Born in Paris, France to a father who loved motor sports and was employed as the motoring correspondent for the Petit Parisien newspaper, Jean-Pierre Wimille developed a fascination with racing cars at a young age. He was 22 years old when he made his Grand Prix debut, driving a Bugatti 37A at the 1930 French Grand Prix in Pau.
Driving a Bugatti T51, in 1932 he won the La Turbie Mountain Race, the Grand Prix de Lorraine and the Grand Prix d'Oran. In 1934 he was the victor at the Algerian Grand Prix in Algiers driving a Bugatti T59 and in January of 1936 he finished second in the South African Grand Prix held at the Prince George Circuit in East London, South Africa then won the French Grand Prix in his home country.
Still in France, that same year he won the Deauville Grand Prix, a race held on the city's streets. Wimille won in his Bugatti T59 in an accident-marred race that killed drivers Raymond Chambost and Marcel Lehoux in separate incidents. Of the 16 cars that started the race, only three managed to finish.
In 1936, Wimille traveled to Long Island, New York to compete in the Vanderbilt Cup where he finished 2nd, behind the winner, Tazio Nuvolari. He also competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race, winning in 1937 and again in 1939.
When World War II came, following the Nazi occupation Wimille and fellow Grand Prix race drivers Robert Benoist and William Grover-Williams joined the Special Operations Executive of the French Resistance. Of the three, Wimille was the only one to survive.
Jean-Pierre Wimille married Christiane de la Fressange with whom he had a son, François born in 1946. At the end of the War, he became the No. 1 driver for the Alfa Romeo team between 1946 and 1948, winning several Grand Prix races including his second French Grand Prix. Jean-Pierre Wimille died at the wheel of a racing car during practice runs for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix. He is buried in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris. There is a large memorial to him at the Porte Dauphine on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.
In 2003, a book on his illustrious career was written in French & English and titled "Jean-Pierre Wimille: à bientôt la revanche" by Jean-Michel Paris and William D. Mearns.
Some of Jean-Pierre Wimille's race victories:
Grand Prix de Lorraine
Grand Prix d'Oran
Grand Prix of Algeria - Bugatti T59
French Grand Prix - Bugatti T57G
Grand Prix de la Marne - Bugatti T57G
Deauville Grand Prix - Bugatti T59
Grand Prix du Comminges - Bugatti T59/57
Grand Prix de Pau - Bugatti T57G (The Tank)
Grand Prix de Böne - Bugatti T57
24 hours of Le Mans - Bugatti T57G driving with Robert Benoist
Grand Prix de la Marne - Bugatti T57
Coupe de Paris
Grand Prix du Centenaire Luxembourg - Bugatti T57S45
24 hours of Le Mans - Bugatti T57C driving with Pierre Veyron