[finished] Case #6: Gordon-Bennett Cup Races 1900-1905
Posted 19 January 2001 - 06:45
The prosecution seeks answer to whether the six Gordon-Bennett Cup races, run between 1900 and 1905, were important enough to be considered equal in standing to the Grands Prix which followed from 1906 on, or should these six events remain alone as predecessor to the Grand Prix races.
This case has been accepted for hearing, and it is the duty of this court to decide whether the Gordon-Bennett Cup races are or are not equal in standing to the Grands Prix which were run from 1906 on.
Arguments can be posted by all parties interested as of April 14th, and for a length of one week (7 days).
The residing judge in this case is Marcel Schot.
Arguments and evidence on the subject can be posted in this thread as of the opening date and as long as the hearing is open. A decision on the case will be posted up to 7 days after hearing is closed.
Posted 14 April 2001 - 18:09
Posted 14 April 2001 - 21:35
The 1903 event became more interesting because the entire event had moved for the first time out of France to Great Britain and received therefore more coverage in the British press. In this event four cars finished out of twelve entries. The tragic Paris-Madrid race in the same year put an end to the very important city-to-city races, staged annually by the ACF –Automobil Club de France–.
The void now created was filled by the annual Gordon-Bennett race, which then became the most important event of the year. Therefore, for only two years, from 1904 to 1905, the Gordon-Bennett Cup was the most important event of the year. The race was so popular and received so many entries from interested manufacturers, that eliminating events had to be staged in England and France prior to the main event.
But the Gordon-Bennett rules limited each country to be represented by only three cars. France alone had seven manufacturers of whom any could have been a winner. The French auto industry wanted a race where each manufacturer could be represented by three cars. These unpopular Gordon-Bennett regulations were their downfall and the ACF introduced the "Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France" to replace the annual Gordon Bennett race.
Posted 16 April 2001 - 06:24
So the answer has to be no if we have to consider the full series, yes if we can restrict ourselves to the last three years. There were, of course, many other pre-1906 races which deserve equal status to the Grand Prix.
Posted 17 April 2001 - 16:03
As to whether to restrict the case to the last three years or not, the court states that all Gordon Bennett races are to be reviewed, as stated in the case itself, yet they can be viewed on a per race basis.
Finally, the court likes to be informed of the general structure of the racing seasons during the era of the Gordon Bennett Cups. Did some sort of European or World championship exist, consisting of a number of important races or did particular high regarded drivers or manufacturers take part on only the most important events?
Posted 18 April 2001 - 13:16
The ACF’s annual main event was the Paris-Toulouse-Paris race over 837.1 miles with a total entry of 26 cars, of which eight were voiturettes. The rest were heavy cars, the top of the echelon in automobile racing. The winner Levegh on a Mors took 20 hours and 50 minutes. Besides these two events, there were four other races each in France and four in Italy. The French and Italians organized their events independently. Because France manufactured the most automobiles, they were exported to the other countries, which had just begun automobile production. In Italy most cars used for the races were French.
For 1901, the ACF decided to run the second Gordon-Bennett race concurrently with the 327.6 miles Paris-Bordeaux event. There were 45 cars at the start of the Heavy, Light and Voiturette classes but only four cars of them entered for the Gordon-Bennett race. There were three French drivers, Charron, Levegh and Giradot and from England S.F. Edge on the Napier. The Gordon-Bennett race was a total flop. From the four cars started, only Giradot finished and then in a low ninth place of the 45-car field, although he could claim to have won the Gordon-Bennett race.
There were five other races for the Heavy car class that year, the major Paris-Berlin race organized by the ACF, a huge event with 99 cars at the start of which 41 alone were from the Heavy class. Besides those big events, two minor events took place in France and two in Italy.
For 1902, the ACF again decided to run the Gordon-Bennett Cup race concurrently with a major event, the huge Paris-Vienna race, for which the ACF received 219 entries. The Trophy event ended halfway, at Innsbruck. Again there were only four entrants for the cup. Three from France and S.F. Edge on a Napier entered again by the Automobile Club of Great Britain. From the group of four contestants, his car was first in Innsbruck and consequently the cup went to England.
Besides this race, the Belgians held for the first time the Ardennes Circuit Race, which booked over 47 entries. The French had held another event from Paris-Arras-Paris, attracting over 50 cars and the Italians organized three mountain climb races and three sprint. The other nations staged no events for racing cars.
