Paris–Rouen (motor race)

Last updated

Horseless Carriages Contest
Le Petit Journal - 6 August 1894.jpg
VenueRoad from Paris to Rouen
Corporate sponsor Le Petit Journal
Pierre Giffard
First race22 July 1894 (unique race)
102 entrants
21 qualified
4 stopped
Distance126 kilometres (78 mi)
Jules-Albert, Count de Dion finished first in a steam powered De Dion tractor towing a caleche carriage, but was not eligible for the prize. Among the passengers are the Count de Dion, Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nyevelt-Rothschild, and writer Emile Driant. 1894 paris-rouen - count albert de dion (de dion-bouton steam tractor) finished 1st, ruled ineligible for prize.jpg
Jules-Albert, Count de Dion finished first in a steam powered De Dion tractor towing a caléche carriage, but was not eligible for the prize. Among the passengers are the Count de Dion, Baron Étienne van Zuylen van Nyevelt-Rothschild, and writer Émile Driant.
Albert Lemaitre (pictured on left) finished second in a 3 hp Peugeot but was judged the winner. Bicycle and tyre manufacturer Adolphe Clement-Bayard was the front passenger. 1894 paris-rouen - albert lemaitre (peugeot 3hp) 1st.jpg
Albert Lemaître (pictured on left) finished second in a 3 hp Peugeot but was judged the winner. Bicycle and tyre manufacturer Adolphe Clément-Bayard was the front passenger.

Paris–Rouen, Le Petit Journal Horseless Carriages Contest (Concours du 'Petit Journal' Les Voitures sans Chevaux), was a pioneering city-to-city motoring competition in 1894 which is sometimes described as the world's first competitive motor race.


The contest was organised by the newspaper Le Petit Journal and run from Paris to Rouen in France on 22 July 1894. It was preceded by four days of vehicle exhibition and qualifying events that created great crowds and excitement. The eight 50 km (31 mi) qualifying events started near the Bois de Boulogne and comprised interwoven routes around Paris to select the entrants for the main 126 km (78 mi) event. [1]

The first driver across the finishing line at Rouen was " le Comte de Dion" but he did not win the main prize because his steam vehicle needed a stoker and was thus ineligible. The fastest petrol powered car was a 3 hp (2.2 kW; 3.0 PS) Peugeot driven by Albert Lemaître. The premier prize, the 5,000 franc Prix du Petit Journal, for 'the competitor whose car comes closest to the ideal' was shared equally by manufacturers Panhard et Levassor and Les fils de Peugeot frères ("The sons of Peugeot brothers"), with vehicles that were 'easy to use'. [2] [3] [4] [5]

1894 – Paris to Rouen

Pierre Giffard Pierre Giffard, Editor of Le Velo, circa 1900.jpg
Pierre Giffard
Auguste Doriot, finished third in a Vis a vis (Face to face) 3 hp Peugeot. 1894 paris-rouen - auguste doriot (peugeot 3hp) 3rd.jpg
Auguste Doriot, finished third in a Vis a vis (Face to face) 3 hp Peugeot.
Panhard-Levassor (1890-1895), similar to Hippolyte Panhard's fourth-place finisher. Panhard-levassor.jpg
Panhard-Levassor (1890–1895), similar to Hippolyte Panhard's fourth-place finisher.
Emile Kraeutler finished 6th in a 3 hp Peugeot "break". 1894 paris-rouen - kraeutler (peugeot 3hp) 6th v2.jpg
Émile Kraeutler finished 6th in a 3 hp Peugeot "break".
Gratien Michaux finished 9th in the 3 hp Peugeot phaeton. 1894 paris-rouen - michaud (peugeot phaeton 3hp) 9th v2.jpg
Gratien Michaux finished 9th in the 3 hp Peugeot phaeton.
Michaux passes through a busy street in Mantes-la-Jolie, racing amongst horses and pedestrians, en route to Rouen where he finished 9th in the 3 hp Peugeot phaeton. 1894 Paris-Rouen - Gratien Michaux in Mantes ( 30 peugeot phaeton 3hp) 9th.jpg
Michaux passes through a busy street in Mantes-la-Jolie, racing amongst horses and pedestrians, en route to Rouen where he finished 9th in the 3 hp Peugeot phaeton.
1894 Paris-Rouen Serpollet Steamer No 44 DNF (Leon Serpollet is 3rd from left) 1894 Paris-Rouen Serpollet Steamer No 44 DNF -Leon is 3rd from left-.jpg
1894 Paris-Rouen Serpollet Steamer No 44 DNF (Leon Serpollet is 3rd from left)


