Ormond Beach - 1906

You'll find attached here a compendium of articles concerning the original speed tournament week in the Daytona Beach area: the great speed trials events of Ormond Beach of 1906. From 1904 to 1910 this annual winter competition was among the most important automobile competitions in America. It even attracted major cars and drivers of Europe. These articles concern the 1906 competition when the event was probably at its zenith.
I also want to point out that all these articles appeared in the Indianapolis News three years before construction began on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The newspaper's level of interest is a reflection of the recognized importance of the burgeoning auto industry to the Hoosier economy.
Attachment OrmondIndyNews012206 contains an article about the initial events of the week on Monday, January 22. The article opens with a box presenting the standing speed records (mostly set the previous year in 1905) for both gasoline fueled and steam-powered machines. The gas records range from one kilometer to 100 miles. The steam records are for one kilometer and one mile. I believe this is because steam machines dissipated pressure much beyond a mile and their ability to sustain high speed over greater distances was limited. On the short runs, however, the steam cars had a huge advantage as the engineering science behind them created loads of torque that put power immedately to the ground. That's my understanding - I mention it only because that is what I have gleaned in conversations with more knowledgable people and from reading various sources. I am not an engineer or a mechanic but I share that fragment of information to give any reader here something to think about and investigate further if they have the passion to do so.
Before we go further allow me to apologize for the condition of all the articles in the attachments. The microfilm I digitized it from was in poor condition. I did my best to present you with something usable - and it is - but it requires patience. To help you with the information box at the start of the article note that the cars listed on the far right - with driver names in parenthesis - are:


The article opens with a description of a breathtaking moment for English driver Walter Clifford-Earp, his riding mechanic and onlookers when he lost a tire while driving his Napier on the beach at 110 MPH. Impressively Clifford-Earp kept his machine pointed straight to retain control.
A two-mile-a-minute contest was the most anticipated event. Drivers were required to achieve the 120 MPH mark to be eligible for prize money. Among the entries were Harry Fletcher (George W. Young's Fiat); Louis Ross (Stanley steamer); Emanuel Cedrino and Vincenzo Lancia (Fiat); Henry Ford (Ford "K" car); Paul Sartori (Alfred Vanderbilt's 250 HP "special"); Walter Christie (Christie); Victor Hemery and A.L. Guinness (Darracq) and C.A. Coey (Thomas). Note that in the case of Ford I believe his professional driver Frank Kulick did most if not all the driving and the report is in error.
Another feature of the week was the "mile championship of the world," the Sir Thomas Dewar Cup. In addition to the drivers listed above an entry by Clifford-Earp in Selwyn F. Edge's Napier was expected. The feature long distance contest of the week was the 100-mile Minneapolis Cup. This contest would be won by Clifford-Earp who would drive the final 63 miles with no tire on his right rear rim. That puts his earlier practice moment in a new light. The wheels were wire spoke and not wood, and the sand surface may have made this kind of seemingly impossible act possible. In addition to drivers mentioned earlier organizers expected two Daimler entries for drivers referred to only as Downey and Harding. Another Napier for a driver called Hilliard was also expected.
Numerous other smaller events were scheduled, including "International Events" for various distances of five, ten and fifteen miles. Other events organized by car types, weight and amateur drivers were part of the plan as well. Still more contests were organized for touring cars or cars built exclusively by American manufacturers.
The second article is in attachment OrmondIndyNews012506. The big headline was the five-mile speed/time record had been broken twice on January 24. New records were also set for the one mile distance. Apparently weather on January 23 was problematic as this article from January 25 insinuates that circumstance. 
Vincenzo Lancia in a Fiat busted the five-mile mark first, lowering the record to two minutes, 54.6 seconds. Victor Hemery later eclipsed that mark by an amazing 20.6 seconds at two minutes, 34 seconds. However, this article reports that the speed was "unofficial." At the end of the article it notes that Hemery was disqualified from the meet for refusing "to run over again a new start heat." That's a direct lift and I cite it because I find it confusing. I can guess that he got upset when told to repeat his run. Other sources I have read report that Hemery was sent packing for poor behavior, including trying to burn a hole in the wood body of the Stanley Steamer but I am unsure of what I can confirm. Biographies of Hemery describe him as a volatile personality and his decision to take his own life at age 73 supports that view.
As for the mile record this was the year of the amazing run of the Stanley Steamer in the capable hands of Fred Marriott. Marriott drove what the newspapers called a "freak racer" to a speed of 127 MPH at the time of 32.2 seconds. This qualified him for the final heat of the Dewar Trophy, which he won with a time of 33 seconds. Emanuel Cedrino was second. He went faster still in a contest restricted to steam cars when he posted a time of 31.8 seconds. Lancia won the one-mile competition limited to gas powered machines.
These contests were more like drag races than anything else as drivers were paired off or organized in small groups of up to four competitors and ran in a straight line down the beach. The attached article provides a little more detail of the performances of various drivers in heats. Those winners were matched in the finals.
The third article, which is in attachment OrmondIndyNews012506i, is a second Indianapolis News article published the same day as the article described immediately preceding this one here. This article opens with an information blocks summarizing the schedule of that day. It reports that eight contests were on tap. These were:

