|The Napier made its mark on history by winning the 1902
Gordon Bennett in the hands of an Australian, Selwyn Francis Edge. This was a tremendous victory for
Great Britain, which till that time had always trailed the French in international
motoring. This victory was especially sweat for Edge who had been racing the green Napiers
at various events since 1900. He had entered a monstrous 17,157 cc four-cylinder for the
1901 Gordon Bennett only to see his car disqualified for running foreign made tires. This
colossus produced 103 bhp but weighed more than two tons. The following year Edge went the
other direction and built a 6.5-liter car that was rated to produce 30 bhp but actually
delivered approximately 45 bhp.
involved the Paris-Innsbruck section of the Paris-Vienna race. Its strongest test came
just before the end when the cars had to cross the Murderous Arlberg pass described in The
Automotor Journal in these forbidding tones:
gutters you could bury a man in, hundreds of them crossing the road at right angles: it
would be a trial of springs as well as motors. Ridges, too, that lent more than a
suggestion of the steeplechase, reared their crests across the way. For scores of
particularly in the high Arlberg country, six thousand feet above sea level, the road hung
on the brink of fearsome precipices. Ruts and loose stones abounded in the Austrian
section of the course."
This relatively light car was the
sole survivor in its class able to reach Innsbruck and so claim the trophy. Its green
color henceforth became known as "British Racing Green". It took more than two
decades before Great Britain was once again on the top rung of international motoring with
the victory by Segrave in the French Grand Prix of 1923.
Edge besides being the winning drive was Napier's sole agent and would later remark that his two largest contracts, one from America and one from France for napier cars were absolutely the direct result of winning the Gordon Bennett race. Annual output at the factory at Lambeth increased from 100 to 250 cars requiring a new factory being built in Acton.