La Jamais Contente

Camille Jenatzy

A lot of good material has been written on Camille Jenatzy.  Jenatzy was one of the original heroes of motorsport.  There is even some suggestion that he pioneered an early form of the four-wheel-drift.    The Jenatzy family was originally Hungarian.  However, they had lived in Belgium for nearly 110 years before Camille was born. Jenatzy La jamais contente

Camille Jenatzy was born to wealthy parents on November 4, 1898.  His father had made a genuine fortune as the proprietor of Belgium’s first rubber factory.  Camille Jenatzy did not follow in his father’s footsteps, exactly.  He did attend civil engineering school; however, he was attracted by speed from the start.  He raced bicycles, before falling in love with the automobile.

According to a contemporary, “None presented such a terrifying appearance in a car.  Although reckless, daring and exciting to the utmost degree when racing, a more meek and mild-mannered individual when off the car could not be imagined.”  He truly was a colorful character and an original hero of motorsport.

Setting the Stage

People may think that the electric vehicle started with the Prius and electric vehicle racing started with Formula E.  They are wrong in this conclusion.  Electric vehicles, in fact, date back to before the gasoline engine (but after the steam engine).

Charles Jeantaud built his initial electric vehicle in 1881.   However, it was not until 1893 that he seriously began to manufacture electric vehicles.  Generally, his cars were pure electrics and lasted only a short time until surpassed by the development of the gasoline engine.

However, around 1898, Jeantaud electrics were a formidable opponent for outright top speed.  A Jeantaud electric, in the hands of one Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat, that held the world’s first land speed record.  The Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat was also wealthy.  He was a French aristocrat and son of an advisor to Napoleon III.

The Chanteloup Hill Climb

The Cantaloup hill climb may have been the first of its type.  It was organized by La France Automobile.  It was a short 1,800 meter hill climb.  There were 54 competitors.  Camille Jenatzy was one of the competitors.

Just before the hill climb, it rained heavily.  The roads were muddy, slippery, and difficult to navigate.  Even still, only three competitors failed to finish the course.

Yet, it was Camille Jenatzy who won, giving him his first taste of victory from the seat of an automobile.  He raced the 1,800 meter course in 3:52 “on an electric vehicle of his own creation.”  This translates to an average of 17 miles per hour.  Second place went to Jamin on a Bollée two-cylinder tri-car.

The Acheres Meeting

According to Gerald Rose, the Acheres meeting “stands to the credit of La France Automobile, for it was from Mr. Paul Meyan that the proposal came to hold a meeting at some convenient spot where there was a deserted and open road, on which the cars could be let out to their highest speed without inconvenience to anyone.”

The idea was to establish a permanent record of the capabilities of the available cars.  Also, there was a lot of bragging going on.  It seems it is human nature to always think our car is faster than the next blokes’.  They did so by setting up a procedure for timing a “flying kilometer.”  The flying kilometer, in early years, was the de facto measure for land speed records.

Again, it was raining, and only a few times runs were established that day.

  • Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat, Jeantaud.  39.3 mph.
  • Loysel, Bollée, 35.5 mph.
  • Giraud, Bollée, 33.6 mph.
  • Rival, De Dion Tri., 30.5 mph.

Jenatzy was unable to attend this meeting.  However, the next day, he wrote to Chasseloup-Laubat, the victor, challenging him to a timed throw down to see if he could defeat the standing record holder.

The Count accepted.  They agreed on racing on January 17, 1899.

Challenging the Flying Kilometer

As challenger, on January 17, 1899, Camille Jenatzy ran first.  He set a flying kilometer average of 41.4 miles per hour.  This, therefore, was 2.1 mph faster than the Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat’s record.

But then, on the next run, the Count responded.  He averaged 43.7 miles per hour over a flying kilometer.  His pace may have even been better had his electric motor not burned out 200 yards from the completion of the timed kilometer.

