1924: Delage driven by René Thomas

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Bore x Stroke:
90 x 140 mm
10,688 cc
350 bhp
Top Speed:

143.31 mph


René Thomas, motor racing champion of France in 1924, took the record on the Arpajon stretch of road near Paris, during the June-July speed trials. Rend Thomas made his run over the kilometre in a car built in his own country, the 10 liter Delage, and achieved 143.31 mph.

But his triumph was very short lived, because six days later a British driver, Ernest Eldridge, driving another of the aero-engined monsters, the 21 liter Fiat "Mephistopheles" topped Rend Thomas' best speed.

But another rule had crept into the book by this time, which required all record-breakers to be equipped with "the means for reversing."

The French driver strolled across to his rival's car and was quick to notice that the chain-driven monster lacked a reverse gear.

Not unnaturally he made a protest against Eldridge's time being recognised since his car did not conform to the rules, and this was upheld by the A.I.A.C.R.

Eldridge was somewhat put out by his rival's protest, but went away to think about it and came up with a simple answer.

He retired with his mechanics to a local garage where they had the use of the workshop, and by a process of trial and error introduced enough extra links into his spare final drive chains to enable him to put them on the sprockets crossed, and thus move slowly in reverse to the satisfaction of the officials.

Having made his point he reverted to normal drive and went out to put up a speed of 146.01 mph., beating Rend Thomas' record speed.

The handsome Delage was originally built as a sprint machine by the French firm, founded by Louis Delage after he had worked for Peugeot. The first Delage was powered by a De Dion engine back in 1906, but the firm was soon making their own power plants. Rend Thomas was associated with Delage from the early days and won the Indianapolis 500 in 1913 driving one.

His world land speed record car was built at the Paris works in 1923, by which time he was racing manager. This record-breaker was a 10.5 liter machine with a V12 engine having two valves per cylinder worked by pushrods, and a five-bearing crank.

It would run up to 3,200 rpm. and the engine was installed in a 9 ft 3 in chassis. Front wheel brakes were by no means common in 1924, especially on racing cars, but the Delage was so equipped. This car became a regular Brooklands performer in later years, and among famous drivers who handled it was John Cobb, later so active in the world record field himself.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
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