Jump to content


Photo

The 1903 Paris - Madrid race


  • Please log in to reply
38 replies to this topic

#1 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 7,506 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 27 April 2001 - 20:58

This account of the great race of 1903 is by Charles Jarrot. It first appeared in The Automotor Journal of 13th June 1903, and must therefore have been written within a few days of the race.



"In endeavouring to give some short account of my experiences in the Paris-Madrid, I perhaps ought, firstly, to say something in regard to my troubles prior to the race.

" The De Dietrich car which I was to conduct was put together and everything seemed to be in perfect condition until it came to the scales to be weighed, when it was found that a miscalculation had been made and that the car was considerably over the 1,000 kilogs. limit. Everything was done to bring the weight down but unsuccessfully, and at the last moment a new engine of considerably less horse-power had to be fitted. I may say that this new engine had been put through as a safeguard in the event of the weight being too heavy. The additional advantages we obtained here, however, were that much stronger axles and much stronger springs were fitted, as the weight saved in the smaller motor was very considerable, and we decided that, in view of the bad roads in Spain, it might be a better policy to build a carriage to stand the fearful strains it would have to undergo on the Spanish roads than a merely high-speed machine.

" However, the car had to be brought by train from Luneville without having been run, in order to be ready for the weighing on the Tuesday morning prior to the race, and although I drove it back to the garage in Paris it had nevertheless to come to pieces entirely to allow a number of things being done which time had not permitted the Works to carry out.

" On the Thursday prior to the race I managed to get a short run of about 20 kilometres, and found that I required several things altered, which were accordingly started. The net result of these delays was that at 7 o'clock on Saturday evening (eve of the race) I took my car out of the garage for a run half-way to Versailles and back, to see that everything was working satisfactorily. It was fitted with three speeds, but I did not get an opportunity of using the top speed at all, and only managed a run of a little distance on the second, so that when I started off for Bordeaux on the Sunday morning I had never been on the top speed of my car.

" The imperturbable Stead, the genial Loraine Barrow and myself started off late on Saturday evening to Versailles and stayed at the Hotel des Reservoirs, where, after dinner, we managed to secure three hours' sleep before the start. At two o'clock I was awakened by Barrow, and I must confess that at the particular moment of my awakening I would cheerfully have resigned going to Madrid or anywhere else, if only I could have had another three or four hours' sleep. The only food to be obtained was a cup of chocolate and a roll in the collee-room of the hotel, and there one found most of the prominent competitors in the race, chaffing and joking as to the capabilities of each others’ machines and the prospects of each individual finishing.

Accompanying me in the race was my mechanician, Bianchi, who has been with me in most of my drives; in England, including the Reliability Trials and the Glasgow to London Non-Stop Run, but has never accompanied me in a Continental race before. Not being able to speak French handicapped him somewhat, as, although he has a foreign name, he is essentially British, and one of the strongest points I noticed about him was that he always seemed to be able to get what he wanted.

My first difficulty was on leaving the hotel, when I did not know which direction to take for the start. It was quite dark, and I wandered round a number of streets until I struck the familiar line of cyclists with their multi-coloured lamps, and these I followed until I found myself up against the line of cars. My car seemed to be running all right, at least the engine did not stop after I left the hotel.

" Making my way to the front of the line (in view of the position I held, being No. 1), I found there many friends and a huge bundle of telegrams from England wishing me the best of luck and a safe journey, and I would here like to thank those one and all who wired me their kind expressions, many of which I have been unable to acknowledge.

" 3.30 came, and it was decided to give us another quarter of an hour, in view of the fact that it was then much too dark.

" Fournier, De Knyff, and a number of French competitors came up, shook hands, and wished me luck, and I may say that from beginning to end of the race my reception right through was better than any I have ever experienced before in any race in France. Being an Englishman in competition in France is evidently not such a handicap as it used to be.

" Thousands and thousands of people, cyclists and motor cars assisted in the composition of as weird a scene as one could possibly imagine. 3.45. On with the switch and away went the motor. 'Five,' ‘four,' ' three,' ' two,' ' one,' ' Go ! ' and the race had started. Perhaps at this point my own personal idea may be of interest. I had noticed that when I start in an easy-going fashion, not feeling particularly keen, I seem to do best, and in view of the fact that I had to get to Madrid, and that Paris-Bordeaux was only one stage, I had no intention of hurrying, but at the same time I had made up my mind to get to Madrid with my car.

" Another note of explanation is in regard to my knowledge of the road. I had previously been as far as Ruffec, the other side of Tours, .but as I did not join the road until I got to Chartres, the only portion of the road I had been over at all was from Chartres to Ruffec.

" The first corner at Versailles nearly led me astray. At the last moment I perceived that to turn to the left was the correct road, and here I had what one might term my 'nearest squeak'. I was travelling very fast, saw I could just make the turn, and took it successfully. The people blocked the road in one dense mass, but my previous experience in motor racing told me that they invariably cleared at the last moment, leaving an opening through which the car was to pass. Although I suppose it is rather inclined to try one's nerves to be obliged to drive at about 60 or 70 miles an hour at a dense mass of people, nevertheless it has to be done, and unless one is prepared to do this, time is being lost. It makes very little difference to the crowd whether the car is going at 40 or 70 miles an hour. They leave it to the last moment before making way, and as much damage can be done at 40 miles an hour as at 70.

" I was not pushing my car in view of the fact that it was its first run, and had taken things quite steadily when 15 to 20 kilometres from the start De Knyfl passed me and raised an enormous cloud of dust.

This brightened me up a little and I hung on to his heels for some time although I was not extending my car in the slightest degree.

" Then Louis Renault came up and passed me, and at the second control he was leading, De Knyff second and myself third. Soon afterwards Werner appeared on the Mercedes and went by at a very fast speed. Then my engine took up mis-firing and eventually almost stopped. From the sound I located it as lack of petrol, and jumping down, disconnected the pipes from the carburettor to the tap, and the tap to the tank, and found that the stoppage was in the tank itself. Clearing this with wire I replaced the pipes, got the engine running again, and started off.