In 1894, Pierre Giffard, editor of Le Petit Journal , organised the world's first motoring competition from Paris to Rouen to publicise his newspaper, to stimulate interest in motoring and to develop French motor manufacturing. Sporting events were a tried and tested form of publicity stunt and circulation booster. The paper promoted it as "Le Petit Journal Competition for Horseless Carriages" (Le Petit Journal Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux) that were "not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey", the main prize being for "the competitor whose car comes closest to the ideal". The "easy to drive" clause effectively precluded from the prizes (but not the event) any vehicles needing a travelling mechanic or technical assistant such as a stoker. (i.e. steam powered.) [2] [7]

Le Petit Journal announced prize money totalling 10,000 gold francs – 5,000 for first place, 2,000 for second, 1,500 for third; 1,000 for fourth, and 500 for fifth. The main prize was for the first eligible vehicle across the finish line in Rouen. [7]


See full list of 102 entrants

102 people paid the ten franc entrance fee. They ranged from practical manufacturers like Peugeot, Panhard, de Dion-Bouton, and Serpollet to amateur owners and 'over-ambitious concepts'. 78 entrants did not show up for qualifying on 18 July, these included some 25 powered by unfamiliar and improbable technologies such as "gravity" – nine; "compressed air" – five; "automatic" – three; electricity – three; gas – three; hydraulics – two; liquid, pedals, propellers, and levers. Additionally, 19 petrol-powered designs and 26 steam-powered cars, quadricycles, and tricycles did not show up at the qualifying event. [2] [3] [8]


Qualifying was held from 19–21 July 1894, and was preceded by a public exhibition of 26 cars to Neuilly-sur-Seine on 18 July. Journalists reported great crowds and excitement throughout the routes, and at Précy-sur-Oise they finished through a triumphal arch. On 19 July, 26 cars lined the side of the Boulevard Maillot, stretching to the Bois de Boulogne, each parked 10 m (33 ft) apart until, at 8:00 am, the first car led off, followed at 15-second intervals by the others. The 50 km (31 mi) qualifying event had to be completed in under three hours to be eligible to start the main event, the 126 km (78 mi) race from Paris to Rouen; 21 were selected for the main event. [2] [8] [9]

Qualifying was used as a major publicity tool for both the event and the newspaper: "for our readers who want to see the cars on the roads around Paris". The 22 vehicles were split into five groups who completed complex interwoven tours of Paris and its environs, including Mantes-la-Jolie, Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Flins-sur-Seine, Poissy, Triel-sur-Seine, Rambouillet, Versailles, Dampierre-en-Yvelines, Corbeil-Essonnes, Palaiseau, Précy-sur-Oise, Gennevilliers and L'Isle-Adam, Val-d'Oise. The groups were carefully balanced to ensure each included petrol and steam, a Peugeot, a Panhard & Levassor, and different seating. Le Petit Journal, on the morning of the event, still officially expected Lemoigne and his gravity-powered vehicle to participate, although he was included as an additional member of group five. [8]

The groups that set off from Porte Maillot on Thursday 19 July were: [8]

(Note – Le Petit Journal does not show an itinerary three, presumably either a misprint or changed plan)
(Sources show three or five vehicles on this route and variance over qualification)

On Friday 20 July a second qualifying event was run over two routes. [10]

On Saturday 21 July a third qualifying event was run from Paris to Poissy.


At 8:00 am on Sunday 22 July, twenty-one qualifiers started from Porte Maillot and went via the Bois de Boulogne, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Courbevoie, Nanterre, Chatou, Le Pecq, Poissy, Triel-sur-Seine, Vaux-sur-Seine, and Meulan, to Mantes where they stopped for lunch from 12:00 pm until 1:30 pm, whence they set off to Vernon, Eure, Gaillon, Pont-de-l'Arche, and 'Champ de Mars' at Rouen.

Count de Dion was the first to arrive in Rouen after 6 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). He finished 3 min 30 sec ahead of Albert Lemaître (Peugeot), Auguste Doriot (Peugeot) (16 min 30 sec back), Hippolyte Panhard (Panhard) (33 min 30 sec) and Émile Levassor (Panhard) (55 min 30 sec). [2] [4] [9] The winner's average speed was 17 km/h (11 mph). [11]


On Tuesday 24 July Le Petit Journal announced the prizes : [5]

