Behra had been a motorbike racer since 1938 when he was invited by Amedee Gordini, at the end of 1950 to join his Simca-Gordini team and less than two years later, in the 1952 French Grand Prix at Reims, Behra hit the headlines beating the Ferrari factory team on home soil. Having switched to Maserati for 1955 he won the non-championship races at Pau, Bordeaux and Bari, but had otherwise no chance against the dominant Mercedes-Benz. When the silver arrows were pulled out, Behra became number two to Stirling Moss, who joined the Italians for 1956, and then to Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957. Again he scored only a non-championship win, the 1957 Moroccan GP. With the unreliable BRM he had made a poor choice for the 1958 season and so it was a relief to get an offer from Ferrari to partner Tony Brooks in 1959.
But getting temperamental with Romolo Tavoni, punching the team manager because he had accused him to have caused the retirement from the French GP at Reims by ruining the engine, didn’t help at all. Unsurprisingly he was fired. At the time he was also under contract to the Porsche’s works sports car team and the Germans offered him an F2 car, so he could take part in the German GP at the Avus track. In the preliminary race he was driving a Porsche RSK sports car, lost control on the wet banking and crashed at high speed. It was a shocking scene, Behra being thrown from the car and hitting a flagpole. Investigations concluded that he’d actually been killed in the initial impact.
Although he never won a World Championship Grand Prix, he remains a legend. Killed in a sportscar race in Berlin.
Born: 16th of February 1921 in Nice, France
Died: 1st of August 1959 at Avus in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany, aged 38.