" On and away to Tours - the road was good and I was pushing the car along to its utmost speed. My delay had enabled Louis Renault to gain on me very considerably, and at Tours I was 35 minues behind. Werner was just leaving the control as I appeared and was, I should think, five minutes in front of me.

" A grand run to Ruffec - in which I felt I was making up for lost time - was the next incident, and then I saw Werner's carriage smashed to pieces on the right side of the road, something having apparently happened to his back axle. Seeing that neither Werner nor his mechanician were hurt I did not stop.

" Just before reaching Ruffec my engine took to running on three cylinders. I immediately stopped, found that I had a broken magneto plate, and had therefore to take the bonnet off and fix a new plate. The fitting of this on the side of the cylinder (the engine being fearfully hot) took me longer than would have been the case had I been doing the work with the engine cool and everything to hand.

"Away we went, and again the engine dropped on to three cylinders, and this time I discovered that a small spring on one of the jumpers had broken. This also I had to replace, again having the handling parts which it was almost impossible to touch owing to the heat. Off once more for 20 kiloms., when the engine again began to run on three cylinders. I stopped and removed the bonnet of the motor, but seeing nothing wrong decided to push on, hoping for the best. Starting the engine I found that the cause of the trouble (whatever that had been) had been removed, and we were on four cylinders, the engine pulling grandly.

" From here onwards we had not the slightest trouble of any description. I may say in addition to the four stops already mentioned I stopped twice to take petrol and water, so that in the run through I had six stoppages.

" The road twists very much after Angoulême, and it was on this portion of the road that most of the unfortunate accidents took place, Stead, Loraine, Barrow, Mayhew, Tourand, Georges Richard, and a number of others, all coming to grief. This part of the journey, however, so far as my own performance was concerned, was the best. In spite of the corners, we managed to average over 60 miles an hour, although I was afraid that any chance of catching Louis Renault was lost.

"He had started from Angoulême 35 minutes in front of myself; it seemed hopeless to endeavour to pick this up. However, we wiped out his advantage to the extent of 20 minutes, and finished in Bordeaux exactly 15 minutes after him, accomplishing the distance in 5 hours 5 1 minutes.

" That I had a number of difficulties to contend with will be understood when I mention that the car itself was absolutely untried, and that I was driving in a position I had never driven in before, namely, sitting about 6 inches above the floor of the car with my legs stretched straight out before me and the steering wheel low down - enabling me to keep out of the wind - instead of in the orthodox fashion.

" My De Dietrich certainly finished in splendid condition for the run on to Madrid, and I feel sure that with the advantages I possessed, viz., strong axles and springs, I would have been able to have made some very good running on the rough Spanish roads.

" Gabriel's performance was remarkable, as apart from the fact that he had a very fast car, he must have driven magnificently to have finished in the time in which he did.

It was certainly pleasant to find at the control at Bordeaux so many English faces, and to feel that after all the stirring experiences of the road one was once more among one's own countrymen and friends. Of course, then, I did not know anything of the accidents which had happened behind me, as no one had any knowledge of what had taken place.

" It was a hard race and a fast race, and to finish up in front of all the cars, with the exception of the Mors, and in front of the Panhards and Mercedes, which had been so much dreaded at the start, was certainly a very great satisfaction to me.

" The prohibition of the race was probably the wisest course, although there was in the decision an element of locking the stable door when the horse was gone. Had some discretion been shown by the French Club in the first instance by limiting the number of entries and refusing to let novices start on high-powered engines, much of the trouble would have been averted, although, in the case of Renault, Stead and Loraine Barrow, they were all experienced racing men and knew the game thoroughly. Regarding the case of M. Renault I can say nothing. He was evidently driving with the idea that all the arrangements for the road were perfect, instead of relying on his own judgment.

" Arrangements may be quite perfect in regard to dangerous points, but at the same time it is far better to drive as if there were no warning flags. It may mean slower time, but it is much safer. Marcel Renault was taking one of the risks which one has to take dozens of times in motor-racing, and in deploring the accident it is with a feeling of deepest regret that one of the best of French chauffeurs has died playing the game.

" The accident to Loraine Barrow and the accident to Stead I personally investigated two days afterwards when I drove from Bordeaux to Libourne. From the evidence of bystanders who saw the accident there is no question but that Barrow was endeavouring to avoid a mix-up between two dogs that were on the road, cut things too fine, was unable to get back on to the road again, and struck the tree. The force of the blow was so terrible that the right-hand front-spring hanger was driven into the tree right up to the frame. It is unnecessary to enter into details, but had I not seen it I should never have imagined the effect. The way in which the car was smashed to small fragments was appalling, the motor itself being tom out of the car and thrown at least 15 to 20 yards away.

" Farther down the road we saw Stead's carriage upside down, and I may say he owed his life to the fact that he fell practically into a ditch, over which the car, forming a bridge, was held off his body. He was severely knocked about, however, and the speed lever pinched him very badly. I saw him in the hospital at Libourne, and he made a statement that he had been cut by another competitor. The right-hand wheels of his car certainly showed signs of collision with what I should imagine to be the hub of another car. The effect was disastrous, and I marvel that he and his mechanician escaped. Stead, when I saw him, was progressing very well indeed, and I hope he will be about in the course of two or three weeks. The condition of Barrow, who is in the same hospital is not as good.

" The final scene of what one may term the Paris-Madrid fiasco was when the cars were escorted from the Exhibition to the station by armed police, the order having gone out from the Prefect that no one was to be allowed to drive them away, and that they would have to go back to Paris by train.

" That motor racing on these lines is finished in France there can be no question, but that it is killed absolutely I do not think. The French realize (and this opinion was expressed by M. Combes in the Chamber of Deputies in the discussion which took place in regard to the race) that motor racing has been an invaluable aid to France in the building up of the automobile industry in that country, and it will be a serious blow to the industry in that country if racing is finished, though, if not, it will certainly have to be run on different lines.

