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February 27, 2006


James Merrick

Glenn Curtiss's mile record at Ormond Beach in 1907 was also an unofficial trial, and Curtiss himself realized that it didn't count. It was run late in the day on Jan. 24, 1907, sometime after dusk when the official timing apparatus was disconnected, in front of very few witnesses. There were a few experienced timers with stopwatches at the starting line, watching a solitary flagman at the finish line through binoculars. It is not known if the flagman at the finish was experienced or a volunteer. If the flagman was not properly lined up with the mile marker, or dropped the flag prematurely, or was not clearly visible in the twilight, any one of those factors could have skewed Curtiss's time recorded back at the start. The subsequent breakdown of Curtiss's V-8 motorcycle and Marriott's disastrous crash the next day have to go down as two of the most star-crossed 'what-if-only's' in racing history, as they both were on the verge of setting speed records that would have stood for a decade or more.

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