72 – 1910 American GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here). From the editor Damien Smith The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget… Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month. It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache… Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided. Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been… Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for! Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport. So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously. 1910 American GP November 12, Savannah Handsome and charming, New York socialite David Bruce-Brown chose to spend his considerable wealth on motor racing. When he defeated Europe’s finest in a gruelling road race in Georgia, he became America’s first Grand Prix hero. The ‘Grand Prize’, as the race was known, had been organised at short notice having initially been cancelled following the death of two riding mechanics and some serious spectator injuries in the Vanderbilt Cup. Then the Savannah Automobile Club stepped in, setting up a 17-mile road course. Given the timescale, it was no surprise that there were just six European entries. Setting off at 9am at 30-second intervals, Victor Hémery set the early pace for Benz ahead of Arthur Chevrolet, but it was the great Italian Felice Nazzaro who was the man to watch. But having set a course record on lap seven, he slid into a ditch and bent his rear axle. Fiat team-mate Louis Wagner took up the lead, but he too went off and struck a tree. He resumed, but front axle damage caused him to cartwheel out of the race. Ralph de Palma then looked on course for an American victory, only for a cracked cylinder to force him out on the penultimate lap. As the six-hour mark approached Hémery crossed the line first thanks to the time trial format, then waited… Bruce-Brown’s 15.1-litre Benz had set the fastest time in practice, but he sagely chose to run the 415-mile race at a conservative pre-set pace. As the Europeans created havoc, he kept to his game plan and rumbled across the line. Had he done it? Yes – by just 1.42sec. Remarkable. DS Images courtesy of VanderbiltCupRaces.com, with thanks to Howard Kroplick for his assistance.

You may also like