" Restricted cylinder capacity with a minimum weight will put before the constructors problems in regard to efficiency and strength which cannot but have a marvellous effect on the evolution of motor carriages sold for ordinary use commercially, which, after all, is the real object of racing. That it is sporting there can be no question, but 120-h.p. is not necessary for sport, and I myself should derive as much pleasuring in driving a racing vehicle of from 12-h.p. to 20-h.p. as one of 100-h.p., provided the rest of the competitors were on equal-powered vehicles."




Advertisement

#2 Boniver

Boniver
  • Member

  • 589 posts
  • Joined: October 00

Posted 28 April 2001 - 08:03

Roger,

fine :) :) :) :) :)

#3 Hans Etzrodt

Hans Etzrodt
  • Member

  • 3,188 posts
  • Joined: July 00

Posted 28 April 2001 - 09:43

Thanks Roger,
this is a slightly different account compared to his description in his book, which was published in 1906.

#4 Barry Lake

Barry Lake
  • Member

  • 2,169 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 28 April 2001 - 10:45

Thanks Roger.

Reminiscent of his book Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing - a really good read. It is nice to have a reminder like this one.

Jarrott speaks of limiting engine power. The figures he quotes are, of course, "rated" horsepower, not actual power produced.

As an idea of what those cars developed, I have figures for 1903 cars (not necessarily those in this race) of: Panhard 90 bhp, Napier 80 bhp, Mors 70 bhp, Mercedes 65 bhp. These have been estimated, usually in hindsight, mind you, but are a guide.

Torque figures would have been more impressive, comparatively, although these are more difficult to obtain. Engine speeds at which peak power was produced was around 1,100 rpm (Mors and Mercedes), 1,200 rpm (Napier), and 1,260 (Panhard).

And, of course, power output was not curbed after 1903. The mark to beat went up to 100, 110, 120 in successive years and by 1908 the Mercedes GP car had an output estimated at 135 bhp.

Just one year later, the Blitzen Benz was claimed by some sources to have had 200 bhp.

Think of the high driving positions; 160 km/h-plus speeds on steeply cambered, narrow, unsealed roads; and brakes - such as they were - on the rear wheels only.

They were brave men, indeed.

Footnote. Can you imagine Michael Schumacher, today, pulling to the side of the track and leaping out to open the bonnet, tools in hand, to attend to a misfire, while other competitors raced by at unabated speed?


#5 Dennis David

Dennis David
  • Member

  • 2,482 posts
  • Joined: March 99

Posted 28 April 2001 - 15:33

I can imagine him leaving some tools in the roadway by mistake.

#6 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 7,506 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 29 April 2001 - 11:46

This article, which I hope some others will find as interesting as I do, appeared in Motor Sport April 1951.


So much has already been written about Paris Madrid that it would seem to be a work of supererogation to write any more; but a correspondent recently asked me a question with regardd to this race, which is still so famous although it was run as long ago as May 1903, and the answer to this question involves points which proved to be much interest to me that it struck me that they might be equally intriguing others also. If in the course of this inquiry it becomes necessary in part to destroy a legend, 1 am sorry for it, and only plead that the truth is sufficiently marvellous as to need no structure of myth in order to inspire posterity with awe.

As is generally known, therefore, Paris-Madrid, which was the last of the great town-to-town races, although always known as such, is really misleadingly so-called because, as a result of the number of accidents on the first stage to Bordeaux, the race was stopped there by the authorities, and not one of the racing cars got nearer than that to Madrid. The course of the race, therefore, was actually Bordeaux, and the distance, after deductinging the portions of the road passing through towns which were neutralised, was 342 miles. Over this distance the -winner proved to be Gabriel on a 70-h.p. Mors whose time was 5 hours 14 minutes 31.2 seconds, and whose speed was 65.3 m.p.h.

This performance is sufficiently remarkable in itself; but the greatest difficulty which the drivers in the race had to contend was the dust, with the result that those who started at the head of the procession gained an enormous initial advantage. The number of Gabriel’s Mors, however, was 168, and quite a few cars, therefore, started in front of it. They started, in fact, at intervals of one minute, and yet-and this, quite rightly, has always aroused the wonder of posterity-Gabriel's Mors was .the third car to reach Bordeaux.

The fact has, indeed, aroused so much wonder in my correspondent that he is inclined to doubt its possibility. .For example, he argues, car No. 8 apparantly started 160 minutes or 2 hours 40 minutes before Gabriel, and unless it took nearly 8 hours over the journey to Bordeaux, which would be an average of 43 m.p.h., it must have got there first. In fact we know that over thirty cars madde a better average than 43 m.p.h. for the journey. How was it, therefore, onlv two of them reached their journey’s end before Gabriel's Mors ?

If I could journey to Paris and consult the archives of the Automobile Club de France I could, no doubt, answer my correspondent’s question very accurately; but not being in a position to do so, I must fall back on a very good second best in the shape of Geraid Rose's " Record of Motor Racing." Without Rose's work in front of one, it may, 1 fear, be rather difficult to follow the present thesis. 1 take it. however, that anyone who is interested in Paris-Madrid probably possesses this classic work, and anyone who is not has probably already abandoned this article I proceed, therefore, with comparatively clear conscience.

Now the first point is that my correspondent has been misled by the fact that Cabriel's Mors carried the number 168 into concluding that it started 168th in the race. In fact, however, entries for Paris-Madrid totalled 314, and although 39 of these had been cancelled by the tirne that entries closed, every entrant was apparently left with his original number on the entry list : 1 do not know who had the number 314, but Gibert actually started in the race carrying the number 313 on his 24-h.p. Gillet-Forest.

The 275 entries which remained consisted of 112 heavy cars, 64 light cars, 40 voiturettes and 59 cycles, but of these a fair number proved to be non-starters. Rose, in fact, shows that there were actually at the start 90 heavy cars, 49 light cars and 36 voiturettes, making a total of 175 cars of various kinds and an unspecified number of cycles, of which 15 finished. The total number of starters must, therefore, have lain between a minimum of 190 and a maximiim of 234, the actual figure being, 1 believe ' about 225. Already, therefore, it is apparent that a good many numbers were missing from the list of starters.

