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DE PALMA DRIVES WORLD'S BEST RACE

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500, Ralph De Palma

DE PALMA DRIVES WORLD'S BEST RACE

The New York Times
June 1, 1915


Mercedes Averages Nearly 90 Miles in Indianapolis 500-Mile Sweepstakes.

RESTA'S PEUGEOT SECOND

American Cars Take Third and Fourth Places Piloted by Gil Anderson and Earl Cooper.

International 500-Mile Sweepstakes.
INDIANAPOLIS.

Winner—Mercedes, (Ralph de Palma.) Time—5:33:55.50. Average—89.84 miles an hour.

Second—Peugeot, (Dario Resta.) Time—5:37:39.94. Average—89.28 miles an hour.

Third—Stutz, (Gil Anderson.) Time—5:42:27.57. Average—87.60 miles an hour.

Fourth—Stutz, (Earl Cooper.) Time—5:48:3.60.

Fifth—Duesenberg, (Edward O'Donnell.) Time—6:8:13.27.

Sixth—Peugeot, (Bob Burman.) Time—6:13:19.61.

Average in 1914—82.47 miles an hour.
Average in 1913—75.92 miles an hour.
Average in 1912—78.70 miles an hour.
Average in 1911—74.59 miles an hour.
Value to Winner—$35,000, (approximately.)
Value of Race—$74,500.
Attendance—75,000.


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., May 31.—Ralph De Palma driving a Mercedes car, won the fifth annual 500-mile international sweepstakes on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in the remarkable time of 5 hours 33 minutes and 55½ seconds. The victor traveled at an average speed of 89.94 miles an hour, and broke the record for the race established in 1914 by René Thomas in a Delage, who finished in 6 hours 3 minutes and 45.9 seconds.

Dario Resta, winner of the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races, who piloted a Peugeot car, was second. He contested every mile of the way with the winner, and the battle of these two drivers was the feature of the contest. Resta never quit trying to head off De Palma, and he finished only four minutes after the winner crossed the tape. Resta's time was 5 hours 37 minutes and 34.94 seconds. Gil Anderson, in a Stutz, was third, and completed the race in 5 hours 42 minutes and 27.57 seconds. Anderson was followed by Earl Cooper, his teammate. All four of the leading cars beat the record establishel last year by Thomas, and the fifth to finish, a Dulsenberg, driven by O'Donnell, was only five minutes behind the best previous time.

Prizes Worth Having.

Prize money to the value of nearly $75,000 was offered for the race. Of this sum the winners share was approximately $35,000, including $20,000 of the stakes. Second and third received $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, exclusive of the special prizes offered by various accessory concerns.

That De Palma's victory was a popular one was shown by the demonstration by the thousands of spectators, who rose and cheered wildly as the winner finished his last lap. De Palma drove into his garage immediately after he received the checkered flag which announced his victory and locked the door of the building. His first words were praise for the mechanician who rode by his side during the long grind. Enthusiastic friends burst open the doors of the garage and De Palma became the centre of attraction for hundreds of people, who fought for a chance to shake him by the hand and congratulate him on his remarkable victory.

De Palma drove a consistent race, and at no time was he worse than fourth. He wrested the lead from Resta in the 175th mile and continued in front up to the 375th mile, when he stopped at the pits. He quickly recovered the lost ground when he reappeared, and regained the lead in the 435th mile, when Resta skidded into the retaining wall and was forced to make a tire change as a result. After that De Palma never was headed, although Resta pushed his car to the limit.

De Palma's, car ran perfectly until the beginning of the 498th mile, when it showed signs of faltering. Spectators feared that the car would fail him and he would be robbed of victory as he was in 1912, when with but two miles to go his machine broke down and he lost the prizes he had thought as good as won a few minutes before.

This year's race was the first held in which no persons were injured. Although the weather was threatening and the race had been postponed from Saturday a large crowd was on hand to witness the event. The track was ideal for high speed, as it was chilly, and tires lasted much longer than is usual on a brick course. The winner made two stops for tires and fuel. Speedway officials said tonight that the record probably will stand for years.

Not a Record Crowd.

The crowd did not equal those that attended the four previous sweepstake races, but Speedway officials said that they were well satisfied. The threatening weather, which made overcoats and Winter wraps more popular than Summer finery, kept many from the contest.

With Carl Fisher, President of the Speedway, leading the first lap, which did not count, the twenty-four cars were sent off promptly at 10 o'clock on the long grind. During the early stages of the race several cars alternated in the lead. At the end of the first fifty miles Anderson's Stutz was leading the field, with De Palma and Resta in third and fourth positions. At the century mark by terrific driving, Resta sent his Peugeot to the front, with De Palma's Mercedes less than a half lap behind. Wilcox's Stutz was in third place, directly behind De Palma's car.

At times a blanket could have covered the three leading cars during the next fifty miles. They crossed the wire in the same relative positions, but shortly before the 200-mile mark had been reached De Palma gained a half lap over Resta and Wilcox fell back to sixth position, his two teammates, Anderson and Cooper, taking a gruelling pace and moving up to third and fourth positions and less than a lap behind the leaders.

De Palma kept grinding out lap after lap at a faster clip than ninety miles an hour, and Resta held to second position without losing ground. The pace was dazzling, and as each mile was passed a new record was established. Neck and neck De Palma and Resta whirled around the brick course, and the 250 and 300 mile marks were reached with not a lap separating the two drivers. The two Stutz cars were trailing at this time by a full lap.

The 300-mile mark was the climax of the speed of the day, DePalma's average having been pulled up to 90.21 miles an hour. Fighting the pace with a grim determination, Resta refused to be shaken off and was trailing by only a few yards. DePalma was forced to draw into the pits shortly after the 300 miles had been passed, and Resta gained a lap while the former took on gasoline and made a complete change of tires. Around the track the two circled at the death-defying pace, and Resta was forced to pull into the pits for new tires.

The French pilot was out in a hurry, but DePalma had made up a portion of that precious lap and was driving like a wild man. Without shutting off on the turns, he caught and overtook his rival before the 350-mile mark. In the meantime the two Stutz cars, driven by Anderson and Cooper, were fighting every inch of the way and held their third and fourth positions three laps in the rear of the two leaders.

At 400 miles DePalma led Resta by three-quarters of a lap. His average time at this point was 89.79 miles an hour. At 450 miles he had increased the lead to a lap and a half, and run his average up to 89.89 miles per hour.

There was no let-up in DePalma's wild pace for the last fifty miles of the race, and he crossed the wire a winner by a little better than two full laps. The list of starters in the race follows:

Number.        Car.          Driver.
1.............Stutz..........Wilcox
2.............Mercedes......Ralph de Palma
3.............Peugeot.......Resta
4.............Stutz..........Earl Cooper
5.............Stutz..........Anderson
6.............Sunbeam......Porporato
7.............Sunbeam......Van Raalte
8.............Peugeot......Burman
9.............Kleinart.......Klein
10.............Duesenberg....Alley
14.............Sunbeam......Grant
15.............Duesenberg....O'Donnell
16.............Peugeot.......Babcock
17.............Delage........John de Palma
18.............Sebring.......Joe Cooper
19.............Maxwell.......Carson
21.............Maxwell.......Orr
22.............Duesenberg....Mulford
23.............Maxwell.......Rickenbacher
24.............Mais...........Mais
25.............Purcell........Cox
26.............Bugatti.......Hill
27.............Cornelian......Chevrolet
28.............Emden.........Haupt



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