It was quite usual for a driver to press his pilot cyclist to press on absolutely as fast as possible to reach the outward control several minutes before he was really due, or to give himself a time cushion to pause en route. There he would either busy himself with repairs or adjustments – in breach of the rules – or, taking advantage of the inevitable inexperience of the timekeeping officials, he would simply drive off before his appointed time, trusting that in the excitement his number would not have been recorded. During the 1901 Paris-Berlin international-borders race, there were no fewer than 53 transit controls at which such errors, and such advantage could accumulate.
In the 1902 Paris-Vienna race, it was noted that transit section abuse was particularly widespread. While protests, appeals and official reports of ‘misbehaviour’ within the neutralised areas poured in to the governing body – the patrician Automobile Club de France (ACF) – it’s not as if there was any CCTV record to consult to produce an accurate ruling. The ACF’s finest tried hard to reach proper rulings after each great race, but accuracy in the finally ratified results must be regarded as a luxury which these pioneer events (and organisers) seldom really achieved.
Consequently, when it was announced that a long-distance race was to be run without a single intermediate control, it was hailed on all sides as a tremendous advance in accuracy. This was, in fact, achieved by the pioneering new Circuit des Ardennes race of 1902, conceived and promoted by the Automobile Club de Belgique and by its most enthusiast race-driving member, the Baron Pierre de Crawhez.