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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

Intro and Menu | July Articles

Leinster Leader, Saturday 4 July 1903, Last Edition – Page 5

The following biographies of the competitors (prepared before the race and consequently containing conjectures as to roads, results, etc.), will enable the reader to ascertain “who’s who”:-

Mr. S. F. Edge, the holder of the Cup, who started first, made his third appearance in the competition. In 1900 he attempted to compete in the first race, but was disqualified, as his tyres were alleged not to have been of English manufacture. In 1901 he was the sole representative of England, but his car broke down. Last year he was more fortunate, being the only competitor to finish. His average over the course was 34 miles an hour. Mr. Edge assisted to select the present course, and he has been more or less in touch with it for several months. He went to France to witness the Paris-Bordeaux race, and travelled 2,000 miles on his car. With the other English competitors he has been staying at Castle Rheban, about 2 miles from Athy. His idea is that a speed of eighty miles an hour may be attained in parts, and that the average will be about 45 to 50 miles an hour. “We have good cars,” he said, “and shall try as hard as anyone else.” Of course he speaks well, but complains of bad bumps at the Athy side of Ballyshannon and between Ardscull Moat and Athy. He is married, and was born in 1871. His is head of the firm of S. F. Edge and Co., Ltd. All the English competitors will use Napier cars. Mr. Edge believes that facility in quick changes in speed will be an important factor, and has had his machines constructed accordingly. He is president of the English Motor Cycling Club.

Mr. Charles Jarrott is a single man, born in 1876, and is a member of the firm of Messrs. Charles Jarrott and Letts, Ltd. He thinks the angles are not bad, and that the chief danger is taking curves at high speed, when, as a matter of fact, the front wheels being off the ground, steering is almost impossible. He took part in the Paris-Madrid race, drawing No. 1 position, and was fourth on an 80 h-p.[sic] De Dietrich car. His average to Bordeaux, where the race was stopped, was 58 miles an hour. The previous record was 53 miles an hour. The road for Thursday’s race he did not think as good as the road from Paris to Bordeaux, but it is little inferior to the Des Ardennes circuit. The race, he calculates, will occupy about nine hours, including controls. He fancies that Farman is a dangerous opponent. Mr. Jarrott has also spent a lot of time on the course, and he had an adventure between Ballylinan and Athy, where a stone hopped up into one of Mr. Edge’s chains, and the radial rod breaking, he had to tow Mr. Edge’s big Napier homewards with a tiny 8h-p. De Dion vorturette. Mr. Jarrott says there were too many cars in the Paris-Madrid race, and the speeds were too great. In the Ardennes race last year there was an exciting finish between Jarrott and Gabriel, and Jarrott won.

Mr. J. W. Stocks has been chosen as the third driver representing England. Mr. Stocks was formerly a racing cyclist, and held the 25 miles’ N.C.U. championship. He is the manager of the De Dion Bouton Company’s English branch. Mr. Stocks is married, and was born in 1868. He won the eliminating trial on a Napier from the Star car at Welbeck Abbey. His speed was estimated on that occasion at 50 to 60 miles an hour.

The Chevalier Rene de Knyff, President of the Racing Committee of the Automobile Club de France, is a Belgian. He went the course some time ago. He says the roads are good, but that the curves are too abrupt for high speed, and a steady eye and sang froid are necessary to prevent the car from running into the trees. In his opinion fully 40 per cent. of the course is not wide enough for passing. He took part in the first Gordon-Bennett race in 1900, and also in the Paris-Madrid race, being second off, but was soon passed by Louis Renault, and he broke down in company with Fournier at Chartres. He formerly held the Arenberg Cup for the fastest car in the run to Bordeaux, using alcohol as fuel. This was won in the Paris-Madrid race by M. Regolly. Renault arrived first at Bordeaux, but was not the winner on time. His brother was killed in the race.

Mr. Maurice Farman, although racing for France, is an Englishman. Like Baron de Knyff he will ride a Panhard. The Panhards won the Gordon-Bennett race in 1900 and 1901, the average in the first case being 38½ miles an hour, and in the second 39½ miles an hour. The whole French team broke down in 1902.

