The original article was published by Werner Noether in his book “Die Erschliessung der Sahara”

1929: Expedition Loiseau

It was probably not so often the case that Bugatti cars were used for a desert expedition – but in one case exactly this was done:

11'500 kilometres in a Bugatti

On January 27 1929 a convoy consisting of five Bugatti 10 CV started its journey through the Sahara. The vehicles of the Type 40 have a 1,5 litre engine which brings about 45 horsepower at 4'000 rpm. The cars are built as pick-ups and with 800 kilograms of goods on them they are hopelessly overloaded. Amongst other things, each car carries 260 litres of benzin, 20 litres of oil and 20 litres of water. About half of the load is the personal luggage of the travelers and most of the participants have even planned to carry out hunting excursions on the southern edge of the Sahara – and they do not want to do that without a certain level of personal comfort. One of the participants, Lieutenant Loiseau, warns about the too heavy load even before they start the journey: He intends to do a record-trip from Paris to Cite d'Ivoire and back…

The group arrives at Oran in the afternoon of the 29 January where they get an official reception – but already in the evenig they have the official start of theyr adventure and head on direction South. After passing the mountains in the coastal area they continue for Colomb-Bechar where they have to face the first sand-passages… and with them the first difficulties for the overloaded vehicles. Several defects appear but since the participants of this journy do not believe that they can leave some of their luggage back they buy a truck to join them instead!

Loiseau and anotpher participant leave the group to progress quicker. Whilst they drive on, they meet another vehicle, a Renault, for several times which also heads south. This Renault is driven by Georges Estienne. And with him is Marshall Franchet d'Esperey who had already crossed the Sahara once together with the brothers Estienne. Since Estienne is driving not only durign the day but also through parts of the night, he is not much slower than Loiseau and the two Bugatti who's drivers do not know the route precisely and have to stop therefore after sunset.

The three other Bugatti proceed considerably slower than the first two. Even the additionally purchased truck has to be left back with a technical breakdown somewher in the Tanezrouft – including its precious load. As bad as that may be – for Loiseau it is a lucky occurence. On his way back he comes across the abandoned truck and finds it a welcome “fuel station”.

From the oasis of Gao on, Loiseau drives alone for his record-journey. After an article which was published in the Le Monde Coloniale Illustre (1929) the stages were the following:

  • 13 February: Gao-Niamey, 480 kilometres in 8 hours and 30 minutes. Average speed: 56 km/h
  • 14 February: Niamey-Fada N'Gourma, 350 kilometres in 5h30'. Average speed: 64 km/h
  • 15 February: Fada N'gourma – Ouagadougou, 235 kilometres in 3h30'. Average speed (deducted half an hour rest): 78 km/h
  • 16 February: Ouagadougou – Bobo Dioulasso, 365 kilometres in 5h45'. Average speed: 63 km/h. On this stage of the journey Loiseau meets Andre Labouret who he knows – they decide to continue the journey together.
  • 17 February: Bobo Dioulasso – Bouake, 475km in 6h10'. Average speed: 77km/h
  • 18 February: Bouake – Grand Bassam, 55km, including a deviation of 110km since he followed the wrong track, in 11h30'. Average speed: 48 km/h
  • 19 February: Rest in Grand Bassam. A 60 km drive to visit friends in Biggerville (near Abidjan) in the afternoon.
  • 20 February: Start of the return journey direction Odienne. Due to a destroyed bridge and several river crossings by use of a ferry only 210km can be done in a total time of 12h30'. Average speed: 25km/h
  • 21./22. February: Start on 21 at 03:00hrs, drive via Odienne direction Kankan; very difficult driving conditions and an enforced rest due to another river-crossing. Rest on 22. at 02:45hrs. Nearly 900kms have been driven in 23h15'. Average speed: 38km/h
  • 22. February: Drive from Kankan to Bamako. 460 km in 13h. Average speed: 35km/h
  • 23. February: One day rest in Bamako.
  • 24./25. February: Bamako – Goundam. Loiseau and Labouret used a new, only little frequented track, which starting from Segou followed the left bank of the river Niger via Massina, Niafunke and Goundam to Timbuktu. 900 kilometres in 23h45'. Average speed: 38km/h
  • 26. February: Goundam – Timbuktu – Gao. Some hours for rest in Timbuktu. 650km (out of which 50 were a deviation) in 15 hours. Average speed (including the rest(: 45km/h
  • 27. February: Rest day in Gao
  • 28. February: Start at 01:00hrs to cross the Tanezrouft. From Gao on, Comte de Ponfilly is on board as a passenger.
  • 1. March: Arrival in Adrar at 19:00hrs. The distance of 1'500 kilometers was completed in 42 hours, thereof 9 hours were taken as a rest. Average speed (without the rest): 45 km/h
  • 2. March: Adrar – Fort Mac Mahon, 400 kms in 9h30'. Average speed: 42 km/h.
  • 3. March: Fort Mac Mahon – Gardaia, 565 km in 15h30'. Average speed: 36 km/h
  • 4. March: Ghardia – Algiers. Arrival in Algiers in the night from 4. to 5. March. Delay due to a crash with another vehicle on the road. Lenght of the last stage: 650 kilometres.

In the period of five weeks, Loiseau managed to drive a distance of approximately 11'500 kilometres with his Bugatti – and crossed the Sahara twice at this occassion. His car survives the struggle without suffering any serious defects, although Loiseau enjoys a big luck for several times on his trip. Once, at a speed of about 100km/h, he did not recognize a small trench carved by the water – but the car just jumps it without ending up in an accident. Then, Loiseau has to fight a continuous fight agaisnt the sleep. Once it happens that he falls asleep and has to be replaced by one of his compagnons as a driver of the car – but his replacement immediately falls asleep as well… without even being driven for a single meter. Only after about an hour, one of them wakes up and recognices that they still stand at the same place as before. Later on it happens: Loiseau falls asleep whilst driving and the car ends up between the rocks on the side of the track. But again he is lucky – only some tires suffer a damage.