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Hubert Le Blon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hubert Le Blon
Hubert Le Blon circa 1906-1910.jpg
Le Blon circa 1906–1910
Born(1874-03-21)21 March 1874
Billancourt, Paris
(or poss. Liancourt, Oise)
Died2 April 1910(1910-04-02) (aged 36)
Cause of deathPlane crash during exhibition
OccupationCar-racer and Aviator
Known forGrand Prix racing
Vanderbilt Cup racing
Pioneering aviator
Air speed record for 5 km

Hubert Le Blon (21 March 1874 – 2 April 1910) was a French automobilist and pioneer aviator. He drove a steam-powered Gardner-Serpollet in the early 1900s, and then switched to Hotchkiss for both the world's first Grand Prix at Le Mans in France and the inaugural Targa Florio in Sicily. At the Vanderbilt Cup races on Long Island he competed for the USA driving a Thomas[1][2]

Within weeks of setting a new aviation speed record in Egypt he died during an exhibition flight at San Sebastián, Spain. His first aircraft design, the "Humber monoplane (Le Blon type)", was displayed at the Olympia Aero Exhibition in 1910.[1][2]


Hubert le Blon was born at Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, (or possibly Liancourt, Oise)[3] on 21 March 1874.[1]

His wife, Madame Motann Le Blon, shared his passion for motoring, regularly accompanying him as riding mechanic in his races, and watching during his flying exploits.[4] Public statements in 1903 declared: "Madame Le Blon of Paris, has accompanied her husband on most of his record runs. [She] ... has entered her new Serpollet for the Nice races, in the coming spring, and hopes to travel at ninety miles per hour thereon."[5][6]

Le Blon Frères of Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, manufactured "Le Blon" and "Lynx" voiturettes from 1898 until possibly 1900.[7][8]

Sporting career

The 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island. Hubert Le Blon in an oversteering Thomas, the first car to start, encounters a dog.
The 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island. Hubert Le Blon in an oversteering Thomas, the first car to start, encounters a dog.
Hubert and Mme Le Blon at the 1906 Targa Florio driving a Hotchkiss 35 hp
Hubert and Mme Le Blon at the 1906 Targa Florio driving a Hotchkiss 35 hp
Hubert and Mme Le Blon with their Serpollet "Oeuf de Pâques" (Easter egg) at the Gaillon Hill climb in 1902
Hubert and Mme Le Blon with their Serpollet "Oeuf de Pâques" (Easter egg) at the Gaillon Hill climb in 1902

Le Blon raced a Gardner-Serpollet steam car and set several speed records over a five-year period.[1] Some sources report that in 1901 he drove the Gardner-Serpollet steamer to seventh place in the Paris-Berlin trail, (possibly based on an erroneous claim in his obituary in the New York Times,[4][9] whilst others, including contemporaneous newspapers have no mention of him competing.[10][11][12]).

In the 1902 Paris Grand Prix (or Paris-Arras-Paris[4]) he finished 13th in the same Gardner-Serpollet steamer.

In 1903 Paris-Madrid race he was classified 17th in his Serpollet (after 6 hours 44 minutes 15 seconds) when the race was stopped by the police at Bordeaux due to the number of fatalities.[4][13] (This race is sometimes known by its post-facto rename of VIII Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.)[13]

In 1904 he was fifth in the Circuit des Ardennes held at Bastogne circuit, in a Hotchkiss.[4] He participated at the Arras Speed Trials in a Serpollet steamer.[14]

In 1905 he was hired to race French Hotchkiss and Panhard cars, and in several races his wife acted as his riding mechanic.[1]

In 1906 he drove a Hotchkiss in both the world's first Grand Prix at Le Mans in France and at the inaugural Targa Florio in Sicily.[6]

In 1906 he was selected by the Thomas Motor Company to race as an unpaid amateur at the American Elimination Trial for the Vanderbilt Cup, having been an employee of the French branch of E. R. Thomas Motor Co. His second place qualified for the five-car American Team, but at the main Vanderbilt Cup race he only completed nine laps. His riding mechanic was Marius Amiel.[1][15]

