The 1899 (Automobile) Tour de France

Picture of competitor in the original Tour de France

The Tour de France was conceived by the French publication, Le Matin.  The race took place between July 16 and July 24, in 1899.  The race was to be approximately 1,350 miles and stands as one of the longer automotive races of all time.  The first bicycle Tour de France did not take place until 1903, which makes this the true original.

The regulations for the July 1899 race were published in April in Le Matin.  There are two sets of regulations of note.  First, there were “new rules affecting the disposal of cars during the nights between stages.”  These rules provided that the cars could generally not be worked on outside of certain periods before and after a stage.  In other words, parc fermé regulations date back to early racing.  Second, flags were introduced at this race.  A yellow flag indicated “attention.”  A red flag was the symbol to stop.

There were three categories of cars.  The first category was for “cars having at least two places side by side, carrying two passengers.”  The fact that cars were required to have two seats seems to indicate that, even this early in the development of motorsport, there was a fear of alienating public interest in the sport by creating too great a divide between the thoroughbred racer and the regular touring car.  The second category was for motorcycles.  To meet the main category, the motorcycles had to weigh less than 150 kilograms.  Finally, there was a third catch-all category for vehicles not fitting into the first two categories.

The stages were as follows:

  • Stage 1 (July 16): Paris to Nancy = 180.1 miles
  • Stage 2 (July 17): Nancy to Aix-les-bains = 227.3 miles
  • Rest Day (July 18)
  • Stage 3 (July 19): Aix-les-bains to Vichy = 237.2 miles
  • Rest Day (July 20)
  • Stage 4 (July 21): Vichy to Perigueux = 187.7 miles
  • Stage 5 (July 22): Perigueux to Nantes = 212.4 miles
  • Stage 6 (July 23): Nantes to Cabourg = 216.1 miles
  • Stage 7 (July 24): Cabourg to Paris = 119.2

The gross racing distance was 1,378 miles . Due to a few excepted sections, the net racing distance was 1,350 miles.

A Few Notes on the Cars

Out of the multitude of competitors in the three classes, there were 19 cars, which started the race.  Of those 19, eight were Panhard et Levassors.  Interestingly, there were 7 cars with horizontal engines (Vallée, Bolide, Richard, and the Bollées); however, only one of these cars managed to finish.

The Bollées

These were low hung cars, with “wind cutting fronts” and a long wheelbase.  If nothing else, they looked racey.  The Bollées were driven by drivers including Castelnau, Giraud, Avis, and Jamin.

The Panhard et Levassors

Fernand Charron and René de Knyff each had the very new 16 horsepower models.  According to Gerald Rose, “The six other Panhards were all 12 H.P. vehicles.”

The Mors

These entries were the first proper racers built by the firm.  This was only their second race.  Previously, the Mors had done quite well in the 1899 Paris to Bordeaux.  Mors were driven by Levegh, Jenatzy, and Antony.

The Vallée

This was described as a “truly remarkable vehicle.  It was fitted with a horizontal engine having four cylinders with a 100 mm bore and a 200 mm stroke.  Transmission was by means of a single belt.  Unfortunately, the belt slipped and Dr. Lehwess withdrew this car on the very first stage.

The Bolide

The Bolide was an odd car.  The horizontal engine was under the main bodywork of the car; it did not really have a traditional hood.  According to Rose, “the radiator, a vertical tubular one, stood straight up in front of the driver, and gave the car a curious fore-shortened appearance, as the seats were practically mid-way between the wheels.”

Stage 1: Paris to Nancy (180.1 miles)

The race started at 8:00 am on Sunday, July 16, 1899.  As was the usual practice, this was an an interval race, where the cars were released in thirty second intervals.  19 cars. 4 voiturettes, and 25 motorcycles started the race.

Tires were a persistent problem for the duration of the race.  Pneumatic tires were still in their very early development in 1899.  Flash, driving a Vollée had “immediate and persistent” tire problems.  In fact, a blowout caused him to collide with a post, which damaged his car.  Although he arrived at the destination too late to be timed, he did continue on for the remainder of the race, albeit untimed.

Charron’s time (6:05:42) was particularly slow owing to problems with his water piping.  The top three times, and thus leaders of the race, were as follows:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 5:19:27
  • Girardot (Panhard): 5:35:47
  • Pinson (Panhard): 5:44:24

Stage 2: Nancy to Aix-les-bains (227.3 miles)

Spectators from the nearby “Ecole Professionelle” (Professional School) were already outside and waiting around 4:30 am.  The cars were off starting at 6:00 am.  There was an allowance for some rough roads on the first part of the stage.

