Leon Théry

16/4/1879 - 8/3/1909

Record updated 08-Mar-23

Nicknamed the 'chronometer', he was one of the first drivers to understand the need to drive according to the cars abilities. Often winning when others failed to stay the course, he became one of the top drivers in the early 1900's.

Leon Théry
Leon Théry was a French racing driver who started out as a mechanic and it was his mechanical knowledge that helped him to become one of the first drivers to understand the need to drive according to the car's abilities. Often nursing his car home to victory when others had fallen by the wayside. His nickname was 'chronometer' and he became one of the top drivers in the early 1900's.

His first race was the Paris Bordeaux 1899 and up until 1903 he obtained respectable results, but nothing outstanding. This changed in 1903 when he joined the team of Richard Brasier.

The 1904 Gordon Bennett's cup was held in Germany's Taunus Forest and drew entries from eight countries. It was considered the single most important races in European. Thery, driving a French Richard-Brasier 80cv, won in a stirring duel over Jenatzy's Mercedes. The difference between Thery fastest lap and his slowest was exactly three minutes which with 128km laps was a remarkable achievement, the 'chronometer' was working well.

He won again in 1905 "Ordinary tires wouldn't have lasted 20 kilometers. That's how impressive the Michelin tires are," Leon Thery said after his second consecutive Gordon Bennett Cup victory in a Brasier 96cv. On their return in France, Leon Théry and Charles-Henri Brasier were received like heroes in the streets of Paris, before being received in the Elysée Palace by the President, Emile Loubet.

Like many drivers since he then tried to build his own racing car, an enterprise that failed completely, and so for the GP of France in 1908 he returned to Richard Brasiers, though he failed to finish. This was the last race of his career as he died in 1909 from tuberculosis.

He was responsible for naming the Michelin Man. The rubber-man had become an immediate hit with the French public and soon acquired a variety of nick-names. A month later while attending the Paris to Amsterdam motor race, André Michelin was greeted by Léon with a shout of "Here comes Bibendum!" On the spot, André Michelin knew that he now had a name for his creation. The name Bibendum comes from the Latin for "time to drink" and was used in an early ad caption stating -Nunc est bibendum - Now is the time to drink. - The ad showed the Michelin Man drinking down a beverage filled with spikes, nails, glass, etc. to show that its product was tough and could withstand the rigors of the open road. The original Bibendum wore glasses and smoked a cigar.