La Jamais Contente

Only 10 days after his 43.7 mph run, they went out for another run.  Camille Jenatzy ran 50 miles per hour.  The Count de Chasseloup-Laubat experienced an electrical failure in his motor.  He burned it up before he even started.

It seems the two dueling enthusiasts could not get enough; they returned to Acheres on March 4, 1899 for another run.  The Count ran the flying kilometer at an average of 57.6 miles per hour.  Remember, Chasseloup-Laubat was able to accomplish this in a stripped, but otherwise ordinary, Jeantaud electric car.

Jeantaud Electric Top Speed Run Acheres
Jeantaud Electric with modified body for the Acheres top speed runs.

The speed bug had bitten Jenatzy hard.  He was not to be defeated.  And so, he went back to his garage and built a new car.  It was called La Jamais Contente (“The Never Satisfied).  The Jamais Contente was a thoroughbred top-speed runner.  No emphasis, whatsoever, was placed on handling or other such trivial matters.

The power of the Jamais Contente was contained a series of batteries, which reportedly delivered 200 volts and 124 amperes.  Informal estimates suggest that its two 25 kilowatt electric motors equated to about 68 horsepower.  The cars batteries, however, pale in awesomeness to the look of the Jamais Contente.  It was truly ahead of its time in adapting early principles of aerodynamics to a high-speed vehicle.

La Jamais Contente with Camille Jentazy

His first run on April 1, 1899, always at Acheres, was a complete failure.  There was some debris in the road, so Jentazy received permission to shift the start point 200 meters down the road.  However, he started his run before “the startled watch holders” could calculate the 200 meter shift on the other end.  Being an early electric, it was only capable of one single run before being recharged.

Thus, they reconvened on April 29, 1899.  At that time, Jenatzy ran the flying kilometer in 34 seconds.  That translates to an average of 65.75 miles per hour.  This not only set the record for the flying kilometer, but it also remained in the hands of Jenatzy for three more years.

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

Grandprixhistory.com

Hemmings Daily

Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats, Cutter and Fendell (1973)

Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick (2005)

A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose (1949)

Triumph of the Red Devil: The Irish Gordon Bennett Cup Race – 1903, Brendan Lynch (2002)

The 1898 Racing Season Concludes.

The last race I covered, the 1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris race, ended on July 13th.  At the end of the month, on July 22, 1898, the standing 100 kilometer record was broken.  Jamin set the new record at 1:53:15.  In doing so, he beat the previous 100 km record by three minutes and thirty seconds.

According to Gerald Rose, about a week later, there was a race from Lille to Calais.  It was only “remarkable for the large mortality in live-stock which occurred at the same time.”  Then, on August 21, 1898, the last major race of the year took place.

1898 Bordeaux to Biarritz

On August 21, 1898, the Bordeaux to Biarritz race marked the final major race of the 1898 racing season.  The route, starting in Bordeaux, went through Le Réole, Marmande, Casteljaloux, and Mont de Marsan.  The race was set for 180 miles.

The race was “tropically hot” according to Gerald Rose.  The competitors, and particularly the motorcyclists were exhausted after the 180 mile race.

Giraud started in a Bollée.  He was soon passed by Lemaitre, a participant in the 1894 race from Paris to Rouen.

Lemaitre was in the lead until he came up on a gated bridge at Marmande.  As he approached, the bridge-keeper through the gate closed, forcing Lemaitre to slam on his breaks.  In doing so, Lemaitre destroyed the rear-end mechanicals of his Peugeot.  Lemaitre and bridge-keeper got in a heated argument lasting until the townspeople threatened to throw the bridge-keeper into the river, below.

There was also some sort of cattle affair, which the drivers has to get special permission to drive through.

In the end, Loyel’s Bollée was first in 6:48:00, at an average speed of 26.7 miles per hour.  Mr. Koechlin, of the tiny suit shenanigan from the last post, was second.  He finished in 7 hours and 36 minutes.