Antony, Broc, and Lefebvre each dropped out; however, the reasons why have been lost to history.  Girardot lost a wheel.  However, he managed to replace it with an ordinary cart wheel and continue on.  Although Charron arrived first, both front springs were broken, due to gripping the grain a bit hard for the extremely rough roads.

The next day was a rest day.  There was some excitement when the town’s major hotel spontaneously and accidentally burned to the ground.

Overall Leaders with Times on Stage 2:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 7:15:21
  • Charron (Panhard): 6:50:52
  • Jamin (Bollée): 7:16:25

Stage 3: Aix-les-bains to Vichy (237.2 miles)

By only about 10 miles, this was the longest stage of the tour.  At the start, there were 35 total competitors running from the three different classes.  Giraud made his way to the front of this stage.  However, he was soon passed by the Count de Chasseloup, who recently raced Camille Jenatzy for the fastest over a flying kilometer.  Then, at Montbrison, the Count was overtaken by Fernand Charron and then René de Knyff.  The day was filled with incidents.  Seeing as these were the first cars any dogs had ever come across, they were a perpetual problem.  It had to be amusing to be among the first to realize dogs are all but pre-programmed to chase cars.

There was another rest day following this lengthy stage.  The Bollées were already getting pretty weak, in that they were starting to fall back and drop out.

Overall Leaders with Times on Stage 3:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 8:28:48
  • Charron (Panhard): 8:12:12
  • Pinson (Panard): 8:51:07

Stage 4: Vichy to Perigeuex (187.7 miles)

This was said to be the most trying stage of all.  The competitors were passing through the mountainous area of Auvergne.  In fact, this route was so trying that it was later used for the 1905 Gordon Bennett trophy.

Again, according to Gerald Rose:

The hill up La Baraque to the top of the Col de la Moreno was the last straw to some of the weary [motor] cyclists.

Remember, these early motorcycles often required assistance from the rider by pedaling.  In fact, a couple cyclists, such as Rigal and Osment, simply gave up on the hill.

For the cars, the four mile hill section gives a good indication of the relative strength of some of the top remaining cars.  De Knyff and Charron covered the section in 15 minutes.  Pinion took 18 minutes.  Girardot took 19 minutes to complete the section.

The Count de Chasseloup-Laubat burst both of his rear tired trying to avoid a dog.  De Knyff led the stage from start to finish.

Overall Leaders with Times on Stage 4:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 6:44:55
  • Charron (Panhard): 7:10:52
  • Pinson (Panhard): 7:25:00

Stage 5: Perigueux to Nantes (212.4 miles)

At this point, there were only 23 of the original 48 competitors.  All 23 completed this relatively uneventful stage.  Count de Chasseloup-Laubat was the surprise fastest time of the day.  However, he drove the entire distance with his toolbox open, causing him to lose every single spare tire that he was carrying.  He also lost his jack.  Giraud was unable to even start the stage. As such, there was only one Bollée remaining.  Girardot overtook Pinson for third place, overall.

Overall Leaders with Times on Stage 5:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 6:53:45
  • Charron (Panhard: 7:16:15
  • Girardot (Panhard): 7:07:52

Stage 6: Nantes to Cabourg (216.1 miles)

There was a bit of rain on this stage.  However, the roads were not overly affected.  Charron, who had been running in second, overall, since the second stage, ran into trouble.  He broke the aluminum cap of the bearing between the gearbox and the bevel drive on the sprocket shaft.  This left him with the ability to drive only in reverse.  He, in fact, did just that for 25 miles, before giving up.  He tried to forge a replacement part with Clément; however, it failed.  Charron was out of the race for good.  It must have been crushing for him to have to abandon hope of winning such an epic race.

The fastest time of the day was from Levegh (6:26:44).  Yet, this was largely inconsequential as he was quite far back in the overall order.

Overall Leaders with Times on Stage 6:

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 6:48:03
  • Girardot (Panhard): 7:00:25
  • Count de Chasseloup-Laubat (Panhard): 6:34:21

Stage 7: Cabourg to Paris (119.2 miles)

An honorable mention goes to Camille Jenatzy for absolute dogged persistence in the face of “innumerable incidents and perpetual troubles.”