In 1907 he drove a De Luca-Daimler in the 2nd Targa Florio, finishing 20th, 1 hour 13 minutes after the winner Felice Nazzaro. On 2 July he was badly injured when he crashed his Panhard on the 4th lap of the Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France at Dieppe. This led to a long period of convalescence.[2]


1910 Humber monoplane (Le Blon Type) - designed by Hubert Le Blon. Exhibited at the 1910 Olympia Aero Exhibition.
1910 Humber monoplane (Le Blon Type) - designed by Hubert Le Blon. Exhibited at the 1910 Olympia Aero Exhibition.

By 1909, like many other racers of the era, Le Blon became fascinated by aviation. He enrolled at the pilot training school of pioneering French aviator Léon Delagrange, learning to fly the Bleriot XI monoplane. Delagrange died three months before Le Blon, in an accident similar to the one that would kill Le Blon.[2][16]

Hubert Le Blon flying a Bleriot XI at San Sebastián, Spain, March 1910
Hubert Le Blon flying a Bleriot XI at San Sebastián, Spain, March 1910

In 1909 Le Blon competed at the Spa aviation meeting in September–October before travelling to Doncaster, England, where he was the "first aviator to take-off at the first ever Air Show in Great Britain", held at the venue of the St. Leger Stakes. He rapidly became "as well known as Bleriot" for his skilled, daring and courageous flying, winning the Bradford Cup for the fastest ten laps of the course in his Blériot monoplane. He further endeared himself to the public on 25 October when he after taking off in very strong winds was hurled at the crowds by a strong gust, but manoeuvred to skim over the crowd, stall and then crash-land in a crowd-free area.[2][3][4][16]

His renown as an aviator increased when, in February 1910, he set a new five-kilometre record of 4 minutes 2 seconds in his Bleriot XI monoplane at the Héliopolis International Air Meeting near Cairo, Egypt.[1][2][4][9][16]

Le Blon's first aircraft design, the Humber monoplane (Le Blon type), was displayed at the Aero Exhibition at Olympia, London in 1910. Although the project showed creative ingenuity – he planned to sit astride it like a horse – the death of Le Blon led to its termination.[17]


Madame Motan Le Blon - Wife and riding mechanic of Hubert Le Blon.
Madame Motan Le Blon - Wife and riding mechanic of Hubert Le Blon.

Le Blon drowned in a crash landing into the sea on 2 April 1910 while flying in stormy weather at Ondarreta Beach, San Sebastián, Spain, where he had been performing exhibition flights since 27 March. He was reportedly circling the Royal Palace of Miramar at about 140 feet when the Anzani engine failed, and as he attempted to glide back to land a wing "stay wire" snapped, the plane flipped and crashed into the sea upside down,[2][4] or possibly collided with some rocks.[1][4][9] His wife was among the crowd that was watching.[1][4][9]

The New York Times headlined the story thus:[1][9]

Aeronaut is dashed to death on rocks.

Le Blon, once famous motorist, was circling Spanish Royal Palace at San Sebastian.

His wife saw him fall.

The Motor failed and Machine Turned Turtle as Frenchman was trying to glide to Earth.

According to official documents the cause of death was "drowning" although his body was injured in the impact. The official cause of the crash was attributed to "fracture of one of the wing stay wires when running into a gust of wind".[2]

His death was reported as the sixth person in history to die in an aeroplane accident. He was awarded an Aviator's Certificate by the Aéro-Club de France in 1910.[1][18][19][20]

At his funeral in San Sebastián the streets were lined with troops, shops were closed, and thousands followed his coffin to the railway station where it was transported to Paris.[21]