The matter is, however, further complicated by the fact that while the heavy cars and the light cars were started indiscriminately, according to their numbers, all of them were sent off before any of the presumably slower voiturettes and cycles were despatched. Any of these latter, therefore, which carried lower numbers than Gabriel's Mors were nevertheless despatched after the winner.

Having thus cleared the ground to some extent it now remains to see how many cars did in fact start before the Mors, which can be determined by seeing how many of the heavy cars and light cars in Rose's list had lower numbers ; and after several recounts 1 have come to the conclusion that the answer is 81. Gabriel, therefore, started not 168th but 82nd, and the mystery of Paris-Madrid begins to clarify somewhat.

We can now cheek this result to some extent by seeing whether, if he started eighty-second, Gabriel arrived in Bordeaux at about the time one would expect him. In the " Record " we only have, of course, the net racing times taken by the cars for the journey, and to this must be added the time which they spent in the "controls." Following an investigation which Mr. Rose has recentlv made in Paris, and the results of which he has kindly communicated to me, we know that the standard addition to be made to the net times on this account is 2 hours 54 minutes. The first car to leave Versailles, where the race actually started, was a 45-h.p. de Dietrich driven by Charles Jarrott, who should have got away at 3.30 a.m.; but as at that unearthly hour it was considered to be still too dark, his start was in fact delaved until 3.45 a.m. The first car to reach Bordeaux, at 12.15 p.m. was Louis Renault's 30-h.p. light car, which started third, that is to say at 3.47 a.m. Renault's time was 5 hours 29 minutes 39.2 seconds, to which must be added control additions, in this case, of 2 hours 57 minutes, and 12.14 p.m. is the actual time he should have arrived at Bordeaux. " Sixteen minutes behind came Jarrott," says the " Record "; that is to say he arrived at 12.31 p.m., and if in this case one adds control additions of 2 hours 53 minutes to his running time of 5 hours 52 minutes 55 seconds, the calculation again checks up.

“After Jarrott had disappeared into the town," continues the " Record," " there was a long wait. Nearly forty minutes slipped by, and then Gabriel drove in." Unfortunately this does not give us a very precise time for Gabriel's arrival. If it means that this took place nearly forty minutes after Jarrott's, then we should expect Gabriel at about ten past one. If, on the other hand, it means nearly forty minutes after Jarrott had disappeared into the town, then obviously Gabriel arrived a few minutes later than this. Starting eighty-second, he would have got away from Versailles at 5.06 a.m.;his running time was 5 hours 14 minutes 31.2 seconds ; the control addition in this case is 2 hours 53 minutes ; and we should therefore expect Gabriel at Bordeaux at 1.13 p.m. This is so close to the tirne at which he evidently did arrive that we can, I think, rest quite content with the calculation that he did in fact start eighty-second.

Of the 81 cars which started before his, only two reached Bordeaux before Gabriel's, and somehow, therefore, the winner must have got past the other 79 on the road. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that he passed all of them at speed, and in a cloud of dust. As a matter of fact, of the 175 cars which started in Paris-Madrid, only 99 reached Bordeaux, and it would thus be statistically possible for Gabriel only to have passed three moving cars on the road! In actual fact, of course, all 76 which failed to finish did not start before the winner, and, of the 81 which did start before him, the number which fell out was 37. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, we do not know whether they retired before Gabriel caught up with them or afterwards. Of the remaining 42 cars, all of which Gabriel somehow passed, and all of which reached Bordeaux, a proportion, no doubt, had temporary stops, and Gabriel may have passed some of them while they were changing tyres or effecting repairs at the roadside ; but even allowing for this uncertainty, it would seem reasonable to estimate that he got by something between forty and sixty cars, while they were on the move.

We can, moreover, glean a little more information as to what he did and when. By the time Rambouillet was reached, we learn from the " Record," " Jenatzy had. passed some sixteen cars and Gabriel about twenty-five." This is really extraordinary, because the racing distance to Rambouillet was only 17.1 miles. Of the twenty-five cars which started immediately in front of Gabriel, eleven failed to reach Bordeaux and some of them may have dropped out right at the start. Two more made very slow total times, and may well have had trouble even on this stage. The remaining dozen, however, all averaged over 40 miles an hour to Bordeaux, and Gabriel's first twenty-five victims must actually have included some others much further up the line.

In any case, after this initial violent 17.5 miles, his task was an easier one. There were still 56 cars ahead, and somehow 54 of them were passed in the next 324 miles, an average of one every six miles. But in fact we know that not all of them were passed while they were running. For example, we know that de Knyff, who started second , got no further than Chateaudun, which is about 70 miles from the start. At that time, however, he was well up with the leaders, and his retirement must almost certainly have taken place within, say, 80 minutes of his starting time, that is to say before Cabriel had left Versailles. We also know that, a further 60 miles down the road, Werner on his 90-h.p. Mercedes passed Jarrott just before Tours, Jarrott at that time being second. On the hill which climbs out of the town to the south, however, the Mercedes broke its back axle, and all Gabriel passed in this case was its wreck.

Stead, who had started ninth, also on a de Dietrich, was in the control at Tours at the same time as Jarrott, and thereafter indulged in a terrific duel with Salleron on a 70-h.p. Mors, which ended in Stead crashing, at Montguyon, about 20 miles from Bordeaux. As Gabriel only arrived in Bordeaux four minutes before Salleron, it is probable that in this case also it was the wreck of the de Dietrich which he passed. We also know quite a lot (all too much in fact) about what happened to Marcel Renault, who started thirty-eighth and who turned over and was fatally injured at Couhe-Verac, 20 miles south of Poitiers, while trying to pass Th6ry's Decauville, which had started fourth. Marcel Renault at the time was well up with the leaders, and Maurice Farman, who was just behind, abandoned the race when he saw what had happened. Madame du Gast also stopped to render first aid, and as, in spite of having been at this point among the leaders, she took nearly 11 hours (racing time) to reach Bordeaux, it is almost .certain that Gabriel went by while she was still at Couhe-Verac. Thery went on, but, according to his own subsequent description, he was so unnerved by what had happened that he could not drive thereafter at more than forty miles an hour. When Gabriel passed him, therefore, Thery was scarcely racing.

