One hundred years on

One hundred years ago, the Gordon Bennett Cup was held on the Circuit d'Auvergne, near Clermont-Ferrand. The Gordon Bennett Cup was the forerunner of Grand Prix racing in which nations competed to win the prize. The event was won by a Frenchman called Leon Thery in a Richard-Brasier.

This year no fewer than 150 vintage and luxury cars will return to the Clermont Ferrand to celebrate the centenary of the event. Participants will come from Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland, Mexico and United States and will use the same circuit as in 1905. Five of the cars will be original competitors in Gordon Bennett Cup.

Michelin has recently gone to great expense to rebuild one of the two surviving Richard-Brasiers in the world and the car is entered for the big event in the original blue colour scheme as was seen 100 years ago.

The Cup was named after James Gordon Bennett, a wealthy American newspaper man. He made his name initially funding the exploration of Africa. Ejected from polite society in New York for having urinated in a fireplace while visiting his fiancee, he settled in Paris and in 1887 established the Paris Herald. He lived an extravagant lifestyle but was an important sponsor of a series of transport-related competitions, including bicycle, motorboat, yacht and balloon races. There were six Gordon Bennett Cup races for automobiles between 1900 and 1905 and these played an important role in the development of international motor racing. The international automobile federation, for example, came about as a result of a meeting of national clubs at the Gordon Bennett Cup race in Bad Homberg in Germany in 1904. The competition was abandoned in 1906 when the Automobile Club de France decided to host its own "Grand Prix".

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