Dario Resta

Full Name:
Dario Raoul Resta
Born:
17th August 1882
Faenza, Romagna-Emilia (I)
Died:
3rd September 1924 (Aged 42)
Brooklands, Surrey, speed record attempt
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Dario Resta was a hero of the early years of the sport whose success in America elevated him to superstar status. Italian by birth, his family moved to England when Resta was just two years old and he would later take British citizenship. He worked in the motor industry after leaving school and later opened his own car dealership in London.

Early Brooklands star and Grand Prix debut

His racing career began in 1907 when a client persuaded him to drive his Mercedes in the very first meeting at the new Brooklands circuit in Surrey. Third in that day’s Montagu Cup, he was hooked and Resta won a race in the circuit’s autumn meeting.

That success led to an invitation from Austin to race in the 1908 French Grand Prix but Resta twice crashed during practice and he was temporarily jailed after the second shunt. The first car to start, his Austin finished an outclassed and distant 19th. He later joined Sunbeam and enjoyed a run of placings in the race – fourth in 1912, sixth a year later and fifth in the 1914 classic. Resta was also part of the Sunbeam team that set distance records at that time.

North American success

He travelled to New York on business at the end of 1914 and Peugeot importer Alphonse Kaufman invited him to race in America during the following season. It was a spectacular success with Resta winning both the 1915 American Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup in San Francisco. He was also second in the Indianapolis 500 and scored a hat-trick of board-track victories as well.

The AAA organised a championship for its senior category for the first time in 1916, although the organisation would later retrospectively announce earlier champions for what is now the IndyCar Series. Resta and his Peugeot were unstoppable that year – counting victory at Indianapolis (uniquely a 300-mile race) among the five wins that delivered the championship title. A new star had arrived.

He married the late Spencer Wishart’s sister – a millionaire heiress 12 years his junior – and retired from the sport in 1920. However, he returned in 1923 and qualified a Packard in third position at Indianapolis. He rejoined Sunbeam-Talbot by the end of the season.

Grand Prix return

He won the 1923 Gran Premio d’Espagna Voiturette at Sitges and was 10th in the following year’s French GP after suffering a misfire. However, tragedy was just around the corner.

The Restas were living in Eastbourne on the Sussex coast when he attempted to set a new speed record at Brooklands in September 1924. His GP Sunbeam was on its fourth lap when he crashed on the Railway Straight after puncturing a tyre. His riding mechanic was thrown clear and survived despite severe injuries but Resta was killed on impact with an iron fence.

Another European would not win the Indianapolis 500 until Jim Clark in 1965. Dario Resta’s 1915 and 1916 seasons were among the most competitive for a newcomer in the history of the sport in America.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1923 AAA National Championship
Packard Motor Co
Cliff Durant
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
23rd 13
1919 AAA National Championship
Dario Resta
4 0 1 0
0% win rate
5
1918 AAA National Championship
Dario Resta
6 0 6 0
0% win rate
125
1917 AAA National Championship 1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1916 AAA National Championship
Peugeot Auto Racing
10 0 5 5
50% win rate
1st 4100
1915 AAA National Championship
Peugeot Auto Import
9 2 6 5
56% win rate
3320