Tuesday, 21 March 2006 21:40

Jamais Contente

Written by 
From France comes this account of a classic race to become fastest man on earth, during the closing years of the 19th century. The contest was between builders of coaches, cabs and transporters. Steam power for these vehicles had all but done its dash, and the market was crying out for light, self-powered machines.  Some promise of success came from Panhard, Levassor, Daimler, Bolle, and Peugeot who were developing automobiles with internal combustion engines. They were still way too low and underpowered to become the next Big Thing.
  • The name of the new game was speed – the world land speed record. It was a game fraught ith danger, as experts declared that human beings travelling at speeds of greater than 70 km/h would suffer from rupture of their blood vessels. A whole circus of French daredevils tempted fate anyway. A journalist named Paul-Meyan was the fastest man on wheels, riding a bicycle at 63,154 km/h. A short while after, in December 1898, the ‘Electric Count‘ Gaston Chasseloup-Laubat, drove his Jeantaud electric-powered car at 70,585 km/h.                                              
  • Camille Jenatzy (born 1868) was a Belgian race car driver. He is known for breaking the land speed record three times and being the first man to break the 100 km/h barrier. He was nicknamed Le Diable Rouge ("The Red Devil") after the colour of his beard. Jenatzy’s red beard must have quivered as he went to work designing a kind of torpedo on wheels. 6 big batteries provided current to two huge electric motors of 25 kilowatts each driving the rear axle. They gave the car the an equivalent of 68 bhp. The chassis was from a horse-drawn cab. Its Rothschild-designed bodywork was an impressive wind-cheating marvel - built from partinium – a conglomerate of aluminium, tungsten and magnesium. Jenatzy chose Michelin tyres for the record attempt.                                                                                                                           
  • He named this first ever purposely designed and built racing car ‘La Jamais Contente’ (Never Satisfied). He rolled it out at Acheres, a town 25 kilomètres north west of Paris on 1st May 1899.  200 curious bystanders watched as he placed both hands firmly on the steering handle and took off along the treeless road. The almost silent torpedo was timed over a flying kilometre at 105,882 km/h. The Red Devil had taken the world land speed record back from the Electric Count. And  held the record until 1902. .                                               
  • Camille was killed in a hunting accident in 1913.  He hide himself behind a bush and made animal noises as a prank on his friends who were hunting with him. Alfred Madoux, director of the journal L'Etoile Belge fired, believing it was a wild animal. When they realised it was Jenatzy, they rushed him to hospital by car; he bled to death en route, fulfilling his own prophecy he would die in a Mercedes. He is buried at the Laeken Cemetery in Brussels. A replica of his car can be seen at the Compiegne National Motor Museum, (Musee national de la voiture et du tourisme). Compiegne is only a short ride on public transport from Paris. 
Print Email
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Read 5836 times Last modified on Friday, 30 June 2023 11:23
More in this category: Elegant Tigers in Chinon »