Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing 1896-1906 by Charles Jarrott
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1902 Paris - Vienna Motor Race

Part II By Charles Jarrott

On our arrival, our cars had as usual been taken charge of and lodged in a huge riding-school, being locked up for the night, and the procedure was somewhat amusing when early the next morning the great crowd of drivers, mechanicians, and mechanics were ready, waiting to be allowed to start off on the next stage. The cars were started off in order of arrival, and time was taken two minutes after the admittance of the driver and mechanician into the gates. This meant that immediately a particular driver and mechanician were admitted they started running at top speed to get to their car, as every moment was valuable, and then fearful scenes would be witnessed as the various cars were started up. All sorts of troubles would have developed during the night.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceLeaking cylinders, which had run all right during the day owing to its being possible to replenish them with water en route, would have emptied themselves, and there was invariably a free fight for possession of water-buckets, as it often happened that several cars were in the same condition from this cause. At these early morning starts one also had the opportunity of observing how easy some cars were to start and what efforts were required to make others move at all. There was no particular courtesy shown to anybody, and if a car was not ready to go a squad of soldiers took possession of it and pushed it outside the gates, and the time was taken forth-with. Some of the drivers with refractory engines soon discovered this was an excellent way of getting their cars started without trouble, and it was a common trick to utilize the whole of the time available in replenishing the car, and then, as the military squad arrived and started to push the car out, a skilful manipulation of the clutch on the part of the driver would connect up the engine, and the impetus given to the car would start it up and everything would be well.

I was not altogether happy at the start of the second day. I had noticed that the frame of my car during the run through to Belfort had bent in a very ominous manner, and, in fact, had started to crack on the right-hand side. How far this would extend I did not know, but I was hoping for the best. The second stage of the race being through Switzerland, where racing was not allowed, was neutralized so far as speed was concerned, a maximum time being allowed between the controls, and any time taken beyond the maximum being deducted out of the total racing time. Twenty kilometers from Belfort our troubles began with a puncture, and in our eagerness to affect a rapid repair we nipped the tube and had to do it all over again. This caused us the loss of valuable time, and a lot of cars passed us. Then after another twenty kilometers an ominous knocking sound from the engines betokened that something was wrong, and I found that a plug had come out of the pump and we had lost all our water. The engines on the "70" Panhards were of most delicate construction, and the water-jackets were soldered on to the cylinders. Therefore, judge of my dismay when I noticed that the precious solder, on which we had depended to keep our water-jackets water- tight, was running away in a molten stream. With the aid of a small hammer, and after spending a considerable amount of time, we managed to repair this, and then we set off across country to find water. Du Cros was the lucky discoverer of the precious fluid, and the nearest spot from whence it could be obtained was a farmhouse at least a quarter of a mile away from the road. We toiled on, carrying a bucketful at a time, until at last we had filled up, and once more started on our way.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceThe delays experienced had had a disastrous effect on our average, as we had on each occasion far exceeded the time allowance between the various controls, and we knew that all the delays would be debited against our net running time in the race. The frame of my car was getting worse and worse, and after crossing the frontier into Germany, when we were five kilometres away from Bregenz, a terrific crack advised us that one side had gone ; and the other looked very much as if it might collapse at any moment. Arriving at the control where the cars were stored for the night, we pointed out the trouble to De Knyff, and he held out no hope of our being able to run even another ten kilometres after starting out on the following morning. Two very disconsolate men wended their way to the hotel that afternoon, and it seemed as if the hopes we had entertained of making a fine finish into Vienna were already dashed to the ground. We felt that if we could only strengthen up the sides of the frame by some means or other, it would probably hold out sufficiently for us to get over the next stage to Salzburg, 369 kilometres.

But there we were, in a strange German town, unable to speak the language, and not knowing what we could obtain to effect the repair. However, it seemed that nothing could be done, so we resigned ourselves to our fate. One effect of touring instead of racing was that we had had to sit for hours in a continual cloud of dust, and our appearance on arrival at Bregenz was dirtier than anything I have seen before or since, and our one wish was to obtain a bath if that were possible. Upon inquiry at the hotel, however, we were informed that this was an unknown luxury. We therefore started out to see whether a bath was to be obtained anywhere in the town at all. On our way we met Edge and his cousin engaged upon a like quest, and at this moment I had the happy idea of using my slight knowledge of German to inquire from a passer-by as to whether there were any public baths in Bregenz to which we could go.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceHe gave me minute directions which I did not understand; but, nevertheless, it was sufficient excuse for me to lead the party off in the direction indicated. Then we suddenly came upon the railway-station. This not being what we required, I again inquired of a bystander, who talked to me volubly in German, and pointed to—the railway-station. We were all very puzzled, and proceeded to retrace our steps to the town. Again I inquired, but although we traveled by a more circuitous route, we again found ourselves at—the railway-station. Luckily, I then met a friend who explained the whole matter. Why I should have imagined that "bathhouse" in German was "bahnhof" I do not know, but the fact remains that I had all the time been inquiring my way to the "bahnhof," and consequently we found ourselves again and again returning to the railway-station. The purchase of clean linen in a small shop in the town also afforded us considerable scope in the language of gesticulation. Our experience of Bregenz, altogether, was not a happy one, when it came to making ourselves understood.