Year Event Date Location Distance Result #
Manufacturer Time Speed
1902 Paris-Arras-Paris[4] 15–16 May Paris-Arras 864.35 km 13 75 Gardener-Serpollet 
18:45:45s Subsequently named the VII
Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.[22]
1902 Gaillon Hillclimb 21 September Rouen 1 km 1 Gardener-Serpollet 
40.8s [22][23]
1902 Gaillon Hillclimb 12 October Rouen 1 km 1 Gardener-Serpollet 
36s [22][23]
1903 Paris–Madrid race
24 May Paris-
552 km 17 119 Gardener-Serpollet
6:44:15.8 First steamer to reach Bordeaux,
where race stopped by police[13]
Subsequently named the VIII
Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.
and Race of Death.
1903 Circuit des Ardennes[13] 22 June Bastogne 512 km
(85.34 km x 6 laps)
5 26 Gardener-Serpollet
6:31:03 [13]
1904 Namur-Citadelle Hillclimb 29 August Namur 2.8 km 1 Hotchkiss HH [23]
1904 I Eliminatoires Françaises
de la Coupe Internationale
Gordon Bennett Cup[24]
20 May Forest of Argonne 532.79 km
(88.80 km x 6 laps)
5 6 Gardener-Serpollet
6:13:32 Did not Qualify for
1904 Gordon Bennett Cup[4][24]
1904 III Circuit des Ardennes[24] 25 July Bastogne 591 km
(118 km x 5 laps)
5 31 Hotchkiss HH 6:54:05 Fastest Lap: 1:09:44
(101.746 km/h) on lap 3[4][24]
1905 II Eliminatoires Françaises
de la Coupe Internationale
Gordon Bennett Cup
16 June Auvergne 549.45 km
(137.36 km x 4 laps)
7 5 Hotchkiss HH 8:13:13.8 Did not Qualify for
1905 Gordon Bennett Cup
Reg # 548 UU[25]
1905 Circuit des Ardennes[25] 7 August Bastogne 591.255 km
(118.251 km x 5 laps)
3 14 Panhard 6:22:56 [25]
1906 Targa Florio 6 May Sicily 446 km 6 2 Hotchkiss 35 hp Riding mechanic -
Madame Motann Le Blon[6]
1906 IX Grand Prix de 
l'Automobile Club de France
26–27 June Le Mans 1,238 km dnf 12A Hotchkiss 35 hp Wheel problem
1906 Vanderbilt Cup
Elimination Race
22 September Westbury
Long Island
New York
290 miles
29 miles x 10 laps
2 6 Thomas 115 hp 5:51:25 10 laps completed
Riding mechanic - Marius Amiel.
1906 Vanderbilt Cup 6 October Westbury
Long Island
New York
290 miles
29 miles x 10 laps
8 1 Thomas 115 hp 9 laps completed
Riding mechanic - Marius Amiel.[26]
1907 Targa Florio Sicily 446 km 20 14C de Luca-Daimler 9:31:32 3 car team entered by
'Societa Anonima Officine
de Luca Daimler'[27][28]
1907 X Grand Prix de 
l'Automobile Club de France
2 June Dieppe 477.48 miles
(47 miles x 10 laps)
dnf PL1 Panhard Crash on lap 3[28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Vanderbilt Cup - profile of Hubert Le Blon
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Motorsport Memorial, Profile of Hubert Le Blon
  3. ^ a b "HistoBleriot, Brevet Numero 38-Hubert LE BLON". Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Graces Guide - British Industrial History. Profile of Hubert_Le_Blon
  5. ^ Graces Guide - British Industrial History. Notes on 1903 Motorists
  6. ^ a b c Targa Florio Info. Profile of the 1906 Inaugural race
  7. ^ David Burgess-Wise (1992), The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Automobiles, Seacus, N.J.: Wellfleet Press, p. Alphabetic Encyclopedia - Le Blon Frères, ISBN 978-1-55521-808-9
  8. ^ G.N. Georgano (1973), "Le Blon Frères", The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present, London: Ebury Press, p. 424, ISBN 978-0-85223-048-0.
  9. ^ a b c d e The New York Times. 2 April 1910.
  10. ^ Le Petit Journal 30 June 1901 - Berlin Arrivals
  11. ^ Le Petit Journal 01 July 1901 - Final Results
  12. ^ "Team Dan - Results database for 1901". Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Team Dan - Early Motoring Results database - 1903 Paris-Madrid". Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  14. ^ Gardner Engine Forum - PDF - Summer 2003, Issue 4
  15. ^ The Pittsburgh Press - 10 November 1906 French Driver Very Highly Thought Of.
  16. ^ a b c Library of New Zealand. Progress, Volume V, Issue 8, 1 June 1910, Page 270. Death of Le Blon.
  17. ^ Flying Machines. HUMBER monoplane (Le Blon Type)
  18. ^ Le Blon
  19. ^ "By the Way," U.S. Air Service Magazine (February 1920), p25
  20. ^ National Library of New Zealand, Progress, The Scientific New Zealander. Death of Le Blon. Progress, Volume V, Issue 8, 1 June 1910, Page 270
  21. ^ National Library of New Zealand, Colonist, Volume LII, Issue 12762, 7 April 1910, Page 3, Death of M. Le Blon - San Sebastian Funeral
  22. ^ a b c "TeamDan, Early results database - 1902". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  23. ^ a b c Hill Climb Winners 1897-1949 by Hans Etzrodt
  24. ^ a b c d "TeamDan, Early results database - 1904". Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  25. ^ a b c "TeamDan, Early results database - 1905". Archived from the original on 1 October 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  26. ^ "TeamDan, Early results database - 1906". Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  27. ^ Unique Cars - Profile of Daimler
  28. ^ a b "TeamDan, Early results database - 1907". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2013.

