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Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing 1896-1906 by Charles Jarrott
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1902 Paris - Vienna Motor Race

Part III By Charles Jarrott

Mist and dust made passing difficult, but we soon began to work our way through the long line of cars in front of us, having but one idea—to finish at all costs in Vienna. And then at last the Arlberg loomed in sight, and, knowing the nature of the climb and the road in front of us, we made a hasty examination of the car to make sure that everything was in order. We discovered that our spare lubricating oil had been dropped overboard, and as it was too risky to rely upon the small quantity we had in our tank we had to return fourteen kilometres to the last control and obtain a fresh supply. This part of the journey was hair- raising. We were meeting cars all the time, and how we escaped colliding, in the dust and fog, I do not understand to this day.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceBy the time we had procured this fresh supply of oil most of the cars had passed us, and once more I turned round and was off again in hot pursuit. The Arlberg at last and we were climbing the first portion of the ascent in magnificent style. Up and up we went, passing other cars at every hundred yards. Then we struck the winding and dangerous portion of the road, and still it went up towards the sky, the road itself being cut on a ledge on the side of the mountain, with a terrible drop on one side and a sheer cliff wall on the other. The height we eventually reached was sufficient to scare the most intrepid driver, when the character of the road was taken into consideration. We found various cars in all sorts of difficulties. Some with engines overheated; others suffering from mechanical derangements; whilst in two or three instances the drivers seemed to have entirely lost their heads and driven hard into the side of the cliff, the continual effort of keeping away from that awful drop on the road absolutely unnerving them. Then the summit was reached and we began to descend. The " Seventy " had been traveling magnificently, and I was straining every nerve to regain some of the lost time, which we had expended in repairing our car and in returning for the lubricating oil. As we rushed down the mountain, corner after corner presented itself, and with hundreds of twists and turns the road gradually led down towards the plain.

The aspect of a number of drivers on the descent was curious. Some were crawling down slowly with the brakes hard on, whilst others had actually stopped to rest. Then, swinging round a corner, I came upon a driver sitting in his car, which was motionless, with his head buried in his hands. A few yards farther on I noticed a coat and a bag of tools lying in the road, but this conveyed nothing to my mind, and the matter was forgotten almost as soon as we had passed. What had actually happened was that Max, a driver of a Darracq car, had gone clean over the precipice, and the sight had so unnerved the driver of the car following that he was rendered helpless and unable to proceed another yard, The extraordinary part of the story was that Max was not killed. As the car leaped over the edge, the mechanician had been thrown out on to the road, and Max was also thrown out of the car after it had disappeared over the edge, and landed on a ledge some distance down, while the car was dashed to pieces in the depths below. It was said of Max that after he had been rescued the only observation he had to make was that it was just like his luck; apparently unable to appreciate his good fortune in having escaped with his life, and merely miserable because his car was hopelessly wrecked.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceAll this, of course, we did not see, and nothing checked our course down the mountain until we came upon a blue Panhard, similar to our own, deserted by the side of the road, and we immediately recognized it as the car belonging to De Knyff, who had obviously abandoned the race. The full significance of this did not strike us until we reached the bottom of the mountain and met De Knyff and Aristides walking into the nearest village. I immediately stopped and inquired what had happened, and he explained to me that the differential on his car had gone, and the last hope of France retaining the Gordon-Bennett Cup was lost. Only twenty kilometers from the finish at Innsbruck, hours ahead, but at the very last moment he had failed. De Knyff expressed surprise at seeing me, as he had had information that I had smashed up en route and had been killed. But I assured him that I was very much alive and in good fighting form, and that my car was going to get to Vienna if the repairs we had executed that morning would only stand. Then we were off again, hoping to catch Edge, who was some little distance in front, and advise him of his good fortune. We had made up a considerable amount of time in the ascent and descent of the mountain, and though we were not in the first flight were well up amongst the other cars.

Coming down a long hill at top speed we discovered a railway crossing with closed gates and four cars held up, waiting to get through. One of these turned out to be Edge's, and we had the pleasure of informing him that he had but to finish in Innsbruck, fifteen kilometres away, to be declared the winner of the Gordon-Bennett Cup. He appeared to have had some hair-raising experiences; had run off the road into a field, and had a narrow escape of smashing his car up altogether. He had also suffered many tyre troubles; and Cecil Edge had performed great feats of valor in capturing petrol, lubricating oil, and spare inner tubes from various depots belonging to other firms, on the road, the attendants not realizing at first that the car they were assisting was an English one, and making desperate attempts to regain what they had handed over when they discovered their mistake. I remember, just before the level-crossing was opened, telling Edge to run no possible risk over the next fifteen kilometres, but to take it gently. His method of doing this was to shoot off immediately the gates were opened, take the first corner at top speed, and, as it appeared to us, have an extraordinary escape from capsizing. How¬ever, we were after him and eventually passed him, again going very well.

Then once more we punctured, and had a further delay before getting into Innsbruck. There we again found Edge, radiant and joyful at having successfully completed the Gordon-Bennett course, and consequently having won the Cup for England. Innsbruck, however, meant to us but another stage in the long struggle to Vienna. We were by then in sorry straits. The malformation of the frame of our car had been attended with disastrous effects upon our gear, and we were all the time adjusting or readjusting various parts of the car, as occasion required. The stop in Innsbruck enabled us to have our tyres put right, and then on we went towards Salzburg.