At Angouleme, some 75 miles from Bordeaux, Jenatzy, who had started forty-seventh, was hard on Jarrott's heels, and if he could have stayed there he might well have won the race, for he had picked up three-quarters of an hour on Jarrott, who was beaten by Gabriel by less than forty minutes. In fact, however, soon afterwards Jenatzy had a prolonged stop, due to a fly getting into his carburettor, and this stop must have lasted for about an hour and a quarter, as his actual racing time was about half an hour more than Jarrott's. In all probability, therefore, Gabriel passed him while he was stationary.

When all is said and done, however, this only disposes of about half a dozen of the cars which Gabriel somehow got ahead of, and his drive to Bordeaux must always remain a racing epic. Curiously enough, however, his subsequent career provided no parallel to this outstanding victory. In the Gordon Bennett race in Ireland a few weeks later, his Mors was the slowest of the French team, and although he finished fourth, both de Knyff and Henry Farman on their Panhards were ahead of him, as well as Jenatzy on the Mercedes. In 1904 he changed his allegiance to de Dietrich, and in the French Eliminating Race in the Argonne he was much the fastest of his team making the second fastest lap behind Henry Famian's Panhard; but he finished fourth and thus just missed a place in the French team. In 1905 de Dietrich succeeded in capturing third place in the Eliminating Race, and provided one of the French representatives in the Gordon Bennett race :, but this time the driver was Durav, Gabriel did not figure at all prominently in the race.

In the first Grand Prix, in 1906, none of the de Dietrichs did very much -and Gabriel's actually went out on the first lap. The Lorraine house won the Circuit des Ardennes later on in the season, but again their successful driver was Duray, while Rougier was third and Gabriel could only manage fifth In 1907 Grand Prix, on the other Gabriel was the most successful de Dietrich drivers, but he did not higher than fourth, although duray took the lap record and the de Dictrichs, therefore, may well have been the fastest cars in the race. In the l9O8 race this distinction was claimed for the overhead shaft Bayard-Clements, and Gabriel now driving one of these cars. Their chances of victory, as it turned out. Were entirely sacrificed by their continued tyre troubles, but even so Rigal, who changed nineteen tyres, managed to finish fourth, while Gabriel could not do better than twelfth.

With the eclipse of Grand Prix racing in 1909, the leading drivers suffered an eclipse also, and those who returned to the arena finally did so through the hitherto despised medium of voiturette racing. To Gabriel, who had started his career on a Deceauville "Voiturette” in 1899, this was no great novelty, but when he made his reappearance in the Coupe de I'Auto of 1911 (now actually for Voiture legeres) it was at the wheel of a Belgian F.I.F., which was one of the slowest cars in the race ; while in 1912 he drove a two-stroke Cote which seems to have been almost slower.

In 1913 and 1914 he was back in Grand Prix racing proper, at the wheel now of a Th. Schneider, but neither year did he succeed in finishing. Ten years later 1923 and 1924, he was taking part in Grand Prix de Tourisme, driving Aries. And the last I heard of Gabriel . was ten years later still, in 1933. according to a letter in the Autocar he was living in the suburbs of Parisand “is still not only an active motorist, but a frequent competition driver." That 34 years after his first appearance in the Tour de France of 1899, and although nothing afterwards quite came up perhaps, to the triumph of Paris-Madrid, Gabriel's drive in the last of the town-to-town races remains an epic which last most ordinary mortalsfor a life-time




#7 Don Capps

Don Capps
  • Member

  • 5,933 posts
  • Joined: May 99

Posted 29 April 2001 - 16:17

Roger,

Once again, my thanks for bringing something like this to the Forum. I really enjoyed reading this report. I think we don't give this era anywhere close to the attention it deserves. I never cease to be amazed at the condition under which these men raced.

Far too often this period is skipped over or scarcely mentioned in the books on motor sports history. One day I must replace my TASO Mathieson book and find some more information on racing during this period. In fact, it is interesting to compare what Jarrott wrote with what Autocar wrote scarcely 11 years later on the GP of the ACF.

Great Stuff!



#8 Hans Etzrodt

Hans Etzrodt
  • Member

  • 3,188 posts
  • Joined: July 00

Posted 29 April 2001 - 22:11

Roger,
Thank you very much.

This is exactly the type of article I appreciate from the old Motor Sport magazines. Could you please tell us, who the author is?

Besides Gerald Rose, here some others who wrote about this event:
  • German language magazine Der Motorwagen, 1903
  • Charles Jarrott Ten Years of Motors And Motor Racing, 1906
  • S.F. Edge My Motoring Reminiscences,1935
  • Kent Karslake Racing Voiturettes, 1950
  • Kent Karslake From Veteran to Vintage, 1956
  • W. F. Bradley Motor Racing Memories. 1960
  • Charles Jarrott's account in First and Fastest by R. Hough, 1963
  • Charles Jarrott's account in Famous Motor Races by R. Walkerley, 1963
  • TASO Mathieson in Automobile Quarterly Vol.3, No.3, 1964
  • Karl Ludvigsen The Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars, 1971
  • Henry Serrano Villard The Great Road Races, 1972
  • Michael Sedgwick, brief account in Fiat, 1974
  • Cecil Bianchi in Automobile Quarterly Vol.12, No.3, 1974
  • Raymond Flower Motor Sports, 1975
  • Beverly Rae Kimes The Star and the Laurel, 1986


#9 Don Capps

Don Capps
  • Member

  • 5,933 posts
  • Joined: May 99

Posted 29 April 2001 - 23:25

THIS is why TNF exists....

#10 Barry Lake

Barry Lake
  • Member

  • 2,169 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 30 April 2001 - 02:24

Dennis

It took a second or two to sink in, but I had a good chuckle when "the penny dropped".

Thanks again Roger. Keep them coming. I have all the books that Hans listed, but not the magazines.

Keep that scanner warm.


