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Paris-Madrid 1903

For the 1903 Paris-Madrid – last, and most disastrous of the great open-road races – no fewer than 216 entries started the event. The driver and mechanic were entirely responsible for all repairs and maintenance work carried out on the cars throughout the long race, using tools and spares carried on the car; no help in any shape or form could be summoned from outside, on penalty of disqualification.  

During the first day’s run after 320-odd km Marcel Renault and Léon Théry were racing side-by-side when Théry swerved towards Renault who, in taking avoiding action, hit a tree and died from his injuries; his mechanic was badly injured too. The loss to the French motor industry of Renault was tragic, for the two brothers, Marcel and Louis, had founded the Renault factory at Billancourt in 1898. 

At the end of the day, only 38 of the 216 starters arrived at Bordeaux within the time limit. But in view of the appalling accident record after only one day’s racing, the French and Spanish authorities banned any further racing.  

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