Who is Gordon Bennett, you may be
wondering, and why do I need to know?
James Gordon Bennett was a flamboyant character, son of a New York media
baron. At 26, he took control of his father’s news empire and boosted
sales of the New York Herald Tribune among other titles, with his
outlandish publicity stunts.
You might have heard the exclamation, popular in England, “Gordon
Bennett!”, uttered in disbelief or exasperation. This is thought to have
come from his habit of whipping the table cloths off restaurant tables as
he walked by. Consternation on the part of the diners would be quickly
assuaged as he handed out handfuls of cash to make good the damage.
James Gordon Bennett loved sport
and donated the trophy for the six international motor car races that bore
his name in the early days of motor racing, from 1900 to 1905. In July
1903, the race was held in Ireland, the route passing through counties
Kildare, Carlow and Laois. It was one of the biggest and most spectacular
sporting events ever to take place in Ireland.
The route was chosen by Count Zborowski, an aristocrat of Polish descent,
and consisted of an eastern and a western circuit, centred on Athy, Co
Kildare. The route starting point (at Ballyshannon Crossroads on the
modern N78) is approximately 30 miles from Dublin city centre or around 90
miles from Rosslare ferry terminal. The eastern circuit takes in historic
villages and lush countryside in counties Kildare and Carlow, whilst the
western circuit passes through classic stud farm territory in Co. Kildare
before crossing into the picture postcard scenery of Co. Laois. The route takes you along leafy secondary roads and through
rural villages and busy market towns. Venture off the beaten tourist trail
and your curiosity will be rewarded!
And the winner is…
The route is 104 miles, but the competitors in the race would have covered
327.5 miles by lapping the circuits a number of times. The winner, Belgian
driver Jenatzy, nick-named the Red Devil and driving for the German team,
took 6 hours and 39 minutes to complete the course! If it were rush hour
on a Friday evening we’d think that pretty good going!
No need for a vintage model or
a straw bonnet!
Over 100 years on from the Irish Gordon Bennett Cup Race, the county
tourism organisations, county councils, Leader companies and car clubs
from the three counties have come together to put in place a strategy that
will promote the route as a tourist attraction. The signposts mean that
anyone can follow the route in their own vehicle or hired car. The route
is accompanied by a free route guide, revealing fascinating facts about
the race, and listing all the fantastic places to visit along the way.
Order a free route guide!
Click here to order your free copy of the Route Guide, pack the family
into the car with a picnic and head off into the countryside to explore
this undiscovered part of Ireland, whilst reliving the excitement of one
of the first ever motor rallies, and the pre-cursor of Formula 1!