Conclusion: During the first three years of the Gordon-Bennett race, no championships of any sort were held. They started not before the mid twenties. Of course, the French manufacturers took part in only the most important events but there was no general structure of the racing seasons during the era of the Gordon Bennett Cups.. The Gordon-Bennett Race was the first attempt to stage an international race between Nations. But very few manufacturers were interested in the Gordon Bennett race, which was of minor importance to them. All other events seemed more important to them because there was no limit of how many cars they could enter in a race. But the Gordon Bennett races were limited to three cars per Nation.
Posted 18 April 2001 - 20:11
Because the law prohibited motor races on public roads in England, a large enough area was eventually decided on in Ireland. Two combined circuits were found around Athy, forming a figure eight, to be covered three times for one and four times for the other circuit, a total of seven laps. The entry consisted of 12 cars, three each from America, England, France and Germany. Four English cars and drivers wanted to take part in the race and therefore eliminating trials were held beforehand to determine the three cars to be entered for the main event. After six hours and 39 minutes, Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy won the Gordon- Bennett Cup on a Mercedes, which assured the race to be held in Germany the following year.
Only three races took place that year, due to the cancellation of several others planned. The ACF’s major event, the Paris-Madrid race in May 1903 had to be stopped halfway at Bordeaux because of several fatal crashes and spectators were killed as well, not talking about serious injuries. This put a temporary stop to auto racing, at least in France, but the Ardennes Circuit in Belgium and Gordon-Bennett Cup in Ireland took place. No other races, comparable to the two major events plus the Gordon-Bennett race, were staged in the other European countries or America.
Posted 18 April 2001 - 21:33
The Gordon Bennett Cup had died because the world into which it was born no longer existed. When the Cup was presented in 1899, the industry was still struggling to make its product work at all, and competition, such as it was, lay between rich amateurs at the wheels and thillers of their new toys. In 1905 , the amateur representatives of the nations had given way to a constructors championship, though this name was not to be applied for nearly a century."
It's not the fault of the "Coupe Internationale", as Gordon Bennet himself prefered to call the races, that they started in an era where one hardly could expect hard competition. But the change was fast. I think that the eleminating trials has to be included when talking about those races and the 1904 and 1905 French eleminating trials were VERY competitive, possibly more than the final.
Every thing must start somewhere. I don't hesitate to say that without the pioneer job done by the Gordon Bennett races there is no way the Grand Prix would have been as compitetive as it was from the very beginning. While the 1901 event wasn't much of a race, we must look as all the races together as a package, as the the logical precursor to the Grand Prix.
As a comparision we can look at the Olympic Games from the same era. The Olympic Games in Paris in 1900 and St Louis 1904 were REALLY miserable events by all accounts. Still there are part of the Olympic history and considered equal to later events by all the sports historicans.
It is therefore my view that the Gordon Bennett races as the natural ancestors to Grand Prix racing should be regarded as equal to them to the motor racing historicans.
Posted 18 April 2001 - 23:37
The English Eliminating Trials, on the Isle of Man, lasted three days and comprised contest of repairs, a hill-climb and a short speed run. The French manufacturers entered 29 cars of which 25 made it to the start of the 331.05 miles Eliminating Trial on the 55.175 Argonne Circuit in France, to be lapped six times.
From the 19 cars entered for the fifth Gordon-Bennett Race on 17 June, 18 made the start on the 127.25 km Taunus circuit in Germany, to be lapped four times, covering a total of 512 km. The Homburg circuit outside Frankfurt was thoroughly guarded and fenced off to prevent mishaps as had happened in the Paris-Madrid race. The Germans had the event well organized and even the Kaiser (emperor) was present to observe the proceedings. The following cars were entered:
Austria: ….…. 3 Mercedes
Belgium: …... 3 Pipe
France:….….. 1 Mors
……………....... 1 Richard-Brasier
……………....... 1 Turcat-Méry
Germany: …. 2 Mercedes
……………....... 1 Opel-Darracq
England:….… 1 Napier
……………....... 2 Wolseley
Italy:……….... 3 FIAT
Switzerland: 1 Dufaux……..DNS - car side-slipped on the way to the start
After 512 km and just over five hours and fifty minutes at an average speed of 87.245 km/h, the Frenchman Léon Théry on a Richard-Brasier became winner by about 11 minutes to the second car, a German Mercedes, driven by the Belgian Camille Jenatzy. This meant that the race was going to be staged in France the following year.
As already stated at the beginning of this 1904 review, the Gordon-Bennett Cup had now become the most important event of the year because the French Government did not allow the annual city-to-city races to take place any more. The Gordon-Bennett rules limited each country to be represented by only three cars. This rule caused great discontent within the French auto industry. France alone had seven manufacturers of whom any could have been a winner and wanted a race where each factory could be represented by three cars.
They voiced their concern during the 1904 Salon, the Paris Motor Show, saying that the limitation of three cars per nation was intolerable. They met with the Automobile Club de France and proposed to organize a race of their own, to be called the "Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France". Furthermore, this event should be run simultaneously with the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup and would allow all competing firms to participate. Additionally they requested to hold this race thereafter every year and the ACF was not to take part in the Gordon Bennett Cup race unless the rules were revised.
The ACF replied that in 1905 an Eliminating race was to take place, as had been the case in 1904 and the first 15 cars would then qualify for the Grand Prix, organized by the ACF. Additionally, other countries were allowed to enter cars, three each for Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and USA; six each for Germany and Great Britain; a minimum of 15 cars for France.
This triggered outrage, criticism and protests from all the competing Nations. The ACF then agreed to stage the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup race to the existing rules and said the Grand Prix would take place two weeks later. They also made it quite clear that from 1906 on the Grand Prix was to take place and the limitation of cars permitted from each Nation would be reviewed.
During 1904, only five races, each in a different country, had been staged for the heavy two-seater cars.
- French Gordon-Bennett Eliminating Trials at Argonne Circuit in France
- Gordon-Bennett Cup Race at Homburg, in Germany
- Ardennes Race at the Bastogne Circuit in Belgium
- Coppa Brescia at Brescia in Italy (not yet called Coppa Florio!)
- Vanderbilt Cup Race at Long Island, N.Y in America
Posted 19 April 2001 - 07:39
Take a look at the 1960s space race. In May 1961 NASA launched Al Shepard in a Mercury capsule on a 15 min sub orbital flight. The distance he travelled was 297 miles. He was followed by Gus Grissom in July. The distance Grissom traveled was 303 miles. Compare that to Russian Titov's trip in August: 436.656 miles. But by May 1963 the Mercury project had reach a state where Gordon Cooper could do 583.469 miles. Now, no space historican would ever dismiss the Mercury project as less important than Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Mir just because those "uncompitetive" early flights.
Looking at the results tables only, the early Gordon Bennett races may be seen like jokes. But I don't hesitate to say that they did as well as they could at that time and that the drivers that took part certany was made of "The Right Stuff".
Posted 19 April 2001 - 08:17
America:… … 2 Pope-Toledos
…………..…… …1 Locomobile
Austria: ……. 3 Mercedes
Belgium: ….. 3 Pipe
France:…….. 1 de Dietrich
……….……...... 2 Brasiers
Germany: ... 3 Mercedes
England:…… 1 Napier
….…………...... 2 Wolseleys
Italy:….……... 3 FIAT
After 548 km and 7h02m42.6s at an average speed of 77.78 km/h, the Frenchman Léon Théry on a 96 hp Brasier won for the second year in a row. He was over ¼ hour ahead of the feared second placed Nazzaro on a 110 hp FIAT. The trophy stayed in France.
The ACF had made it quite clear in 1904 that from 1906 on the Grand Prix were to take place and would they capture the trophy they would not organize the race the following year. The ACF made an official statement before the 1905 race that the fight for the Gordon Bennett trophy was to be the last on French soil. No other nation wanted to continue the Gordon Bennett series and was not prepared to spend the vast amount of money to organize a major road race. The Gordon Bennett Trophy had the distinction of being the first racing series in the history of motor sport.
During 1905, seven races had been held for the heavy racing cars. Touring car events like the Tourist Trophy series in Britain were also of interest but did not capture the imagination of the masses, who preferred to watch the fastest machines instead. Here are the 1905 events for the heavy car class.
- English Gordon-Bennett Eliminating Trials at Isle of Man Circuit.
- French Gordon-Bennett Eliminating Trials at Auvergne Circuit in France.
- Gordon-Bennett Cup Race at Auvergne Circuit in France.
