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


The New York Times
January 15, 1911

Noted Auto Pilot Advocates Careful Living and Abstinence.

Special to The New York Times.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Jan 14.-"Many of the biggest automobile races in the history of the sport have been lost the night before."  This is the statement of Ralph De Palma, champion mile-track motor race driver of 1910.  De Palma recently visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway here and announced that he would pilot a car in the 500-mile International Sweepstakes race May 30.  He is undecided just what his machine will be, but he asserted that he would be a starter even if he had "to drive a wheelbarrow."

Discussing the long grind of seven hours which the twenty-five-thousand-dollar classic will mean, the fearless Italian pilot said:

"A prize of $10,000 for winning one race is not to be picked up every day, and I mean to be in at the finish of the speedway race next May.  This means that I must be even more careful of myself now than ever.  I always have kept in good shape through consistent training, but this long drive will require the very pink of condition in every man who starts.

"Many of the biggest races in the history of the sport have been lost the night before.  By that I mean that inexperienced drivers have given way to temptation and have indulged in intoxicants to an extent that rendered them incompetent to sit at a wheel.  Any auto race driver should be careful of his physical condition, as it not only endangers his own life, but that of the other drivers in the race, if he is not in good shape.

"It is not always the young driver who adds danger to his career by dissipation, for I have seen some of the oldest and supposedly the best of them in frightful shape the night before they were to take part in a long contest that meant the use of every ounce of energy they would have even if they were in the best of condition at the start."

De Palma may drive the Simplex "90" which is entered in the 500-mile race, for which a driver has not been named as yet, but there is a rumor that he is considering a berth with the National Motor Vehicle Company of Indianapolis-a rumor which he has neither affirmed nor denied.

The Italian driver who has done such notable work for the Fiat in the past will have strong contenders to meet in the big speedway event, for the entries already include "Louie" Strang in a Case car, C. B. Baldwin in an Inter-State "50," "Happy Johnny" Aitken in a National "40" Speedway roadster, 1911 model, and those which are promised within a short time, including "Wild Bob" Burman and Arthur Chevrolet in Buick's model 100; Louis Disbrow in a Pope-Hartford, Frank Dearborn in a Fiat, and others.

Accessory makers are planning to boost the $25,000 purse so that it will total about $40,000, which means that the winner of the seven-hour speed carnival will be richer by about $15,000.

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