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Indianapolis 1921 Resta & Haibe


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#1 oliver heal

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 15:42

When the Sunbeam straight-eights were shipped to Indianapolis in 1921 it was expected that Dario Resta was to drive one of them. He was even reported to have come over to the UK to take delivery personally. Is there any record in the US press of how and why his place was taken in the race by Ora Haibe?



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#2 B Squared

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 16:37

On newspapers.com I found an article in the May 28 Lafayette Journal and Courier that reports that relief driver Ora Haibe had qualified the car, and the May 30 Indianapolis News announces that Haibe would drive instead of Resta without giving reason(s).

edit: grammar

Edited by B Squared, 05 January 2018 - 18:34.


#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 17:38

Resta certainly came to England in early 1921. Ancestry has travel records showing him arriving at Southampton from New York on March 29th on the Aquitania and returning from Liverpool on the Celtic on April 16th, arriving in New York on April 25th.



#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 18:57

Report from the New York Times, April 26th, confirming Resta was aboard the Celtic:

 

http://query.nytimes...FB266838A639EDE

 

He sailed again for Europe on June 4th:

 

http://query.nytimes...FB066838A639EDE



#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 20:53

On newspapers.com I found an article in the May 28 Lafayette Journal and Courier that reports that relief driver Ora Haibe had qualified the car, and the May 30 Indianapolis News announces that Haibe would drive instead of Resta without giving reason(s).

edit: grammar

I don't have a current subscription but quite a few papers on newspaperarchive.com still have Resta listed as a starter in their May 30th issues. There are also reports in the Salt Lake Tribune of May 29th and June 1st, which say he was 'now in Salt Lake City'. :confused:

 

The first mention I can find of Haibe driving for Sunbeam is on May 26th in the Decatur Daily Democrat; same text the next day in the Hammond Lake County Times and the East Chicago Times. This is a snippet from the Indianapolis Star, May 29th:

 

Ora Haibe drove one of the Sunbeams again yesterday, confirming the report that Dario Resta will not drive this year in the classic.

I think that information might be in the May 27th issue.



#6 Tim Murray

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 21:14

According to the late John Glenn Printz Resta didn’t take part in any US racing between 1919 and 1923:


(etc)

Resta's lasting fame in motor sport is mainly based on his two seasons, i.e. 1915 and 1916, spent in the U.S., using 1913 and 1914 imported Peugeot Grand Prix cars. Resta, then a quite unknown quantity, won his first two starts in the U.S; nor were these two events any normal races. They were the American Grand Prize (Feburary 27, 1915) and the Vanderbilt Cup (March 6, 1915)! In both he used a 1913 Peugeot Grand Prix car as reconditioned by Harry A. Miller. He soon switched to a more modern 1914 Peugeot Grand Prix vehicle and placed 2nd at Indy and won the inaugural Chicago board oval contest, a 500 miler, on June 26, by averaging 97.5 mph. 1916 witnessed Resta winning at Indianapolis (May 30) and gaining a second victory in the Vanderbilt Cup (November 16). In addition, for the year 1916, Dario won the very first AAA National Championship U.S. Driving Title with 5 wins among the total of 15 events. The AAA driving title continued until 1956 when it was transformed into the USAC National Championship title, but Resta was the only non U.S. citizen ever to win the AAA title.

After 1916 Dario's racing fortunes quickly faded. During 1917 he was mostly inactive but for 1918 and 1919 he tried to develope his own racing motor. It was installed into a Peugeot chassis, i.e. the Resta Special, but the engine was never competitive and was inclined to come apart under stress. After running his "Resta Special" at the Tacoma races of July 19, 1919, Dario retired from all racing in the U.S. until early 1923.

