Looking through the advertisement supplement of The Autocar from 1902, I came across the advert pictured below for the “Eagle” Tandem, made in Altrincham. It bears the claim:
“The fastest car in the WORLD of its type.”
This is followed by “Winner of Class D1 Racing Section at Bexhill”.
Bexhill was one of several early speed races conducted in the UK. These races were a good way for the manufacturers to get some publicity, and often manufacturers would proudly boast of performances in order to boost sales. However, this was a double-edged sword; bad performances would also be noted by readers of The Autocar and potential customers could be put off a purchase.
The story of the Eagle’s triumph at the Bexhill race May 19th 1902 could easily be a plot of a dramatic racing film. 3 days before the race, Ralph Jackson, Works Manager, Driver and Engineer, suffered a “serious accident”. This meant that a deputy, the unnamed “man of little practice”, was drafted in at the last minute to face the seasoned racing driver Charles Jarrott on his 8 horsepower De Dion. The D1 Class was a sub-motorcycle category for tricycles. It included 3 other competitors, including Jarrott, all on De Dions. The Eagle was using a De Dion 8 horsepower engine, so they were up against their mighty French engine suppliers.
Sadly there is no report for the race itself, but the results show more drama. The Eagle won a hard fought second place, ahead of two of the De Dions, however they were beaten by Jarrott who recorded the fastest time. Yet Jarrott was later disqualified after it emerged that he had pedalled beyond the 20 yard line (presumably pedalling was allowed before this line at the start of the race). Several early motorbikes had pedals, although the Eagle didn’t. This meant first place for the “man of little practice” beating the more prestigious manufacturer and racing driver and allowing the Altrincham firm to claim:
“The fastest car in the WORLD”
“of its type”,