#11 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 7,506 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 30 April 2001 - 06:01

Hans, the author was a regular contribtor under the name of "Baladeur". He wrote frequently in te early 50's about racing and general motoring matters from the early years. I've often tried to find out who he was; I used to think Kent Karslake, as the style seems somewhat similar, but Baladeur often refers to him in the third person. It doesn't rule him out, I suppose.

#12 Tim Murray

Tim Murray
  • Moderator

  • 24,604 posts
  • Joined: May 02

Posted 24 May 2018 - 05:23

I’m bumping this thread to mark the 115th anniversary of this landmark race.

#13 cpbell

cpbell
  • Member

  • 6,964 posts
  • Joined: December 07

Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:54

I’m bumping this thread to mark the 115th anniversary of this landmark race.

Very possibly the first event in motorsport history that caused a significant change in the way the sport functioned.



#14 DCapps

DCapps
  • Member

  • 877 posts
  • Joined: August 16

Posted 24 May 2018 - 14:28

Very possibly the first event in motorsport history that caused a significant change in the way the sport functioned.

 

Perhaps. The repercussions of the crash of the Baker Torpedo during the speed trials on 31 May 1902 on Staten Island due to death of spectators, the subsequent lawsuits, and then the ACA  resolutions enacted as a result, this incident certainly seems to have had quite an impact on the conduct of motor sport in the USA.



#15 cpbell

cpbell
  • Member

  • 6,964 posts
  • Joined: December 07

Posted 24 May 2018 - 14:41

Perhaps. The repercussions of the crash of the Baker Torpedo during the speed trials on 31 May 1902 on Staten Island due to death of spectators, the subsequent lawsuits, and then the ACA  resolutions enacted as a result, this incident certainly seems to have had quite an impact on the conduct of motor sport in the USA.

I was unaware of the event you describe, but it sounds as though it ought to have had more of an influence on European racing than it did.



#16 DCapps

DCapps
  • Member

  • 877 posts
  • Joined: August 16

Posted 24 May 2018 - 15:45

I was unaware of the event you describe, but it sounds as though it ought to have had more of an influence on European racing than it did.

 

One must keep the context of the 1902 Staten Island incident in mind: the European motoring community was generally self-referential with relatively little concern or interest -- other than selling automobiles of course -- being shown to sporting contests the USA, that is until the bonanza of the Vanderbilt Cup offered itself beginning in 1904.

 

(https://corktreerese...and-eagle-rock/)

 

(https://corktreerese...-in-an-article/)

 

The spreed trials resulted in the deaths of three spectators, one on impact, another the following day, with one more dying months later. The lawsuits stretched our for years, the better part of a decade. The ACA passed resolutions renouncing speed contests using public roads, stating such contests should take place on closed tracks. Although the Vanderbilt Cup did take place on public roads from 1904 to 1906, the Racing Board of the AAA sanctioned the events, the ACA having long ceded its interest in racing to the Racing Board. By the 1907/1908 timeframe, things had changed, and while motor racing was relatively waning for the most part in Europe, 1908 saw a sudden spurt of road racing in the USA, what could be seen in some ways as a consequence of the earlier decision that essentially discouraged road racing in the USA.



#17 Sterzo

Sterzo
  • Member

  • 5,062 posts
  • Joined: September 11

Posted 24 May 2018 - 16:24

I’m bumping this thread to mark the 115th anniversary of this landmark race.

What a fantastic thread. Thank you.

 

Like Roger Clark, I believe Baladeur was Kent Karslake. Age and stupidity prevents me from recalling why, but I've a feeling he once recounted finding a brochure for an early French make of automobile, of which no example survives. One of the technical features was claimed to be "trois baladeurs" but he could find neither engineer nor Frenchman who had ever heard the word used in such a context, which inspired him to adopt it as a pseudonym.


Edited by Sterzo, 24 May 2018 - 16:30.


#18 Vitesse2

Vitesse2
  • Administrator

  • 41,861 posts
  • Joined: April 01

Posted 24 May 2018 - 16:48

Yes, according to the late Bill Boddy, 'Baladeur' was indeed Karslake.

 

http://forums.autosp...e/#entry2732955

 

Any more of the 'unknowns' you could solve, by any chance?



#19 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
  • Member

  • 7,180 posts
  • Joined: November 09

Posted 25 May 2018 - 09:07

Regarding the 1951 Motor Sport article, the French periodical L'Auto had very detailed reports about the race in its May 25 issue, including the exact time of Gabriel's departure (5:01') and his arrival in Bordeaux (13:08'31.2"). Even better, the newspaper had correspondants at various intermediate points of the route, giving detailed accounts of the passages of the racers. I haven't yet made a thorough check of the reported times for plausibility (another project for a rainy day... or, rather, a rainy week!), and it should also be noted that those times were, of course, not official times, but in the absence of those they give a very good account of the race as such.

The first correspondant was placed at Rambouillet, a mere 26 kilometres from the start at Versailles, and it's notable that Gabriel passed in 50th position, having already passed 32 cars. It is even more remarkable to note that, of the 49 cars which had arrived before him, forty had done so even before Gabriel had even started! The time made by Gabriel is most remarkable, too, since it equates to more than 2 kilometres per minute, an even 122 kph in fact! We may presume that the road from Versailles to Rambouillet was perhaps the best part of the entire course, and that there wasn't as much dust as for the rest of the journey, but to average 122 kph while overtaking more than one car per kilometre certainly was no small feat. Gabriel definitely made good use of the superior road conditions near the capital city!

The Motor Sport article mentions the possibility of other cars hitting trouble, to make Gabriel's run through the field easier, but it fails to take into account that Gabriel himself may have faced trouble. And so it appears, for at the next "controle" at Chartres (74 kilomtres) Gabriel passed in 51st position! Evidently, Gabriel must have had a tyre go down or some other relatively small trouble, but very obviously he was delayed for a few minutes. I hope that further analysis of the times will eventually make the picture more clear. At Châteaudun (119 km), Gabriel passed in 37th position, at Vendôme (158 km) in 27th, at Tours (215 km) in 24th, at Châtellerault (284 km) in 16th, at Poitiers (316 km) in 15th, at Ruffec (383 km) in 12th (still behind du Gast, by the way, despite her delay), and at Angoulême (426 km) he was 11th. At Barbezieux (455 km) he had finally passed du Gast and ran seventh, behind Louis Renault, Jarrott, Salleron, Baras, Stead and de Crawhez, whom he overtook all, except for Renault and Jarrott, on the final stretch of 97 kilometres.

