I have read, with great interest, your report on the splendid rebuild, by Mr. Milling, of the 1921 Grand Prix Ballot and I can, perhaps, account for the missing car, chassis No. 1005, and part of its history.
A wealthy Argentine driver Martin Alzaga (I believe his full name was Martin de Alzaga ‘nzue) had acquired one of these Ballots and in the spring of 1924 it was lying in the Ballot Works in Paris. Now Jules Goux, who had won the Coppa Florio in 1921 when Cav. Vincenzo Florio had awarded the Coppa to the winner of the first Italian Grand Prix, at Brescia, realised that if he could persuade Monsieur Ballot to borrow Alzaga’s car and enter it for the Coppa Florio which was being run concurrently with the Targa Florio that year there was a chance of perhaps winning the Coppa for a second time, and thus gaining permanent possession of this trophy.
It took all Goux’s persuasive powers to get Monsieur Ballot to agree to his suggestion for the latter had withdrawn from racing, somewhat disillusioned, at the end of 1922. However, he finally agreed and, late entry having been made, frantic night and day work ensued to get the car ready in time. In due course Goux arrived in Sicily but did not have much luck in the race retiring in the fourth lap of the tortuous mountain course never having been among the leaders.
I cannot find any reference to Alzaga driving the Ballot in any European event and, if it is, indeed, the missing car, it may well have gone to Argentina although I can find no reference to it appearing there in any race, and my records of racing in that country are reasonably complete. Incidentally, the story of De Palma’s clash with Monsieur Ballot over the gear changing is true, believe it or not, for Peter de Paolo, de Palma’s nephew and riding mechanic, describes the incident in his book and in a magazine article. There is no doubt that De Palma would have been more successful with the Ballot on American board tracks if he had used Firestone
tyres, the best available at the time but, owing to a personal feud with Barney Oldfield, who had a contract with Firestone, he steadfastly refused to do so. In spite of this he won numerous dirt track races throughout America during 1920 and 1921 including a meeting in Havana.
In spite of their disagreements Monsieur Ballot must have had a high opinion of De Palma as a driver for he sent a mechanic to America, specially, to fit four wheel brakes to the Ballot prior to the Elgin National Road Race which De Palma duly won. This mechanic liked America so much that he never returned to France! I believe his name was Jean Marcenac and he became one of America’s leading racing mechanics in later years.
Paris T. A. S. O. MATHIESON