In the 1951 Italian Grand Prix at the Monza Circuit, Maurice Trintignant entered the race with the #50 Simca-Gordini and left qualifying having raced to a respectable P12 starting position.
However, Trintignant began feeling unwell following qualifying. Enter Jean Behra. Still a no-name at that time, far away from having the fame in later years thanks to his performances, which most notably included his 1956 season where he lead the WDC after the first and second race. While he was quite successful in bike racing, including being the French street bike champion four times in a row, he was not very experienced driving on four wheels at the time, only having been hired by Gordini three months prior.
Nonetheless, he was at the scene, so team boss Amédée Gordini made the call to have the unwell Trintignant replaced for the race with the aspiring Behra. However, Mr. Gordini did not inform the race officials about the switch, as officially declaring it would’ve led to an extra starting fee payment that he was unwilling to do.
In all secrecy, on race day, Behra made his way to the grid with the #50 Simca-Gordini and no one seemed to really pay any attention whether everything was proceeding correctly – which is partly due to the fact that Behra even wore Trintignant’s distinct helmet design. The racing officials had no cause for suspicion. And so the race began – and it wasn’t particularly spectacular for Behra nor for the watching audience. The Ferraris of Ascari and González were not challenged by anyone and were on P1 and P2 from lap 14 until the chequered flag on lap 80, lapping every other competitor still remaining on track. Behra won two positions from the start, lost three of them after an apparent mistake, and cruised around on P10 far away from the top five and possible points until his engine completely gave out on lap 29 (with his team mate Manzon also getting an engine-related DNF on the same lap). Remaining team mate André Simon finished the race and barely missed out on points on P6… or not quite so, as he finished four laps behind the Ferrari on P5.
Nonetheless – the plot was uncovered shortly thereafter, but since Behra didn’t see the finish anyway, the Gordini team suffered no known repercussions for their unusual tactics.
Behra would not officially enter a Formula 1 Grand Prix until the 1952 opener in Bremgarten, Switzerland – which ended with him driving the brand-new Gordini construction on the podium in P3 – seven more podiums would follow until his untimely death at the AVUS in a sportscar race prior to the 1959 German Grand Prix, aged 38.