Henry Fournier

14/4/1871 - 18/12/1919

Record updated 14-Apr-20

Fournier was a French racing driver who began his career on motorcycles and tricycles. In 1901 he joinde the Mors racing team and won both the Paris–Bordeaux and Paris–Berlin races. His brother Maurice also raced but was killed in 1911 in the  French Grand Prix.

Henry Fournier

Henry Fournier was born in Le Mans, Pays de la Loire, France (before the 24 hour race was ever thought of!). He and his two brothers (Maurice and Achille) learned about engineering in their father's workshop. 

Fournier began his career on motorcycles and tricycles but switched to 4 wheels in 1900 as the riding mechanic for Fernand Charron on the inaugural Gordon Bennett Cup a city to city race from Paris to Lyon. It was during this race that Charron hit a St Bernard dog which became wedged between the right wheel and the suspension. Despite the ensuing excursion into some trees, a ditch and a field before rejoining the road sustaining only minor damage in the form of a loose water pump which Charron had to hold in place until the finish.

In 1901 Charron joined the Mors racing team and won both the Paris–Bordeaux and Paris–Berlin races. In addition to his racing career, he set a number of records including for the mile and briefly held the land speed record in 1902 at 123.28 kph.

At the 1902 Paris-Vienna race he also dominated the first leg with an average speed of 114 km/h, but later retired with transmission failure. 

In 1904 Fournier acquired the dubious honour of being involved in the first recorded train-car crash in the United States when crossing the tracks in Long Island.

He then retired from auto racing to concentrate on his dealerships for Hotchkiss and Itala cars, although he still appeared in a few races in 1907 and 1908, racing one of his Italas.

In November 1908 he claimed that "the days of auto racing are numbered" and that he was taking up air racing. He had a plane built by the Voisins powered by an Itala engine. He learned to fly at Châlons-sur-Marne in July 1909, but with his weight of 105 kg (230 lb.) coupled with the weight of the underpowered Itala engine he was always handicapped as a pilot. He participated in the 1909 Reims meeting and the 1909 Grande Quinzaine of Port-Aviation, having accidents in both places and in the 1909 Blackpool meeting when he didn't get off the ground.

In 1909, together with his brother Achille, Fournier founded the company Établissements Fournier in Levallois-Perret, France for manufacturing automobiles. His other brother, Maurice was killed at the French Grand Prix in 1911. 

Fournier's health began to deteriorate after 1913 and when attempting to volunteer at the outbreak of WWI he was refused on physical grounds. Fournier died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, Ile-de-France on the 18th of December, 1919 after a long illness.