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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

Intro and Menu | April Articles

Leinster Leader Saturday 4 April 1903 - Page 8.


In the current issue of the “Motor News” – which by the way is illustrated with several admirable views of the proposed route for the Gordon-Bennett Cup Race, – some of the perils of motoring are indicated. The Special Committee of the Automobile Club, consisting of Messrs Claude Johnson, S. F. Edge, W. G. D. Goff, and R. J. Mcredy, recently made a tour of the course, and it was as a result of their tour that the “twisting stretch” between Kilcullen and Naas, and Naas and Newbridge was omitted. Mr. E. Glover, County Surveyor of Kildare, accompanied them. The following extracts from Mr. Mecredy’s description of the proposed route will be read with interest:- “The Newbridge road was followed to the North Eastern edge of the Curragh. Here they wheeled sharp to the right. The road proved narrow at first, but the surface was fair, and Mr. Glover expressed the opinion that it could be widened, and the cross gutters filled up. We happened to ask Mr. Edge if it were possible that racing cars could pass each other on such a very narrow road, and his reply was characteristic: “Where one car over takes another, there it will try to pass, even if it has to run on to the grass edge for the purpose.” It brought home to us very forcibly the fierceness of the great struggle which is approaching. On the stretch of road referred to, an ordinary touring car would hesitate to attempt passing even at a moderate speed. The thought of the huge leviathans thundering past each other at 60 miles an hour with the off wheels on the grass, and only inches to spare, is enough to make anybody shudder at the mere idea. Passing Mallock’s Hotel on the edge of the Curragh the road widened to Kilcullen, straight stretches succeeding gentle curves. At Kilcullen a halt was made to examine the right-angled corner, which we found to be banked the wrong way, and Mr. Edge, gazing reflectively at the house opposite, remarked,
It was decided that a control was unnecessary, but that a warning green flag will have to be placed some distance up the road if the house in question is to escape destruction.

Retracing our course on to the Curragh, we closely inspected the corner where the short cut joins in to the Newbridge-Kildare road, and on Mr. Edge’s suggestion it was decided to cut away the grass bank, so that any cars missing the corner though[sic] over-eagerness might run safely on to the hard green sward of the Curragh. Under such circumstances the spectators in the neighbourhood would have an exciting few seconds. Then we measured a suitable distance back for a site for a warning green flag, and Mr. Edge expressed the opinion that it was a deceptive bend. We pointed out that the main road through the Curragh ran nearly at right angles, and that the racers would notice the long line of spectators. “They will notice nothing but the road in front,” was the significant response. These side lights on motor car racing were decidedly interesting, and we congratulated ourselves that we were not a competitor, and as a spectator registered a vow to keep the right side of all bends and corners.

Passing over the River Barrow, swollen high be recent rain, we came on
Over a can bridge half a mile out from Monasterevan. Should any one of the drivers miss the first bend, he will doubtless find the waters cool and refreshing after the dust and toils of the race; while if he misses the second bend a steep bank and grass field will afford a soft resting place.

From Athy to a point near Old Kilcullen (9½miles) is about the best part of the whole course, and it will have to be traversed seven times in all, or a total of 66½ miles of straight road. From Athy Railway Station there is a straight stretch of ½ mile.

From Old Kilcullen, the road dips down a grand, straight, smooth-surfaced hill, where the pace, if we mistake not, will approximate to 90 miles an hour. From this on to Carlow the general features of the road are the same. Dead straight stretches of from one-half to 3 miles are connected by slight curves, and, except for the last three miles into Carlow, the surface is good and reasonably wide. Near Castledermott, Wilson’s Bridge will have to be filled up, and in Castledermott itself, it was arranged to have a control between the Carlow Gate and Doyle’s Hotel. The stretch from Carlow, where a control will be, to Athy was modified. The first stage to Mageny Bridge is the worst bit on the whole course, owing to the winding nature of the road. Then follows a right-angled turn to the left over the bridge, and another to the right. The road from this on is narrow, with a succession of straights connected by bends, and with two sharp corners near Athy. It will prove a trying stage to the racers.

Mr. Edge’s thorough inspection of the entire Gordon-Bennett course has left him more than satisfied as to its suitability. He thinks that it is a very fair course, and that in places a speed of 95 miles an hour will be attained. As regards surface, he thinks it is quite good enough, though in this connection we may mention that the present condition of the road cannot be taken as any criterion of what it will be in July. Even the best Irish roads, owing to the system of repair adopted, are always bad in winter and early spring, before the metal used for darning has worn in. In addition to this, if, as is intended, a sum of from £1,000 to £2,000 is expended, the results, though of a comparatively nature, will be astonishing.

While the committee were discussing the road question at Athy, and as to how the money could best be expended, a very valuable suggestion was made, to the effect that a portion of the money should be given direct to the road contractors, and that an effort should be made to excite their emulation and sporting enthusiasm, so as to get them figuratively and actually to leave no stone unturned to make the roads under their charge as good as possible. A sum of money paid beforehand with the promise of the same amount if the road satisfied the County Surveyor, would have an excellent effect. The appeal to their sporting instincts would do even more, while if these men were appointed road officials and given badges on the day of the race, that sentiment which forms such a strong feature in the Irishman’s character would be touched, and they could be relied upon to spend most of their spare time for weeks before the event in improving the surface. This, in most cases, can be best done by the use of pit gravel, which can be got in most localities in the district at 8d per load. In places the steam roller will have to be used, especially on that awful stretch of highway between Athy and Ballylinan and also for the last three or four miles between Castledermott and Carlow. Some parts of the course are of such excellent surface that no money need be spent on them.”