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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

Intro and Menu | August Articles

Leinster Leader, Saturday 1 August 1903 -Page 6



A very interesting suggestion has just been made by the “Motor News” to the effect that an international race for alcohol driven motor cars be held in Ireland, next year. A plan is outlined whereby each country would be represented by a team of three racers, using home-made alcohol; but in the case of the English team it is stipulated that the cars should use Irish alcohol.

Some important modifications are made which would tend to made the race a test for cars which are of the fast touring rather than the racing class, and would reduce the speed to a lower maximum than that attained in the Gordon-Bennett race.

The great object of the race is to test the alcohol and the cars of each country, and thus hasten the development of alcohol as a fuel for motors. The matter is of
because if alcohol proves a satisfactory substitute for petrol there is no reason why Ireland should not become a large producer of the spirit for industrial purposes. From potatoes, beet, and many other agricultural products of this country alcohol can be obtained, and if all restrictions were removed, it could be sold at a price which would enable it to compete with petrol. The Oil Trust of America practically controls all the petrol used in the United Kingdom, and lately they have exercised their monopoly by increasing the price, and giving motorists petrol of high density, averring that the low density or light spirit cannot now be produced in sufficient quantities to meet the demand. The American cars which competed in the Gordon-Bennett race used some of the petrol sold in these countries, and both Mr. Winton and Mr. Owen protest that it is much inferior to the spirit commonly used in the States.

As time advances things seem to get worse and motoring becomes more at the mercy of the oil kings. Recognising this, France and Germany have long since carried out many experiments with alcohol, and in most of the big races in France a few cars have used either pure alcohol or a mixture of alcohol and petrol.

The results so far have not been wholly satisfactory, mainly for the reason that motor manufacturers generally have not given the matter the necessary attention. The problem of successfully carburetting[sic] and consuming alcohol is by no means an easy one, and much has yet to be done. But there is strong hope of ultimate success, though it may be that alcohol will never give such all-round satisfactory results as the best quality petrol. It is evident, however, that the highest quality of petrol cannot be had cheaply from this henceforth, and good alcohol can at least be used to more advantage than bad petrol. Numerous laboratory tests have been made, and opinions are divided on the relative merits of the power producers; but, as in all other branches of motoring, actual tests on the road will be far more valuable and convincing, and from them improvement will spring.

When the alcohol motor has the attention of many inventive minds directed to it, and when they are stimulated by competition and the possibility of great gains, vast improvements should be rapidly made, and the day may come when a fluid will be obtained which may be superior to the best petrol.
might be built up in Ireland if alcohol were used largely for industrial purposes; and as it lends itself to heating and lighting as well as to power producing it can be turned to numberless uses. In Germany at present alcohol is used in many engines; it is used in connection with incandescent burners to give a cheap and brilliant light; and it is also employed for heating and working purposes.

The “Motor News” would like something similar to be done in Ireland, and asks some wealthy philanthropist to come forward and offer a valuable trophy for an international alcohol race. Mr. Mecredy suggest[sic] an alcohol congress in Dublin, a few speed trials in the Phoenix Park, and a launch race on the Liffey, alcohol always being employed, of course. A four days’ programme is suggested, and as more sensible limits are fixed than in the colossal Irish fortnight it seems a practicable idea, and one which deserves support. The scheme has many things to recommend itself to the industrial revivalists, as one of the grumbles against the recent motor carnival was that cars and fuel were foreign. In the suggested race for 1904 Irish alcohol would be pitted against that of France, Germany, etc., and if it proved its superiority a valuable advertisement for the Irish spirit would be obtained.