The 1900 Gordon Bennett Cup

It was actually called the Coupe Internationale; however, even at the time, everyone referred to it as the Gordon Bennett Cup.  It ran for several years; the first iteration took place in 1900.  It was, by some reports, a complete failure.  But, this minor overture laid the basic foundation for team-based racing.

Caricature of James Gordon Bennett, Jr.. Capti...
Caricature of James Gordon Bennett, Jr.. Caption read “New York Herald”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James Gordon Bennett, a newspaper man, and son of the creator of the New York Herald, was based in Paris.  Since the 1894 Paris to Rouen run, the New York Herald had paid close attention to the burgeoning sport of automobile racing.  Basically, Mr. Gordon Bennett (a hyphen is incorrect) offered a trophy to the Automobile Club de France (A.C.F.).  The trophy, or cup–as it were–offered this trophy to be “competed for under somewhat unusual circumstances.”  In particular, James Gordon Bennett Jr. dictated that the trophy would be competed for and won by the various national auto clubs.  In other words, neither the individual nor the manufacturer would take the honors.  Rather, the honor of the cup was to go to a winning country.  It was Gordon Bennett’s intention to spur automotive innovation by pitting the various national industries against each other.

James Gordon Bennett never attended any of his Coupe Internationales.  In fact, he was not even a big fan of driving.  He was typically known to roll up to his office in a horse-drawn coach.  But, importantly, he did believe that the automobile would transform the landscape.  Living in France, which was also the epicenter of the automobilism movement, Gordon Bennett offered his namesake’s cup to the A.C.F. in October 1899.

By January 1900, the French club had published a series of rules, called the “articles of competition.”  These rules, in and of themselves, are fascinating because they contain the first formalized rules of motorsport.  These rules define everything from the simple construct that the quickest to the finish line wins, to a basic form of parc fermé (generally understood to be the unavailability to modify a vehicle between race sessions).

Before sponsorship, cars were painted in so-called “national colors.”  These colors shifted a bit over time.  For example, Germany switched from white to silver over time (which is its own fascinating story of stripping paint to metal).  The Gordon Bennett Cup started this pre-sponsorship tradition.  The original chosen colors were red for America, white for Germany, yellow for Belgium, and blue for France.

The teams, for the Gordon Bennett Cup, were to be composed of one to three drivers.  The A.C.F. waisted no time in choosing the French Representatives.  The Chevalier René de Knyff received 32 member votes.  Charron received 25 and Girardot was third with 15 votes.  Almost immediately, some members (including possible drivers) were furious.  First, a democratic ballot is necessarily subjective as compared to some sort of tally of race results.  Second, and more importantly, all three selected drivers favored the Panhard et Levassor cars.  However, the Mors cars had been coming on strong since the last half of 1899.  The fallout from the disagreement included a threat by Levegh, Lemaitre, and Giraud to renounce their A.C.F. membership and defect to the competing Belgian club.  The fracas eventually settled.

Organization of the race continued into 1900.  While the A.C.F. had already chosen their drivers, other national clubs through their proverbial hats in the ring but did not specify team members.  England’s national club was conspicuously absent from the international entries.  First, they were focused on their own 1,000-Mile Trial.  Second, they did not actually have any decent race car manufacturers at the time, according to Gerald Rose.

A route was selected.  However, upon measuring the route, it was found to fall too short to be within the recently ratified articles of competition for the G B Cup.  A few tweaks later and it was long enough to pass muster.

Generally, the run up to the competition was plagued by misinformation and disorganization.  The fact that racing had been banned without specific government approval did not help.  There were other problems as well.  Camile Jenatzy’s new Belgian mount was stuck in French customs (which it remained through the date of the actual race, forcing Jenatzy to strip down a touring car of the same make in order to race).  Even Levegh’s recent win at Bordeaux to Periqueux renewed the kerfuffle over the A.C.F. driver selection.

