One hundred and twenty seven years ago today – 22 July 1894 – the Concours Les Voitures sans Chevaux, was held in Paris. A city-to-city motoring competition which is sometimes described as the world’s first competitive motor race. Loose translation: ‘The Race of Carriages without Horses.’
Thank you wikipedia!
The contest was organised by the newspaper Le Petit Journal and run from Paris to Rouen in France. It was preceded by four days of vehicle exhibition and qualifying events that drew large crowds and created much excitement. Eight 50 km qualifying events were held leading up to the last day when the main 126km race was held.
The editor obviously thought about what he wanted. He wanted cars that were “not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey.” Good points all. This meant, for example, that if you had to take a mechanic with you on your journey, you were ineligible for the main prize. Darn right.
The first driver crossed the finish line in a blistering 6hrs 48mins, but he did not win the main prize. His steam-powered vehicle needed a stoker! That’s a nuisance, driving with your butler’s bum in your face as he shovels coal, so he failed the ‘easy to drive’ requirement.
Second, a mere 3mins 30seconds later, was competitor number 65, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot. This made him the winner of the main prize. He looks thrilled.
Third, thirteen minutes later, competitor number 28, a 3hp petrol Daimler-engined Peugeot face to face (vis a vis).
The seventeenth and last finisher took thirteen hours to do the 126km course. 102 had entered, but 78 had not shown up for the qualifying events. These included 25 powered by unfamiliar and improbable technologies such as “gravity; compressed air; automatic; electricity; gas; hydraulics; liquid; pedals; propellers; and levers.”
Here’s a Mr Michaux passing through a busy street in Mantes-la-Jolie, racing amongst horses and pedestrians, en route to Rouen where he finished 9th in his 3hp Peugeot phaeton.
I was thinking: What do we have nowadays that compares? When do we see grown men acting all serious while looking ridiculous to the common man? I think old okes on bicycles dressed in lycra, puffing past thinking they look even semi-normal? Any other contenders?