Wednesday, January 19, 2011

History of the 500: Albert Guyot

Today's installment of History of the 500 deals with a member of the "French Invasion", one of those early French racers who excelled in the 1910s at the 500.  Along with such drivers as Jules Goux and Rene Thomas, Albert Guyot was a notable early entrant of the 500-Mile Race. Guyot never won the 500, but as we'll see, he was no slouch, either.

In the 1913 race, Guyot (who would also finish 2nd in the French Grand Prix that year) finished a solid 4th in a six-cylinder Sunbeam. The French drivers (with Goux winning the race) netted over $26,000 in prize money in 1913, and clearly found this a grand inducement for trying the 500 again in 1914. Guyot finished 3rd in his Delage, with countryman Thomas winning and Belgian (and transplanted Parisian) Arthur Duray finishing second.

However, war plagued Europe, and Guyot would not contest the 500 again for the duration of World War I. During the war, he worked as a driver on the Western Front, and then transferred to the Flying Corps as an aviation instrutor. He was involved in a water crash, but managed to survive. With then war over in 1919 (the race not being held in 1917-18), he returned to the 500 and to form, finishing 4th again.

Guyot would sit out the race in 1920, but in 1921 scored another Top 10 finish, grabbing the 8th spot. After failing to qualify in 1923 and 1925, his 1926 effort ended early with piston troubles, and would mark his worst--and last--500 finish with 28th place.
Guyot consistently finished well at Indy.

Guyot entered multiple Grand Prix races in 1920s Europe. At the 1921 French Grand Prix, when a car owner was throwing a tantrum after being beaten by American Jimmy Murphy in a Dusenberg, he is said to have silenced the raging owner with the comment "There’s only one winner in any race: the man who gets home first".

In his later years, Guyot focused on building cars. He passed away in his native France in 1947, leaving behind an impressive resume. He was an early aviator and road racer; he won the light Grand Prix at Dieppe in 1908, and obtained his aviator's license on the Bleriot monoplane in 1909. It is also a possibility he was the first aviator to fly to Russia. He was a prolific driver, but in the U.S., we only know of his entry in the Indy 500; there is no evidence to show he raced at any other American track. Still, Albert Guyot was an early contender to win the Indianapolis 500, and has a solid record there for history to remember him by.

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