There was serious doubt, even within the organizing A.C.F., as to whether the race would actually occur.  The original date was rescheduled for June 14, 1900.  Some drivers complained there was insufficient notice to prepare there respective cars.  The sole German representative, Eugen Benz, refused to start on these grounds.  However, the real reason he did not start may have been fear that his rear tires were doomed to fail at high speed.  Or, perhaps, it was because his Benz was so slow that his “chance of winning was microscopical.”`

The Race Report

Not unusual for races of this era, the race started just a quarter after 3:00 in the morning.  The entries were: René de Knyff (France), Camille Jenatzy (Belgium), Winton (America), Charron (France), and Girardot (France).  All three French entries did, in fact, end up being Panhard et Levassors.  Winton, the new American, was in a car of his own design.  Jenatzy, the sole Belgian, was stuck in his stripped down Bolide touring car (as his actual racing model remained trapped by French customs for unknown reasons).  Levegh, not chosen by the A.C.F. as an official French entry, raced alongside the others en amateur.

De Knyff and Winton got slow starts.  Girardot and Jenatzy were able to fight for the initial lead.  Just outside of Versailles, Winton’s Winton was in last place.  However, Jenatzy, the original king of the four-wheel-grip-the-grain-all-wheel-drift was already shredding his tires.  Having to replace both rears, he dropped into last place.

English: at the next to a vehicle of his make,...
A 1914 picture of Fernand Charron, the former cyclist, and later car designer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to contemporary reports, at Limours, Girardot was in the lead at 3:49:15.  Charron was second, reaching the checkpoint just under three minutes later.  De Knyff followed only one minute behind.  Winton was in fourth and Jenatzy brought up the rear.  Levegh, the unofficial entry, was 30 minutes ahead of Girardot, the official leader.

At Orléans, roughly the mid-point of the race, things were getting interesting for the competitors.   Charron, for example, was about to give up.  He had badly bent his rear axle in taking a rather ancient drainage ditch (caniveau) too quickly.  However, at Orléans, he was in second and found out that Girardot, the first place runner, had a steering gear in need of immediate repair.   He also found out that de Knyff, was essentially out of the race with a stripped top gear.  Jenatzy and Winton were a long way behind.  Given these facts, Charron soldiered on like a boss (but I’m mixing metaphors again).

I mentioned that Jentazy was way behind.  He had several flat tires, broken spark plugs, and clutch issues–and those were only the start of his issues.  According to Gerald Rose, “vowing that with car troubles, obstreperous gendarmes, dogs, and sheep, he had never in his life driven such a race”.”  Meanwhile, the new American, Winton had bucked a front wheel.  He bowed out just after Orléans, which took him 8:30.00 to reach, compared to the unofficial Levegh’s 5:25.00.

Thus, after Orléans, only Charron and Girardot remained.  But, remember, Charron axle was shot.  Luckily, his riding mechanic (and driver in his own right) Fournier, “staved off disaster by keeping up a steady flow of oil on the chains.”  Girardot was still far behind.  He got lost in Orléans.  This really wasn’t his fault.  By all accounts, this was the result of a poorly organized race.  Also, recall that his steering gear was still giving him problems.

Dogs, in these days of open-road city to city races, were a constant issue.  In his magnum opus, Gerald Rose recounts Charron’s harrowing encounter with a particularly large dog:

The bane of the race were the dogs, and it is said that every single driver killed five or six.  Ten miles before the finish Charron collided with an unusually big St. Bernard when going down hill at nearly sixty miles an hour.  Somehow the dog became wedged between the wheel and the steering arm, completely jamming the steering gear.  The car dashed off the road, across the ditch, between two trees into the neighbouring field, and thence between two more back on to the road, finally coming to rest facing in the direction of Paris, with its two occupants too startles to say anything.  Fournier just got down and re-started the engine, and in a minute the car was speeding on to Lyons as if nothing had happened.

The passage goes on to describe how Fournier had to lean over the edge of the car, in an acrobatic manner, to hold a water pump in place while Charron chugged on to victory.

Lord Montagu called the 1900 Gordon Bennett Cup an “Overture in a Minor Key.”  The crowd at the end of the race confirms this assessment.  The newspapers said there may have been up to 100 people at the finish line.  However, these accounts were a bit generous.  More accurate estimates from the drivers suggest that only about a dozen people were at the finish line to greet Charron on his win.

The final standings were:

  1. Charron (Panhard; 24 HP) 9:09:00 (38.6 mph)
  2. Girardot (Panhard; 24 HP) 10:36:23 (33.4 mph)
  3. De Knyff (Panhard; 24 HP) – (-)
  4. Jenatzy (Bolide; 16 HP) – (-)
  5. Winton (Winton; 14 HP) -(-)

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources

“The Gordon-Bennett International Cup Race”, The Motor-Car Journal, 285-287 (June 23, 1900).