Lemaitre, in a Peugeot, was third, in spite of his run in with the bridge-keeper.  He completed the course in 8 hours and four minutes.  There were no other timed finishers.

1898 Saint Germain to Vernon to Saint Germain.

This was a minor city to city race.  It took place on October 20, 1898, and was only for the make, “Mors.”  Tires, and especially the puncture thereof, continued to be problematic.  Otherwise, the race was rather uneventful.  It was certainly only a minor, one-make, late-season race, decades before the days of a championship.

And so, the 1898 season came to a close.  The seasons are still very loosely structured.  Paris remains the center of the racing world.  However, the tentacles of influence of the grassroots motoring movement are reaching farther and farther into continental Europe.  Moreover, the regular racing is causing cars to develop at a comparatively rapid rate.

A Brief Commentary.

Altogether, these late season races, and really all of the 1898 races exemplify the problems of the “great” city to city races.  Essentially, unforeseen obstacles inevitably are both dangerous and dispositive to the race outgoing.  In other words, externalities were causing drivers to lose, when they were otherwise fastest and most reliable.  For example, Lemaitre would have done much better had he not needed to deal with the bridge-keeper.  I, for one, will champion the advent of proper circuit-based racing.

On a separate note, as the creator and author of GPevolved.com, I question what is the useful scope of this blog.  A gather this is a problem forced upon most any non-fiction writer.  How microscopic must you be to tell a story accurately?  At what point do you lose the forest through the trees.

Certainly, there is no need to go into every hillclimb and speed trial.  Well, even that cannot be made a rule to govern the scope of this project.  For, if it did, I would miss the entire story of La Jamais Content.  So, perhaps, it is a matter of judgment.  In any event, stay tuned for the next story about Camille Jenatzy and the electric racer that made him the first person to average faster than a mile a minute.

 

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Source:

Gerald Rose, A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908 (1949).

1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris

There was tomfoolery.  There were shenanigans.  But, most importantly, there was an epic race between forgotten heroes of motorsport.  It was a grueling multiple day race totaling 889.25 miles (the actual route differed slightly from the scheduled route, as explained below).

The Scheduled Race Route:

  • July 7th: Champigny to Chateau d’Ardenne: 183.25 miles*
  • July 8th: Chateau d’Ardenne to Nymgegan: 156.2 miles
  • July 9th: Mymegan to Amsterdam: 69.6 miles
  • July 10th: Rest Day.
  • July 11th: Amsterdam to Liege: 167.95 miles.
  • July 12th: Liege to Verdun: 161.5
  • July 13th: Verdun to Paris: 151.2*

* In actuality, the first and last stage distance lengths differed from scheduled.

The distances above differed because of a zealous autocrat holding the position of local police engineer.  You see, at the time in France, one needed two licenses to drive a vehicle on public roads.  First, one required a certificate de réception showing that there vehicle was equipped and suitable to drive on public roads.  Second, one required a certificate de capacité showing that the driver was capable of driving.  Most everyone had the second.  However, the first license was a disused and forgotten law.  In the words of Gerald Rose, it “had become a dead letter.”

Mr. Bochet, the overzealous enforcer of the letter of the law and police engineer, set a time that the drivers could submit there cars to him.  He started by rejecting a couple cars.  He left for dinner, 15 minutes later.  He returned.  He rejected more cars.  It was clear that the most of the entries would be denied access to the race.

In the end, a simple plan was hatched.  They simply moved the start point to a jurisdiction outside of Mr. Bochet’s legal powers.  Amwdée Bollée snuck back into Paris that night to pick up the forgotten stores of petrol from the start point.  The race was moved to the next control point.  This and a shortened stopping point, for the same reason, account for the difference in the planned and actual route.

IMG_3529

 

Again according to Gerald Rose’s account, “Altogether 48 set off, not one having been kept back by the efforts of the authorities.”  On Day 1, Charron left at 8:37 am on July 7, 1898.  Everyone else left at :30 second intervals.  They kept up a quick pace for the first day.  In fact, Charron managed 32 miles per hour over the the first 40 miles in his 1898 Panhard et Levassor.

