Did You Know?
The man who plotted the famous 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup route was a dashing count who
never lived to see his circuit used. Tragically, Count Eliot Zborowski, an elegant aristocrat of Polish
decent died behind the wheel of his racing car just weeks before the race. His cufflinks jamming the
throttle of his new 60hp Mercedes while racing at the 1903 Nice Speed Week.
Ireland for a suitable course location, Zborowski chose a circuit centred on Athy and incorporating
Maryborough (now Portlaoise), Kildare and Carlow.
The course quickly met the approval of the Gordon Bennett Cup Committee. Its long, leafy
stretches and picturesque hilly climbs through some of Ireland’s most beautiful open countryside
made this a course to rival any existing on the continent.
Like all great race circuits the twists, turns and sweeping slopes of the 1903 Irish Gordon Bennett Cup
course provided plenty of thrills, spills and, at one stage, the presumed death for the occupants of
one of the competing cars.
Battling to keep his English team in the race Charles Jarrott literally flew off
the Irish course with devastating effect. Jarrott’s spectacular exit occurred as he barreled through the
picturesque landscape by the Rock of Dunamaise two miles outside Stradbally.
The steering of Jarrott’s thundering Napier failed suddenly as he descended a slope. The car hit a bank
and somersaulted off the course. Jarrott was thrown out of the vehicle while his 17-year old mechanic,
Bianchi, was trapped underneath.The English men were presumed dead as spectators arrived to the
scene. White sheets were thrown over them and their bodies were taken to a nearby shed. But the pair
were far from dead as Jarrott later recalled: “When I came to, I wondered if I was dead. I tried to scratch
away the blur before my eyes and found it was a sheet”.
Jarrott’s traveling companion Bianchi also came around shortly after and both were further restored to
good health when a local priest prescribed a dose of strong Irish whiskey in large measure.