The Gordon Bennett Races, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (1965) (Containing some minor discrepancies with the other sources.  As such, I am considering this slightly less reliable than my other, earlier sources).

A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose (1949) (Originally published in 1909).

“The Gordon Bennett International Cup Race” The Horseless Age, Vol. 6 No. 14, p. 14 (1900) (Providing an American perspective on the race).

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).

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 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.

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)

The 1897 Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie Race

In The Squire’s Tale, Chaucer tells us “Men love of propre kynde newefangelnesse.”  Echoing these very sentiments, Dr. Dre tells us “I love the new technology….New challenges mean you have to keep up, you know?”  The 1897 motorsport season, and I use the term loosely, demonstrates that the newest thing can still cause challenges and even problems.  Simply put, the petrol/gasoline engine was still lagging in power, as compared to the coal-powered steam engine.  However, a new class of driver was quickly becoming fascinated with the relatively newer technology of internal combustion.  These drivers would help foster the enthusiasm that propelled engines far beyond anything ever achieved by the steam engine.

A New Class of Driver.

Thus far, in these early years of motorsport, racing was reserved for the aristocracy.  This is logical.  Automobiles were expensive and not yet mass produced.  As such, one needed considerable wealth to afford an automobile.  However, some interesting names start to show up in the 1897 results charts.  Gentleman such as René de Knyff and Fernand Charron represent the early hints of a professional class of drivers.  In this regard, the sport was starting to get a little more serious in that it was contemplating (even if silently) a move beyond sheer amateurism,

Rene de Knyff

A great entry in my Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats sets the stage for René de Knyff:

A familiar figure of the period was a big man with a bushy black beard.  As the years wore on, the beard grayed, but the man remained as erect as ever, until, at the age of 90 in 1955, René de Knyff, a Belgian but a Chevalier of France, died.

René de Knyff was born in 1864.  He was an early director of Panhard and Levassor.  But, at the heart of this great man was a passion for motorsport.  In time, he became the chairman of the Automobile Club de France.  His record, as a racer, was relatively short compared to modern standards, but it was certainly distinguished as the forthcoming posts will most certainly detail.

At a base level, however, de Knyff represents those who were racing out of pure desire and love of the game.  Relevant accounts suggest that his directorship at Panhard was merely incidental to his love of racing.  In this regard, he represents one of the very earliest “drivers.”  A driver, for our purposes, is the one that burns inside to be ultimately quickest.

Fernand Charron

Fernand Charron, to a lesser degree as compared to De Knyff, was also an early example of someone consistently participating in motor races.  Charron was born in 1866.  He would later die in 1928.  Like many racers of the day, he was a champion bicycler long before his involvement with the so-called “autocar.”  Even though his first race, as detailed below, nearly ended in fatal disaster, he stayed with it.  In so doing, he became one of the original notable figures in motor racing history.

Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie: The Race Report.

A Brief Contextual Note.

Technology is funny.  We love the progress and benefits of new technology, as humans.  However, as humans, we also have a tendency to resist change.  This dichotomy is at play during the 1897 racing season.  For example, one Mr. Meyan was critical in arguing against pure racing cars.  He contended that only touring cars should even be manufactured to assure the sport remained an amateur endeavor.  As another example, an article in La France Automobile railed against a rumored “special racing monster of 8 h.p.”

It retrospect, it is comical that 8 horsepower caused such a stir.  But, at the heart of these criticisms, it seems, was unabated fear of change.  In an odd way, this evidences the very deep connection we, as human beings, have with our automobiles.

The January 1897 Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie Race.

On a personal note, these early races were staged races in which the competitors set off at regular intervals.  In short, it is difficult to conjure an exciting report some such indirect racing.  However, this does not abate my two-fold conviction that: (1) these early races are historically important; and (2) their details are being lost to time’s cruel march forward.

In any event, it appears that the competitors were released, in random order, at one minute intervals.  The “interval thing” was an intentional effort to decrease the need for passing, on account of narrow roads.

Early in the race, Charron was gripping the grain, as it were, around a 90-degree bend.  The wheels dug in and everything in the car, including his riding mechanic, was thrown out.  However, Charron, managed to stay in the somersaulting vehicle.  Observers suggested that the accident could easily have been fatal to Fernand Charron; however, he escaped with only moderate injuries to his arm.