The stage was largely uneventful as the drivers raced all-out to win this epic tour of France.  there was a massive crowd at the finish line.  De Knyff was the first in at around 4:15 pm.  Girardot was second at around 4:20.  Due to the time differential, Girardot waited on pins and needles for enough time to go by to assure him second ahead of the Count de Chasseloup-Laubat.

The Panhard et Levassors were absolutely dominate throughout the race.  Clearly, these were the mounts to have.

In the end, De Knyff carried the day from the beginning to the end of the race.  Girardot and the Count had a close battle, once Charron dropped out.  Pinson and Castelnau were the best of the rest.

  • De Knyff (Panhard): 30.2 mph
  • Girardot (Panhard): 27.2 mph
  • Count de Chasseloup-Laubat (Panhard): 27.1 mph
  • Pinson (Panard): 25.6 mph
  • Castelnau (Bollée): 25.2 mph

Remember to follow @GPevolved on twitter!

 

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

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

100 Years of the Tour de France, Motorsport Magazine (July 1999).

Early Automotive Races in 1899

While Jenatzy was still perfecting La Jamais Contente, the 1899 racing season got underway.  As was quickly becoming tradition, the season began with a “speed week” of sorts in the south of France along the Riviera.

Nice – Castellane – Nice, 1899

The first race of the 1899 season took place on March 21st.  The Riviera speed week, or semaine automobile, was organized by the automobile club of Nice.  The club was headed by Jacques Gondoin.  According to Robert Dick, the speed week was a complete affair including a long distance race, a touring car race, a one-mile sprint, a hill climb, and an exposition at the end of the week.

As for the long distance event from Nice to Castellane and back, there were some last minute changes to the route due to narrow roads; however, nobody seemed too dissatisfied.  Albert Lemaitre’s Peugeot was the popular favorite for the week.  His Peugeot was rated at 20 horsepower, with a two cylinder engine (140 x 90 mm.).  The Panhard and Levassor’s of 1899 were four cylinders (80 x 120 mm); however, they were only rated at around eight horsepower.  Only Lemaitre had the new, faster Peugeot.

According to Gerald Rose:

“The only important incident in the race was the accident to Marcellin.  The redoubtable cyclist had started ten minutes late and was going at top speed behind a car, as the habit was of tricyclists, and so failed to see a turn in the road in the cloud of dust which encompassed him.  He collided with the parapet that edged the corner, and short over it, rolling down the slope beyond.

Marcellin was shaken, but unhurt.  Another driver, Ducom, experienced a similar incident where he was blinded by dust and collided with a hall.  His car was out of the race, but Ducom was also unhurt.  Giraud, driving a Bollée had transmission  problems, an apparently recurrent problem for him.

There were only a few spectators waiting when the first cars and tricycles began to roll in.  Lemaitre, as was the favorite, won with an average speed of 26.0 miles per hour.  Girardot, rocking a Panhard et Levassor was second in his eight h.p.  Koechlin was third, averaging 22.2 miles per hour.

Lemaitre also won the standing mile and the Le Turbie Hill Climb.

Pau – Bayonne – Pau

This race took place four days after the final day of the Riviera speed week.  It was organized by A.C. Bearnais.  Lemaitre and his badass 20 h.p. horsepower won this event as well.  The weather was terrible.  There were not many competitors.  Nevertheless, the event was considered a great success.

Paris – Roubaix

On April 2, 1899, La Vélo hosted its annual trike race.  Again, according to the authoritative Gerald Rose, “It was won by Osmond on his de Dion in 5 hrs. 35 mins. 30 secs., which represents an average speed of about 32 m.p.h.”

On April 11, 1899, Le Matin  announced the creation of event to be known as the “Tour de France.”  It was to be a massive race of around 2,500 kilometers.

Paris – Bordeaux

This race returned to an only rarely used method of racing that we now associate as critical to motorsport: a mass start.  The Paris to Bordeaux race took place on May 24, 1899 and was something of a preview of the new cars that would be seen at the Tour de France.

74 entries were received.  65 entries showed up on race day.  There was 37 motorcyclists and 28 cars.  The en bloc start was something of a train wreck, of sorts.  Lemaitre ran into another racer, and his mechanic–seeing that an accident was about to occur–just got up and jumped off.  Yes, at high speed, he simply jumped.  He was severely injured, though Lemaitre escaped by running off the road.  Lemaitre could have continued; however, he opted to remain with his badly injured riding mechanic.

