La Course Automobile
And then, there are the racing cars.
While once the Bugatti Grand Prix cars and other significant competition cars were displayed throughout the museum, they are now housed in a separate display wing titled, appropriately, La Course Automobile.
Stepping through the archway to enter this bright, well-lit area is indeed stepping into another world and place. The largest number of automobiles exhibited in the Schlumpf Collection remain in row upon row on gravel bisected by the tile walkways, and others in the subdued blue light of the Motorcar Masterpieces gallery, but the earliest racing cars have been given a stark, white environment where each example can be studied and appreciated.
Further on visitors enter yet another gallery where a pair of pre-war Mercedes Silver Arrow Grand Prix cars give way to a post-war Grand Prix grid filling one side of the hall, with a singular exhibit of Le Mans sports cars on the other side.
The small post-war Bugatti organization also attempted a comeback to Grand Prix racing with the Type 251, which forever occupies the first starting position on the museum’s 1950s GP grid.
Built during 1955-1956, the 251 was a radical rear-engine car designed by Gioacchino Columbo—usually associated with Ferrari—and powered by a transversely mounted 2.5 liter dohc in-line eight-cylinder engine. The Type 251 was entered in a GP only once, driven by Maurice Trintignant at the 1956 French Grand Prix where it retired early in the race.
The Type 251 is flanked on the 1950s Grand Prix grid by the also intriguing Gordini Type 32 from 1956. Amédée Gordini was a fiercely nationalistic tuner, whose cars carried the French blue gallantly at Le Mans and in the new Formula One in post-war years in spite of always being short of funds. Gordini was a close friend of Fritz Schlumpf and all of the remaining Gordini racers became part of the Schlumpf Collection when Gordini joined Renault, where he contributed to the development to Renault Sport and Renault’s later F1 success.
Turning toward the newer GP grid a Lotus 18 and Lotus 25 fill the back row, looking forward in the future toward a Ferrari driven by John Surtees. At the front of the grid are the newer F1 cars including a Renault and Williams-Renault World Champion.
On the sports car side, the cars are angled into their start positions on the Le Mans pit road. What may very well represent the greatest collection of Gordini sports cars in the world fills the small bore end of the grid, which continues past a Mercedes 300 SLR of the type that was leading Le Mans in 1955 before Pierre Levegh’s accident led to the team’s withdrawal from the race.
At the fastest end of the pits are recent Porsche, Audi and Bentley, as well as a Renault-Alpine A442B team car with its radical windscreen cum roof from 1978.