The first day, of the three day, 149 mile race, concluded in Fréjus, a distance of 96.3 miles.  The Count de Chasseloup Laubat was first, completing the distance in 4:47:14.  An entry under the name off Prévost was second, at 5:12:11.  Lemaitre was third trailing by only a few seconds off Prévost.  My man, de Knyff, was fourth.

The second day was a shorter stint from Fréjus to Nice, a distance of 42.2 miles.  Prévost managed to run over two dogs.  Another competitor, managed to run over his mechanic.  The record is silent on the well-being of either the mechanic or the dogs.

The Count de Chasseloup Laubat won the second day as well.  He was trailed by Lemaitre and Prévost.  The final day, in this January race, was quite colder than the prior race, in spite of the fact that they were approaching the mediterranean setting of La Turbie, which sets just above Monaco and down the road from Nice, France.

This route was only 10.5 miles, owing to the historically winding nature of these roads. The Count de Chasseloup Laubat again prevailed.  But, his victory was somewhat surprising.  He was rolling hard in a steam engine.  Yet again, the petrol engines were defeated.

Nevertheless, the superiority of the steam engines was waning.  Development and progress were increasing rapidly.  The next car, of Lemaitre, in terms of overall finishing time, averaged 18.3 miles per hour.  Each race seems to be resulting in an increase in overall speed, regardless of the weather or course.  In other words, significant progress was being made.  In just a few short years, petrol engines would relegate steam power, in vehicles, to a thing of the past.

 

By Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

 

If you are interested in staying current on my progress through motorsport history, please consider taking a moment to follow the GPevolved Facebook page, or the @GPevolved Twitter account.

 

Sources:

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

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

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

 

The 1896 Motorsport Season Begins…

Bordeaux Gets into the Game.

The 1896 motorsport season began with a couple relatively minor races out of Bordeaux, France.  Admittedly, Gerald Rose’s tome, cited below, is my only source for these races.

In short, the excitement of being the destination of the major 1895 city to city race led some interested folks in Bordeaux to organize a couple of their own races.

April 26, 1896: Bordeaux to Langon.

This was a relatively short race of 28.75 miles.  Six cars finished the race, which was won by a Mr. Bord; however, accurate times for this race have been lost to history.

Another driver, by the name of Marly, drove into a house.  However, as noted by Mr. Rose, the accident was not that bad as he still finished the race in fourth place.

There was a dinner at the end of the race.  Clearly, there must have been some excitement over the success of the event, because they decided there and then to organize another–longer–race for May 24th and 25th of that year.

May 24-25, 1896: Bordeaux to Agen to Bordeaux.

Day one was the race from Bordeaux to Agen.  The second day was the return trip.  The total race totaled somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 miles (171.25 according to Rose).For whatever reason, the race was only open to folks who had possessed cars before January 1, 1896.   This seems to be an odd, and possibly elitist rule; however, it had the effect of curtailing the number of entries.

Like many of the early races, there were far fewer starters than entrants.  Of the 30 cars entered, only seven made it to the starting line.  There were three Peugeots, two Panhard et Levassors, a Hildebrand-Wolfmüller, and a De Dion.  One Mr. Bousquet was the first to reach Agen, the midpoint of the race.  On the second day, he was also the first to get back home to Bordeaux.  Thus, Mr. Bousquet won.

This race did not receive the attention that the Bordeaux organizers had hoped for, primarily because the race occurred at the same time as another, much more popular event: the Bordeaux to Paris bicycle race.

A Cosmopolitan Failure.

The magazine “Cosmopolitan” (which it turns out is a much older publication than I had ever expected), organized a race in New York City for May 30, 1896.  Again, according to Gerald Rose, the race was a “complete fiasco.”

There were only six cars entered for the tour around through Central Park and through New York City.  Only one car, a Duryea, managed to complete the course.  The race was such a failure that Rose opines it “seriously damaged” the reputation and future of the self-propelled vehicle in France.

In Conclusion.

I find these early races fascinating because you can literally see the foundation and future of  motorsport being figured out by a few interested groups of people.  I cannot help but wonder if they knew the destiny that motorsport would end up having world-wide?  Were they cognizant of the virtual certainty of the cars’ future as the dominant mode of transportation (at least in America)?

