The article in your November issue about Dario Resta describes Jules Goux as drinking champagne on his way to victory in the 1913 Indianapolis 500-mile race. This is not true. The allegation was thoroughly investigated at the time and determined to be false — but seems to have become a racing legend.
The race was run under the auspices and control of the AAA Contest Board, whose Rule 68A explicitly stated that, ‘The use of intoxicants by officials, drivers, mechanics, attendants, etc. is strictly prohibited during any contest under penalty of disqualification’. This was in effect from the founding of AAA in 1902 until it quit being involved in racing at the end of 1955, and was strictly adhered to over that entire time.
The allegations against Goux, made by local reporters, were immediately investigated by David Beecroft, the on-site AAA Contest Board member responsible for the conduct of the event His report, dated June 4, 1913, to the AAA Contest Board Chairman, William Schimpf in New York, contained the following reference:
‘Mr W L Esterly [an assistant to Beecroft], who was our man in charge of the European pits, and who was physically present during every pit visit made by Mr Goux, stated emphatically that only water was drunk by the driver and that no alcohol was in the pit area at any time.
‘His observations were confirmed by Mr A F Pardington [the race’s Referee], who had gone to the Peugeot pit upon hearing reports of alcohol being imbibed there. He stated that he personally checked the bottled refreshments in the pit by smelling open bottles and randomly tasting sealed containers — and found only water.
‘Mr Goux was then brought into the meeting and asked about the allegation. He stated clearly that he understood the prohibition about intoxicants while the race was in progress, had nothing to drink, save water, during the course of the race, and furthermore would never personally consume alcoholic beverages during the race, nor would he condone anyone else doing it.
‘Our conclusion is that the allegations were without merit.’
Englishman W F Bradley, who lived in the US from 1907 to 1914 as the American correspondent for Autocar, was the AAA Contest Board European liaison 1908-36. In a letter to me dated March 22, 1962, he stated: ‘It surprises me that current racing writers and historians should have fallen for the ridiculous newspaper story.
‘Never, in all my experience, have I seen champagne served to drivers during a race. There was nothing stronger than water in the Peugeot pits.’
I hope this helps to clear up the matter.
I am, Yours etc, Joel Finn, Roxbury, Connecticut