Baron de Caters snatched the record from Rigolly
after the Frenchman had held it for only two months,
in a year which saw no fewer than five changes of
title of fastest man, the keenest competition since
the 1899 battle between the two electric giants,
Jenatzy and Chasseloup-Laubat.
De Caters chose the
now-popular Ostend promenade for his run, driving
what was known as a Gordon-Bennett Mercedes. This was
a road-racing model which took its model name from
successes in the Gordon Bennett cup races organised
by the American newspaper proprietor who had become
a patron of the new sport.
The car conformed to the
pattern of the day, but was remarkable in that it
made no concession to streamlining and presented
its blunt, square nose to the wind. In spite of this
it achieved nearly 100 miles an hour.
The only token
admission that perhaps the shape did matter was made
by giving a pointed nose to the oil tank which sat
at the side of the chassis, although this was not
in a position to affect the issue very much. Shapely
or not the Mercedes covered the flying kilometre
in 23 seconds flat.
The year before he successfully
attacked the world speed record de Caters drove a
60 horse-power Mercedes in the Gordon Bennett race
in Ireland, one of the few places in the British
Isles where a motor race could be run.
In 1904, his
year of triumph on the record scene, de Caters also
had his first victory in ten years of motor racing.
He was first in the Grand Prix class in the Circuit
Des Ardennes in France, a well-deserved win after
so many years of unrewarded effort.
The vehicle de
Caters used in his successful bid for the record
was very similar to the Mercedes in which Vanderbilt
achieved a speed of 92.30 m.p.h. earlier in the year.