I also have a sense of regret that these early races are disappearing into the darkness of history.  Motorsport is inherently a forward-looking sport.  It is always looking for new technology and new drivers to be ultimately quickest.  In this regard, motorsport is a cruel friend to history.  I find this quite sad.  And so, perhaps in some humble way, Project GPevolved can bring a bit of forgotten history into the light again.

 

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

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

1894 Paris to Rouen Trial: The (arguable) Origin of Motorsport.

1894 Paris to Rouen Trial

As noted by Gerald Rose, in his classic, A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908, organized motorsport is generally regarded to have begun with the “Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux.”  This horseless carriage contest was organized by Le Petit Journal, a Parisian publication.

However, Rose notes, “It is not correct to describe the Petit Journal Competition as the first race for two very excellent reasons: – First, it was not a race, and secondly, it was not the first open contest for self-propelled vehicles on the open road.”

Again, according to Gerald Rose, a man by the name of Fossier organized a competition for the “vélocipede” in 1887.  It took place in Paris, which during the Belle Epoque, was a cultural and technological leader for all of Europe.  However, only one car showed up.  As is fairly obvious, a one-man race is not much of a race at all.  The only participant was the Count de Dion.  Count de Dion would prove to be one of the central figures of early motorsport.  In fact, he was fundamental in the creation of a national French auto club, which eventually morphed into the FIA.

Between 1887 and 1894, the petrol/internal combustion engine made significant progress.  The most significant of which was the infamous patent by Mr. Daimler, in Germany.  This progress was massive as compared to the relatively weak development of the steam engine.  The steam engine had been in use for some time; however, these vehicles were largely suited to business use, such as transportation of goods around a city-center.  Not only were the poor candidates for flying through the countryside, but they did not capture the imagination in the same manner of the comparatively smaller, faster, and sportier internal combustion engine.

In fact, Mr. Fossier’s 1887 race set the mold for the early races.  These early races were not just for bragging rights.  Rather, they were explicitly designed to promote the useful development of the self-propelled vehicle.  Unfortunately, it failed.

By 1894, there were enough self-propelled vehicles around Paris to contemplate another contest.  Mr. Pierre Gifford, writing under a nom de plume (as was oddly fashionable at the time), wrote up the idea of another self-propelled vehicle contest in Le Petit Journal on December 19, 1893.  The next day, on December 20, 1893, a simple contest was proposed.  The rules, according to Gerald Rose had but about 10 different strictures.

Of these simple rules, only a few are important for the purposes of this article:

  • Judges were to be the staff of the Petit Journal with “a number of consulting engineers.”
  • First prize was to be awarded to the car “which seemed to the Judges to best fulfill the conditions of being ‘without danger, easily handled, and of low running cost.’”
  • To be admitted into the actual race, each car was to complete a preliminary trial of 50 kilometers in three hours.  This was later changed to completing the 50 km. course in four hours, due to the perceived danger of even 10 miles per hour.
  • The finish, coachwork, paint, and general visual appeal of each car was “immaterial.”
  • The only technical requirement was that each car be able to move under its own power.

 

The entry list for participation in the preliminary trials closed on April 30, 1894.  There were 102 entries ranging from conventional steam cars to primitive internal combustion engines to the absolutely absurd.  For example, the entry list contains cars that would supposedly be powered by gravity, compressed air, the weight of passengers, mineral oil, a system of levels, and even a system of pendulums.  Certainly, these entries never came to fruition.

As for the race itself, it was more of a casual trundle than an all-out ten-tenths wheel-to-wheel action-fest.  Based upon the approximated records (exact times were not recorded), not a single car was able to crack an average exceeding 12 miles per hour.

There was a compulsory break for lunch.  This served an additional purpose of allowing the spectators the opportunity to examine the cars – a tradition in motorsport long since lost, many generations ago.

The fastest car was the Count de Dion in his De Dion “steam tractor” (the passengers were carried in a separate trailer).  However, internal combustion engines were starting to come on strong.  In fact, except for de Dion’s tractor, every petrol car beat every steam-powered car.

As for the petrol cars, the Peugeot’s of Mr. Lemaitre and Mr. Doriot were faster than the Panhard’s of Mr. Panhard and Mr. Levassor (each driving a car of their own marque).

