It was very sad to hear this evening of the passing of Gérard Welter who died yesterday aged 75.
Perhaps the greatest was his design for the Peugeot 205, a truly iconic small car that is seen worldwide as a classic in both aesthetic and dynamic terms. He was a key player in Peugeot design for 47 years. Amongst his other work for the company were the 304, 604, 305, 405 and 406 with his last collaboration with Peugeot coming with the RCZ.
In Motorsport Gérard was the ‘W’ in both the WM and later WR equipes, and he was active almost until the very end. The WM team (W for Welter and M for Michel Meunier, another designer who worked for the French car manufacturer) raced at Le Mans from 1976-1989. There was a class win in 1979 but without a doubt the pinnacle came in 1988, Roger Dorchy at the wheel of the WM P88 with a Peugeot engine set a speed record of 405 km/h on Les Hunaudières that has never been equalled, Welter’s Project 400 had been achieved.
Welter returned to Le Mans with his team in a new guise, WR, Welter Racing but also a nod to his wife Rachel.
There were Le Mans entries from 1992 onwards, a class win coming in 1993 and a 1,2 in qualifying saw perhaps his proudest moment at Le Sarthe, a front row sweep for his rocket ship little cars!
The WR-Salini LMP2 (pictured top) saw the company back onto the LMP2 grids from 2008 for three seasons, the new car showing promise but ultimately not results.
Since then Welter has been looking to new technologies and the Gargae 56 Programme. The Hydrogen fuelled ‘Green GT’ and the more recent biomethane fuelled projects though struggled to raise the required finance. In an era though hen the world is looking for alternatives to the technological status quo, Welter was in the vanguard of taking risks to take things forward.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest paid homage to “this man’s intelligence totally dedicated to the motor car and motor sport with a spirit that generated enthusiasm and positive energy. Gérard Welter was a driving force in the true sense of the word. It’s very sad news for us, for the ACO and for the motor car. In the name of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest I would like to send my warmest and most profound emotional thoughts to Gérard Welter’s family and loved ones.”
We’ll echo that sentiment – the racing world has lost a leftfield thinking hero – RIP Gérard.
Crédit photo : DPPI/Jean-Michel Le Meur