The struggles of a race and the work attendant upon the driving and management of a racing car are not conducive to a smart and tidy appearance, and although I have in various races looked somewhat disreputable, I do not think that I ever presented a more ruffianly appearance than during the Paris-Vienna race. Du Cros was very little better; in fact, I think he looked even dirtier than myself. Hence, when stopped at a control some little distance from Innsbruck, we were addressed by some English girls who were at the control witnessing the arrival of the cars, clad in immaculate white linen, we were overwhelmed with confusion, and would have given almost anything to have denied our nationality. They were sympathetic, however, and realized that iced claret would appeal to us more strongly than any mere words of encouragement—an opinion with which, needless to say, we were in full accord. I was amused, however, when one of these young ladies asked me whether there were any ladies taking part in the race. I replied that it was "not a lady's game, and that, as a matter of fact, I had come to the conclusion that it was more suit¬able for English navvies than for any other section of the community of which I had any knowledge." That is exactly how the Paris-Vienna race appeared to both Du Cros and myself. It was undoubtedly sporting, but for sheer hard work I think those four days (which we occupied in getting from Paris to Vienna) were the worst I have ever experienced either before or since.

Our difficulties with the car grew more serious every minute; and then once more we heard the ominous hiss of escaping air and realized that one of our tyres had punctured again. We congratulated ourselves that it had happened in a charming spot, with a beautiful clear stream running by the side of the road in the shade of great leafy trees, and as we pulled up out of the sun we were almost pleased that the puncture had occurred under such favorable conditions. Little did we know what would happen before we had that tyre repaired. We soon discovered that we had stopped in the very midst of a vast colony of long-bodied, many-colored dragon-flies, and as we got down to dismount the tyre we were surrounded by these fearful insects, which were nearly two inches in length, and seemed to take it in turns to dart upon us, and every time a huge swelling would result, attended by the most excruciating pain. The agony we endured I shall never forget; and at last, driven to distraction, I dashed to the edge of the brook and held my head under water to obtain some relief. Our appearance by the time we started again was deplorable; we were almost unrecognizable from the effect of the bites.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceStill, our determination to get to Vienna was as strong as ever, and we went plodding on again. During these various stoppages we had, of course, been passed and had re-passed a considerable number of cars. My driving was not of a particularly careful or cautious character. When we were going we had to go fast, to make up for the stoppages. There could be no waiting behind any cars in front; we simply had to get by, without a moment's delay. The result was that to the drivers of the smaller cars, who were wandering about from one side of the road to the other (not being clear whether they were driving according to the rule of the road existent in Austria, or to the rule of the road of France), we were something to be feared; and after we had passed the same cars two or three times we generally found they were on the look out for us, and made way very quickly.

A funny incident occurred in connection with the passing of a voiturette which had as driver and sole occupant a big, bearded Frenchman, who seemed incongruously out of place on such a small machine. We had had some trouble in passing him previously, and I had consequently had to cut matters very fine in getting by. One of our stoppages had allowed him to pass again, and once more we approached him from the rear. Suddenly he turned and saw the "Seventy" bearing down upon him once again. In his fright he gave the steering-wheel of his little car a sharp twist and shot clean off the road into a hay-field, being almost hidden by the long grass before he pulled up. He got out of his trouble, and arrived in the next control before we left. He explained the presence of hay on the front of his car by jokingly remarking that he had been studying agriculture en route. But, as he told me, he thought when he saw our car coming behind him we should require the whole width of the road to get by, and consequently, not wishing to inconvenience us, he had effaced himself. Salzburg was at last in sight, and never has any town appeared more charming, and never has the flag at an arrival control been more welcome than the one at the entrance to that city.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceIt was a gala-day for the town, which was bedecked with flags and flowers, the inhabitants and a large crowd of visitors welcoming the cars as they arrived with the greatest enthusiasm. I am afraid that we missed most of it, for the reason that we were, over that particular stage, more than three hours late, and most of the cars had arrived in front of us. We created some commotion on our arrival, however, as the news that I had been killed had reached Salzburg, and I had the pleasure of receiving the congratulations of nearly everybody at what they termed my "miraculous escape." What I had escaped from I did not know, but "The Times" correspondent had his telegrams completed announcing my fate, and it was only through my arrival in the nick of time that the news was not sent through to London.

The race up to then had been between Henry Farman, Count Zborowski, Maurice Farman, and Baron de Forest, who had driven magnificently and had done the fastest time on that day, accomplishing the full distance of 369 kilometres in 5 hrs. 23 mins. Henry Farman, however, was leading on time over the full distance, with Marcel Renault making a very fine showing in the light car class. The sole topic of conversation that evening was the failure of De Knyff, and the fact that France had lost the Gordon-Bennett Cup. The Frenchmen, however, did not at that time attach very much importance to the holding of it - or at least they professed not to do so - and I do not think that any of us realized then the immense effect the winning of that Cup would have upon the automobile industry, both at home and abroad. Had the winning of the Gordon-Bennett Cup meant as much then as it meant in later years, the race would never have been undertaken by France in the same indifferent manner as was the case in 1902.

We had, in spite of the prophecies to the contrary, finished another stage, and there now lay between us and the goal of Vienna, 343 kilometres. There was nothing further that we could do to our car, and it was in the knowledge that our struggle on the following day would be a hard one that we retired to rest that night. I think both of us had had quite enough of the race, and had it not been for the fact that we had announced that by some means or other we would bring our car to Vienna, I am certain we should have given up, and finished the race so far as we were concerned, at Bregenz. We had no chance of winning, and the mere fact of arriving in Vienna hardly seemed sufficient recompense for the hard labor we should have to expend on the following day to get there.