Remember, this was not a contest of pure speed.  Moreover, de Dion’s large steam tractor fell outside the intent of the contest.  Accordingly, the firm of De Dion, Bouton et Cie were only awarded the second prize.

The grand prize, as it were, was awarded equally to the firms of Panhard and Levassor and Le Fils de Peugeot Freres (The Sons of the Peugeot Brothers).  It is certainly worth noting that both of these manufactures were using engines “of the type invented by Herr Daimler of Wurtenburg.”

As a footnote, Panhard and Levassor would continue to license the Daimler engine for many years to come.  In fact, it was not until much later, with the advent of the “Mercedes” brand, that the German marque sold cars directly to France.  The reasons for this are both peculiar and legal in nature; however, it is a story I will reserve for a later post.

The importance of the 1894 Paris to Rouen trial is clear.  While it may have not have been the first organized motorsport event, it remains accepted as the first successful trial in which numerous cars competed as a public spectacle.

Even more important, this event marks the installation of the internal combustion engine as a meaningful means of transport.  The public nature of the trial is further significant because this 1894 Paris to Rouen trial put French high-society on notice that internal combustion vehicles could be, well, cool.  In just a few short years, successful Parisians and member of the “Riviera class” were snapping up race-winning cars for many times the cost to produce them.

 

/Travis Turner of GPevolved.

The Henry System

Ernest Henry: The Grandfather of the Modern Competition Engine

Ernest Henry, sitting at his drafting table.
Ernest Henry, Swiss Engineer for Peugeot.

Ernest Henry was born in 1885.  Mechanically inclined, he studied at an applied school of mechanics in Geneva, Switzerland.  He graduated in 1906, at age 21.  Initially working on marine engines, he soon moved to Paris, France.  By 1911, he was picked up by Peugeot.  It was there that he would hook up with a few race drivers to create an engine that would have an everlasting impact on motorsport, and even cars in general.  The cars that he designed for Peugeot, Ballot, and Sunbeam achieved no more than moderate success; however, his influence on motorsport was (and remains) profound.

The Henry System.

Henry’s system, as it were, refers to the integration of several disparate concepts: (1) one or more overhead camshafts; (2) inclined overhead valves; (3) monoblock casting; and (4) central spark plug location.  Henry was not the creator of any of these particular concepts.  However, he was the first to shove all four into a single engine.  This combination of concepts indelibly stamped itself upon motorsport history.

The Henry System, as it became later known, first appeared in the three-liter 1912 Peugeot.  The 1912 Peugeot car was ahead of its time.  In fact, anytime you see “DOHC” (Dual OverHead Cams) stamped on a production car or its engine, be aware that the technology is over a century old.  It all began when three drivers, by the names of Zuccarrelli, Boillot, and Goux got together and conceived some ingenious ideas for a race car.  Ernest Henry, an enigmatic swiss draftsman, was tapped to force some big ideas into a single car.

The 1912 Peugeot was powered by a 7.6 liter inline four-cylinder engine with a bore of 110 mm. and a stroke of 200 mm.  This remarkably high bore to stroke ratio (1.82 : 1) allowed higher revolutions per minute than were previously possible.  In fact, the then high-revving car was capable of a whopping 2,200 RPMs (some accounts suggest 2,800 RPMs).  At this engine speed, Laurence Pomeroy estimated that the car would have conservatively put out around 130 brake horsepower (Peugeot claimed 175 bhp).  The car weighed a mere 3,100 pounds; it was rather nimble for its time.  Apparently, the designers made no effort to streamline the car; however, some streamlining was employed for record attempts at Brooklands in the spring of 1913.

The 1912 French Grand Prix.

The first major race that the 1912 Peugeot competed in, the French GP of the same year, was also one of the longest Grands Prix of all time.  It took place at the Dieppe Circuit, which was a triangular circuit between three cities totaling roughly 48 miles per lap.  The cars were to run 10 laps per day totaling a nearly 1,000 mile Grand Prix.  The only restriction for the Grand Prix cars was that they were limited to a width of 69 inches (1.75 meters).  In this era, the cars did not race head to head; rather, at this race, they were started in 30 second intervals.  Jules Goux, Georges Boillot, Zucarrelli, and Thomas comprised the Peugeot team.

