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Pre-WWII Racing


The New York Times
May 26, 1903

Europe Horrified Over Fatalities in French Speed Contest.

Spain Prohibits a Continuance of the Awful Run — Casualties Show Six Dead and Thirteen Injured.

PARIS, May 25.—It is now possible to assemble from the many reports along the route of the first stage of the Paris-Madrid automobile race a complete list of the casualties.  This shows six persons killed, three so dangerously injured that they may die, and ten seriously injured.  A carefully revised list of the casualties follows:


PIERRE RODERIZ, Mr. Barrow's machinist; collision with a tree near Lisbourne.
NIXON, Mr. Porter's machinist; burned under automobile.
NORMAND, M. Tourand's machinist; at Angouleme.
DUPUY, soldier, at Angouleme.


Mr. BARROW, pelvis and thigh broken; amputation of leg expected.
Mr. MARCEL RENAULT, injured about body and head.
Mr. L. PORTER, cut and bruised.
Mr. STEAD, overturned; badly injured.
Mr. STEAD'S machinist, head cut open.
LESNA, champion cyclist; broken kneecap.
GEORGES RICHARD, chest crushed, ribs broken.
HENRY JEANNOT, Richard's machinist, shoulder fractured.
E. CHARD, head cut open.
TOURAND, severely bruised.
GASTON RAFFET, boy; fractured skull, leg and arm broken.
MARCEL RENAULT'S machinist, severely bruised.
Mme. CHAYSEAS, both legs amputated by automobile.

A late dispatch from Bordeaux adds another terrible accident to the long list of castualties.  Mme. Chayseas, accompanied by her husband, both riding bicycles, were watching the passing automobiles at St. Andre de Cubzac, twelve miles from Bordeaux, when a horse, frightened by the noise, bolted and overturned the lady, who fell under a racing automobile.  Both her legs were cut off and hopes of saving her life are slight.

According to the latest reports Mr. Stead is so much improved that he will be able to leave the hospital this week.  Mr. Barrow is also slightly better.  Marcel Renault's condition is less satisfactory.

There is much excitement in automobile circles in Bordeaux over the interdiction of the continuance of the race by the French and Spanish Governments.  A committee of the local Automobile Club and delegates from the Paris Automobile Club met in Bordeaux this afternoon, but the decision arrived at has not yet been published.

Many of the competitors, including MM. Charron, Thellier, and Passy, desired to abandon the race, but others insisted that their honor required them to resume it at the Spanish frontier, if possible; but the Spanish Government later forbade the race and thus compelled its complete abandonment.  The automobilists may cross the frontier, but they are to be considered simply as excursionists, and must travel at reduced speed.

The action of the French Government in stopping the speed contest is generally approved, with the exception of some of the automobilists.

A number of the leading American and French automobilists have expressed horror at the series of accidents, and stated that in their opinion it will end speed races in France and at other places on the Continent.

Foxhall Keene said: "The effect will be a serious if not an irreparable blow to fast automobiling.  I had hoped to drive my sixty horse-power car.  It was a wonderful machine, showing 112 kilometers without effort, but at the last moment we were unable to complete the necessary repairs."

There is not the slightest ground for the suggestion that Henri Fournier, W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and Baron de Forest withdrew from the race on account of the dangers.  Each had a damaged cylinder and could not proceed.

Clarence Moore of Washington timed Louis Renault's car as it passed him and found it was making 74½ miles an hour.  The automobile of M. Gabriel, yesterday's winner, he says, gave forth a deep base roar as it leaped the steep incline near Chartres like a huge rabbit bounding up a hill.  He saw Jarrott approaching at lightning speed.  A huge mastiff got right in the path.  Jarrott realized that to try and avoid the dog would throw his car against a tree, and he steered directly for the dog.  He struck the dog squarely, and it was pinned in front of the automobile for half a minute, and then dropped to the ground between the wheels.  Mr. Moore and others examined the carcass of the dog and found that there was not a bone left in its body over two inches long.

Concerning the effect of the accidents, Mr. Moore expressed the opinion that it will stop the excessive speed of races and that this would really be beneficial to true sport.  He says the Paris-Madrid race is less a contest of sportsmanship than a competition between rival makers, seeking to gain a reputation.  Many makers offer large premiums to unknown men to induce them to break records.

Senator Prevost has announced his intention to interpellate the Government on the necessity for a stringent regulation of automobile racing.  He intends also to introduce a stringent law fixing a maximum speed and forbidding racers to circulate in the streets or on public roads.

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