“At Venome, the first important pace on the route, Leys and Charron were leading with De Knyff 11 minutes behind, closely followed by Giraud.  Unfortunately, Giraud took a turn too fast, burst a tire, and turned his Bollée over in a ditch.

Hourgieres, who was the one to nearly collide with Lemaitre, was shaking down a brand new Mors for the Tour de France.  At Poitiers, his car was in third.  Charron remained in the lead, but Leys was down to fourth.  De Knyff was about 12 minutes back from the leaders.

In the end, Charron drove with excellence and won the race in his 12 h.p. Panhard with an average pace of 351 miles of 29.9 miles per hour.  René de Knyff was second, averaging 29.6 miles per hour.  Girardot was third, with an average of 28.0 miles per hour.

Touring Car verses Thoroughbred Racer

To date, the so-called voiture de course (racing car), was merely a stripped down touring car, often with a more powerful engine than would otherwise have been fitted to the car.  Previously, there was little differentiation between touring cars and racing cars.

Suddenly, changes started to become apparent in the race entries.  The new breed of cars, especially those to be shown at the Tour de France, were lower, sleeker, and faster.  The center of gravity was dropped significantly from touring models.  Engine sizes began to increase dramatically around this time.  This is, in fact, the beginning of the lead up to the massive displacement engines seen in the early 1900s.

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

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

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

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.

 

A Daughter Named Mercedes: The 1898 Races Begin.

Mercedes Jellinek the name of Mercedes-Benz
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek calle...
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek called Mercédès (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is about the story of the new-fangled automobiles in the court of France and a a young daughter named Mercedes Jellinek.  In the spring of 1898, Emil Jellinek was just an observer–a member of the Rivera elite–however; he knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

The Marseilles to Nice run of January 1897 had been a huge success.  For 1898, the race was moved to March.  Ending so close to Monte Carlo had been a huge success.  The Rivera crowd of the day, with money to burn, were able to see motorsport in action.

It was in the south of France that Emil Jellinek ran into the automobile.  Described in his detailed work, Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick writes about a number of events that week in March 1898, making up something of a speed week.

Emil Jellinek

The firms of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler did not merge until 1926.  Emil Jellinek was instrumental in the direction of Daimler-Moteren-Gesellshaft (DMG).  The story of the name “Mercedes” lies at the heart of this story.

Emil Jellinek
Emil Jellinek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DMG came into existence in March 1890.  As described by Robert Dick in detail, DMG would go on to license its engine to Panhard et Levassor.  They were the marque doyenne.  However, Emil Jellinek though he had better ideas for DMGs.

Emil Jellinek, the son of an Austrian Rabbi was born on April 16, 1853 in Leipzig.  He grew up in Vienna.  At age 19, he was sent to Morocco, to make his fortune.  In 1874, he injured his leg.  As the story goes, one Mademoiselle Rachel Goggman came to his aid.  They married.  Her parents were in the tobacco business.

Mademoiselle Rachel and Emil had three children.  The oldest was born in 1889 in Vienna.  her name was Mercedes Adriana Manuela Romona Jellinek.  Tragically, her mother died of cancer in 1893.  During the winter months, Emil Jellinek had been setting up proverbial shop in Nice.  After seeing the cars in March 1898, he travelled to Constant, the home of DMG, with a crazy idea.

As it stood, Panhard et Levassor held the patent and licensing rights to sell the DMG system and engine in France.  Not a single part from a Daimler could legally be sold in France as a result of this agreement.

But, like all good businessman, Jellinek found a loop-hole.  He would semi-officially sell DMG’s in Monaco, which was outside the jurisdictional limits of French law.  More than that, Jellinek had a vision, one so influential the it inextricably altered the course of Mercedes-Benz history.

As the story suggests, Jellinek–in the future–made his interests known.  He first named his Monte Carlo cars “Mercedes.”  Eventually, his brand became so influential, that all of DMG absorbed his moniker.

Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car
Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter with bright green eyes, did not live a long or happy life.  According to the New York Times, “During World War I, her father, then a diplomat, was accused of espionage and fled from Nice.  The French Government seized his villa, yachts, and cars, and he died in exile in Switzerland in January 1918.  Mercedes was forced to beg from neighbors.”