Goux was the first Peugeot off the line at approximately 5:34 am.  He ran the first lap in 40:16; however, on time, he was ultimately slower than David Bruce-Brown (Fiat) at a blistering 37:18.  However, Boillot’s Peugeot was not much slower at 38:40.  Boillot made progress on Bruce-Brown on the second lap and Goux slotted into the third position.

Unfortunately, Peugeot’s fastest, Boillot had to stop on the third lap to repair a broken brake cable.  Goux also stopped, due to a hole in his fuel tank.  He refilled outside of the pits, and was consequently disqualified.  Boillot continued to struggle as he had to change both rear wheels mid-way through the fourth lap.  Zucarrelli, in the ‘third’ Peugeot, had to stop to replace a water house.  Overall, the engines themselves seem to have held up well through just shy of 200 miles of hard racing.

According to David Hodges, one thing was clear at the first day’s halfway point: the Peugeots and Fiats were closely matched.  After five laps, the Fiats were first, third, and fifth overall.  However, Boillot kept on fighting maintaining second place.  The crowd, who only saw a given car pass every 40 minutes, was excited to see Bruce-Brown (first) and Boillot (second) stop at the same time.  Boillot struggled to drop his car into gear while Bruce-Brown raced away in the lead.  About a minute late, Boillot finally initiated his pursuit behind another Fiat driven by Wagner.  Some race accounts suggest that Boillot had better top speed; however, Bruce-Brown commanded superior acceleration.  Other reports suggest that Bruce-Brown’s flying kilometer was at times faster than Boillot’s.  One thing is certain, dueling down the long straights, if only by time and not by direct competition,  they traded places a couple times  between the fifth and eighth laps.  The first day concluded with Boillot trailing Bruce-Brown by a few ticks over two minutes.

Georges Boillot winning the 1912 French Grand ...
Georges Boillot winning the 1912 French Grand Prix in Dieppe, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The weather was not so pleasant on the second day.  A soft drizzle turned into sharp cold rain on the second day.  The water seeped into the Peugeot’s trick spark plugs and required changing before Boillot could get away.  Boillot was determined and soon caught sight of Bruce-Brown’s leading Fiat.  According to Hodges, “Boillot passed while the American [Bruce-Brown] changed a tyre at Criel, Bruce-Brown repassed as Boillot refilled.  And then the Peugeot passed the stationary Fiat at the bottom of Sept-Meules hill.”  Bruce-Brown had run out of fuel from a fractured pipe.  He scrounged up some Petrol, but was later disqualified for receiving fuel outside of the pits.  Sadly, Bruce-Brown was killed later that year practicing for a race in Milwaukee.

Wagner was behind the Boillot, the new leader.  However, as hard as Wagner tried to catch Boillot, he was unable to make up the distance he was behind.  Finally, Boillot was triumphant winning his home Grand Prix.  Thus, the Henry system was victorious on its first outing.

The 1913 Indianapolis 500.

Jules Goux, Indianapolis 500 Winner, 1913
Jules Goux, Indianapolis 500 Winner, 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two of the 7.6 liter 1912 Peugeot’s, linered down to 7.4 liters each, were sent for the 1913 Indy 500.  One was to be driven by Zuccarrelli, who did not have much success at the race; the other was to be driven by Jules Goux.  Going into the third edition of the famous circle track race, Goux had an edge.  While most continental Europeans had little experience with this type of track, Goux had spent considerable time in a 1912 Peugeot at Brooklands earlier that year.  He also received advice from an American driver, Johnny Aitken.

According to William Court, “Goux apparently decided to use a tyre of half an inch less diameter on the left (inside) front wheel though this did not do him much good as is bursts of leadership in the early stages were interspersed with stops for tyres after which ‘he was out of pursuit of the field at a terrible speed.’  The race was one of attrition, and the Henry system was continuing to prove itself a reliable model of engine.

Popular lore suggests that Jules Goux drank upwards of six pints of champagne throughout the race.  William Court notes that some accounts, including that of W. F. Bradley deny this, suggesting he was drinking water out of champagne bottles.  However, in a letter to one Peter Helck, dated November 2, 1963, Goux himself swore it was champagne.  Goux, therefore, was the first European to win the Indy 500.  Having won the race, it was back to continental Europe for the French Grand Prix, later that summer.

The 1913 French Grand Prix.

