The Edwardian era was by-and-large dominated by French cars and drivers. However, for two months of the summer of 1902 two British drivers – S.F.Edge and Charles Jarrott – briefly stole the headlines.
Motor racing pioneer
Having competed on bicycles and then motorbikes, Jarrott switched to cars in 1897 when driving a Bollée on an event from Coventry to Birmingham. He also abandoned a career in the law and raced on the continent from 1901 to 1904.
He gained a fine reputation fostered by a finish-at-all-costs philosophy that was more than evident on the 1902 Paris-Vienna. Jarrott used parts from a bedstead to repair his chassis that day – enterprise indeed.
A winner in Belgium
Jarrott’s best season began with a second place finish in the Circuit du Nord behind Maurice Farman. Then, just five weeks after S.F.Edge had won the Gordon Bennett Cup for Britain; Jarrott won the first race held on a closed course – the Circuit des Ardennes – when averaging 55mph in his factory-prepared Panhard 70hp.
With Britain hosting the 1903 Gordon Bennett at Athy in Ireland, Jarrott represented his country for the first time but his Napier crashed early on. Now driving a Wolseley, he finished 12th and last in the following year’s Gordon Bennett having retired from the French elimination trials as national rules for the competition blurred.
Jarrott formed a car dealership with Sir William Letts in 1904 in London’s Great Marlborough Street that represented De Dietrich, Oldsmobile and Crossley. He retired from racing after winning the 1907 Byfleet Plate at Brooklands in a dead heat.
Lt Col Jarrott was Director of Transport in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I when he was mentioned in despatches on three occasions. As well as being a pioneering racing driver, Jarrott was equally so in the motor industry. He was a founding member of the Automobile Association, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Olympia Motor Show.
He died in January 1944 having suffered from bronchitis and pleurisy. His son of the same name was an award-winning film director.