“I told you to stay the night !”
The Frenchman Maurice Trintignant perhaps personifies better than any other the sort of driver with whom Rob has felt able to build a sound basis on friendship for motor racing success. Maurice is a quiet, unassuming man, with great charm, always well dressed , who was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur for his activities in the war-time maquis and is Mayor of his home town of Vergèse, in the department of Var, where he also owns a number of vineyards.
Michael Cooper-Evans, Private Entrant, Racing with Rob Walker. ( 1965 )
That evening Valentine Lindsay threw a party in the Salle d’Or at the Loews in honour of his late father, the Hon Patrick. The theme was Scotland the Brave, kilts were in evidence, and we were piped in to dinner. To my delight I found myself seated next to that great and versatile French driver Maurice Trintignant, who in a career spanning 30 years won two Monaco Grand Prix, beat the D-types to win Le Mans for Ferrari in 1954, and was French champion six times. Now 80, he is still full of life - he has a six-year-old son ! - and is a wonderful raconteur, speaking only French.
I wanted to hear from his own lips the story of his nickname, Pétoulet - which is southern French patois for, if you’ll forgive me, rat shit. Louis Trintignant, Maurice’s elder brother, was killed at Peronne in 1933 in a type 51 Bugatti, and the wreck was sold. Once Maurice was old enough to have a licence he bought it back, and proceeded to win several races with it. When war broke out he dismantled it, hiding the bits from the Germans in scattered farmyards and lonely sheds.
The first post-war race in France was the Coupe des Prisonniers in the Bois de Boulogne in 1945. The Bugatti was hastily gathered together and reassembled, but a rat’s nest in the fuel tank wasn’t properly flushed out, and after seven laps Trintignant was forced to retire.
Afterwards he explained to the great Jean-Pierre Wimille, who’d won the race, that his fuel lines were blocked with pétoules - rats’ droppings. Wimille, tragically to die in a Gordini in Buenos Aires three years later, was hugely amused, and christened him Le Pétoulet on the spot.
Later, the label of one of the best wines from the Trintignant vineyards proudly bore the name Pétoulet. I wonder if your average wine waiter knows what it means ?
Simon Taylor, Classic & Sports Car July 1997