Cliff Durant added Resta to his multi car team for the February 1923 running of the Beverly Hills 250. The local press responded well by giving Dario a lot of attention and much favorable copy on his return to competition in America, but it all proved a bust. Dario did not fare well at Beverly Hills and placed only 10th in the race, among the 15 starters. Resta's next U.S. start was at Indianapolis in May, where he joined up with Joe Boyer and Ralph DePalma on the Packard team. This was Dario's third race here on Memorial Day. In 1915 he placed 2nd to DePalma (Mercedes) and won in 1916. In the 1923 "500" none of the three Packard entries got to the halfway mark, as all three retired with mechanical problems. At 80 laps Resta was in 10th place but went out at 88 circuits with a blown gasket. Resta ultimately was placed 14th overall. The Packards had obviously needed more testing. The 1923 Indy race ended Resta's new world "comeback" and would remain his last competitive appearance in the U.S.

During 1924 Resta was a member of the Sunbeam Grand Prix team. The year's French Grand Prix was held on August 3 at Lyon with a total distance of 503.3 miles. The three Sunbeams placed 5th (Henry Seagrave); 10th (Resta); and 13th (Kenelm Lee Guiness) out with engine failure. Giuseppe Campari (1892-1933) was the victor in an Alfa Romeo P2 at an average of 70.957 mph. Then Resta returned to Brooklands for the record attempt and died on the circuit where he had began his racing career initially, back in 1907.

(etc)



#7 oliver heal

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 12:12

Thanks very much for all of this although I still don't know why Resta didn't drive! He is even listed in the Speedway's official programme for the 1921 race as the driver. The programme also includes a full page colour advert for Resta Motors, Inc. 17 West 50th St. New York City, as sole concessionaires for "Sunbeam the motor car of the English Aristocracy".

 

A photo of the Sunbeam team exists with the drivers and Coatalen standing at the back including Resta and sitting in front of them are all the mechanics including Haibe. I wonder if he was originally going to be Resta's riding mechanic?

 

While I am asking questions - do passenger lists for transatlantic crossings for 1916 exist? I can find no indication that Louis Coatalen visited the USA during WWI yet Eddie Rickenbacker in his memoirs says he met Louis Coatalen who invited him to come to England to prepare a racing team for 1917. If you can confirm that he really went that would be wonderful!



#8 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 13:29

The only records I can find of Coatalen going to the US are in 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1930.

 

1919 - travelling with Jean Chassagne and Thomas Harrison from Southampton on the Olympic. Destination Indianapolis. Point of entry to the USA is shown as St Albans VT, but actually landed in Canada at Halifax NS. (I think at that time they were transporting returning servicemen and a lot of war brides to Canada - my grandmother was among them, although not on that voyage!)

 

ETA: Presumably they then travelled by rail to Montreal and crossed the border from there. St Albans was the first large station south of the border on what became the Central Vermont Railway.

 

1920 - Southampton to New York on the Adriatic. (Passenger list only - not apparently in the NY alien arrivals records)

 

1921 - Southampton to New York on the Olympic. Apparently intending to stay at the Waldorf Astoria.

 

1930 - Southampton to New York on the Berengaria. Staying at the Savoy Plaza.



#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 14:14

Aha! According to his Wiki entry, Rickenbacker travelled to England in 1916 (source Farr, Finis - Rickenbacker's Luck – An American Life. Houghton Mifflin, 1979. pp36-37).

 

 

In 1916, Rickenbacker traveled to London, with the aim of developing an English car for American races. Because of an erroneous press story and Rickenbacker's known Swiss heritage, he was suspected of being a spy. En route and in England, agents closely monitored his actions.

On a sea voyage back to America, he came up with the idea to recruit his race car driver friends as fighter pilots, on the theory that such men were accustomed to tight spaces and high speeds. His suggestion was ignored by the military.

So there might be something to be found about his visit at Kew!

 

Found his travel records too.

 

Arrived Liverpool from New York on the St Paul, travelling first class, December 24th 1916. Destination Savoy Hotel, London.

