LIEUT.-COLONEL CHARLES JARROTTI O.B.E.
By RODNEY L. WALKERLEY.
The name, Charles Jarrott, conjures up visions of the past, and there rises before us the long poplar-lined French road, blinding clouds of white dust hanging in a thick pall mile after mile, through which thunder the shadowy shapes of bygone racers, rocking and roaring along, bygone heroes of half-forgotten epics.
Such a man was, and still is, Charles Jarrott ; a pioneer racing driver to whom the reek of fumes and the choking clouds of dust were as the breath of heaven, so long as he had a fast monster beneath him and a long road ahead. In a short review of the life and.:activities’of this
giant of the old days, whose name is linked in the minds of a younger generation with those of De Knyff, Jenatzy, Fournier, Baron de Caters and of the other pioneer heroes, it would be futile to recall the time leading up to his first entrance into the motor world. Perhaps his earliest connection with the giort was established on that memorable occasion in November, 1896, when the London to Brighton run took place, to celebrate the new motor car laws, and to sound the knell of the old ” red-flag” days. This was one of the few occasions when Charles Jarrott figured as a spectator,
for it was at a later date when he first handled an autocar. This incident took place on Gibbet Hill, on the Coventry-Birmingham road, the car being a 3h.p. Panhard van which Turrell was testing. Just as the car topped the rise, with Jarrott as passenger, Turrell stepped off, leaving a rather scared Jarrott in supreme command. The circumstances were further aggravated by the car beginning to travel very fast down the opposite slope. Completely at sea as to the correct procedure for arresting the vehicle, Jarrott did the only possible: thhig, hanging on the steering tiller and
keeping the machine on the road until pulled up on the next rise.
From this beginning Jarrott rapidly plunged into motoring, and drove various machines—notably the ” No. 5″ mach’ne driven by Levassor in the ParisMarseilles race.
Motor racing had an irresistible attraction for the ardent young motorist, and success early greeted his efforts in the competitive field. In September, 1899, he won the Five Miles Championship of the Motor Club, riding a Be Dion tricycle in eight
minutes 113/5 seconds ; and again at Aston won the Ten ,Miles Scratch Race for tricycles in 17 minutes 22 seconds. In the whole year 1899 he competed in some fifty different races, among them being his match with the famous trotter ” Gold Ring.” In this event, which aroused great popular interest, he gave the horse 250 yards start in a mile, on a grass track, and won easily. Jarrott next turned his attention from motor-cycle racing to car racing, and because he was at that time
handling the Panhard business in this country, persuaded Mr. Harvey de Cros—who had the Panhard rights for England—to secure a Panhard car for the Paris-Berlin race of 1901, and, moreover, persuaded him that the only possible driver for this machine was one Charles Jarrott. Rene de Knyff, administrator of the Panhard concern, was eventually won over, and thus it came about that
Jarrott started in his first race, the Paris-Berlin of 1901.
The hardships of the long-distance road races of those days are scarcely conceivable to the present generationA and the physical endurance demanded from the driver, was that of the most powerful athlete. From the very start of the race, Jarrott drove as if for seven rather than seven hundred miles, when he
found S. F. Edge thundering along just behind, who had started much later than Jarrott, on a Napier. This was the last straw and, where he had been spectacular before, Jarrott became reckless now. The 40 h.p. car was all over the road, the driver struggling with all his might to hold it to an approximately direct course. The climax came when Jarrott tore up a hill at full speed, and found a right-angled corner!
The car got round in a huge skid amid a flurry of stones and a cloud of dust, but Smits, the mechanic, was simply catapulted out, and missed a stone wall by inches. Edge shot by, and thereafter Jarrott drove with more
circumspection, eventually finishing at Berlin in tenth place, a very excellent achievement for a first race.
The next appearance of Charles Jarrott was again on a Panhard of 40 h.p. in the Circuit de Nord, 1902, when he secured second place, being troubled throughout the race by obstructions in the fuel system.
The same year saw him start in the Paris-Vienna race, this time on the 70 h.p. Panhard. The race was also a fight against troubles, the culminating disaster being a frame breakage, which was ” repaired” by bolting a leg of a table—commandeered from his hotel bedroom—to the fractured member. After struggling against misfortune upon misfortune, calamity upon calamity, the Panhard crawled to the fin:shing post and there stopped dead, immovable.
Success attended his efforts in the great C:rcuit des Ardennes, for, starting thirty-fourth, he finkhed first, averaging over fifty-four miles an hour for 321 miles— a speed which would be creditable even in these days of ultra-efficiency. This last victory placed Jarrott among the great ones of motor racing, and his name became international property.
In August of this year, he again achieved fame by breaking the kilometre record, on the track at Welbeck, in 28A seconds-78 miles per hour.
The next great race in which Jarrott participated was that epic of all time, the Paris-Madrid of 1903—the Race of Death. This race will be remembered with awe while motors exist, and men speak with bated breath of Cabriel’s astounding feat in his Mors car, who, starting 168th, came right through the string of competitors, overtaking at tremendous speed in the blinding dust cloud, passing wreckage and disasters, to finish first at Bordeaux at an average speed of over 65 m.p.h.
jarrott started first on a big De Dietrich and after a drive which is almost incredible to a later generation, finished first, being awarded third place on time. The race was one long. nightmare. The crowds who lined the course Masked the corners, and encroached on the road forming a wall before the tired eyes of the driver, which opened out only at the last moment. These terrible obstacles had their effect, and men who had stood the strain for so many hours began to lose their nicety of judgment. Smashes too1 place by the score, and Death stalked abroad in the blinding dust clouds. At the close of the race—stopped by the Government at Bordeaux—the world stood aghast at the terrible tale. This sounded the death knell of point to point road racing, and thereafter Jarrott’s
activities were limited to Gordon-Bennett circuit racing, and to the business side of motoring.
The only had smash Jarrott ever suffered was in the Gordon-Bennett race in 1903, held on the Athy circuit in Northern Ireland. In this race Jarrott drove a Napier, and when travelling at some sixty miles an hour on a straight stretch, the steering suddenly disintegrated, and the car charged the bank, somersaulting three or four times. The crash must have been terrific, and Jarrott was very fortunate in surviving ; in fact, beyond terrible bruises and cuts, he sustained only a broken collar-bone. Motor racing began to undergo a change about this time, and thecommercial, rather than the sporting spirit, began to pervade the great races. This change had its effect on Charles j arrott, who cared only for the sport, and he now withdrew from the big continental races, his
last being the Gordon-Bennett of 1904, run over the Hamburg circuit. His car this time was a Wolseley, and he succeeded in finishing twelth after much trouble with the car.
Since then, Charles Jarrott has not taken a very active part in motor racing, but his continued interest in the sport of sports is evidenced by his connection with very many motoring organisations. Among his more important activities was the founding of the Automobile Association, which to-day occupies so large a place in the motoring world. It would be impossible here to mention all his Chairmanships and Presidencies of motoring clubs, but we might recall that he was the Chairman of the J.C.C. from 1919 to 1925, a founder member of the Royal
Aero Club, and a founder member and ex-Vice President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
To give even a brief outline of the motoring life of Colonel Jarrott is difficult, and readers are referred to his book just published, entitled Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing.