3. GAILLON AND CHATEAU THIERRY, 1901-1902 EARLY HILL-CLIMBS by “BALADEUR”
IN the autumn of 1901, the organisers of the Gatlin hill-climb reached a momentous decision. ” With vehicles weighing close on two tons,” it was declared, ” it is difficult to get the best results with a standing start, and it has therefore been decided to send off the vehicles a hundred metres behind the starting line.” The policy was im mediately criticised as one which favoured the monster racer ; be that as it nuty, the
change meant that the times recorded in 1901 and subsequent years were incapable of comparison with those of earlier events. On the other hand, cars and motor-cycles were in this respect now placed in a position of equality. The change, moreover, by no means detracted from the popularity of the affair, for there were no less than 112 entries, and, in spite of a seasonable fog in the Seine valley, 72 actually arrived at the foot, of the hill on the morning of November 17th. Morover, ” the meeting,” as The Automotor Journal impressively recorded, ” was very largely attended by cyclists and automobilists, quite five hundred of the latter being present in the neighbour
hood.” ” Gaillon.” adds The Autocar, ” had decked itself out in holiday attire, and with the crowd swelled by the chauffeurs from l’aris the military had great difficulty in keeping the course clear.”
Much to everybody’s disappointment there were no Mors present, although the marque had followed up its victory in Paris-Toulouse-Paris in 1900 by winning Paris-Berlin in 1901 with the new 60-h.p. model, which had generally been acclaimed the racing car of the year. Moreover, there were only two big Panhards, and neither of theta was driven by one of the firm’s crack drivers. In the absence of these acknowledged champions of the internal combustion engine, it looked like a good thing for the outside motive powers, and their exponents had not failed to seize the opportunity thus presented to them. Itutishaus-r was there with a powerful GardnerSerpollet, modestly rated at 12 h.p. ; M. Krieger had turned up with his electric car, whirl’ had just set up a record by covering the 110 miles front Paris to Chatellerault on a single charge, and which weighed 2,300 kgs. ; and even its weight was eclipsed by that of the Jenatzy petrol-electric monster driven by Baron de Caters, ” which scales 2,500 kgs., And with its combined petrol and electric motors is generally credited with being able to develop temporarily 100 11,4).. but it is probable that. 80 h.p. is nearer the mark.”
Petrol, however, was actually more worthily represented than was, perhaps, generally appreciated. In the first place there were two 50-h.p. Napiers, of the type which had been built to compete in the Gordon Bennett contest, one of them driven by S. F. Edge and the other, fitted with a four-seater body, by Mark Mayhew. Although only rated at 50 h.p., this Napier had one of the largest engines that had as yet been put into a motor car, the bore and stroke of 165.1 by 190.5 ram. (61 by 710 in.) comparing with equivalent dimensions of 130 by 100 mm. in the con temporary 60-h.p. Mors and 130 by 140 mm. in the 40-11.p. Panhard. For all that the Napier might not have been expected to be at its best in a hill-climb, for even in racing trim it turned the scales
at 1,800 kgs., compared with 1,800 kgs., And 1,200 kgs. in the case of the Mors and Panhard ; with its four-seater body Mayhew’s car must have rivalled in weight the Krieger and Jenatzy. The Napier engine, however, was evidently equal to it, and S. F. Edge, to the consternation of most of the com petitors. mounted the hill in 1 min. 8.4
sec. Even this, in the opinion of certain of his countrymen, was not as good as he could have done, had fortune smiled on him. ” Mr. Edge’s time,” declared The Autonzolor Journal, ” would have been 4 to 5 seconds better had he not been interfered with bs a car drawing across the road just as he had made his start.”” He would probably have done better,” explained The Autocar a little less charitably, ” had he been able to change speed a little more promptly on the brow of the hill.” For all that, he was prompt enough to outstrip with consummate ease the only 40-h.p. Panhard two-seater present, which, driven by Baron Henri de Rothschild under his usual pseudonym of ” Dr. Pascal,” took 1 min. 25 sec. to ascend the hill. Possibly, however, the Baron also had trouble with the traffic or his gear change, as he was also beaten by another 40-h.p. Panhard which carried a fourseater body and came up in 1 rain. 14.4 see., beating not only the Baron but also Mark Mayhew’s four-seater Napier, which took 1 min. 33.4 sec.
S. F. Edge, moreover, was too fast for the champions of alternative sources of power, the Serpollet and the Krieger dead-heating in 1 min. 15.4 see., white the Jenatzy took 1 min. 53.4 soe, to cover the kilometre. ” In view of its enormous weight on the up-grade, the time of 1 min. 15.4 sec. for the electric car must be regarded as remarkably good,” thought The Autoear adding, a trifle sardonically, that ” there was nothing to prevent the vehicle front doing still better, but M. Krieger was driving his own car, and a very costly one, and that makes all the difference.” Camille Jenatzy, on the other hand, was not -driving his own car, but in this case its “indifferent behaviour” was ” put down to a short circuit in the battery.” Even the Napier’s performance, however, was to be put in the shade in the course of the afternoon. Already the hill-climbs were beginning to show that what was required for success was not mere power, but a high power to weialit ratio. Translated into terms of long distance racing, the sante lesson was to be taught the next year by the Paris-Vienna race, when the passage of the Arlberg and the bad and mountainous Austrian roads were to permit Marcel Renault with 16-h.p. light car to outstrip the 70-h.p. halliards and the 60-h.p. Mors. For the moment, however, it was a motor cycle which was to carry off the honours, “Rigid, on a 16-h.p. Darracq tricycle, fairly flying up the hill as if the gradient did not exist,” his time being 50.4 sec., which beat Becormais’ record of 1900 by just 5 seconds. Moreos er, even a four wheeler could do nearly as well, Osmont on a quadricycle clocking 51.8 see. ” The 10-114). de Dion motor of Osmont was a novelty, for the huge water-cooled cylinder would have doue very well for propelling a big carriage.” Finally the ” voiturette driven by Truffault, although presumably distinguished from a quadricyele by being heavier, got up in only 1 second over a minute, The Autoear remarking that ” the long skeleton tubular construction of the Trufratdt with a two-cylinder Buchet
motor, entered its 12 but really developing 16 h.p., might be anything but a voiturette, and is always objected to by the drivers of competing vehicles, owing to the difficulty of classifying it.” However much the other competitors might object, however, results at Gaillon in 1901 were all in favour of the lightweights.
Si) great was the prestige that the Gaillon hill-climb had now attained that in 1902 its very success threatened it with disaster. It had all along been organised, it will be remembered, by le Velo, which was associated with the Moto Club de France, and the entphasis, presumably, had at first been on the motor-cycles. Vt ith the growing importance of the motor car, however, it seemed wrong to VAtaoVeto, which was associated with the Autontobile Club de France, that the organisation of so important an event should be in the hands of its rival. As soon, therefore, as le Vela had annomwed October 5th as the date for the Gaillon hill-climb, rAuto vkqo announced that it would run a intuit better hill-climb on that date at Chateatt-Thierry, and, what was more, that it would itself organise a meeting at Gaillon a week later. Le l’eto countered this move by putting its date forward to September 21st. whereupon PA Vito replied by altering Clifiteau-Thierry not, for some reason, to th. same date, but to September 28th, while it seized on October 5th for its own Gaillon meeting. The ruse, on the whole, was extremely successful le Veto’s Gaillon, by comparison with previous events at any rate, wait a failure, Chateau-Thierry was a brilliant success. But hell holds no fury like a journal scorned. To the extreme satisfaction of ‘Auto-Velo. prct ieally all those who had run at Chilteau-Thierry duly turned up at Gaillon on October 51 h, and then, only an hour before the start, ” a force of gendarmes and soldiers,” dispatched by the Prefect of the Department, appeared on the scene tinder the command of a captain of gendarmerie, who politely informed M. Prude, who was in charge of the or ganisation, that the meeting was prohibited. ” As the trials had been sane tionec:. by the Minister of the Interior the telearaph was set to work in the hope of getting him to interfere, but as the hours passed and no news came the meeting had to be postponed. much to the indignation of the crowd in the street, who
believed that they were the victims of an underhand manoeuvre,” Le relo, in fact, was avenged.
However, its triumph was not, of long duration, for tlw Minister of the Interior presumably did intervene, as soon as he had recovered front his Sunday rest, and l’Au/oVeto’s event duly took place a week later ; with the result. that liowever annoying this bickering may have seemed at the time, it is not without its eontpensations for the historian, who, as a result of it, is iresented with two Gaillon hilladindis in one year, and, in addition, a slew event at Cheteint-l’hierry thrown in for good measure.
Moreover, if tlw first meeting at Gaidon in 1902 was a relative failure, it was certainly not. without interest if only because all previous records up the hill were so derisively beaten. Shunned by the big petrol ears, the only competitors in the heavy class were two Serpollet, driven by M. .Serpollet himself and by Le I-lion ; hut even before they ran, -a foretaste of what was going to happen was given by Baras, who drove a Darracq light car up the hill in 46.6 see., 3.4 see. raster than the fastest motorcycle in 1901. The date, it ioust. be remembered. was Septentlier 21st, instead of the usual day in November, and there is, doubtless in consequence, no mention of the fog which was the usual feature of Gaillon. This may have hail something to do wit 11 the improvement in the times, Lint it is nevertheless signilieant that the fastest of the raotor-eyeles, a Griffon tricycle, ” fitted with a huge Soecin motor,” and ridden by Demeester, took 46.2 sec. for the climb, which showed that at. last the ears and motor-eyeleswere approaching terms of equality. Then came the turn of the Serpollets. ” M. Le Blon, accompanied by Madame Le Blon, drove his big Gardner-Serpollet up at terrific speed. The Ind idly surface of the road caused t he val. to juin!) and sway from side to side, and it passed like a whirlwind, disappearing in a cloud of dust, over the top of the hill, with the squeaking of lirakes as the vehicle was Ina-meld to it standstill a long way past
the finish.” It. had in fact elimbeil in 49.8 see., which was easily a reeitrd for the course, and comfortably the fastest time of the day. ” On the lower part of the hill, M. Serpollet seemed to be doing as well, if not better. with his famous 12-hip. Whale, in which he was using alcohol as fuel, but lie mistook the ridge of the gradient for the tiiiish, and hid his brakes down before he rettehed the timekeepers.” As a result, his time was 41.4 see.. butt although he was beaten he could feel well pleased with the day’s work. The Serpollet steamer, in fact, was enjoying its brief heyday, and after this performance at Gaillon, the most persistent adversaries of steam must have begun to harbour doubts. A week later, however, the champions of petrol were assetnbled at CheteatoThierry to defend their title. The new coarse was US different from that at Gaillon as could well be imagined. and, indeed, was much more reminiscent of the old days at Chanteloup. Instead of being out in the open country the hill up which the trials were held led up through the very streets of the -town, and the course, instead of being dead straight, was characterised by a couple of awkward bends. As at Gaillon, the timed distance was exactly a kilometre, the ears being given a short flying start. Freer) the banks of the Itiver Marne, the .Avenue de SOISSORS atieetHIS quite straight between the houses of Clulteutuu2Pliierry, and where the maiu road veers off to the right, to avoid the gradient, carries straight on over the railway, then negotiates the two awkward bends, and at last, reaches the plAteau non t It of the town wi tic WI average gradient of about 1 in 11. There are alternative routes which can be. used if the Avenue de Soissons is closed, but even so the prospect of nearly a hundred cars and motor-cycles roaring up a hill in the heart of the town throughout t he daylight luaus of n September Sunday would have been anythieg but pleasing to the bourgeoisie a year or two before. By now, however, the cot to value of the motorist was beginning to lie appreciated. The enthusiasm of the eomputitors and speetators. it is recorded, ” was not iiiore marked than the zeal of the twat authorities, who invited the population to aeeord hospitality tit the atdontohilistlit and tIms eneouraee then) to make this conmetit ion an animal event, loud the tradespeople also assisted to make it a success, by offering a number of prizes The motor-cycle classes were run off in the morning, and ” among the tricycles Rigid was expected to do something sensational on his 20-h .p. lit whet, but unfortunately a slight acchlent to the machine prevented Iditiu trout reaching the top.” The nature of the ” slight accident ” is not recorded, but it. seems that ” it number of motor-tricycles . . . failed to climb the hill, some of them coming to a standstill when taking the corners, and “nee t he 11101 .or stopped, there was no means of start tug it unaided on such a grade.” Sl’ith Meal out of it, the fastest motuir-e;,.;ele to cud,’ was al’el /111
plished by Lost e ccli anot littelvt, whose time was 19.2 see., which looked pretty sensational having in mind the awkwardness of the betels.
