Three Gordon Bennett Napier motor cars, 1903.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph taken from an album of images compiled by English motor car manufacturer and aviator Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910). The prestigious Gordon Bennett Trophy race, which was first held in 1900, was a forerunner of the Grand Prix. Napier was the first British manufacturer to produce cars specifically for motor racing, and they were the first cars to compete painted in the famous British Racing Green colour. In 1902, the Australian racing driver Selwyn Francis Edge won the Gordon Bennett race in a Napier. Rolls was himself a keen competitor in early motor races. Driving a Napier, he narrowly failed to qualify for the British team for the 1903 Gordon Bennett race, held at Athy in Ireland, but in the 1905 race in France, driving a Wolseley, Rolls finished in 8th place.