Bernard Consten has sadly passed away after a long illness, aged 85. He will be remembered as a relentless competitor who embodied true elegance and style. He excelled on the circuits and in rally racing (first champion of France in 1967), switching with ease between small engines to the most powerful of machines. His driving career and trophy haul will remain a benchmark.
His father was a garage-owner and he was the cousin of racing driver Jean Hébert, who competed at Le Mans in 1954 and 1958. Consten became popular after competing in the Tour de France Automobile which he won five times in the tourist car class between 1958 and 1963. Who could forget the 3.8-litre Jaguars – white with a red ring around their ‘muzzle’ – that he always steered forward so unwaveringly? He also won the ACO rally (Rallye de l’ouest) in an Alfa Romeo in 1967.
He made his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Vernet Pairard in 1957 but was forced to retire. Likewise, in 1958, when he returned to La Sarthe with a Panhard Monopole. He had better luck in 1959 when he finished 11th overall in a DB HBR4. He failed to make it to the chequered flag in 1960 in the Alfa Romeo-powered Conrero Spyder, and suffered the same fate in 1961 in the impressive Aston-Martin DB4 GT Zagato with its 1VEV registration plate. He finally tasted Le Mans victory in 1962 when he gave the little René Bonnet Djet its first outing with José Rosinski. They won their class and finished 17th overall. That car is now owned by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and is on show at the Le Mans 24 Hours Museum at the circuit entrance.
Once his racing career came to an end, Bernard Consten became president of the Fédération Française du Sport Automobile, putting his knowledge and experience to use to promote motorsport and to relaunch his favourite event, the Tour Auto.
Born in 1932, this emblematic figure of the motor racing world was a graduate of the prestigious HEC business school. He will be sadly missed by his huge circle of friends.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest expresses its deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.
Photo (ACO archives): Presentation of the René Bonnet team at scrutineering ahead of the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans; Bernard Consten is pictured at the centre, wearing a tie.