  • 15-mile handicap for American touring cars, fully equipped.
  • 10-mile Corinthian championship (why it was given that name is not clear), middleweight for both steam & gas.
  • 10-mile Corinthian handicap.
  • Five mile steam car championship.
  • One mile middleweight championship, gas cars.
  • One mile record trials, lightweight gas cars.
  • One mile record trials for middleweight gas cars.

The big news was the affirmation by virtue of Hemery's five-mile run at a 2:34 time. Again Hemery's conflict with officials is reportred and the time was disallowed. His dismissal was seen as a blow to the appeal of the event. The weather forecast for the day called for rain that threatened the day's schedule.
Fletcher's Fiat destroyed two cylinders and observers' speculations later proved valid as they surmised he was toast for the meet. Lancia and J. Walter Christie also had issues and their teams were working to repair their cars for undisclosed issues.
The article closes with a summary of the previous day's events:

  • Five-mile open championship, first heat: Lancia, Fiat, 3:54.6; Earp, 80 HP Napier, DNF. 
  • Second heat won by Marriott, Stanley Steamer, 2:45.2. George W. Young Fiat (Fletcher driver), 3:02.
  • Final heat, winner - Lancia, Fiat, 3:01.2. Second, Fletcher, Fiat, 3:02, third, Stanley Steamer.
  • Five-mile gasoline middleweight - Won by Cedrino, 30 HP Fiat, 3:53.6. Second, 50 HP Wayne (Holmes driver), 5:46.
  • Five-mile gasoline heavyweight championship - winner, Earp, Napier, 2:56; J.R. Harding, 90 HP Daimler (Joseph Downey driver), no time.
  • Fletcher and Lancia, both in Fiats, did not finish.

The fourth article - in attachment OrmondIndyNews012606 - is very brief, reflecting the abbreviated schedule of events on the beach the day prior which was January 25. The article credits Samuel B. Stevens with "saving" the speed tournament. A heavy rainstorm delayed the agenda and the regular high tide of the day that obliterated the course each afternoon combined to reduce the racing time to less than an hour.
As for Stevens, he won the amateur championship and the George W. Young Trophy. One other race was conducted, a handicap competition for touring cars which was won by a Stanley Steamer. The events were summarized as outlined below:

  • 15-mile race for American touring cars, a handicap contest based on price. 1) Durbin, 15 HP Stanley (25 second head start), first, 13:42.4, with 25 second head start. 2) J.E. Bristol, 30 HP Stoddard, 12.5 seconds head start, 17.11.4. 3) D.D. Holmes, 40 HP Wayne, scratch (no head start).
  • 10-mile Corinthian championship - first heat won by S.B. Stevens, 80 HP Darracq, 6:36.4. J.R. Harding, 90 HP Mercedes second. Second heat won by J.L. Breese, 35 HP Mercedes, 10:37. O.W. Barron 90 HP Fiat failed to finish. Final heat won by S.B. Stevens, 9:28, J.L. Breese, second, in 9:47.6.

