Vanderbilt Cup

Vanderbilt Cup

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Vanderbilt Cup

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The Vanderbilt Cup was the first major trophy in American auto racing.


An international event, it was founded by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in 1904 and first held at a course set out in Nassau County on Long Island, New York. The announcement that the race was to be held caused considerable controversy in New York. It brought a flood of legal actions in an attempt to stop the race and the politicians soon jumped in, holding public hearings on the issue. Vanderbilt prevailed and the inaugural race was run over a course of winding dirt roads through Nassau County and area.

Vanderbilt put up a large cash prize hoping to encourage American manufacturers to get into racing, a sport already well organized in Europe that was yielding many factory improvements to motor vehicle technology. The race drew the top drivers and their vehicles from across the Atlantic Ocean, some of whom had competed in Europe's Gordon Bennett Cup. The first Long Island race featured seventeen vehicles and the newspaper and poster art promotion drew large crowds hoping to see an American car defeat the mighty European vehicles. However, George Heath won the race in a Panhard and another French vehicle, a Darracq, took the Cup the next two years straight. Crowd control was a problem from the start and after a spectator Curt Gruner was killed in 1906, the race was cancelled. Meanwhile, in France, the first Grand Prix motor racing event had been run on June 26, 1906 under the auspices of the......
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