Advertisement

#20 ensign14

ensign14
  • Member

  • 61,961 posts
  • Joined: December 01

Posted 25 May 2018 - 10:08

It's also weird that this was Gabriel's performance of a lifetime, in that he competed into the 1920s and never came close to these heights again. 



#21 MCS

MCS
  • Member

  • 4,697 posts
  • Joined: June 03

Posted 25 May 2018 - 12:23

What a brilliant thread.  Ten out of ten to Roger for starting it all "just" seventeen years ago, and to Tim for the re-posting. :up:



#22 robert dick

robert dick
  • Member

  • 1,300 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 25 May 2018 - 16:59

In 1902 and 1903, Fernand Gabriel was one of the fastest drivers.

In April 1902, he drove a 650-kg Darracq in the hillclimb up to La Turbie and finished just a few seconds behind Stead in the latest 6,5-litre Mercedes. In July 1902, he was in the lead of the first Circuit des Ardennes when, on the last of six 85-km laps, a driving chain of his Mors broke. He finished second behind Jarrott.

 

For Emil Jellinek, Léon Desjoyeaux and Charley Lehmann, the men behind the leading Mercedes entries in the 1903 Paris-Madrid, Gabriel was not one of the fastest but the fastest driver. They made every effort to have Gabriel behind the wheel of one of the new 12-litre Mercedes which made their appearance in the race towards Madrid. But Gabriel signed to drive a Mors...

 

At the time of the Paris-Madrid race, Gabriel had no official "permis" to drive a four-wheeled vehicle. In May 1899, he had obtained a license for motorcycles. It was not before October 1903, that he received a permis to drive an automobile. In June 1903, he was elected as ACF member so that he took the place of Henry Fournier in the French Bennett team, a substitution which was the subject of much gossip in Paris.
 



#23 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
  • Member

  • 7,180 posts
  • Joined: November 09

Posted 26 May 2018 - 09:10

Robert is right, as usual, in dispelling the popular notion of Gabriel as a "One Speech Hamilton". He beat the great Léon Théry as a team mate at Decauville on the 1899 Tour de France, and regularly upset the team hierarchy as a junior driver with the Darracq in 1901, where the leading drivers such as Ribeyrolles, Edmond or Marcellin would start with the latest and more powerful model, only to get beat by Gabriel on last year's car (e.g. at Oostende). In 1902, he was promoted to drive the latest Darracq at La Turbie, and promptly spirited away by the Mors team after a truly inspired performance.

There is, admittedly, a sort of mystery hanging over his apparent lack of success in later years, after Paris - Madrid, and I often wondered whether he was perhaps hampered by a bad experience or some sort of incident, overlooked by all the usual chronicles of motor racing. He didn't do all that badly, mind you, finishing fourth at both the 1903 Gordon Bennett (for Mors) and the 1904 French Elimination (by many considered as an even tougher contest than the Gordon Bennett itself!) as the star signing for his new employer, de Dietrich, but after that he inexplicably slipped down the order, especially when Arthur Duray joined that outfit in 1905, and then by team stalwart Henri Rougier also, so that by 1907 he was effecctively the number three driver at Lunéville. Unfortunately, things didn't improve when he switched to Clément-Bayard the following year, and from then on he was very much a racing nomad, happy to drive for anyone who'd let him, with little in the way of results to show for. My last event for him is the 1914 Grand Prix, in which he performed creditably in a mid-field car before retiring, ably supporting his less experienced team leader. I don't know about him competing after the war, or even "into the 1920s".

#24 Vitesse2

Vitesse2
  • Administrator

  • 41,861 posts
  • Joined: April 01

Posted 26 May 2018 - 09:21

Robert is right, as usual, in dispelling the popular notion of Gabriel as a "One Speech Hamilton". He beat the great Léon Théry as a team mate at Decauville on the 1899 Tour de France, and regularly upset the team hierarchy as a junior driver with the Darracq in 1901, where the leading drivers such as Ribeyrolles, Edmond or Marcellin would start with the latest and more powerful model, only to get beat by Gabriel on last year's car (e.g. at Oostende). In 1902, he was promoted to drive the latest Darracq at La Turbie, and promptly spirited away by the Mors team after a truly inspired performance.

There is, admittedly, a sort of mystery hanging over his apparent lack of success in later years, after Paris - Madrid, and I often wondered whether he was perhaps hampered by a bad experience or some sort of incident, overlooked by all the usual chronicles of motor racing. He didn't do all that badly, mind you, finishing fourth at both the 1903 Gordon Bennett (for Mors) and the 1904 French Elimination (by many considered as an even tougher contest than the Gordon Bennett itself!) as the star signing for his new employer, de Dietrich, but after that he inexplicably slipped down the order, especially when Arthur Duray joined that outfit in 1905, and then by team stalwart Henri Rougier also, so that by 1907 he was effecctively the number three driver at Lunéville. Unfortunately, things didn't improve when he switched to Clément-Bayard the following year, and from then on he was very much a racing nomad, happy to drive for anyone who'd let him, with little in the way of results to show for. My last event for him is the 1914 Grand Prix, in which he performed creditably in a mid-field car before retiring, ably supporting his less experienced team leader. I don't know about him competing after the war, or even "into the 1920s".

He ran Ariès cars at Le Mans every year from 1924 to 1928. With Henri Lapierre 1924-5, Louis Paris 1926-28. Best result 11th (1st in the 1100cc class) in 1924.