 

Arrived New York from Liverpool on the New York, February 12th 1917. Destination Woodward Hotel, New York.



#10 robert dick

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 17:25

Motor Age, 24 February 1921, page 21/William Bradley article dated 5 February:

"André Boillot has been selected to drive the Talbot-Darracq, and Dario Resta and René Thomas will be at the wheel of the two Sunbeams."

Motor Age, 26 May 1921, page 14:

"England will be represented by two Sunbeams driven by Dario Resta and René Thomas, and the Talbot-Darracq Special driven by André Boillot."

Motor Age, 2 June 1921, page 13:

"... the Sunbeam driven by Haibe, who is substituting for Resta."

 

= = = =

Nothing concerning the exact reason why Resta did not take the wheel on race day.

Possible that the financial difficulties of Resta's business were an issue. The Resta Motors, Inc., New York City, went bankrupt in February 1922.
 



#11 robert dick

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 17:49

Concerning Rickenbacher and Coatalen:
Rickenbacher was in England/Wolverhampton (and Paris/Peugeot and Delage) during the Winter months of 1916/-17, looking for suitable racing cars for the Weightman team.
Rickenbacher drove a Duesenberg of the Weightman team in the Santa Monica and Ascot races in November 1916. William Weightman had the intention to buy two Sunbeam racers.
 



#12 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 18:15

So there might be something to be found about his visit at Kew!

 

Possibly a confusion with a German called Frederick Karl Reichenbach, who had been a language teacher at the Berlitz school in Dublin until 1914, returned to Germany in mysterious circumstances and was suspected of being involved with the Irish republican group Sinn Fein.

 

National Archives file ref CO 904/216



#13 Michael Ferner

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 19:34

Resta arrived at the Speedway on the 19th, immediately beginning with practice in his Sunbeam, and continued to do so for several days, interspersed with some hours of recreational golf. By the 23rd, Haibe was nominated as relief driver, and started practicing as well, while Resta was soon sidelined by an unspecified illness. On the 27th, Haibe qualified the car for Resta, who was still regarded as the regular driver, but the Indianapolis Star already reported:
 

Resta has been ill for several days, according to reports of Speedway officials, and it is extremely doubtful if he will start the race.


And the next day:
 

Ora Haibe drove one of the Sunbeams again yesterday, confirming the report that Dario Resta will not drive this year in the classic.


Haibe was an experienced driver, but not in Resta's class, of course. He qualified a very creditable tenth fastest, and ran in the top ten of the race from lap 30 onwards till the end. André Boillot had been on the pace from the start, but retired early from eighth position, while René Thomas recovered from a lap 3 pit stop to change plugs, to come back and run third about fifty laps from home, when he, too, retired. Running two laps back of his team mate, Haibe then took over third, but fell back to finish fifth. All in all, it was not the sort of performance expected to remedy the disaster of 1919, when the cars had to be withdrawn ten days before the race, and STD never returned to Indianapolis.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 06 January 2018 - 19:41.


#14 B Squared

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 21:31

One of the Indianapolis News articles I saw mentioned that Resta spent downtime golfing and going on long walks; sounds like he enjoyed playing, does anyone know if he was any good?



#15 Jim Thurman

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 23:59

I ran across an item in the Los Angeles Times issue of February 29, 1916 on drivers Hughie Hughes and Earl Cooper playing a round of golf after weather postponed a race at Ascot. The writer indicated neither were very good.

 

On Resta. Well,he had to get back to his home in Bakersfield, California and build Buttonwillow Raceway Park  :rolleyes: (and, please, do not take this seriously, even though this ridiculous tale has propogated around the internet).

 

It's interesting the number of articles that rumored, if not directly indicated, Resta would return to racing. 



#16 oliver heal

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:34

Thank you Michael. I am happy to go with the illness story as being the reason Resta didn't race at Indianapolis in 1921. I don't know about his ability as a golfer but he was a champion roller-skater!

