De Dion Bouton Club UK
The Complete Marque Club
The First Motor Races in Britain
The Victorian Tracks
But there were actual motor races within our shores in Victorian times. To find them and to understand how they came about, we have to go back a couple of decades further in the 19th Century to the cycling craze, which swept Britain as well as the continent. Here we have endurance events such as Lands End to John O’Groats on pedal bicycles in the 1880’s; as Motorvations readers (the Club’s quarterly magazine) will know from previous issues in which we have published details, in 1892 the author’s grandfather, riding his 52” High machine round Britain, and writing in his diary of his “Cycling Tour of England” -
These long distance endurance and record breaking events on the highways were fairly commonplace. Off road competition also became a huge sport. Cycle races for high wheel, and the smaller wheeled safety cycle took place on the new cycle tracks which were built all over the country; at Crystal Palace, Molineaux (Aston), Catford, and New Brighton to name but a few. And from the ranks of these competitive cyclists, the stars of their day, came the first breed of British motor racers.
The First Motor Races in Britain took place with the competitors riding motorised tricycles. It was the Parisian manufacturer of De Dion and Bouton who made all this possible. Count De Dion’s money and business acumen was partnered by Georges Bouton’s engineering brilliance. Between them in 1895, and by annual development right up to the early 1900’s, they brought the world the nimble, tractable, speedy and relatively light weight motor tricycle. From inception speeds of under 20mph, by the early 1900’s they were capable of racing at 60 miles an hour! It was always weight that was the issue and Bouton’s inventions of electric ignition, and the first high revving 4 stroke internal combustion engine – which rotated at up to four times competitors machines – enabled them to be mounted on specially built tricycle frames designed for the purpose. Motorised tricycles became extremely popular. In England many were purchased by these racing pedal cyclists and it was not long before they took their new machines to the cycle tracks around the country and started racing them.
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This particular article is just an extract from one of an ongoing series in Motorvations, the De Dion Bouton Club’s quarterly journal. Motorvations readers have access to rare and often unique historic pictures, biographies, race results, together with social and period contextual information which is published in association with this historical research.
Membership of the Club is not restricted to owners of De Dion Bouton engined vehicles. We encourage membership applications from historians and enthusiasts of the Victorian and Edwardian period of motoring. The Club is also interested in receiving early material for publishing in Motorvations.