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Homepage. This page: A small number of unique, hitherto un-published, photographs of this 1903 race.

Gordon Bennett race of 1903.

The following five photographs are all of cars that competed in the 1903 Gordon Bennett motor race, held in and around Dublin, Ireland. The photographs were taken by a Mr Arthur Thomas Bruen, grandfather to Nigel who I'm grateful to for scanning and emailing these over for inclusion on the site. Mr Bruen (Senior) lived at the magnificent Oak Park House, a country retreat within the grounds of Oak Park, just outside Carlow, and photographed the cars in the road outside his residence.
(Photographs and more information on the house may be found on this external website: link).
There were a number of stages making up the event. Given Oak Park's location, just to the north of Carlow, presumably the roadside photographs that are shown below were taken during the Carlow -> Athy stage.
(A map describing the route of the 1903 Gordon Bennett may be found on this site, dedicated to the race: link).
In 1902 Selwyn F. Edge won the race, held between Paris, France and Innsbruck, Austria, driving a Napier, a marque he'd also entered in 1901. The regulations stated that the next year's event would take place in the winner's home country. Ireland was chosen for 1903, as racing on public roads was still illegal in Britain at the time. Four countries (Britain, Germany, France, and the USA) each entered three cars a piece, coloured respectively green, white, blue and red.

Entrants.

The following twelve cars and drivers were entered, although most did not complete the course (#entry numbers are also included).

Britain.

Selwyn F. Edge (Napier, car #1), Charles Jarrott (Napier #5), J.W. Stocks (Napier #9).

Germany.

Camille Jenatzy (Mercedes #4), Baron Pierre De Caters (Mercedes #8), James Foxhall Keene (Mercedes #12).

France.

Rene De Knyff (Panhard #2), Henry Farman (Panhard #10), Fernand Gabriel (Mors #6).

USA.

Percy Owen (Winton #3), Alexander Winton (Winton #11), Louis Mooers (Peerless #7).

Photographs.

Car 7, Peerless (USA).

The first of Nigel's photographs shows car number 7 - Louis Mooers in the 11 litre Peerless - stopped, while perhaps a time-keeper studies his watch. The chap stood with goggles on his head is presumably Mooers' riding mechanic. Car number 7 would retire on lap 1 due to overheating issues. Note the attire of not only the car's occupants, but also the well-dressed spectators. In 1903 many of those watching the race were experiencing motor vehicles in action for the first time, and seeing these giants at speed must have made quite an impression.
(Please click the thumbnail.)
Peerless racing car

Car 4, Mercedes (Germany).

One of the German entrants next, car number 4 - the Mercedes piloted by Belgian engineer Camille Jenatzy - who would go on to win the event. Sadly the black-and-white photograph doesn't reveal the bright red beard that Jenatzy was known for sporting (his nickname was The Red Devil, thanks not just to his facial features but also his exuberant driving style). He was also something of a joker, a trait that, in 1913, would be his undoing. While taking part in a hunting party in the grounds of his country estate in the Ardennes, he hid in the bushes and - alas successfully - demonstrated his ability to mimic wild boar noises. So successful were they that one of the party aimed his rifle in the direction of the bushes, and shot poor Jenatzy with fatal consequences.
Mercedes of Camille Jenatzy

Car 1, S.F. Edge in the Napier.

I'm sure that this is 1902 race winner S.F. Edge in his 13.7 litre Napier, he's shown here sharing a joke with the official.
Unidentified car

Car 6, Mors.

Only part of this car's racing number is visible on the bonnet. Watching the British Pathe film link (further down), reveals that this is car 6, the Mors of Fernand Gabriel. The streamlined nose of the car is another giveaway to the manufacturer shown.
The French-entered Mors

Car 9, Napier.

At a different location now, and a snapshot of car number 9, a vehicle that was going no further in this year's race - the 7.7 litre Napier of J.W. Stocks. Accounts published elsewhere tell that Stocks' race ended on lap 1 after leaving the course, colliding with a wire fence (visible in the background) and destroying a front wheel. The photograph shows the remains of a smashed wheel leaning against the rear corner of the dumped car, its front offside corner much lower than the rest. Both drivers were thrown out of the cockpit on impact, but neither received significant injury.
One of the Napiers after its crash
The Pathe footage of cars competing in 1903 can be seen at this link: British Pathe film.
I really appreciate being sent these photographs to share on the site - thanks Nigel - I'm sure they'll be of interest to many visitors to this site for years to come.
Coincidentally, in the motoring-related games section of the site, I've included mention of a contemporary board game, titled "The Gordon Bennett Motor Race Game" - please see this page for more details. I've also found a copy of The Car magazine from 1903, and there are several references to the race in it - more details on this page.
Visit page 17 in the vintage gallery, or return to the gallery's main index page.

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