Pierre de Vizcaya
5/7/1894 - 15/7/1933
Legendary Bugatti driver whose father was Ettore's banker. Pierre de Vizcaya died 88 years ago, he was 39
Pierre de Vizcaya was from a famous Spanish family though he was born on the family's large estate at Jagerhof near Molsheim in the Alsace region and spent most of his life in France. His father, Baron Augustin de Vizcaya who was born in Bilbao, was Bugatti's Strasbourg banker.
So when Ettore decided to open his own plant in early 1909, Pierre's father not only provided financial support through his connection with the Darmstädter Bank, but also helped locate a suitable factory in an old dyeing works between Molsheim and Dorlisheim, which was at the time was still part of Germany. It was thus no surprise that both he and his brothers Ferdinand and Andres all raced Bugatti.
In 1920 Pierre was given one of the single-plug Bugatti T13's entered in one of the first races after WWI for the now French Bugatti company. The Coupe Internationale des Voiturettes was held on the 29th August 1920 at Le Mans and, on a course noted for challenging and diverse terrain, Ernest Friderich averaged an impressive 72 mph to take the win. de Vizcaya set the fastest lap and was leading when two laps from the finish he pitted with mechanical problems. He was disqualified for receiving outside assistance when they attempted to push start the car. This might have been a ploy by Ettore Bugatti as the disqualification was better than being listed as DNF due to mechanical failure.
Racing a Type 22 in 1921 he finished second in the Gran Premio delle Vetturette at Brescia in a Bugatti 1-2-3-4, with Friderich taking the win and Michele Baccoli and Piero Marco, 3rd and 4th respectively. He then won the Voiturette Gran Premio Penya Rhin at the Circuito Vilafranca before travelling to England in November and entering the first running of the Junior Car Club 200 Mile race at Brooklands. Unfortunately he arrived too late to learn the circuit or to fit more suitable streamlined bodywork. There was a second Bugatti for Jacques Mones-Maury (otherwise know as Don Pedro José Monés y Maury, 1st Marquess de Casa Maury), who also arrived just before the race. In an exciting race where he dueled for 4th spot with Douglas Hawkes, Mones-Maury and George Bedford, he beat them to the finish line. The race was won by Henry Segrave who was followed home by Kenelm Lee Guinness and Malcolm Campbell all driving Talbot-Darracq 56's. Apparently according to Bill Boddy, Segrave continued after the flag for a number of laps until a suitably enticing bottle could be found and waved at him from the pits!
In 1922 he finished forth in the International '1500' Trophy on the Isle of Man driving a Bugatti 22 with Mones-Maury in third. Algernon Lee Guinness took the win. The then came second in the Grand Prix de l'ACF in Strasbourg driving a Type 30 although he was nearly an hour behind Felice Nazzaro in the Fiat 804. He also finished third in the Gran Premio d'Italia at Monza, headed home by Pietro Bordino and Nazzaro's Fiats.
Bugatti developed an Indianapolis car in 1923, developed from the Type 30 that had been raced in the Grand Prix de l'ACF in Strasbourg the previous year. The OHC-engine of the Indianapolis car consisted of two four-cylinder blocks, had a capacity of 1996 cc, three ball main bearings and three valves per cylinder. Bugatti used the chassis of the type 22 (Brescia) with a wheel base of 2,4 m, as well as it's strengthened four speed gear box. The type 30 was the first Bugatti to use four wheel brakes with hydraulic brakes at the front and cable operated brakes at the rear.
A slim single seater body was built by Béchereau, the designer of the SPAD airplane. As the steering column had to pass the engine, the body was offset to the right on the standard chassis. The attempt to streamline the body resulted in an extremely smooth and curved shape. It was also the first appearance of the trademark horseshoe radiator. Five cars were built and shipped to America but, as Bugatti at that time could not support a works team of five cars, three were sold to young wealthy enthusiasts. Pierre and Count Louis Zborowski were entered as works drivers while Prince de Cystria, Martin de Alzaga and Raoul Riganti entered as private entries.
Only the Prince, who finished 9th, was running at the finish. With 20 laps to go, de Vizcaya, who had been running near the front for a long time broke a connecting rod. Pierre's car was one of three that suffered the same failure, probably due to insufficient oiling as the engines were fitted with plain bearings instead of the roller bearings that Alzaga requested.
He then drove the Bugatti Type 32 Tank in the Grand Prix de l'ACF but crashed badly on the first lap and retired.
He started 1924 by finishing second to his brother Fernando, who was driving an Elizalde, in the III Cursa de La Rabassada hill climb and followed this with another crash in the Grand Prix de l'ACF, this time in Lyon on lap 11 driving a T35. In September he was 5th spot in the ll Gran Premio de San Sebastián at Lasarte and in October he was second, behind Parry Thomas in the Thomas Special Leyland Eight at Montlhéry in the Formula Libre Grand Prix de l'Ouverture.
At the Targa Florio in 1925 he came 4th in the Bugatti Type 35. The Grand Prix de l'ACF that year was held at Montlhèry and Pierre finished 7th behind his brother Ferdinand, both driving Type 35 Bugatti. In this race, marred by the death of Antonio Ascari, he wore a crash helmet for the first time rather than his traditional cap, perhaps his accidents in the two previous French Grand Prix has caused him to think about his safety. At the Gran Premio d'Italia in September he finished 8th in a Type 37 Bugatti with Ferdinand in 6th and at the Gran Premio do San Sebastian he was 4th in a Type 35, this time just in front of Ferdinand.
After a third in the Grand Prix d'Alsace in May 1926 he entered the Grand Prix de l'ACF. This probably has to go down as the worst show in the history of the sport exceeding the farcical 2005 US Grand Prix by some margin. A change in the technical regulations proved so unpopular that hardly anyone bothered to build cars. In fact just three cars, all Bugatti, took the start. de Vizcaya, took an immediate lead and was clearly the quickest until he retired with piston failure after 46 of the 100 laps. The damage to the piston had been caused by running a high concentration of benzyl in the fuel. Constantini, who had been going gently from the start for this reason, backed off still further after de Vizcaya's retirement. He completed just 85 laps and was not classified as a finisher. Jules Goux's Bugatti had a less volatile fuel mixture and was more or less guaranteed to finish. Goux could have taken it easy, but he seemed determined to give the spectators something to watch, so he kept up the pace right to the end, at one point putting in a 79.4mph lap that was better than de Vizcaya had managed. He finished an incredible 37 minutes ahead of Constantini.
He had decided to retire from racing and left the Bugatti factory team. He was presented with the first Type 43 Grand Touring.
He was killed in 1933 in a bizarre accident. He was with Count Carlo Felice Trossi driving through Bois the Boulogne in Paris when the dog that was in the car with them tried to jump out. Pierre tried to catch him but fell out of the car hitting his head. Trossi rushed him to hospital but Pierre had suffered irreversible brain damage and died a few hours later.