#25 nexfast

nexfast
  • Member

  • 982 posts
  • Joined: August 12

Posted 26 May 2018 - 09:26

In the twenties, Gabriel drove at least in 4 editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Aries team:

 

1924 - with Henri Lapierre - 11th (class winner 751 to 1100 cm3)

1925 - with Henri Lapierre - Retirement 11th lap

1926 - with Louis Paris -  13th

1927 - with Louis Paris - Forced to withdraw at the 23rd lap because insufficient distance covered after 6 hours.



#26 nexfast

nexfast
  • Member

  • 982 posts
  • Joined: August 12

Posted 26 May 2018 - 09:28

Richard beat me by 5 minutes... And yes in 1928 again with Paris he retired after 51 laps.



#27 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
  • Member

  • 7,180 posts
  • Joined: November 09

Posted 26 May 2018 - 09:50

:blush: Oh well, my lack of enthusiasm for sports cars... AGAIN! :blush:

I was thinking, that Gabriel's career wasn't that much unlike Villeneuve fils, in that he came into F 1/Heavy car racing with a great reputation, did extremely well the first two years and then simply faded away.

#28 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 7,506 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 26 May 2018 - 12:22

The Motor Sport article with which I started this thread all those years ago mentions a 1933 letter to The Autocar which said that Gabriel was even then a frequent competition driver.

It also says that he competed in the 1924 and 25 Grands Prix de Tourisme but makes no mention of Le Mans!

#29 Vitesse2

Vitesse2
  • Administrator

  • 41,861 posts
  • Joined: April 01

Posted 26 May 2018 - 21:14

He's in the entry list for the 1924 GP de Tourisme at Lyon, again in an Ariès.

 

http://gallica.bnf.f...0s/f2.item.zoom

 

However, he doesn't feature in l'Auto's report of the event either as a starter or finisher, despite Faroux praising the 'belles démonstrations de Georges Irat et Ariès'.

 

http://gallica.bnf.f...16/f2.item.zoom

 

No sign of him (or any Ariès) in the entry list for 1925 at Montlhéry.

 

http://gallica.bnf.f...2x/f2.item.zoom



#30 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 7,506 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 26 May 2018 - 22:46

My mistake, it was 1923 and ‘24 that Baladeur reported Gabriel in the Grand Prix de Tourisme, not 1924 and I 25.

Kent Karslake, in Racing Voiturettes, says that: “it was decided that in 1924 the race proper should be preced by a high speed trial of eight hours duration”. They had to average 34 mph and consume fuel at a rate of no more than 35.5 mpg. “The little Ariès, curiously enough, were eliminated from the latter cause (exceeding the fuel allowance), a complete miscalculation having apparently been made with regard to their petrol consumption”.

This presumably explains the absence of any mention in l’Auto.

#31 robert dick

robert dick
  • Member

  • 1,300 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 27 May 2018 - 18:15

Nice review of the Paris-Madrid published a few days after the event in the magazine "The Motor World"/New York, 11 June 1903:

parmad01.jpg
parmad02.jpg
parmad03.jpg
 



#32 Gary C

Gary C
  • Member

  • 5,571 posts
  • Joined: January 01

Posted 27 May 2018 - 19:18

Just want to place on file my gratitude to Roger for posting the initial 1903 report on here, absolutely fascinating stuff. The older I get, the more I'm interesting in early motor races, in particular the early city to city races.



#33 robert dick

robert dick
  • Member

  • 1,300 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 31 May 2018 - 10:02

"An Expert's Views on Racing" by Henri Fournier - from Automobile Review/Chicago, May 1903, published a few days before Paris-Madrid:
autrev03.jpg

Henry Fournier (Henry with "y") was riding mechanic in Charron's winning Panhard in the first Bennett race, the 1900 Paris-Lyon.
In 1901, Fournier became not only the driver of the year but the idol of France. At the wheel of a 10-litre Mors, he won Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Berlin, and by the end of 1901 broke mile records in America, on the Fort Erie, Empire City or Narragansett Park tracks and the Coney Island Boulevard.



#34 taylov

taylov
  • Member

  • 624 posts
  • Joined: February 05

Posted 06 July 2019 - 16:06

I wonder if someone more familiar with Edwardian racing than I might be able to help.

 

I've been sorting through the many pre-WW1 postcard images I have in my collection. I am looking at a photo taken at the Paris start of the race to Madrid in 1903 which shows a light coloured semi-streamlined car,  very much like the Mors of Gabriel.  The car carries the race number 48.

 

I cannot find a comprehensive list of entrant and their race numbers.  Who was driving car 48?

 

Tony



#35 Vitesse2

Vitesse2
  • Administrator

  • 41,861 posts
  • Joined: April 01

Posted 06 July 2019 - 16:12

Victor Rigal (Mors)

 

Source: http://www.dlg.speed...e/book/1909.pdf



#36 taylov

taylov
  • Member

  • 624 posts
  • Joined: February 05

Posted 06 July 2019 - 16:34

Thank you.   I've seen many PhD theses with less information than that.

 

Tony.



#37 Bonde

Bonde
  • Member

  • 1,072 posts
  • Joined: December 04

Posted 23 February 2024 - 16:54

*Bump*

If anyone is interested, I can upload or PM pages of articles I've photographed in 1903 issues of the Austrian Algemeine Automobil-Zeitung concerning the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. Beware that they are obviously written in German, the Gothic font used not exactly making the reading faster for us youngsters :-)



#38 a_tifoosi

a_tifoosi
  • Member

  • 268 posts
  • Joined: February 05

Posted 23 February 2024 - 21:47

*Bump*

If anyone is interested, I can upload or PM pages of articles I've photographed in 1903 issues of the Austrian Algemeine Automobil-Zeitung concerning the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. Beware that they are obviously written in German, the Gothic font used not exactly making the reading faster for us youngsters :-)

 

The Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung is available online here.



#39 Bonde

Bonde
  • Member

  • 1,072 posts
  • Joined: December 04

Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:31

The Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung is available online here.

Thanks for that excellent find, a_tifoosi!  :love:

 

(Now I'll have to spend hours and days leafing through all those lovely old journals!  :smoking: (I only had access to a few years in print).)