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Local Studies Department

The Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903 - Leinster Leader June 1903

Back to Introduction | July list of articles

Leinster Leader, Saturday 4 July 1903, Last Edition – Page 5

Jenatzy’s car stuck a boy named Sheridan in the Market Square, Kildare. The boy has been taken to the infirmary.


(Special Telegram.)
The judges have declared Jenatzy the winner. He covered the course of 370 miles in 6 hours, 36 minutes, 9 seconds, an average of over 60 miles per hour.
The relative positions of second and third will be decided to-day (Friday).



The two “loops” traversed by the cars represented about 370 miles. The Carlow-Athy loop, which was circuited three times, was 45 miles odd; the Kildare-Monasterevan-Maryborough loop 58 miles. The gross times spent in each loop were exhibited on a blackboard, and certainly a more ill-managed arrangement it would be difficult to conceive. Figures were altered and re-altered to the confusion of those whose task it was to compile the returns for the Press. We give the figures in the rounds which possess most interest.


First Round

Fourth Round or half distance

Sixth Round

Seventh Round.

H. M. S.

H. M. S.

H. M. S.

H. M. S.


1 23 23

1 54 59



De Knyff

1 33 47

1 38 16

1 33 39

1 38 41


1 33 57





1 26 58

1 31 52

1 31 32

1 37 19


1 25 14





2 5 10

1 34 20

1 43 58

1 35 5


3 11 10




De Caters

1 27 17

1 37 39

1 38 16





1 24 31

1 35 55

1 38 17

1 31 31


3 23 24





1 23 3




The most disappointing performance of the Race was that of Gabriel, from whom the public expected wonders. No doubt his speed at the outset was electrifying. His torpedo-like car went down Kilrush hill at a speed exceeding 85 miles per hour. It flew along touching the ground only at intervals. Passing the Grand Stand a second time, his pace had fallen to ‘flat mediocrity.’ His cyclinders[sic] were out of order – his mad race was practically run. Hence-forth he ranked inconspicuously. But the fault was not the man’s, but the machine’s. The exhibition of nerve was indeed thrilling.

The Germans, who in popular opinion – influenced by the burning of their “crack cars” – stood no chance, supplied at even the early stage of the second circuit an “eye-opener” as to the powers of Jenatzy and the- comparatively- despised Mercedes. There was a striking irony in the fact that the motor darlings of France and England were left sadly behind by the German cars, which some folk were disposed to regard as makeshifts!

With the exception of Kildare and the Curragh, to which enormous crowds went by train and car, the attendance at the various points was small. Indeed, the Motor Race on the whole in this particular respect sadly disappointed the high expectations encouraged and formed.

A noteworthy incident at Ballyshannon was the unselfish act of the Baron de Caters, who stopped and told the anxious public that Jarrott’s car was disabled but Jarrott himself happily unharmed. For such an act of noble self-abnegation, this competitor seriously prejudiced his chances. The courtesy and humanity prompting it will be long remembered when most of the other incidents of the race are forgotten.

Nothing very exciting occurred at any of the controls, save at Carlow, Kildare and Stradbally. At Old Kilcullen corner everything was orderly and businesslike, and the Press report a regard for their facilities which was singularly lacking at Ballyshannon. The attendance here was rather poor. At half an hour before the start of the race there were more police on the road between Ballyshannon and Kilcullen than there were spectators. As to what may have happened during the day it is difficult to say, but there were no crowds in the morning. The numbers who took up their positions on the V-shaped piece of heath between the two roads were neither reinforced or diminished during the day. Others could not get there – not, indeed, that there seemed any disposition of the kind. The only incident of note was that Gabriel over-shot the control mark, and evidently found some difficulty in reversing, while all of the Mercedes cars seemed to start with wonderful rapidity.

Castledermot[sic], being the first control station, naturally was an interesting point. From an early hour on Wednesday the town was astir with visitors on motor cars, bicycles, and every other kind of vehicle, and in the night-time the town brass band paraded the streets. The control area stretched from the Carlow Gate, just at the beginning of the village, to Doyle’s Hotel, at the Bridge over the Lerr. No stands had been erected or enclosures set apart for accommodation of spectators, but the fields along the course for a couple of miles were lined with spectators. Some amusement was caused through an over-energetic constable ordering the Head Marshal of the Control to get off his bicycle. Shortly before 7.20 a cloud of dust rising on the hill 400 yards up the course signalled the arrival of what everyone expected was the pilot car, but on drawing up it was found that the car was a Napier, and marked No. 1, driven by Edge. Time, 5min. 20secs. The official departure time for this car was 7.25. At 7.28.40 Chevalier de Knyff arrived on his Panhard, his time being 1min. 40secs. worse than Edge’s.