In slightly smaller form, a set of similar 5.7 liter Peugeot’s turned up for the 1913 French GP.  Zucarelli had previously been killed testing the car when it struck a cart.  Georges Boillot noted, “we lost not only a close friend but an engineer of considerable ability.”  Boillot and Goux were both back to pilot Peugeot’s at a much shorter track for an also shorter Grand Prix.

The 5.7 liter incarnation of the Henry system was consistent with the general trend of the day.  The huge displacement titans had become dinosaurs and were disappearing in favor of smaller, nimbler cars.  Yet, engineering such as that by Ernest Henry ensured rising power in spite of falling displacement.  In any event, the success of the Henry system at the 1912 French Grand Prix resulted in a substantially similar, albeit smaller, engine for the 1913 races.

The 1913 French Grand Prix instituted a new formula.  In a parallel to the current 2015 rules, the 1913 French Grand Prix race sought to slow the cars by limiting fuel consumption.  Fuel consumption was limited to 20 liters of petrol per 100 kilometers.  This required each car to run at least 14.12 miles per gallon.  Cars also had to weigh between 1,763 pounds (800 kg) and 2,425 pounds (1,100 kg) ‘dry.’

There were three early morning practice sessions.  These were largely devoting to fuel testing by the various entrants.  On race days, dense crowds were ready for the race at 5:00 am; however, the fog was even denser and caused the race to be delayed by a half-hour or so.  According to David Hodges, “At 5:30 visibility had improved somewhat, although the ‘yellow advertising balloons presented mere dim outlines in the sky,’ and the race was started.

After the first lap, Boillot was fastest and Goux was second fastest.  The gaps between the first three were increased during the second lap.  On the third lap, Boillot had to stop to fix a broken ignition wire.  This allowed Goux, in his Peugeot, to take over first place.  However, Boillot immediately put in the fastest lap of the race, thus far, at 16:15.  The fog began to clear and the morning progressed and lap times dropped consistently.  It soon became clear that only the Delages and Sunbeams could compete with the Henry-designed Peugeots.

By lap 12, Boillot had moved into second place, in spite of a stop for his riding mechanic to repair a “lubricant sight-feed” according to Hodges.  Just beyond half-distance, the order was Guyot (4:02:32); Boillot (4:03:51); and Goux (4:05:09).  However, on the next lap, Guyot gave the race over to the Peugeot’s when he ran over his mechanic.  According to Hodges, the mechanic had jumped out while the car was still moving.  However, the car was moving faster than he expected.  He was knocked down and run over.  “No bones were broken but Guyot had to lift him into the cockpit once he had changed the wheel and slowly complete that lap.”

Thereafter, there were essentially no changes to the order and Boillot won the French Grand Prix for France for the second year in the row.  Boillot had averaged 72.12 miles per hour over the course of the race.  His win made him a national hero of the day.  Goux came in a strong second.  Thus, the Henry designed inline four cylinder again proved its relative dominance over the large displacement titans that had come before.

In Conclusion.

Peugeot’s success with these cars was modest, as compared to the sheer magnitude of Ernest Henry’s impact on overall modern engine design.  It was Ernest Henry who proved that a smaller, more efficient engine could beat the huge-engined chain-driven titans that came before.   As just one example, the Offenhauser engine that was so dominant in American racing owes its fundamental design principles to those employed in the Henry system.  We may never know whether Ernest Henry was a mere draftsman or the driving force for the ideas.  However, before the age of 30, Ernest Henry forever altered the direction of motorsport engineering.

 

Works Relied Upon.

Court, William, Power and Glory: The History of Grand Prix Motor Racing, Vol. 1: 1906-1951 (1988).

Fox, Jack, The Indianapolis 500: A Pictorial History of the Greatest Spectacle in Automobile Racing (1967).

The Henry Affair, Motor Sport Magazine, 38 (July 1974).

Hodges, David, The French Grand Prix: 1906 – 1966 (Temple Press Books 1967)

Racing Car Evolution, Motor Sport Magazine, 3 (September 1942).

Wikipedia, Ernest Henry (engineer), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Henry_(engineer) (accessed November 5, 2015) (establishing the basic biographical details of Ernest Henry’s life.  This resource was used cautiously, and only in the absence of other sources, to identify the basic timeline of Mr. Henry’s life).

Pomeroy, Laurence. The Grand Prix Car Vol 1. S.l.: Motor Racing Publications (1954).