René Thomas (March 7, 1886 – September 23, 1975) was a French motor racing champion. Thomas was also a pioneer aviator. He won the 1914 Indianapolis 500.
He was born on March 7, 1886 in Périgueux, France.
A leading driver in his native France, René Thomas traveled to the United States to compete in the Indianapolis 500 on four occasions. He won the 1914 Indianapolis 500 on his inaugural try driving a Delage.
He was given leave from the French Army during World War I so he could continue to race. Laminated spring steel steering wheel were manufactured in the inter-war period engraved with Rene Thomas portrait and signature and were used particularly on Delage motorcars but also championed by racing ace Jean Chassagne on his winning 1922 TT Sunbeam.
On July 6, 1924 at Arpajon, France, Thomas set a new world land speed record when he drove a Delage at 143.31 mph (230.64 km/h).
On May 28, 1973, he returned to Indianapolis to drive his winning Delage in a series of parade laps, prior to the start of the 1973 Indianapolis 500. Although he did not drive the car himself, he did sit in the seat where the riding mechanic would sit.
He died on September 23, 1975 in Paris, France at age 89.
Beginning around 1910 Thomas flew airplanes for the Antoinette company whose president was Leon Levavasseur. Hubert Latham was one of Thomas's fellow Antoinette test pilots. Thomas competed in early aviation competitions throughout Europe. In Milan Italy in October 1910 Thomas was involved in the world's first mid-air collision when his Antoinette monoplane fell onto the Farman biplane of Scottish aviator Captain Bertram Dickson. Thomas miraculously wasn't seriously injured but Dickson suffered internal injuries and never fully recovered and died in 1913.