The first car to arrive on the second round was the French Panhard, driven by Chevalier de Knyff, which came into the control at a terrific speed, and on surmounting the big hill the car bounded several times in the air. The time of arrival was 10.28, which worked out at an average of 48 miles an hour. The next arrival was Jenatzy, at 10.41, which was a minute better than de Knyff’s time for the same distance. Eight minutes later arrived Edge, who had 2 punctures, and was now five minutes behind Jenatzy.
The management of the control could not have been placed in better hands, all the stewards and officials showing a thorough knowledge of their duty. The course around the district was admirably kept by a contingent of 50 men of the R.I.C. from Clifden, Galway, under the control of Mr. Glasgow, D.I., Clifden.

The first car cleared the corner. Then came de Knyff. He made no attempt to turn, but dashed through the wire fence, which flattened, and he passed over it, pulling up in 10 yards, two Carlow gentlemen having a very narrow escape. The next to arrive was Stocks. The wire fence had been put up again, and he, like de Knyff, made no attempt for the turn, but crashed through the wire. The left post giving way entangled in his fore-wheel, smashing it, the result being the car swerved to the left, and dashed into the bank. Stocks was turned head over heels on to the bank, and got up immediately without saying a word. He was then driven by Mr. Bruen into Carlow, and the car was lifted out of the way. On the third round, Farman, by a marvellous bit of steering, saved an accident by running up the laneway, the wire having been removed. He pulled up within 10 yards and reversed his engines, and was on the road again in under one minute.

Mr. Henry Bruen enclosed a portion of a field at the turn, and erected a stand, from which there was an excellent view. The majority of the country people were present.

The Carlow control had for its Marshal Major Bowen. There was a small assemblage in the vicinity. The Right Hon. Henry Bruen had a commodious stand just outside the limits of his fine demesne, where he extended his hospitality to a numerous company.

Although the Athy East control did not attract a great array of visitors, it was a point of considerable interest during the day, and amongst motorists a good of attention as paid to it. The stranger who came there expecting to see a crowd would have been disappointed. The second of the American cars, driven by Mooers, took, roughly, three minutes more than Gabriel to complete the distance, while Baron de Caters, Farman, Winton and Foxhall Keene came in in fairly good time. Unfortunately for Mooers something went wrong with his gearing just after quitting the control, and for half an hour at least his car lay helpless on the roadside. The record round opened with the arrival of de Knyff at 11h. 3m. 36s. The crowd expected to see Edge, and as he gradually became half an hour overdue, grave anxiety was felt. A rumour that he had been killed was set in circulation, but soon afterwards Edge, to the relief of all, dashed in, and explained that he had been unlucky with his tyres.

The interest manifested in the Race at Athy was not less intense than that which was apparent at other points along the route. A large number of visitors reached the town on Tuesday night, and for some of these house accommodation was not available, and they were obliged to spend the night in tents in the neighbourhood or walk about the streets comforting each other as best they could. Beds, with supper and breakfast, were charged for in some of the hotels at the rate of thirty shillings each. It is doubtful, too, whether those who were fortunate in getting beds even at this figure enjoyed much quiet sleep, for the streets were in possession of small crowds, whose movements, far from being noiseless, must have had a disturbing and irritating effect in the case of many who required and anxiously sought repose. This disagreeable feature of the night was intensified by the occasional throbbing sounds of automobile cars as they ran to and fro until a late hour without, as far as one could judge, any definite purpose. On Thursday morning the numbers of the visitors considerably increased. Special trains were run on the Great Southern line from Dublin, Waterford, and other stations at intervals from 3 o’clock a.m., and these were crowded with passengers, who preferred travelling at unusually early hours to camping out with all its discomforts during the night. The police, of whom there were nearly two hundred and fifty, drawn from various counties, were located principally in a large building, where they were provided with straw for beds at the Maryboro’ end of the town. Over one hundred of their number were employed in the town between the arrival and departure stations keeping the course clear of traffic. The rest had charge of portions of the roads stretching away from either end of the town into the country. In the west station the principal timekeeper was Mr. A. G. Rennie, and the duties of chief marshal devolved on Mr. Bernard Redwood. Close to the tents of these gentlemen were packed against the hedgerow numerous hampers of petroleum spirit and naphtha, which were handed to the cars as they arrived to renew their partially exhausted motive power. The morning was dull and threatening, but later on it cleared up, the sun shone brightly at intervals, and the threatening omens disappeared.

A very large gathering assembled at the Moat of Ardscull, and on the adjacent stands. From the former remarkable eminence a clear view of the road to Athy – 3½ miles – was obtainable, and the place had also the advantage of commanding a view of a fairly sharp corner. Very many of the touring motor cars made the Moat their objective, and the gathering at this place was very typical of the motor car and cyclist community.

About midday there was a thunderstorm, and some rain fell. This, however, had only the effect of slaking the dust, and the weather was soon dry and sunny again. Interest in the later stages of the race flagged somewhat, but nevertheless a very large number of people remained until the whole race was concluded. A high wind was blowing at the close.