Bernard Cahier: Motor racing photojournalist

Bernard Cahier occupied a rare position in the world of international motor racing, for he was the sport's first true photojournalist.

He became hooked early in life. He was only five when his father, a soldier who would eventually become a general, took him to the Marseilles Grand Prix at Miramas in 1932. Aged 12 at the outbreak of the Second World War, Cahier Jnr was 17 when he joined the resistance in Brittany and was active long before the Normandy landings.

Following the liberation of Brittany in the summer of 1944 he joined General Philippe Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division and worked as an engineer. He was involved in the clearing of land-mines in the Royan Pocket in western France and the liberation of southern Germany in the spring of 1945. He was then sent off to the French colony of Cameroon for a year before heading to the United States to study at UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles). It was there that he met Joan Updike, whom he would later marry, and was finally able to indulge his passion for motorsport.

He took a job at International Motors, Los Angeles' largest foreign car dealership, run by an enthusiast, Roger Barlow. It was while selling European sports cars to wealthy Americans that the urbane Cahier was able to blend into the thriving postwar sports car scene in southern California, and made the acquaintance of a fellow salesman, Phil Hill, and the mechanic Richie Ginther. Both would later achieve international fame as Formula One drivers, Hill becoming America's first world champion, in 1961.

Barlow raced, and Cahier cut his teeth competing in an MG before he became involved in reporting on the sport. He and Joan moved to Paris in 1952, and he journeyed to Monza on behalf of an American publication to photograph the Italian Grand Prix. Then he was commissioned to report F1 for the influential magazine L'Action Automobile. Naturally outgoing and gregarious, Cahier was soon accepted into the inner circle and became a close friend of those at the very heart of the sport.

In 1954 he captured the Argentinian racer Roberto Mieres' flaming Maserati A6GCM/250F at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. "The car was going to hell, and I wasn't going to wait for it to stop. It was getting too damn hot!" Mieres said, explaining why he baled out. "Bernard was there. He had missed the start and was taking pictures of the second group of cars when I came into sight, on fire. He caught all the action and then sold the pictures to The New York Times. Later on he told me, 'I bought a house on the strength of them.' 'On a mortgage, of course,' I suggested. But he just laughed and said, 'No! I bought it outright. Just because of those pictures!'"

Cahier became something of a celebrity himself, partly because readers liked his breezy writing style and candid photographs, and partly because of his penchant for appearing in front of the lens with his friends, such as the great Argentinian champion Juan Manuel Fangio and the celebrities of the day. He was also instrumental in furthering the careers of Hill and Ginther, and another Californian, the great Dan Gurney, by helping to find them drives in Europe.

He also acted as Goodyear's public relations consultant in F1 and was celebrated not only for his connections inside the business but also for his charm and hospitality. He knew everyone and brokered many deals. He still occasionally raced himself, notably in 1956 in the infamous Mille Miglia road race across Italy and the 1967 Targa Florio sports car race in Sicily. In the former, he and his co-driver Nadege Ferrier finished five hours behind Eugenio Castellotti's winning Ferrari in their modest Renault Dauphine saloon. In the latter he and the French skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy won the GT class and finished seventh overall in their factory-entered Porsche 911S.

He was responsible for introducing the motorhome to the sport, in the form of a caravan that was put at the media's disposal.

When the Hollywood moviemaker John Frankenheimer shot his film Grand Prix during the 1966 season, it was Cahier who acted as his Man Friday to smooth its path, and he made a cameo appearance in it together with the likes of a hammy Graham Hill and Phil Hill.

Two years later, irritated by the way in which the media were treated by the disparate grand prix organisers in those pre-Ecclestone days, Cahier was one of the founders of the International Racing Press Association (IRPA), later becoming its president. Inevitably that led him into conflict with Bernie Ecclestone himself and the FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre. Refused a pass for his home grand prix one year, he pulled his political connections to foil his enemies. His sister was married to Robert Mitterand, brother of the President, François Mitterand, and the problem was solved.

He continued to play a role in F1 until 1983, when a change in management at Goodyear resulted in the termination of his contract. He and Joan continued to socialise on the grand prix scene, and his role as a photographer was taken over by his son Paul-Henri, who remains a familiar figure today. Their joint archive represents one of the most vibrant chronicles of the sport, embracing not just the cars but also the personalities and events over six decades.

David Tremayne

Bernard Cahier, photojournalist: born Marseilles, France 20 June 1927; married 1951 Joan Updike (one son, one daughter); died Evian, France 10 July 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine