Our Blog 12/2022

While perusing the miasma of misery that passes for Motorsport in the 21st century, you may have wondered where it all began.

Well the answer is, as if you care; July 22nd 1894 and the Paris-Rouen Trial. The World's first organised, competitive, motoring event.

19-Dec-22 historicracing.com

Initiated by a Parisian newspaper. It was in principle a test to establish who it was that produced the most practical and effective motor vehicle at that time.

On the first day a series of tests to compare practical issues, such as manoeuvrability, would be undertaken, and points awarded accordingly. And on the second day, there would be a straightforward timed race over 127 kilometres from Paris to Rouen.

The official winner would be the team that gathered the most points over the two days of the event. But from the start, most of the public interest was on the race. 102 entries were received, mostly French (there was one each from Italy, Germany and the UK), many of which were little more than complete fantasies. But on the day, 25 serious competitors actually showed up. 4 of these dropped out on the first day with various problems, so that 21 cars were eventually to make it to the starting line. Of these, only one, a Benz entered by French importer Emile Roger, was not built in France.

The race took place without a great deal of major drama, and in the picture you can see Emile Mayade's Panhard et Levassor (who finished 7th) leading Michaud's Peugeot (who finished 9th) through the streets of Mantes-la-Jolie, just west of Paris.

Of the starters, only 4 failed to finish, and the winner, after just under 7 hours of speed crazed motoring was; Count Albert De Dion (the one with the hat and moustache), and his stout-hearted crew, aboard their steam driven De Dion-Bouton.

Arriving 3.5 minutes ahead of Albert Lemaitre's petrol engined Peugeot. The official winners of the entire event were the Peugeot team, with Panhard et Levassor 2nd and De Dion-Bouton 3rd. But it is the Count and his steamer who have been most remembered by history, and who can claim to have won the first ever, proper motor race.

It was to be the last time a steam powered vehicle ever won a major race, and it would be all downhill from there.