In the idternoon. however, it was the turn of the ears, and now these were to show that in spite of the bethis, or jcccssitcly because of them, they were fully the equals of the motor-eyeles iii iii It-cl inebiuig ability. Le Mon, it seems, was not present, but Serpollet I lid dli cit ed ihehill I in 49.8 see., only .6 of a second! slower I hall LO3te ; and then Gabriel on it 60-h.p. Mors proceeded to ootdo holt) if them with a fastest time of t he I lay of 48.4 see. This p •rfornutwe is partienlarly interesting because up to this point the big Mors racing car Of 1902 must be accounted almost a failure. Although rated, like the Paris-Ilerlin winner of the year lief( we, at 60 tlw 1902 moule,1 was an entirely different car, designed to Mil form wit Ic t hue new weight limit of Liest kes., and having a short-stroke engine of 140 by 150 mm., instead of the 1901 dimensions of’ 130 by 190 min. Of the half a ilof.en of these ears Odell started in the Paris-Vienna race, foes fed out on tlw tirst stage to Belfort, and of t how Hutt remained. the best placed in the heavy car class was that driven by de Caters, which finished ninth, behind half a dozen of the new Panhard et Levassors, a Mercedes and the Napier. At the time this was ascribed to bad luck, but it must be admitted that the new Panhard confirmed its superiority later in the season by winning the first Circuit des Ardennes race. Curiously enough the 1902 Panhard, although litted with a much larger engine, the’ bore and stroke being 160 by 170 nun., and built extremely light, had proved itself mere reliable than the much more eonserV:lt Vtt ‘Alen’s. Even more curiously, the Mors had shown itself to be rather I lie faster of the two cars ; and this inniression was fl Illy confirmed at ChateauThierry, where the fastest 70-h.p. Panhard, driven by Teate., took 52.8 see, to mount the hill, and was beaten not only I y t Mors anti tln:t Serpollet, but also by Gohron-Brillie light car, which got up in 52 see. Tilk car had been second ii) its class at Belfort in Paris-Vienna, I witting all the Renaults. one of which was
to prove the outright winner of whele race, and had followed this up by winning the light car class of tlw Circuit des Ardennes. Its peel( ?1111:111CC hut ChAteauThierry went far to confirm Marvel Riulatill’s victory cis-Tr his more powerful adversiirles iii l’aris-Vientut. After the ;dames aunt excursions caused by the bccd’iI tconeiue.0 t of Due second Gaillon meeting of 1902, prayt holly all the ears which had competed al, ChateauThierry were finally gathered at the foot of the classic hill on October 12th, and the results of tlw day’s ravine were curiously differ:-.0t.urtillt’roun those at Chateau earlier. In the first
Thierry a fort. place, Gabriel on the Mors was this time definitely disappointing, his time of 43.8 see. being 3 see, greater than he Illon’s record established in September. And as it’ to point the lesson, Heath tel his 70-1t.p. PaIllutrd jirocceded to improve on he !limed.; Dine by eloeking 40.4 see., while it second Panhard, driven by Teste, was also faster than the Mors. Even the Paithards. however, were not to carry tiff the hononrs, for the steamers were there in force, aml (ewe noire Gaillon was to Kayo a .SI:03111 .161(1110. Serpollet himself was to have made an attempt On the hill, butt. a tire broke out in tuts car, which, however, was speedily extinguished. and so little damage was done that he was able I, return to Paris on his vehicle’.” ‘viiy the whale, could motor hack to Paris it. could not motor up the hill remains something of a mystery ; but if Serpollet himself was a num-starter, Le Blon -was there this time awl, to the general consternation, poweeded to shatter his own record by climbing in 36 seconds, one. gains the impression that i.e Blum was al. least a rat her ioore determined driver thae Serpollet, and hail he been pres,pd :tt thatrait-Thierry, perhaps the ftstest time of the clay there wuuld not have I Mal carried off by a petrol car. As it %vas, not only ihid his steamer beat all the Idpetrol cars at. Gttillon, but in the light car elms, Itittishauser, his GardnerSerpollers Intel; tyres bound with leather thongs in case’ of rain. got up in 40.8 see., only .4 of a second more than the fastest petrol car, and nearly 3 SOCOMIS
faster tit:um Deeauville, which. was second in the class and beat Rieolly on the Gobron-13rillie. Undoubtedly, as far as the sprint hill-elimbs were i-eteerned, 1002 was a steam car year.