- Ardennes Race at the Bastogne Circuit in Belgium
- Coppa Florio at Brescia in Italy
- Vanderbilt Cup Eliminating Trials Race at Long Island, N.Y in America
- Vanderbilt Cup Race at Long Island, N.Y in America
Posted 19 April 2001 - 21:43
Maybe they were not as important but they were surely just as significant in the contribution they made to the early years of motor racing.
And if some of the Gordon Bennett races were better than others, let's not forget the 1926 French GP!!
Posted 20 April 2001 - 09:24
While there may have been qualifying heats in other countries leading up to the main event, the final event had restrictions that would not have been able to remain. Hence it had built into it a self-destruct clause.
On the other hand, if the regulations were to change, but the concept remain, then the constant moving that might have been expected (with the final to be held in the previous year's winning country) would have led to problems that might have made the Irish solution pale into insignificance.
The establishment of a Grand Prix of France led, however, to a stabilisation that allowed that growth. Perhaps, it could be said, despite the Gallic mentality.
All the same, that growth was possible, and ultimately there was to be a string of these events around Europe, then the world, leading to what we have today. Much of this would have been impossible with the Gordon Bennett approach, though it could quite likely have done more than the original French GP did in those formative years.
Posted 21 April 2001 - 02:52
The ACF had in the past attempted to include their Town-to-Town races as early editions of the French Grand Prix and they have failed to give these forerunners equal status. The ACF wanted to call those events the early Grand Prix de l'ACF, which was not acceptable because they attempted to change the title of those events subsequently many years later. In the same context, the last two Gordon-Bennett races will stand on their own as the most important events of 1904 and 1905, preceding the Grand Prix.
ACF City-to-City Races
1899….. Tour de France
1903….. Paris-Madrid (ended at Bordeaux)
Gordon Bennett Cup Races
1900….. city-to-city…... Paris-Lyon
1901….. city-to-city…... Paris-Bordeaux
1902….. city-to-city…... Paris-Innsbruck
1903….. circuit……........ Athy, Ireland
1904….. circuit……........ Homburg
1905….. circuit……........ Auvergne
ACF Grand Prix Races
1906….. circuit……….. Le Mans
1907….. circuit……….. Dieppe
1908….. circuit……….. Dieppe
1912….. circuit……….. Dieppe
1913….. circuit……….. Amiens
1914….. circuit……….. Lyon
Posted 21 April 2001 - 22:06
Posted 29 April 2001 - 10:50
However, the most important changes in the structure of racing during the first decade of the century all took place because of the rules of the races or the laws of the countries they were ran in. The city to city races stopped because they were forbidden after the 1903 disaster, allowing the Gordon Bennett Cup to take up the glove as most important race. What would have happened if there had been no Gordon Bennett Cup? Would we even have Formula One today? Quite possibly not. Another important aspect of the Grands Prix as they were run after 1905, were that they were held on circuits. This was so, because the Gordon Bennett Cups were run on circuits as of 1903, when British law prohibited racing on public roads, as Hans Etzrodt has explained. Had that not happened, it's quite possible that the Gordon Bennett Cups would have been forbidden along with the town to town races. Finally, the birth of the Grand Prix was directly caused by the restricted rules of the Gordon Bennett Cup. This series of changes, have led to the principle of Grand Prix racing as we know it today.
These facts and the oppinions voices by the various witnesses, lead the court to believe that the Gordon Bennett Cups were extremely significant in the structuring of Grand Prix racing as we know it today. The Gordon Bennett Cups have been as important to Grand Prix racing as a father is to his child. A father forms his child into what it will later become and that exactly has happened with the Gordon Bennett Cups in relation to Grand Prix racing. However, the ways of the father have been influences by his father, in this case the city to city races from 1895-1903. This grandfather of the Grands Prix, indirectly had as much impact on its grandchild as the Gordon Bennett Cup had.
Concluding, the court does not see a reason to put these three generations of racing as equals. Without one, the second would not have been as it has been. The Gordon Bennett Cups have been the most important race of the year in 1904 and 1905, but this would not have been possible without various things happening. As a whole, the Gordon Bennett Cups have in fact been very significant and as such, they deserve a special place in history, as predecessors of the Grands Prix.
The court would like to thank all the witnesses for their time and input. This has been an interesting case indeed, in which the essence of having a dossier about these early races is, in my opinion, more important than the final judgement.