Results for Paris-Rouen

NumberDriver / entrantMakePowerPeopleTime
at Mantes
circa 50 km
circa 80 km
14 Jules-Albert, Count de Dion, Bouton De Dion-Bouton Steam46 h 48 m 00 s or
5 h 40 m [12]
22 h 38 m4 h 10 m
265 Albert Lemaître – 'Les fils de Peugeot Frères' Peugeot Petrol
46 h 51 m 30 s or
5 h 45 m [12]
12 h 36 m4 h 15 m
328 Auguste Doriot – 'Les fils de Peugeot Frères' Peugeot Petrol
47 h 04 m 30 s or
5 h 50 m [12]
42 h 44 m4 h 20 m
413Hippolyte Panhard – Panhard et Levassor Panhard et Levassor Petrol
47 h 21 m 30 s or
6 h 3 m [12]
52 h 48 m4 h 33 m
5 or 7 [12] 15 Émile Levassor – Panhard et Levassor Panhard et Levassor Petrol
27 h 43 m 30 s or
6 h 30 m [12]
32 h 43 m5 h 0 m
6 or 5 [12] 31 Émile Kraeutler – 'Les fils de Peugeot Frères' Peugeot Petrol
47 h 46 m 30 s or
6 h 7 m [12]
103 h 9 m4 h 37 m
7 or 8 [12] 64 Émile Mayade Panhard et Levassor Petrol
48 h 09 m 00 s or
6 h 49 m [12]
62 h 50 m5 h 19 m
8 or 6 [12] 42A. Le BrunLe BrunPetrol
48 h 12 m 00 s or
6 h 24 m [12]
133 h 18 m4 h 54 m
9 or 10 [12] 30 Gratien Michaux – 'Les fils de Peugeot Frères' Peugeot Petrol
38 h 25 m 00 s or
7 h 2 m [12]
72 h 53 m5 h 32 m
10 or 13 [12] 14"Dubois" – Panhard et Levassor Panhard et Levassor Petrol
48 h 38 m 00 s or
7 h 10 m [12]
82 h 585 h 40 m
11 or 12 [12] 27 Louis Rigoulot – 'Les fils de Peugeot Frères' Peugeot Type 5 Petrol
28 h 41 m 00 s or
7 h 5 m [12]
123 h 16 m5 h 35 m
12 or 11 [12] 24Alfred VacheronVacheron / PanhardPetrol
28 h 42 m 30 s or
7 h 3 m [12]
113 h 9 m5 h 33 m
13 or 9 [12] 53"De Bourmont"de BourmontSteam [13] 48 h 51 m 00 s or
7 h 1 m [12]
153 h 21 m5 h 31 m
1485 Émile Roger Benz Petrol
10 h 01 m 00 s or
8 h 9 m [12]
163 h 22 m6 h 39 m
1560 Maurice Le Blant Serpollet Steam810 h 43 m 00 s or
8 h 50 m [12]
173 h 23 m7 h 20 m
167 Pierre Gautier Gautier–Wehrlé Steam412 h 24 m 30 s194 h 17 m8 h 7 m
1718 Ernest Archdeacon Serpollet Steam613 h 00 m 00 s143 h 20 m9 h 40 m
Stopped44"De Prandiéres" Serpollet Steam4 Nanterre
– broken wheel [12]
Stopped19 Étienne le Blant Serpollet Steam10Motor204 h 39 mretired
Stopped10"J. Scotte"ScotteSteam8Motor93 h 8 mretired
Stopped61Roger de MontaisDe MontaisSteam [5] 2Motor184 h 0 mretired

Table sources. [4] [12] [13] [5] [14] [15]