The fifth article (attachment OrmondIndyNews12706 presents one of those too-rare nuggets of information about a virtually forgotten corporation: the G&J Tire Company. This article documents that the company was located in Indianapolis and it is this local angle that makes this report so relevant to the publisher of the original article, the Indianapolis News. Specific to the Ormond Beach speed tournament is the hugely important information that G&J tires were on the famous Stanley Steamer that recorded the remarkable speed of 127.375 MPH. A G&J manager, identified only as Semple, is quoted:
"The tires on the Stanley steamer were exactly like all G&J tires. I knew when the order was placed that they were to be used in the Ormond Beach races. The tire is of rubber, having no exterior plating. It is exactly like those used for road driving."
Article six in attachment OrmondIndyNews012706i illustrates just how significant the ride of Fred Marriott in the Stanley Steamer was. This article focuses on his record, his drive and his experience. One interesting point I want to highlight is that the writer describes the sound of the car as "a shriek that sounded like a proverbial lost soul." For the age the speed he is reported to have attained on January 26 was shocking: 128.6 MPH or 28.2 seconds for the mile. He was traveling 413 feet per second. The condition of the running surface after days of rough waves and rain was seen as short of ideal. Marriott is quoted discussing his sensory experience while hurtling down the beach in his wood-bodied racer.
"The cold crosswind fairly tore my face. It seemed more against than with me. I guess that I was making my own wind - creating a storm, as it were - for that is what it seemed like. My eyes watered even under my glasses, but this steamboat of mine traveled as true and as straight as a bird flies. It was not difficult to steer, and I crouched considerably to keep from striking the wind. I believe that had I stuck my hand outside the car it would have been cut off. My head stuck out just a little from the top of the hooded car, and it seemed at times as if the top of my head would be taken away. It was a great sensation, though. I am proud of my car and proud to think that I first traveled faster than two miles a minute, the mark we have all been aiming at. When this beach is right I believe I shall be able to do better, and two miles in a minute seems certain now."
In addition to Marriott, several other records were established across the various classes of cars. I also want to note that with the disciplinary ban of Hemery his team recruited Louis Chevrolet, who was in his first year of competitive driving, to replace him in the 250 HP Darracq. The article presents a summary of the day's events, and I provide it below.

  • 10-mile middle weight championship - won by Guy Vaughn in a gasoline powered car. Second, Cedrino. The article did not reproduce well but the times were both over seven minutes.
  • 10-mile Corinthian handicap - won by J.N. Harding, gasoline handicap with gross time of over 11 minutes and a "corrected" time of 8:43.8. Second S.B. Stevens with a gross time of over 13 minutes and a corrected time of 12:42.8. Third was James Breese and a driver with the last name of Reeves was fourth. Handicaps: Reeves, 4:00; Harding, 3:30; Breese, 3:00; Stevens, scratch.
  • One kilometer record trial for steamers - Marriott. The poor quality of the article makes the time impossible to read.
  • One kilometer record for heavyweight gas-powered cars - Louis Chevrolet won at a time of 19.4 seconds. Earp was second with Cedrino third and Henry Ford fourth.
  • One kilometer trial for middleweight gas powered cars - Guy Vaughn won at a time of 25 seconds. Second, Dan Wurgis, 34.4 seconds. Third, Holmes, 41.2 seconds. Fourth, Al Reeves, 50 seconds.
  • One mile record trial - 28.2 seconds by Marriott as described above.
  • One mile record trial for heavyweight gas-powered cars won by Chevrolet, 30.6 seconds. Second, Cedrino, 36.6 seconds. Third, Clifford Earp, 37.4 seconds. Fourth, Henry Ford, 40 seconds.
  • One mile record trials for middleweight gas powered cars - Guy Vaughn won at 40.6 seconds. Second, Wurgis, 52.6 seconds. Third, Holmes, 1:03.

