Little Bits of History

And They’re Off

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 22, 2012

Georges Bouton driving one of his cars

July 22, 1894: The first motorized racing event is held. The route was from Paris to Rouen – a distance of 80 miles. At the time, races of other sorts were used as a marketing gambit. The first race ever organized for an automobile was held on April 28, 1887 and ran from the Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne, a distance of about 1.25 miles. It was won by Georges Bouton who was the only entrant. Comte Jules-Albert de Dion was a passenger in the car. The sponsor was Le Vélocipède, a biking magazine.

On this day, a Paris newspaper called Le Petit Journal sponsored another race. De Dion was again in the race, but he was driving a steam-engine car. For a time, he and Bouton partnered to create the largest car manufacturing concern in the world. At this race, their car was pitted again Georges Peugeot, driving one of his own cars, René Panhard, driving his own car, and other more amateur builders. The car entrants had to meet the criteria of being “not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey.” There were 102 people who paid the 10 franc entry fee. There were 25 cars selected to run in the race.

De Dion won, but was disqualified due to the fact his car needed a stoker, or someone to add fuel to keep the engine hot enough to produce steam. He completed the race in 6 hours and 48 minutes. His average speed was almost 12 mph. Peugeot was only 3:30 behind him with a second Peugeot car driven by Doriot coming in third. Panhard came in fourth with a second car under his brand driven by Levassor coming in fifth. The win was handed to Peugeot.

De Dion was not only a car racing enthusiast. He was also a businessman and a publisher. In 1898 he founded the Mondial de l’Automobile (Paris Motor Show). He created his own paper when a rival rag wasn’t giving him enough advertising space. L’Auto, a daily sporting newspaper was begun in 1900 with the help of Edouard Michelin. When their circulation began to flag in 1903, the men created the Tour de France to help boost sales once again. De Dion also founded Le Nain Jaune (the yellow gnome), an every other week publication which “answered no particular need.” He died in 1946 at the age of 90.

Racing is a matter of spirit not strength. – Janet Guthrie

Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games. – Earnest Hemingway

To finish first, you must first finish. – Rick Mears

Aerodynamics is for those who cannot manufacture good engines. – Enzo Ferrari

Also on this day:

Public Enemy #1 – In 1934, John Dillinger met his end – maybe.
Cleaveland – In 1796, Cleveland, Ohio was named for the leader of the surveying party.
Falkirk – In 1298, the Battle of Falkirk took place.

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