The early battle was between Charron and Hourgieres.  Levegh, uncle to the 1955 Le Mans racer, passed 20 competitors in a Mors.  A man named Marcellin passed 30 competitors on his tricycle.

Tires were a problem.  Max Richard was 14 punctures before Eparney, relatively early in the first stage.  By the end of the race, a fine rain was coming down and there were  very few spectators when Charron rolled up the the Chateau D’Ardenne.

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time:

  • Charron (Panhard) – 6:57:07
  • Girardot (Panhard)- 7:08:51
  • Adam – (Panhard) – 7:11:43

1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Parris Graphic 2

37, of the original 48, started this stage.  The stage was to run from the Chateau D’Ardenne to Nymegan, a distance of 156.2 miles.  A train ran  alongside slightly faster than the competitors on the road.  It was great fun for all to see the train slowly creep ahead of the charging motorcars.

Koechlin, a racer, skidded near Maastricht,   He flips his car and is out of the race.  He was thrown out into a ditch and, presumably, ruined his clothes.  Gerald Rose notes:

“The two occupants scrambled out, and Koechlin created a great sensation by joining the special train at the next station, clothed in a suit made for a small boy–the only dry garments he had been able to lay his hands on.”

Maastricht was roughly the half-way point of the 156.2 mile run for the day.  The drivers were getting tired.  Giraud was leading on his Bollée.  He was closely followed by Adam and Charron.  Giraud would ultimately move up to second place overall, in spite of rolling into Nymegan with a punctured rear tire!

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time:

  • Girardot (Panhard) – 6:17:59
  • Giraud (Bollée) – 6:10:03
  • Charron (Panard) – 6:36:35

1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris Day 3

At 69.6 miles, the run from Nymegan to Amsterdam was the shortest stage of the week long 1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris auto race.  The train continued to follow the racers.  In fact, the first three cars beat the train of observers to Amsterdam by several minutes.

Giraud led the column of drivers; however, this was because he had been fastest on Stage 2.  He stayed about one minute area of Girardot.  Yet, Girardot ran the fastest overall time.  He would, therefore, be the first driver to start the next stage, after a day of rest.

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time:

  • Girardot (Panhard) – 2:20:40
  • Giraud (Bollée) – 2:21:30
  • Charron (Panard) – 2:28:01

Thus, there was no change in overall order from the day before.  Then, there was a day of rest on Sunday, July 10, 1898.

1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris race graphic 3

Basically, the run from Amsterdam to Liege, on Monday, was “one long struggle between Charron and Girardot.  Giraud was always near enough to be dangerous…Giraud was the first to reach the Waal, but he hd burner troubles and Charron took the lead, reaching Liege nine minutes ahead of Girardot.”  Gerald Rose again gives us a concise history of the l0ng-since forgotten days progress.

Mr. Adam broke his chain 20 yards from the finish, but pushed his car across.  Bollée, himself, who had grabbed the petrol on the first day, mistook a corner and failed to get around it.  He lost a couple hours repairing the wheel before getting underway again.

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time:

  • Girardot (Panhard) – 5:32:31
  • Charron (Panhard) – 5:30:43
  • Giraud (Beollée) – 6:36:53

1898 Paris to Amsterdam Stage 5

Gerald Rose only gives a few words on Stage 5, the run from Liege to Verdun.  “The fifth stage was a neck-to-neck race between Giraud and Girardot, in the course of which the former’s car overturned through a bad skid.”  However, Giraud managed to right his car and keep on going.  In fact, he not only caught Girardot and reached Verdun “absolutely together”, he set the fastest time of the day.  This solidified his position as third overall.