List of entrants

CitySeatsEngine type
No show1RousseletParis4gravity
No show2Edouard Pellorce Neuilly-sur-Seine petrol
Did not qualify3De Dion-Bouton et C° Puteaux 4steam
Started4De Dion-Bouton et C°Puteaux6steam
No show5Le MaitreParis4steam
No show6RoussatParis4hydraulic
Started7Gautier PParis4steam
No show8Hidien Châteauroux 4steam
No show9Victor PoppParis4air compressor
Started10Scott J Épernay 8steam
No show11Klaus Th Lyon 4petrol
Did not qualify12TentingParis4petrol
Started13Panhard & LevassorParis4petrol
Started14Panhard & LevassorParis4petrol
Started15Panhard & LevassorParis4petrol
No show16QuantioRoubaix6petrol
No show17Rodier, Roche et Sabatier Bagnols-sur-Cèze petrol
Started18 Archdeacon M E
(or Serpollet)
(or steam)
Started19Le BlantParis10steam
No show20Paraire G Château-Thierry steam
No show21Letar AlexandreParis4steam
No show22Gaillardet Petit Gennevilliers 4steam
No show23VarennesParis3steam
Started24Vacheron Alfred Monthermé 2petrol
No show25CoquatrixParis4steam
No show26LevalParis4baricycle?
Started27Peugeot Fils et frères Valentigney 4petrol
Started28Peugeot Fils et frèresValentigney4petrol
Did not qualify29Peugeot Fils et frèresValentigney4petrol
Started30Peugeot Fils et frèresValentigney4petrol
Started31Peugeot Fils et frèresValentigney4petrol
No show32Darras L Bruay tricyclesteam
No show33Geoffroy M Psteam
No show34Geoffroy M Psteam
No show35Geoffroy M Psteam
No show36Gillot Jules Maubeuge 4petrol
No show37Loubiere Albert La Ferté-sous-Jouarre 6gravity
No show38Duchemin AParis4
No show39PonsotParis4Oil?
No show40Lemoigne LouisFougères4gravity
No show41BargogliParis4petrol
Started42Le Brun ARouen4petrol
No show43Spanoghe Antwerp, Belgium6steam
Started44de Prandieres MLyon6Serpollet steam
No show45CornequetParis8automatic
No show46Matin-Cudrez FParis2steam
No show47Barthelemy Cesar Yèbles 3gravity
No show48Leblanc Ay, Marne 6steam
No show49Valentin J M Bruyères 3gravity
No show50WersteinParis3pedals
ResultNo.EntrantCitySeatsEngine type
No show51LepapeParis4petrol
No show52 Société Parisienne de
constructions Velo
Paris4air compressor
Started53de Bourmont M Arcachon 4petrol
No show54Froger Elie Feneu 4petrol
No show55De Dion-Bouton et C° Puteaux 4petrol
No show56Lebrun M Roches-Bettaincourt 4automatic
No show57Seunier M4petrol
No show58Barbier et MarcilletParis3steam
No show59BezamatColombes4steam
Started60Le Blant MauriceParis9steam
Started61de Montais RogerBeauvroit2petrol
No show62Mallarme Gentilly steam
No show63Tissandier et Lacombe Agen petrol
Started64Panhard & LevassorParispetrol
Started65Peugeot Fils et frèresValentigney4petrol
No show66Museur L et Cordonnier E Masnières 4steam
No show67LebesgueParispetrol
No show68Garnier E et Delannoy GBeauvois4combination
No show69de Malapert et BarriereParis4liquid
No show70Fays – PoissonGigny6gravity
No show71Klaus ThLyon2 tricyclepetrol
No show72Tamarelle – Capeyron Bergerac 5steam
No show73PretotParis4petrol
No show74Mayer Raoul Chevanceaux 2 quadracyclesteam
No show75Dessaux CharlesParis2 tricyclegravity
No show76Tirant GeorgesBaissysteam
No show77ReverseauParis4automatic
No show78BerthaudLyon8air compressor
No show79Baudet AParis4steam
No show80Quantin Boulogne 6steam
No show81BecherelParis2 tricyclesteam
No show82MongesParis4electric
No show83Suodais Fontenay 6electric
No show84PlantardParis4air compressor
No show86Garrard
Garrard & Blumfield
Great Britain
No show87Landry & Beyroux G4petrol
No show88JeantaudParis3petrol
No show89DemontParis4steam
No show90Mansart Beauvais 4gravity
No show91Carli le comteItaly2electric
No show92de Farcy Angers 2petrol
No show93Gantry Orléans 2gas
No show94Morelleras H Angoulême gravity
No show95Roze – Andrillon Marseille 4air compressor
No show96Canis Maulan 4propeller
No show97Deutsch MGermany2petrol (Benz Car)
No show98Deutsch MGermany2petrol (Benz Car)
No show99Bonnefils Valence 2petrol
No show100Bellanger Le Mans 4system
No show101Mary JeanParis4gas
No show102Barriquand M4hydraulic
ResultNo.EntrantCitySeatsEngine type

See also


  1. Systeme Serpollet was a form of steam engine. The car evidently had both a steam and a petrol motor, but details have been lost to time.

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  1. Le petit journal, publication of 20 December, column 1, Article 8
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Forix, Autosport, 8W – Welcome to Who? What? Where? When? Why? on the World Wide Web. The cradle of motorsport by Rémi Paolozzi, May 28, 2003
  3. 1 2 Cent Ans, Concours du Petit Journal Les voitures sans chevaux.
  4. 1 2 3 Gallica, Online Archive of France. 22 July 1894. Le Petit Journal
  5. 1 2 3 4 Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal Tuesday 24 July 1894 – Prizes
  6. Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal 22 July 1894 – Race day
  7. 1 2 Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal 19 December 1893 – Announcement
  8. 1 2 3 4 Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal 18 July 1894 – Selection around Paris
  9. 1 2 CC Organisation – Course Paris-Rouen
  10. Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal Sat 21 July 1894 – Selection II
  11. Grand Prix (retrieved 11 June 2017)
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Gallica, Online Archive of France. Mon 23 July 1894. Le Petit Journal – Race report.
  13. 1 2 Richard J. Evans: Steam Cars (Shire Album), Shire Publications Ltd (1985) ISBN   978-0852637746, p. 15
  14. The Early History of Motoring by Claude Johnson, extracted by Graces Guide
  15. Provisional results

Other sources