The article continues, “Her adult years will filled with illness and tragedy.  Her two marriages, both to barons, failed.  She died in a small Vienna apartment in February 1929, not yet 39 years old.”

But, history teaches us that the 1898 Marseilles to Nice race played a part, through Emil Jellinek, in shaping the entire future of motorsport history.

So, what about the race itself?

The 1898 Marseilles to Nice Race.

There were four classes; two for cars and two for motorcycles.  However, the vast majority of the competition was in the first class of cars–those weighing over 400 in kilograms.  Charron’s Panhard et Levassor attracted considerable attention by being painted white.  Also notable was the fact that a lady, Madame Laumaillé, competed on a De Dion tricycle.

Charron started second.  He soon stock the lead, with bearded De Knyff and Hourgieres following.  They were not only close together, but only one minute behind Charron.

The next morning, the cars rolled out in a fine mist.  The fine mist quickly turned into a torrential downpour.  The sheer amount of rain turned the roads to mud.  The cars’ tiny pneumatic tires slid along the surface.

In the end, Charron won again.  Hourgieres ended up second and good old De Knyff was third.  The cars were exhibition the next day, on Tuesday.

The rain from this race also stablished gear drive as being superior over belt transmission.  The rain caused the belts to slip.

 

/ Travis Turner for GPevolved.com

 

Sources:

Mercedes-Benz: Quicksilver Century, Karl Ludvigsen

A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose

Her Name Still Rings a Bell, New York Times (October 19, 2001)

The Lady with the Green Eyes, Mercedes-Benz.com

The Origins of British Motoring, pt. II

The 1896 run from London to Brighton signaled the legal start of motoring in Great Britain.  Excitement had been building since the amendment to the Light Locomotive Act earlier in 1896.  I have found two interesting accounts of that inspirational day.

The 1896 amendment, raising the speed limit to approximately twelve miles per hour, went into effect on November 14, 1896.  Thousands arrived to watch cars legally travel down public roads.

London to Brighton, 1896.

In Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing, Charles Jarrott provides a first-hand account of the historic run from London to Brighton.  According to Jarrott, “for the first time in English history legal restrictions in regard to the use of motor-cars on the public highways, except when proceeded by a man with a red flag, had been removed, and we were to be allowed to drive a car on the road not exceeding twelve miles an hour.  The run from London to Brighton had been arranged ti celebrate the event.

It was “a foggy, dull, wet, typical November morning.”  Jarrott provides color to his narrative by adding, “An occasional petrol blaze was seen through the fog which filled the hall, making the scene resemble a veritable inferno.”  It was a “who’s who” of early British car culture.

It must have been an unforgettable scene.  “The spectators had availed themselves of every possible point of vantage, to view for the first time these wonderful machines which were that day allowed to be run upon English roads.  Lamp-posts, housetops, balconies were all occupied and the thousands thronging the roadways made the passage for our car almost impossible.”

It was a cosmopolitan event for high-society and the masses alike.  “The Frenchmen were of course wildly excited; if gesticulation and talking could have accomplished anything, much would have been laid to their credit.  The English crowd was rather fearful.”

The start was slow.  Unfortunately, thousands also watched the relative unreliability of early automobiles.  The only motorcycle crashed before it ever really got started.  All things considered, Jarrott noted wryly, “it might have been worse.”

Finally, Charles Jarrott wrote of the race:

The effect of the run on the public was curious.  They had come to believe that on that identical day a great revolution was going to take place.  Horses were to be superseded forthwith, and only the marvelous motor vehicles about which they had read so much in the papers for months previously would be seen upon the road.  No one seemed to  be clear as to how this extraordinary change was to take place suddenly; nevertheless, there was the idea that the change was to be a rapid one.”

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing, Charles Jarrott

A History of the First Ten Years of Automobilism, Lord Montagu

Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats, Charles Jarrott, Cutter and Fendell.

The Origins of British Motoring, Pt. I

“Without any deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

-Frank Zappa

Motoring in Great Britain was, in essence, illegal until 1896.  Emancipation Day, a cold and rainy November day, saw the run from London to Brighton, following the passage of less restrictive legislation.  This run stands as the legal start to motoring in Great Britain.

Motoring is Banned.

English: Symington steam coach of 1784
English: Symington steam coach of 1784 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Motoring was banned in Great Britain before the motor act even existed.  An essay by John Henry Knight notes that 70 years before 1906, just as railroads were being introduces, “there were scores of steam coaches and steam carriages running on [British] roads.”  He recites the great pioneers of the steam coach and steam carriage such as Hancock, Gurney, and Summers.

