Monday, June 08, 2015

Back in the Gordon Bennett day

This picture, provided to the Diary courtesy of local old cars enthusiast Pat Foley, shows the French team in the 1903 Gordon Bennett Race lined up outside Flanagan's Motor Bar, writes Brian Byrne.

The team comprised René de Knyff, who came second in the race to Belgian Camille Jenatzy driving for the German team; Henry Farman who later became famous for his aviation exploits and aircraft designs; and Fernand Gabriel, the youngest of the trio.

As named above, they are pictured right to left in the picture. The team stayed in Bardon's Hotel for the duration of their race preparations and the event itself. The French team was the only one of which all members completed the race. with Farman and Gabriel taking third and fourth places respectively.

Rene de Knyff was also a Belgian, and later became president of Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI), now known as FIA. He drove all his races in a Panhard & Levassor, wearing a captain cap which he always lost right after start. During his racing career, he was famous for his gentlemanship and sportsmanship and was a popular figure also due to his enormous beard, bohemian lifestyle, and interest in many other sports, such as tennis, shooting, cycling, and hunting.

In June 2003, there was a major celebration of the centenary of the Gordon Bennett Race, and a special event in Kilcullen recalled the local involvement in the race, which was originally run on Thursday 2 July 1903.

Flanagan's Motor Bar was bought by this writer's grandfather in 1925, and opened as Byrne's Hotel on Christmas Eve of that year. In 1950 it was taken over by my father Jim who subsequently made it world famous as The Hideout.