Motoring events to remember: Nice, France

Automobiles at Nice  In contrast to what happened in Nice a year ago, the same place, and especially the Promenade des Anglais, had many times been the location for fantastic motoring events.
The first important Nice motoring event was the Marseille-Nice race in 1897, including a hill-climb to La Turbie, won by de Chasseloup-Laubat on a De Dion steamer. In 1898, the Marseille-Nice victory was for Charron and his white-painted Panhard-Levassor, but because of the rain, it arrived as a 'block of mud'.

The 1899 Semaine Automobile de Nice was a bit of a disappointment. Part of it, the Nice-Castellane-Nice race (won by Lemaitre on a Peugeot), proved to have too many dangerous parts, and more than half of the route was neutralised. Maybe the race for tourist cars, Nice-Colmars-Nice, was even more intriguing, as the four-seater class was won by a certain Mr. Mercédès, which really was Emil Jellinek. In 1900, it was Nice-Marseille-Nice, won by De Knyff on a Panhard-Levassor. On the Promenade des Anglais, the flying mile was won by Levegh on a Mors, doing 50,3 mph. But in 1901 everything changed, and the domination in competition by Panhard-Levassor and Mors was finally broken. Driver Werner won the Nice-Salon-Nice race and the Nice-La Turbie hill-climb with the new DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft)-designed car: one of the first true Mercédès machines. Mainly because of Emil Jellinek, the Mercédès-era had commenced.
Funnily enough, one year later, in 1902, more history was written in Nice, but this time with old-school steam-power, when Léon Serpollet set a new Land Speed Record. His ‘Easter Egg’ broke Jenatzy's 1899 record over the flying kilometer, doing 75 mph on the Promenade des Anglais. He returned in 1903, but could not better his time.

On 31 March, 1904, the duel between two mighty Gobron-Brillié monsters (they had four-cylinder/eight piston engines) resulted in Arthur Duray reaching a new record, only to be broken on the same day by Rigolly, who reached 97,26 mph.
Much more motoring excitement happened in later years in Nice, but that is another story. 
Text and photos: Nick Jonckheere      

Published: Saturday July 15th, 2017

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