Preview: a lesson on the American GRand PRix
The 1908 Grand PRize; Newspapers all around America are calling it the ‘Greatest Event of the Kind the World has ever seen’
While Grand Prix-racing is making a name for itself in continental Europe, America too is starting to explore the possibilities of hosting a ‘Grand Prize’. Not just meant for the average Joe to enter his Massey Harris 25bhp farm tractor, the Automobile Club of America (ACA) set out to create a high profile race with a hefty winners cheque. Subsequently, the ACA managed to draw some pretty big names from the European theatre to enter the race at Savannah, Georgia.
Mercedes Benz vs Fiat vs REnault
Frenchman Louis Wagner entered a 12 litre, 120bhp Fiat S16 and is well known among Americans after his stunning victory at the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Beach, New York, aged just 24. Victor Hémery, who won the Vanderbilt Cup the year before Wagner, entered a 120bhp Benz. Dominating the current European competition, Turin-born Felice Nazzaro (pictured above) accepted the invitation from the ACA and entered with a Fiat S16. Nazzaro is a force to be reckoned with and one of the favorites to win the Grand Prize. He won the 1907 Targa Florio, allegedly breaking the 75mph barrier in that race for the first time. Meanwhile, the event is heavily advertised and the enthusiasm it creates all over America is simply immense. People are traveling from every state to catch a glimpse of the world’s fastest men. And who’s to blame? The amount of record-breaking drivers who are about to face-off at the 25 mile track make for the best advertisement possible. The main grandstand alone will seat 16.000 people and thousands more are expected to follow the action from the side of the road. Newspapers all around America are calling it the ‘Greatest Event of the Kind the World has ever seen’.
Louis Wagner in his Fiat S16 at the 1908 Grand Prize