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   article publié le 23 avril 2011 
 La génèse | Gordon Bennett Cup | Succès de Napier | British Racing Green | Reportage TV

Succès de Napier

Napier 30HP (1902) - 60.3 ko
Napier 30HP (1902)
moteur : 4 cylindres en ligne
cylindrée : 6435cc
puissance : 44,5 cv à 950trs/m
La France, premier constructeur automobile, remporte le Trophée en 1900 et en 1901. L’année suivante, une marque anglaise conteste cette domination... il s’agit de la surprenante Napier vert olive pilotée par Selwyn Francis Edge, seule rescapée du parcours Paris-Innsbrück. Suite à cette victoire inattendue, le jeune Automobile Club de Grande Bretagne [1] et d’Irlande se voit confier l’organisation de la future épreuve, conformément au réglement de l’épreuve.

La tâche s’annonce d’emblée difficile puisque la vitesse est limitée à 12Mph (20km/h) sur les routes du Royaume. Suite aux nombreuses tragédies survenues en octobre 1902 dans la course Paris-Madrid [2], il sera même envisagé de laisser la coupe sur le continent.

Ce n’est finalement ni en Grande Bretagne, ni sur le vieux continent mais en Irlande que l’Automobile Club trouve un espoir. Un projet crédible est proposé.

Avec le fervent appui des notables irlandais concernés par le parcours, une pétition est adressée au Parlement de Westminster. Les conditions de sécurités étant garanties par les autorités locales, une loie est promulguée en faveur de l’Automobile Club, qui obtient finalement une dérogation.

Leinster Leader, samedi 24 janvier 1903
“The Committee of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland have decided to hold the race for the Gordon-Bennett Cup in Ireland, provided they can obtain the necessary authorisation from Parliament.

(...) They have selected Ireland because an open course was more easy to be found. The course suggested forms a rough isosceles triangle, with Naas at the apex, and Maryborough and Carlow at the base angles.”

Leinster Leader, samedi 31 janvier 1903
“In connection with the great motor race for the Gordon-Bennett Cup, proposed to be held in Ireland (starting and finishing at Naas) there is much correspondence in the current issue of the Automobile Club Journal. A Bill must be obtained to enable the race to be held in Ireland, and the Automobile Club are seeking support for a petition in its favour. This they are absolutely certain of obtaining from almost every public body and representative public man in the country. Already almost all the Irish members of Parliament have promised their hearty co-operation whilst numbers of the County and District Councils follow suit.

The Most Rev. Patrick Foley, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, writes :
In response to your circular, I have much pleasure in declaring myself an ardent advocate of the proposed route for the Gordon-Bennett Cup Race, 1903. As all the towns and most of the rural districts through which it passes are situated within my diocese, I am well acquainted with their inhabitants, and have no hesitation in stating that with the proviso respecting proper precautions contained in your circular, the proposal will be received with acclimation alone the whole line of route. Wishing the project every success.

Mr. S. J. Brown (chairman of the Kildare Co. Council) writes :
In response to your circular of 24th inst., I can safely promise, on behalf of my Council, that your committee may count upon their support for the proposed Bill to enable the Automobile Race to be held in Ireland and that they will do everything in their power to have the roads in good order for the occasion. There will be no meeting of the Council until the 9th prox., but I shall then bring the matter formally before them. If I might make a suggestion, it would be that it would be hardly necessary to begin the race at such an early hour as 3 a.m.”

Leinster Leader, samedi 21 février 1903
“(...) No objection to the course which has been mapped out in Ireland is anticipated from any of the competing clubs, and the only difficulty that now remains is the passing of a short special Act of Parliament legalising the race. The Irish members appear to be unanimously in favour of such a measure, and no indication of opposition has yet been given from any quarter. There is, indeed, no reason why the Bill should not be treated as a non-controversial measure, and passed by consent after midnight on an early day. An effort was made by the Kerry County Council to secure the holding of the race in their Co.”

Leinster Leader, samedi 28 février 1903
Mr. C Johnson, secretary to the Automobile Club, forwarded a petition to be presented to Parliament, with the view to passing a short bill enabling the international race to be run in Ireland, and expressing the hope that the members of the Council would sign the petition, also other influential gentlemen whose opinion might be thought to have some weight.

Leinster Leader, samedi 11 avril 1903
“The great race for the possession of the Gordon-Bennett trophy, which will take place in the first week of July, has an interest for Ireland which cannot be exaggerated. For the first time in her history Ireland will be the envy of the sporting world. She has been selected as the battle-ground on which to decide the supremacy of the latest inventions to revolutionise locomotion. France, Germany, England and America will enter the lists to fight out the battle of speed on the morning of the 2nd of July. The contest will not only be a test of speed, but a test of the native workmanship of each of the competing countries as well.

(...) Notices printed both in English and Irish will be freely circulated, illustrating the dangers run by crossing or running out on the course after a car has passed.
Each nation will have its own distinguishing colours. English cars will be painted green in compliment to Ireland, German white, France blue and America red, so that spectators will be easily able to distinguish the car’s nationality, however fast they dash by. Punctually at 7 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd July Mr. Edge driving the first of the English green cars, will be despatched, followed by France, then America, and lastly Germany.

(...) The course will be kept clear by a guard of nearly 1,400 persons, and the whole length of the road will be roped off. The approach of the cars will be announced by buglers stationed at regular intervals, and all dangerous corners and bridges will be marked with flags. A request will probably be made to the farmers in the district which we are sure will be readily granted, to lend them carts and hurdles to block up all side roads and approaches. Intending spectators will do well to remember that on the day of the race the only way to the inside of the course will be through the “controls” at Kildare, Castledemott, Carlow and Athy. Through these towns the cars will be obliged to travel at a slow speed, preceded by a bicycle. The racing cars will be in Ireland several weeks before the contest, but will not be allowed to go round the course till the day of the race. Several fields have been purchased near the Ballyshannon cross roads on which large stands and enclosures will be erected for the accommodation of the foreign visitors - Sir C. K.”

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Bibliographie :

 "British Racing Green"
Drivers, Cars & Triumphs of British Motor Racing
par David Venables

 "Napier first to wear the green"
par David Venables. Forewoerd by Bill Boddy.
Ed Haynes. 1998.
En anglais. 215x275.
Couv carton + jaquette. 208 pages.

Gordon Bennett Route - 5.7 Mo "Gordon Bennett Route"
A journey through counties Carlow, Kildare and Laois
  Brochure à télécharger

[1] La Grande Bretagne est composée de 3 nations : l’Angleterre, l’Écosse et le Pays de Galles

[2] Paris-Madrid (1903) : course arrêtée à Bordeaux par ordre gouvernemental en raison des accidents causés : 15 accidents corporels, 7 accidents mortels (2 pilotes dont Marcel Renault, 3 mécaniciens, 2 spectateurs).

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