On 18 December 1898, the very first speed record for automobiles was set when the French magazine “La France Automobile” held the world’s first speed contest for cars in the commune of Achères in north-central France. The fastest car on the day was a Jeantaud electric vehicle driven by Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat. The 32-year-old French aristocrat established this record covering one kilometer (0.62 miles) with a flying-start in 57 seconds for an average speed 62.78 km/h. Chasseloup-Laubat, son of Minister of the Navy and Colonies under French emperor Napoleon III, was an active enthusiast of early motoring. In 1897 he won a hill climb between the city of Marseille and commune of La Turbie in southern France driving a steam car that had been built by Trépardoux & Cie.
The 1898 Jeantaud Duc was powered by a 26.8 kW (35.9 hp) electric engine, weighed around 1,400 kg and transmitted its power to the rear wheels through a chain-drive gearbox. At that point in time, electric cars had an edge in speed over their petrol-engined rivals. However electric vehicles did not feature in the big city-to-city races due to the difficulty they had replenishing energy reserves in provincial France. The car was manufactured by Jeantaud, a make of French automobile manufactured in Paris from 1893 until 1907. Charles Jeantaud, former coachbuilder, built his first experimental electric car in 1881 but serious production did not begin until 1893. A large Jeantaud car with double transverse springs at the front, 2 gears and a chain drive raced in the Paris-Bordeaux race of 1895. Charles Jeantaud committed suicide in 1906 and his company ended with him.
As to first speed record, rival electric carriage maker Camille Jenatzy hit back with 65 km/h (41 mph) on 17 January 1899. The same day Chasseloup-Laubat responded in his Jeantaud with an aerodynamic V-nose, running 70.17 km/h (43.6 mph) and yet another record was established. Jenatzy and Chasseloup-Laubat improved the record several times in the beginning of 1899 until Jenatzy finally set 105.856 kph at Achere in April 1899 driving his famous “La Jamais Contente” electric car, after that the Jeantaud did not take more in competitions.
|1898||Speed Record Trials||Acheres Speed Trials|
|Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat||G. de Chasseloup-Laubat|