Whatever the French might say, an American named James Gordon Bennett, Jr. is the great granddaddy of the modern Grand Prix, because it was this irascible millionaire who first came up with the idea of staging an international motor race, with national teams and colors. And the 1903 Gordon Bennett Trophy race was the first to be held on a closed circuit, all of which laid the foundations for the world’s first Grand Prix in 1906.
Son of the founder of the New York Herald, Gordon Bennett Jr. became a social leper. In 1877, he committed the sin of sins: he shot (and missed) his opponent in a duel after the other man had discharged his pistol harmlessly in the air. Eventually, Bennett got fed up with getting the cold shoulder from New York society, so, in 1887 at the age of 46, he transferred to Paris, where he set up and ran a European edition of the Herald.