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General Discussion about Racing History Vintage auto racing has a very special place in most race fans heart and mind. The cars, the drivers, the spills and thrills. Please share your auto racing memories. Feel free to start threads/topics in this forum that are non-specific to drivers, cars, or tracks.

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Old 04-27-2009, 03:28 PM   #1
Olen McGuire
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Alabama
Age: 86
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The following was taken from
The First Motor Car Race

Participating in and watching car racing has been one of America’s favorite pastimes for years. It seems that each year automobile designs improve and speed increases. Let’s go back to 1895 and get a glimpse of the first American car race. It’s a bit different from what we are used to seeing today.

In June 1895, the Chicago Times-Herald newspaper announced the very first motor car race. Though it was regarded as a race, it was more of a test to see what kinds of horseless vehicles people had been creating. Remember that in 1895 gasoline-powered autos were just beginning to make their debut in America. In 1891, John Lambert took the first drive in America in his auto and shortly thereafter, the Duryea brothers followed suit. In Europe, there had been some earlier success but a gasoline-powered vehicle was far from being a normal thing to see on the streets.

The required criteria for the vehicles were that they have at least 3 wheels and could carry at least 2 people. Each vehicle had to carry the driver and an umpire selected by the judges to make sure that the driver and the vehicle were not cheating.

The racecourse route ran about 54 miles from Chicago’s Jackson Park to Evanston and back. It was originally scheduled to happen at the end of October, but of the 89 entries, only a small percentage of the autos were ready to go. The race was rescheduled for Thanksgiving Day, November 28.

The big day arrived welcomed by a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. This made for slippery road conditions and frigid temperatures. Keep in mind that the roads were dirt and none of these vehicles had roofs. They were completely open and subject to the elements. At the starting line were only 6 cars. Two were electric and powered by batteries, three were gasoline-powered and built by the German maker Benz and one was gasoline-powered and built by American Frank Duryea.

The icy temperature combined with the extremely poor road conditions were too much for some of the cars and 4 out of the 6 had to drop out. Topping a high speed of 7.5 miles per hour, it took the winner, Frank Duryea 9 hours to win first place! The second (and last) contestant rolled in 2 hours later.

Duryea’s winnings were $2,000 and worldwide acknowledgement for beating the famous Benz automobile. With his winnings, he started the Duryea Motor Wagon Company and became the first manufacturer of automobiles.
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