‘Jenatzy Shot Dead,’ ran the headline in The New York Times on 9 December 1913. ‘Famous Belgian ‘Red Devil’ Auto Racer Killed in a Hunting Accident.’
Born in Schaerbeek in 1868, Camille Jenatzy was a man who loved danger. He trained as an electrical engineer before moving to Paris in 1897. Here the red-bearded engineer, nicknamed Le diable rouge (The Red Devil) built an electric car called Jamais Contente (Never Satisfied).
In 1899, watched by a huge crowd, the red devil from Schaerbeek became the first person in history to reach a speed in excess of 100 km/h. He became known as the most daring racing car driver of the age.
Jenatzy died at Habay la Neuve in the Belgian Ardennes. Not, surprisingly, in a car crash. He was accidentally shot by a newspaper owner who mistook him for a wild boar.
A replica of his famous cigar-shaped racing car is now displayed in a museum in Compiègne. And in Brussels, a street in Schaerbeek bears his name.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.