The article in attachment OrmondIndyNews012906 is another brief but valuable artifact. This report tells us that day, January 29, proved to be the best weather day of the tournament. I assume the report is about events of the day's morning hours and NOT the previous day because the Indianapolis News was an evening paper and probably went to press around noon. This meant news developments from as far away as Ormond Beach could be transmitted via telegraph and augmented with telephone calls in time for same-day coverage.
January 29 was a Monday and the article reports that because of challenges with weather the speed tournament was extended into the beginnings of an additional week. There are references to events on Saturday and I speculate that due to custom of the time no racing took place on the Sabbath regardless of how delightful the weather was. It simply was not done.
The first race of the day was a 30-mile championship for American-built cars. Contestants were in their positions by 7 a.m. The article indicates that eventual winner Fred Marriott was actually five minutes late to the start. It discusses his official time for the distance at 34:18.4. This was impressive given that the frequently heard slam against steam power is that over distances beyond a mile or so the boiler pressure would dissipate and the engine power would decrease. While 30 miles today seems a mere sprint, in 1906 people still thought of that distance as significant. The actual time covering the distance for Marriott was 28:38.4.
The article reports that the afternoon card had the remaining five events of the entire tournament. The most important of which was the competition for the title of "Speed King," the one-mile runoff between Chevrolet and Marriott. The other four contests were three 10-mile races and a one mile race for middleweight gasoline cars. The Speed King contest was reportedly planned for the Daytona end of the beach.
The eighth article in this collection is in attachment OrmondIndyNews013006. For whatever reason we quickly learn that Louis Cheverolet was replaced in the "Speed King" finals by French driver Victor Demogeot. The car was a Darracq. Marriott was the opposition in his record-shattering Stanley Steamer. Despite the steamer scoring the fastest mile of the meet, Demogeot emerged with the "Speed King" crown with a two-mile time of 58.8 seconds for a speed of about 123 MPH. Demogeot had served as Hemery's riding mechanic and was shifted into the driver's seat of the Darracq. Referencing a note I made a few paragraphs earlier the steam cars were probably at their peak level of performance in the one-mile "window."
The two-mile go was reportedly the final event of the speed tournament. Both Demogeot and Marriott made initial runs just a tick over one minute. The lead American Automobile Association (AAA) official elected to give both a shot to make some news and thrill fans who had endured rainy weather throughout the meet with hopefully at least one barrier-busting run. It was a super big deal to eclipse two miles in a minute just three years after the mile-a-minute run on a closed circuit was acheived in 1903. Granted, the beach was a straight, but the headlines were powerful.
Marriott was first and created a stir by accomplishing the task at 59.6 seconds. Before the buzz over busting through the two-miles-a-minute barrier could subside, Demogeot lowered the mark yet again with his Darracq. The award for securing the Speed King title was the Florida Times Union Trophy, valued at $1,000. Note, too, that Demogeot was crowned, laurel wreath and all, by 14-year-old Mary Simrall who had been previously awarded the title of "prettiest girl in Florida" by event officials. This seems a bit untoward by today's values, but in an era where women wed at younger ages and frequently to older, career-established males who would "take care of them," it probably seemed quite normal.
Another summary closes out this article:

  • 30-mile American car championship all powers (gas & steam) - Marriott, winner, Stanley Steamer, gross time: 34:18.4, actual time: 28:38.4. Second, J. Walter Christie, Christie 110 HP gas special, time: 37:34.4. Frank Kulick, Ford racer, DNF.
  • 15-mile open championship - Lancia, winner, Fiat, time: 10 minutes. Second, Hilliard, time: 11:36.6. Cedrino, Fiat, DNF.
  • 10-mile open and heavyweight championship - Lancia, winner, Fiat, time: 4:19.6. Second, Marriott, time: 7:35.6.
  • 10-mile open handicap - Lancia, winner, Fiat (scratch, started last), time: 6:18.4. Second, Hilliard, one-minute headstart, time: 8:02.8. Harding, 2:34 handicap, DNF.
  • Two-mile-a-minute trial, first heat - winner, Demogeot, 200 HP Darracq, time: 1:01.4. Second, Marriott, Stanley Steamer, time: 1:03.
  • Two-mile-a-minute trial, second heat - winner, Demogeot, 200 HP Darracq, time: 0:58.8. Second, Marriott, Stanley Steamer, time: 0:59.6.
  • One-mile middleweight championship - Guy Vaughn, no time provided.
OrmondIndyNews012206.pdf1.13 MB
OrmondIndyNews012506.pdf450.92 KB
OrmondIndyNews012506i.pdf773.44 KB
OrmondIndyNews012606.pdf325.53 KB
OrmondIndyNews012706.pdf229.3 KB
OrmondIndyNews012706i.pdf1.07 MB
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OrmondIndyNews013006.pdf526.19 KB