Delage Roars Back
Maxim|January - February 2022
Entrepreneur Laurent Tapie is raising the legendary marque from the grave
By Nicolas Stecher, Photography by Robert Kerian

In 1874 Pierre Louis Adolphe Delage was born in the verdant countryside of Cognac, France. Among some of the finest vineyards in the world, this watchmaker’s son studied the sciences, graduating from the nearby Ecole des Arts & Métiers with an engineering degree. After securing a financial backer in 1905, he founded Delage, which would go on to find great fame in the world of motorsports. With a fleet of hand-built, V12-powered racers, Delage would claim Grand Prix wreaths and world speed records, peaking in 1927 when his Type 15 S 8 crossed four European Grand Prix checkered flags, winning his eponymous nameplate the World Championship and the Légion d’Honneur for his driver Robert Benoist.

Sadly, the halcyon years would be short-lived. Despite building some of the most luxurious and expensive cars the world had ever seen, the knockout combo of the Great Depression and World War II conspired to kill the marque. By the early ’50s, after being sold to peers Delahaye, Delage faded to black.

Until today, that is. “Because I’m French, Delage was really an obvious choice,” Laurent Tapie explains from his headquarters in Magny-Cours. A serial entrepreneur, the son of businessman and politician Bernard Tapie—best known for reviving the moribund Adidas in the early 90s, and being owner of the Champions League-winning Olympique de Marseille football club—has charged himself with resurrecting the storied marque. “The only two brands in French history that were ever world champion in Grand Prix are Bugatti and Delage, no one else,” he reminds us. “Delage set several world records of speed, and in the first half of the 20th Century won more Prix d’Elegance than any other brand in the world.”

However, “Nobody remembers that France used to be the number one country for luxury cars until the Second World War,” he notes with a hint of exasperation. “We were selling more prestigious cars than the English, the German, the Italians. We were number one!” Speaking with Tapie for only 20 minutes, it quickly becomes apparent his goal is not just to return the nameplate to the apex of global motoring, but the French flag as well. “Delage still remains one of the most prestigious brands in history,” he urges, “we just need to relive this past, and remind people of it.”

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