However, according to Knight, :”but the opposition of the Turnpike Trustees, the coach proprietors, and the railway companies nipped in the bud a promising industry by the imposition of excessive tolls and adverse Acts of Parliament.”

That Act of Parliament included the The Locomotives Act, 1865, provided “it shall not be lawful to drive any locomotive along any turnpike road or public highway at a greater speed than 4 miles per hour, or through any city, cotton , or village at a greater speed than 2 miles per hour.”  These few words quashed most progress in the motoring arts until 1896.

It is important to realize that The Locomotives Act of 1865 never contemplated the petrol/gasoline powered vehicle.  According to Mr. R. E. Moore, writing in 1906:

Of course, the truth of the matter is, that when these regulations were first imposed, the Legislature had in contemplation only such cumbrous and unwieldy machines as the old-fashioned steam traction engine, and it never occurred to any of those responsible for framing that it would ever be possible for anyone to place on the road such a striking example of engineering skill and applied science as the modern light motor-car.”

John Henry Knight driving his own creation &qu...
John Henry Knight driving his own creation “The first petroleum carriage for two people made in England” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Society was hesitant to accept similar technologies.  According to John Henry Knight, “Even when the bicycle appeared about 1869, it was viewed with displeasure and suspicion; horses would shy at it, and several accidents occurred from this cause.”

It wasn’t exactly “fast and furious” yet; however, there was a London underground motoring scene before the passage of an amendment to The Locomotives Act in 1896.  For example, Sir David Solomons, Bart., built an electric automobile in 1874,  The wealthy were quietly importing motoring vehicles for on the use on private property.  However, these privately imported vehicles were few and far between.

Public Opinion Opposed Motoring in Britain.

English: Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Bar...
English: Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (Photo credit: Wikipedia).  Editor of the collection of essays from which this GPevolved post relies upon.

According to Lord Northcliffe, in Montagu’s compilation of essays, “We had first enthusiasm and curiosity, causing cheering crowds to assemble when we arrived in a town; then, when it began to be seen that horses were frightened (and in those days every horse was frightened), the populace became wrathful.

Sir David Solomons, Bart., was an early proponent of legalized motoring.  According to  him., “the first step would be to interest the public, if only by way of curiosity, secondly to obtain the opinion of the press, and thirdly to influence parliament by a powerful and impartial combination…”

Although simply stated, this small grassroots movement faced overwhelming opposition.  Sir David Solomons planned to change it.

The Tunbridge Wells Demonstration.

Organized by Solomons, himself, a demonstration of several cars occurred on October 15, 1895.  According to C. L. Freeston, “it was then that the public realized for the first time that a new means of locomotion had been brought into being.”

However, the success of the event was not left to chance.  Solomons had over 10,000 invitations mailed out to this event.  It was a general success.  The press covered the event and this, presumably, helped to sway the opinion of the members of parliament.

Parliament Debates Motoring.

The comments summarizing the July 30, 1896 parliamentary debate give a sense of inevitability.  There was a feeling that the legislation would pass; it was just a matter of hammering out the particulars.  The car had to carry lights at night.  It had to have a bell.  Breaking any part of the proposed amendment would result in a fine of up to 10 pounds.

Debate heated up on the topic of “rate of speed.”  It is clear than an unlimited speed limit would never have gained parliamentary support.  The debate started off with discussion of a ten mile per hour speed limit.  They were concerned about protecting against “furious driving.”

Others objected to imposition of a strict liability statute, that it would be better to set standards depending on condition.  This suggestion, while noble, was quickly shot down.  In the end, the speed limit was increased to 14 miles per hour, from the original suggestion of 10 miles per hour.  However, in getting the increase, the proponents of motorsport gave in to language to allow every city, town, and municipality, to reduce this speed in any manner they saw fit.

And in doing so, Lord Solomon, Lord Montagu, and other proponents of motoring succeeded in changing the law of the land.  However, the act would not go into effect

The celebration of the emancipation of the motor vehicle was celebrated by a run from London to Brighton, covered in a forthcoming post.

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved

Sources:

A History of the First Ten Years of Automobilism, Lord Montagu (a collection of essays published in 1906).

Locomotives on Highways Bill [H.L.] (Hansard, 30 July 1896) (summarizing the parliamentary debate)