The third Frenchman, M. Ferdinand Gabriel, is the famous winner of the Paris-Madrid race, at Bordeaux, on a Mors car, and he will again ride a Mors. He averaged 65½ miles an hour, and passed 81 cars on the road. He holds the world’s record for such a distance. He is a middle-sized, well-set, determined-looking man. Arriving on Friday last he immediately went over the course, and it is said that so great is his memory that he can with one run remember every turn and twist. After the Paris-Madrid race Gabriel said:- “Under the circumstances it is a wonder more accidents did not happen. The racing men were more alarmed for the safety of the rash crowds, who stood straight in the road ahead of the onrushing cars, than for their own. Half a dozen troopers and a dozen gendarmes were supposed to keep 2,000 to 3,000 rash persons off the route.” Gabriel thought nearly all the accidents were attributable to the carelessly-kept route. Gabriel has been specially elected a member of the French Automobile Club in order that he may take the place of Fournier, who was first selected, but who has closed his agreement with the Mors Company. Gabriel is delighted with the chance to compete. He won the Decanville race last year. Gabriel will be the only Frenchman in the French team, the others as pointed out being English and Belgian.

Mr. A. Winton raced for America in the first Gordon-Bennett race in 1900, but only two finished, Charon, the Frenchman, being the victor. His best performance was lowering the record made by Fournier at Yonker to 1 min. 6 1-5 secs., and later at Cleveland he covered a mile in 1min. 2¼secs. At Ormonde he beat Mr. Thomas over a mile in 56secs. At Ormonde, on Thursday, March 26th, Mr. Winton made a mile in 56secs. on his new eighty-horse Gordon-Bennett car, the “Bullet.” He says he is a Scotchman hailing from North o’ the Tweed, whence he migrated to the States some 20 years since, where he began American life in a marine engine shop. So late as 1895 he designed a vertical gas motor for automobiles. Mr. Winton is at the head of the Winton Motor Carriage Company, and will, of course, ride a Winton car.
Mr. Percy Owen, who is manager of the same company, is known in the States as the “Adonis of the team,” who deserted “insurancing” for motoring. He is 28 years old, and the American papers devote columns to his “blue eyes, blonde hair, and athletic figure.” One of Mr. Owen’s best performances in America is six miles in 7min. 23 secs., 48½ miles an hour. He won the Long Island 100 miles race last year, and also a great number of path contests – a form of competition which is popular in America. On Mr. Owen going over the course on his Winton car everyone was astonished at its silence whilst in motion. Mr. Winton is accompanied by his wife and son. He thinks that a speed of a mile a minute is quite possible. This car is the first racing car his company has built. His works cover 10 acres, employ about 800 men, and have turned out 1,000 touring cars.

Mr. L. P. Mooers, of Cleveland, is the mechanical engineer of the Peerless factory, and will consequently drive a Peerless. In conversation he expressed the opinion that 45 miles an hour average will win. He thinks the Englishmen have the best chance, accustomed as they are to narrow and crooked roads. Most of the motor racing in America is confined to mile trotting tracks. The numerous curves make the course hard, although the surface is good. Great speed, he thinks, will lead to tyre troubles, and for a speed of 80 miles an hour the surface is too rolling. He does not fear accident, and is willing to let Sir Thomas Lipton have the America Cup if he can win this. He has brought complete duplicate parts and tyres for his machine. Putting up at Ballytore, he has been training hard for the past fortnight. The other Americans have been staying at the vicarage, Timolin, where they hoisted a big American flag. Bets of even money that an American will be in among the first six in the Irish race have been taken somewhat freely. Most persons jib at the 1 to 5 that a Yankee will be the winner.

Baron de Caters is a Belgian, and, like all the German team, will use a Mercedes car. Baron B. Jenatzy is the only one of the three who has competed in a Gordon-Bennett race. He represented Belgium in the first contest. He arrived in Paris after a journey from Cannstad, the Mercedes factory, on his Gordon-Bennett racer. He accomplished the journey of 490 miles at an average of 39 miles an hour. On favourable stretches he did 70 miles an hour. The roads were greasy, and heavy rain fell during the journey. His personal fancy for the coming event is Gabriel, but Jenatzy is one of the most daring riders in the race. He has been in nearly every great contest, including the Paris-Madrid race, finishing 11th, with an average of 53¾ miles an hour.

Mr. Foxhall Keene is the well-known American sportsman, so that there is not a German in the German team. It appears that it was impossible to get German amateurs with the necessary experience. Two engineers and a staff of workmen arrived in Paris recently to prepare the racers for the Irish contests, as they did previously to the Paris-Madrid race. The German manufacturers are prepared to hand over their representative, should he be first to pass the post, the tidy sum of £5,000; and if, as is usually the case, the winning car is sold at a long price, he will then be entitled to a share of the profit. Mr. Foxhall Keene was present as a spectator at the Paris-Madrid race.