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Kildare > Heritage > Gordon Bennett Motor Race > Ireland's Biggest Sporting Event in 1903

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Media / Press Release on behalf of
Athy Heritage Centre, Emily Square, Athy, Co. Kildare

Ireland’s Biggest Sporting Event was in 1903

June Bank Holiday Week End Launches the
of the 1903 Gordon Bennett Race in Ireland.

The 1903 Gordon Bennett Race was held in Ireland - through Kildare, Laois and Carlow – because in England at that time a motor vehicle had to be preceded by a person with a red flag or it would not be allowed on the Queen’s highway. A special law was passed to allow the race to take place here. Even so the cars had to be preceded by a cyclist when travelling through the towns in the race. In Ireland – 32 counties –there were only 250 cars, so many of those who came may never have seen a car before, certainly they had never seen a racing car.

The Race created a circuit that ran through counties Kildare, Carlow and Laois, rather than the city-to-city races that had preceded it. So the 1903 Irish Gordon Bennett Race probably invented Circuit Motor Racing, which was henceforth to become the norm throughout the world.

Racing Green, the colours of the English Motor Racing Team ever since was as a tribute to that first ‘British’ Motor Race, The Gordon Bennett, on Irish soil.

Councillor Michael English of Athy Town Council has been charged with organising the Opening Celebrations of the Centenary Year in Athy Co. Kildare, which will also be the launch the Gordon Bennett Centenary Celebrations.

The three Counties of Carlow, Kildare and Laois have come together in a unique attempt to bring the route which links their counties to the attention of the world. Then the Gordon Bennett Route, over 80 miles long, will be signposted as a Tourist Route to be marketed around the world. Towns and Villages along the route will have the opportunity to take advantage of this marketing effort to attract Tourists to stay in their Towns and spend money in their shops. This is an opportunity that has been lost to most places along the way because of Bypasses and Motorways.

It will be a 1903 day in the Heritage Town of Athy – Emily Square and environs – and everyone is encouraged to come in Period Dress. No modern cars will be allowed in the Square even if they pay the parking fee! Vintage cars from all over the 3 counties will assemble in the Emily Square area.

Athy Town Council is running a Competition for the Shop that most enters the Spirit of the Occasion, not just in its window display but also by the manner in which Staff and Management Reflect that 1903 feeling. They may be dressing up for the occasion but, the organisers have yet to hear of any 1903 prices - but here’s hoping!

The whole town will take on the atmosphere of that great day 100 years ago that kick started the motor industry and some say has blighted our lives ever since! Minister Brennan where were you when there were only 250 cars in the whole of Ireland, North and South.

The original Gordon Bennett Race was a Time Trial so the car that completed the course in the shortest time was the winner. Time trials with Racing Cars from 1903 to the present day will be held on the original road at the Moate of Ardscull, on the Kilcullen to Athy road on Saturday 31st May, in Bagenalstown Co. Carlow on Sunday June 1st. and on The Heath Portlaoise on Bank Holiday Monday June 2nd. Over 60 Racing cars are expected to take part on the first day building up to 100 by the third day on the Heath. Racing cars through the century will participate including the 1903 Gordon Bennett Era

There will be commemorative Medallions for cars that complete the trials and winners each day. Overall winners will be declared on the third day in Portlaoise.

There will be major road closures and diversions for the time trials so do listen to AA Road Watch if you intend travelling through Athy, Bagenalstown or The Heath-Portlaoise next weekend. Do not forget it is the June Bank holiday too.

For Further information contact Sean Cleary, Chairman / P.R.O. of The Gordon Bennett Company Ltd. at 0507 24164 or 087 9090044.

Background information on The Race and on Gordon Bennett the man can be obtained on various Internet sites -

Gordon Bennett Ltd. is a company set up by Kildare, Carlow and Laois County Councils to promote the Gordon Bennett Route as a Tourism Enterprise Route

Issued on behalf of the Gordon Bennett Company Limited
by Athy Training And Enterprise Centre

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