ballila together at Le Mans but failed to finish and Philippe again posted a DNF at the Coupe de la Commission Sportive de l'ACF at Montlhéry and at the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Donington in England. He took six 48 Hour International records driving a special Simca 5. At the end of a disappointing year, rather than fall out with Amédée, he quit.

He had talks with Lucy Schell's Ecurie Bleue but these came to naught. In January 1938 he drove a works Delahaye 135 in the Monte Carlo Rally, starting in Athens. Unfortunately after a mix up with the paperwork at the control in Salonique, he was heavily penalised thus robbing him of a probable overall victory as he had the best time without the penalty.

He then joined Peugeot in a technical/commercial role a post he held until September 1939 when with war looming, France was mobilised. At 29 he was considered too old to join the Air Force as a pilot despite his best endeavours, so in May 1940 he found himself in Belgium as part of a motorised reconnaissance unit watching the German Army. Demobilised to the 'free zone' in Chateauroux, he soon returned to the occupied territory where he was engaged by the S.T.O. working for the Resistance.

With the war over, in April 1944, working for CETAC (which later became UTAC) he became the manager of track at Linas-Montlhéry until it was requisition by American forces. He was then posted to Paris as Chief Engineer in one of their laboratories.

In 1963 he was appointed to work with Antoine Peix who had been managing the track at Linas-Montlhéry and in 1964 he took over from him until he retired in 1976.

With time on his hands he took up flying in 1985 and obtained his private pilots licence in 1988 at Guyancourt, just outside Paris.

He died out at the age of 97 at the American Hospital in Neuilly. His funeral will be on Tuesday 4th September at 2 pm in the church at St Michel sur Orge. He will be buried in the old cemetery at Meudon.

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