They did things differently in 1903.
Back then, the speed limit in Ireland was 12mph, and the prospect of The Gordon Bennett Cup, for which daredevil motorists would race each other around a 104-mile circuit of Kildare, Laois and Carlow, was enough to bring half the country to a standstill.
A fully signed route makes it easy to retrace the route today and check out the Gordon Bennett display at the Athy Heritage Centre. In Kildare, the course runs through Athy and on to Kilcullen, before crossing the plains of the Curragh into Kildare Town. St. Brigid’s Cathedral, the Irish National Stud and The Curragh itself are just some of the potential stops along the way.
Who was Gordon Bennett? The flamboyant son of a New York Media Baron, as it turns out. Bennett ended up in Europe after his playboy antics scandalized New York society. His passion for motor cars led him to sponsor the first-ever international motoring competition, which debuted in 1900, and arrived in Ireland three years later.
Back then, of course, racing cars were a tremendous novelty. Thousands of visitors came by boat to view the race, and an estimated 1,500 supporters brought their own vehicles, with the intention of touring the countryside themselves once the dashing drivers had finished.
Today, you can follow in their tyre tracks – at your own sweet pace.