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First ever Grand Prix 100 years ago this week

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#1 RTH

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 11:31

'Autocar' reports this week : -

One hundred years ago almost to the day, Renault won the first race to bear the name 'Grand Prix' , a 783 mile race at Le Mans in France around a laid out 65 mile long circuit taking 2 days organised by the Automobile Club de France.

32 cars from 12 manufacturers contested the 12 lap race, it was won by driver and engineer Ferenc Szisz in a Renault AK 90 CV.

'Autocar' itself had only recenly started publishing and it's report appeared in the edition of 30th June 1906

Whilst the first major motor race might have been the 1902 Paris to Vienna won by Englishman S F Edge to take the Gordon Bennett Trophy, disasters on the Paris - Madrid brought City to City racing in its original form to an end, where the cars were paced through the city centres by cyclists.

The race was covered by the new Cinematograph and features in the' Shell history of Motor Racing' series of films put together by the late great film maker Bill Mason

For 1906 French organisers laid out a course of effectively three long flat out straights, where cars would reach 90 mph linked with corners.

Massive engines fitted to light chassis were the way to go the whole vehicle had to weigh less than 1 ton. The Mercedes had a 14 1/2 litre engine other cars from Itala, Fiat, Hotchkiss, Clement, Brazier, some with as much as 18 litre engines, and many others, - 23 French made cars took the start , all the work had to be done by the two man crew in the car.

Racing was seen as a short cut to fame and publicity by the manufacturers, the race was held in sub-tropical heat over unsealed roads of dust grit, flints and potholes ( not unlike the roads of Hertfordshire today ! ) Even wooden roads were laid to skirt around towns, and 40 miles of temporary fencing.

At the end of the first day Szisz led from Albert Clement, come the end of the race after day 2 Szisz crossed the finish line with a 30 minute lead over Nazzaro who was 2nd 'on his' Fiat.

100 years on maybe things have not changed by as much as we all might like to think.


#2 M Needforspeed

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 11:40

thks Richard to remind us this !

The french GP is to be held soon....and when You see how france was present at that time, with so many racing cars makers ..what s the hell my country didn t keep so high that motor racing oriented spirit ...

Would like to have seen these cars live and in color ! must have been a tremendous experience
for countrymen, that , for many of them, haven t seen before a car in their life ! From flock of cows and horses to dust, noise and colors without warning ! :stoned:

Long live memory of this first Grand Prix !

bravo Ferenc Szisz .. you belong forever to Motor Racing history :clap:

Brasier, Mors, Clement Bayard , Ballot , Sizaire & Naudin , Peugeot ,Hotchkiss, Panhard, Renault ect ...as said Ray Davies
Kinky music : "where are all the good times gone "

#3 Chris Bloom

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 18:46

I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a fuss over the Centenary of the 'Grand Prix'. Then again maybe I'm not so surprised as everyone involved with Grand Prix racing these days seems more preoccupied with seeing how much money they can stuff in their wallets rather than wasting their time remembering how they got there in the first place!

#4 ensign14

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 19:02

Originally posted by Chris Bloom
I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a fuss over the Centenary of the 'Grand Prix'.

Although practically every motor sporting mag seems to have a test drive of "Agatha" - the closest thing to a 1906 GP Renault remaining.

Anyone know anything about the successful riding mechanic? In those far-off days when no-one else could touch the car, his sterling work in pitstops and the quick-change of the detachable rims were probably an important factor in, if not the win, putting pressure on the other teams. Especially those without detachable rims.

#5 robert dick

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 19:06

The name of Szisz' mechanic was Marteau.

#6 bradbury west

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 19:40

Of course, if you want the story , look here in the Telegraph today, for the article by DCN. The speeds are frightening to consider now, let alone in those days. Talk about heroes............


Roger Lund

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