It was typical, however, of the difficulties with which an Englishman not knowing the language had to contend in these inter-country events. In my perambulations through the town I came across a shop in the window of which were exposed to view all sorts of tools, and it flashed into my mind that if I could succeed in obtaining suitable tools and material, I could possibly patch up our car sufficiently on the following morning to enable us to make another attempt to get over the next stage to Salzburg. So summoning Du Cros to my aid, we entered the shop together and endeavored to make known that we wished to purchase a large auger suitable for boring wood. Much to our surprise we found the very instrument we wanted, but by no manner of means could we get anything more. We required in addition some long bolts and four long thick pieces of wood, but in this we were doomed to disappointment, and we seemed no nearer the solution of our difficulties than we were when we entered.

It was then five o'clock in the afternoon, and we were slowly making our way back to the hotel with the auger, having been quite unable to obtain either the bolts or the wood, when I met an English friend, who, hearing our story, undertook to get everything we wanted without difficulty. Of course it was obvious that even when we had obtained these things the fixing up of the car would not only be difficult but very likely impossible, but we sat down to dinner that evening feeling somewhat happier in the knowledge that we should at least be able to make an attempt at repairing the car.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceMy friend returned after dinner with a very long face and many apologies, saying that although he had been able to secure the eight bolts he had been quite unable to procure the wood. By this time I had given up the idea of being able to do anything, and we made our way up to bed, disconsolate and forlorn. The bedroom given to me was fitted up with very solid-looking furniture, but I paid very little attention as to whether it was solid or not, as I was worrying over one thing only—how I could obtain suitable material to repair my car. I was just getting into bed and had turned to put out the light, when my eye fell upon a stand used for carrying a tray, and in a second I perceived that the four legs of that stand were exactly what I wanted. I immediately had Du Cros out of bed, and then we discussed the advisability of consulting the landlord as to whether he would sell us the stand. But it was then eleven o'clock, and we had to be up and off by four on the following morning, and possibly the landlord would not sell it to us, and then we should be in a hopeless position once more ; so we came to the conclusion that the risk was too great, and the best thing we could do was to ask nobody, and explain all about it afterwards.

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So we set to work forthwith. Our great trouble was having to demolish the stand without making a noise, but after much effort we had secured the four long straight legs, had broken away the connecting pieces, and then all we had to do was to drill four holes in each length, so that on the following morning we could place the pieces on each side of the frame and bolt them up. Then I produced the auger, and we set to work to bore the holes. Never in my life have I known wood so hard as that happened to be. I believe it was mahogany, but in any event, after boring two or three holes in one piece we were utterly exhausted; but still we struggled on. In order to make matters easier, Du Cros had the happy idea of putting one piece of wood against the wall, thus being able to get greater power in forcing the auger through. He was delightfully successful, but the trouble was that he drove it through too far, and as the wall was coated with plaster, he succeeded in bringing down half the plaster when he attempted to extract the auger. The noise that plaster made falling was horrible, and it seemed impossible for us not to have awakened the whole hotel. This, however, did not satisfy him, and in endeavoring to show how easy it was on another portion of the wall he succeeded in bringing that down also.

1902 Paris - Vienna Motor RaceBy this time the room was in a terrible condition, everything being upside down, and plaster was strewn all over the floor. Then I had an original idea, in the execution of which I bored a hole through my arm instead of through the wood, and for the next half-hour we were devising tourniquets and tearing up the bed linen to make bandages. In fact, there was nothing in the room we did not utilize for something or other. Having at last succeeded in boring all our holes, we then had to proceed to tidy up the room in case of trouble in the morning. With the aid of a towel we managed to sweep up the debris, and deposited it carefully in the bottom of a bureau. We afterwards moved the bureau to cover the wall, and the appearance of the room when we had finished was quite respectable; but I hate to think what must have been the expression on the proprietor's face on the following morning when he discovered what had taken place. There was a great rush the next morning, and we had no opportunity of getting hold of him to explain. The only qualms of conscience I ever had in connection with the whole matter were that I had forgotten, and still forget, the name either of the proprietor or the hotel.

The next morning we were faced by another difficulty, namely, how we were to smuggle the table legs out of the hotel. It was dark, of course, and while I do not propose to describe how we managed to do it, I may say we were successful ; and we dashed off to the control where the cars were stored, all ready to begin fixing up our car immediately we were allowed in. Of course the repair took time, but this was a minor detail compared with the importance of our finishing at Vienna, or at least getting over the next stage to Salzburg. De Knyff was highly amused when he saw our preparations, and none of the other competitors considered for one moment that we seriously hoped to repair the car and arrive at Salzburg. But we worked on feverishly, and eventually had the satisfaction of seeing the frame stiffening up, and so sound did it appear when we had finished, that there seemed no reason at all why we should not only arrive at Salzburg, but eventually get to Vienna, if the Fates were kind. By this time it was seven o'clock, and nearly every-body else had started.