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time:

  • Girardot (Panhard) 6:01:09
  • Charron (Panhard) 5:59:00
  • Giraud (Bollée) 5:57:09

1898 Paris to Amsterdam to Paris

But, alas, they needed to avoid the pesky Mr. Bochet and his strict legal interpretations of administrative regulations.  Basically, they sent a telegraph out announcing a route change.  This annoyed the drivers.  So, instead, they changed it back and set the race to conclude just before reaching Mr. Bochet’s jurisdiction.

According to Gerald Rose, “At the beginning of the stage of 150 miles, Girardot was leading Charron by 9 minutes and 16 seconds,, which was a small lead over such a long distance.”

The weather was nasty.  There was a cold, penetrating rain; it turned the roads to mud.  Any amount of mud was a significant trial for early automobiles.  Tires were everything.  Girardot, for example, lost his lead due to several punctures.  Charron, who managed to win, did so with a burst rear tire.

Overall Rank (Manufacturer) – Stage Time; Overall Time [M.P.H.]

  • Charron (Panhard) – 5:34:08; 33:04:34 [26.9]
  • Girardot (Panhard) – 6:04:o8; 33:25:18 [26.6]
  • Giraud (Bollée) – 5:53:45; 34:08: 58 [26.0]
  • R. de Knyff (Panhard) – 5:41:17; 34:58:50 [25.4]

Initially, the drivers did not want to attend the official race reception and dinner.  With some persuasion, they were convinced differently.  “They drove through the drizzling rain back to Paris.”

The initial opposition from Mr. Bochet only added interest to the race.  Most cars were finally fitted with wheel (and not lever) steering.  The Panhard and Bollées were certainly advancing the art of the race car.  At this point, pneumatic tires were essentially “universal.”

 

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

Gerald Rose, A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908 (1949).

Wikipedia (used on a limited basis to establish or confirm driver biographical data).

1898 Paris to Bordeaux

Only 11 cars entered.  Of those, only nine made it to the starting line.  This race was, in a way, a throwback to the great 1895 race.  Tours was the stopping point for the two day race.  The race took place on May 11th and 12th of 1898.

Nationalist colors, that many of us associate with the early races, were not yet in vogue.  Instead, De Knyff was in a blue car.  Charron’s car was white.  Girardot’s car was red.  It was a simultaneous start, of sorts.

De Knyff took the early lead.  He also led to Tours.  90 minutes later, Charron arrived in second.  Eight cars finished.  6 motorcycles also finished in a concurrent race.  On the second day, there was a “tremendous storm of wind and rain.”

De Knyff led steadily.  He gradually increased his distance to Levegh, who was a relative on the Levegh involved in the tragic 1955 Le Mans crash.  In the end, de Knyff won with a two hour lead.

Death Enters Motorsport in 1898

The first death in Motorsport occurred in 1898.

May 1, 1898.

The circuit was the Course Perigueux.  It is an early example of closed circuit road races.  The drivers were to race over a single 90 mile loop.

It started and finished at Perigueux and went through several small towns over its course.  The first car started off at 8:00 am, sharp.  The course was moderately hilly.  Minutes later, a rumor spread that a terrible accident had occurred less than one mile from the start.

Two cars were found in a field bordering the road.  Both cars were beaten up; one was upright and there other was on its side.  Of the four people involved, only one emerged unscathed.

Mr. de Montariol recalled that he was being caught by the Marquis de Montaignac.  De Montariol was in a light and quick Parisienne (Benz).  The Marquis was in a comparatively heavier Landy et Beyroux.  His more powerful engine was reigning in the lead of

As  Marquis de Montaignac went to pass de Montariol , de Montaignac went to wave at his competitor.  You see, the steering mechanisms were different back then.  According to Gerald Rose, “As Mr. de Motaignac passed his friend he turned and waved his hand; with the reversible level-steering, the least inattention was fatal, and the heavy Landry et Beyroux swerved across to the right and collided with the front of the Parisienne.

Mr. Montaignac and his mechanic were fatally injured and died within hours.  Mr. Montariol’s mechanic was badly injured.  And so starts the long journey of lives lost in the name of motorsport.