Other sources

Cited by Motorsport Memorial.[1]

  • Book A History of Aeronautics by E. Charles Vivian, Book Jungle, 2009, ISBN 1438519257.
  • Magazine "Progress" (Wellington, New Zealand), issue of 1 June 1910, article "Death of Le Blon", page 270, retrieved by website [2].
  • Magazine Flight, issue of 9 April 1910, retrieved by website [3].
  • Website The New York Times - Archive, issue 3 April 1910, article "AERONAUT IS DASHED TO DEATH ON ROCKS; Le Blon, Once *Famous Motorist, Was Circling Spanish Royal Palace at San Sebastian.", page [4].
  • Website Fundación Aérea de la Comunidad Valenciana, Aircraft Recovering - Bleriot XI Project, page [5][permanent dead link].
  • Website The GEL Motorsport Information Page by Darren Galpin, page [6] and page [7].
  • Website [ ] by Guido de Carli, chapter "Results: Jimmy Piget's Archives - Killed (or deceased when active) drivers", compiled by Jimmy Piget, page .
  • Website Mediatheque Ville Le Mans, page [8].
  • Website Le Mans & Formula 2 Register by Stefan Örnerdal, page [9].

Cited by Darren Galpin of Team Dan:

  • Ian Morrison: Guinness Motor Racing - The Records
  • Ian Morrison: Guinness Book of Formula One
  • Nigel Mansell: My Autobiography, Collins Willow
  • Peter Higham: The Guinness Guide To International Motor Racing
  • Timothy Collings: Schumacher, Bloomsbury
  • Steve Small: The Guinness Complete Grand Prix Who's Who, Volumes 1 and 2
  • Alan Henry: The Turbo Years, Crowood
  • Alan Henry: Damon Hill, On Top of the World, PSL
  • Mike Lang: Grand Prix! Vol 4, 1981–84, Haynes
  • Doug Nye: History of the Grand Prix Car 1966-91, Hazleton
  • Doug Nye: History of the Grand Prix Car 1945-65, Hazleton
  • Doug Nye and Geoff Crammond: Classic Racing Cars, Haynes
  • Paul Lawrence and Peter Stow: Castle Combe - The First 50 Years, TFM
  • William Body: The History of Motor Racing, Book Club Associates
  • Ivan Rendall: The Power and the Glory, BBC Books
  • Paul Sheldon: A Record of Grand Prix and Voiturette Racing, vols 1, 5 and 6
  • Janos Wimpffen: Time and Two Seats, Motorsport Research Group
  • Autosport Magazine
  • Motorsport Magazine

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2020, at 06:11
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