Camille Jenatzy

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Picture of Camille Jenatzy and his wife riding the Jamais Contente vehicle.
Jenatzy driving a Mercedes

Camille Jenatzy (1868, Schaerbeek – 8 December 1913, Habay la Neuve) was a Belgian race car driver. He is known for breaking the land speed record three times and being the first man to break the 100 km/h barrier. He was nicknamed Le Diable Rouge ("The Red Devil") after the colour of his beard.[1]

Record setting[edit]

On 17 January 1899 at Achères, Yvelines near Paris, France, he reached the speed of 66.66 km/h (41.42 mph) over one kilometre, driving a CGA Dogcart. That same day, the record was broken by Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat, topped on 27 January 1899 when Jenatzy achieved 80.35 km/h (49.93 mph). This record was again broken by Chasseloup-Laubat, who applied rudimentary streamlining to his Jeantaud.[2] Jenatzy replied with his third land speed record on 29 April 1899, reaching 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph) in the electric CITA Nº 25 La Jamais Contente, the first purpose-designed land speed racer,[3] and the first record over 100 km/h (62 mph). In 1902, he lost the land speed record to Léon Serpollet.

Jenatzy won the 1903 Gordon Bennet Cup in Athy, Ireland, at the wheel of a Mercedes.[4] Auto racing was a deadly sport at the time and at some point Jenatzy predicted he would die in a Mercedes.


Jenatzy dog phaeton electric automobile circa 1900[5]

Jenatzy died in 1913 in a hunting accident. He went behind a bush and made animal noises as a prank on his friends who were hunting with him. Alfred Madoux, director of the journal L'Etoile Belge,[6] fired, believing it was a wild animal. When they realised it was Jenatzy, they rushed him to hospital by car; he bled to death en route, fulfilling his own prophecy he would die in a Mercedes.[7] He is buried at the Laeken Cemetery in Brussels.


  1. ^ J.R. Holthusen, The Fastest Men on Earth, (Sutton Publishing, 1999), p. 6
  2. ^ "The Electric Era". Thrust SSC. 1997. Retrieved 18 October 2006.
  3. ^ Northey, Tom. "Land Speed Record", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Vol 10, p. 1162.
  4. ^ eMercedesBenz, A Look Back At Camille Jenatzy And The 1903 Gordon Bennett Trophy (3 June 2008) Archived 12 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine at
  5. ^ Wikisource:Popular Science Monthly/Volume 57/August 1900/The Evolution and Present Status of the Automobile
  6. ^ JENATZY SHOT DEAD.; Famous Belgian "Red Devil" Auto Racer Killed in Hunting Accident.The New York Times
  7. ^ "The day the country stopped to watch the Great Race". Leinster Express. May 2003. Archived from the original on 26 November 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2006.