 

Going back to the Sunbeams being withdrawn from the 1919 Indianapolis race apparently for being oversize - a story that has been viewed sceptically ever since as the engines on every other appearance were within the limit - I would suggest that it was really linked to aero-engine politics. In 1916 the Sterling Engine Co. of New York negotiated an exclusive right to manufacture Sunbeam-Coatalen aero-engines under licence for $50,000. When America joined the War and the decision was made to concentrate the nation's efforts on the Liberty engine, Sterling were told in August 1917 to forget about Sunbeam and to prepare to manufacture Liberty parts. They were not happy and after the War claimed $162,482 in damages from the American Government for orders they said they had been promised but never received for Sunbeam engines. The US War Department Board of Contract Adjustment did not uphold their complaint at a hearing which I think must have happened not long before the race. My theory therefore is that Coatalen was threatened with litigation if he ran the cars at Indianapolis. Perhaps Sterling could have had the cars impounded or tried to have some sort of claim on any winnings?

 

Can anyone add anything to this? 



#17 Michael Ferner

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 15:02

Interesting theory! I share the opinion about the given reason for the withdrawal, an extremely unlikely scenario! On the day, Coatalen's explanation went that, because of war work, he had been unable to "give the building of the Sunbeam racers his personal attention", and that "actual supervision of their construction" was given to Josef Christiaens who, of course, had conveniently died in the meantime! Not very gentlemanly to unload responsibility on a dead man, one would think - smacks of desperation. Coatalen reportedly left for New York in a hurry, but interestingly, was an interested spectator in Indianapolis on race day.

The known facts are that the engines were supposed to be the same ones already used in 1916, and the cars ran very well in practice for about a week prior to the withdrawal, so there must have been a very unusual reason for it. Perhaps we'll never know for sure.

#18 Jim Dillon

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 22:53

The only thing that I may add to the 1919 saga for Sunbeam is what Motor Age reported on 5/29/19 p.17, wherein they stated " There are many rumors here as to why the Sunbeams were scratched. Some hold they were too slow, while other authorities say a critical vibration is set up at a maximum engine torque, which cannot be obviated at this late date. Resta in now in New York, but there is talk that he will act a pit manager on the Ballot team."

 

Just a week earlier (Motor Age 5/22/19 p,19), there was an article entitled "Sunbeam Designer Talks on Racing and its Future Abroad" where it stated he is here on his first visit to the United States. It goes on at some length with some generalities but has very little to say regarding the two cars...admits they are similar in appearance to earlier models with the exception of the wheelbase are shorter, but the similarity ends there... but even a friendship (with Coatelan) would not prove sufficient to obtain any advance information...will return to England after the race... and then spend time on his yacht in the Mediterranean.

 

As an owner of a Liberty myself and doing some research on the Liberty motors and all of the stock left over in storerooms etc I would have thought the war office had their hands pretty full with all of the bitching they were getting from vendors. Not sure if they had any sway with the sanctioning bodies that would give a great deal of credence to the theory with Sterling. Possible, of course but if I had to gamble a guess I would vote something more along the mechanical front.

 

As to the possible impounding of the cars or threatened litigation I am not sure that is highly likely. As an attorney (although not quite practicing back in 1919) I would find it difficult for this to happen. I believe that if they attempted to impound or even threaten litigation (which is nothing to a seasoned lawyer), even a rookie attorney could stop any such nonsense. With the diversity of citizenship, and property rights to the cars (Sunbeam had definite rights and I do not believe Sterling had any such rights to the cars themselves and related issues) this matter could have been tied up in Federal court quite easily even back then. Sterling would find it very difficult to claim any rights to the cars and in the end the parties would have been entitled to a hearing on the merits IMO and even back then it would something that would have taken some time. Not sure it would have held up the cars competing IMO.


Edited by Jim Dillon, 08 January 2018 - 23:57.


#19 DCapps

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 03:33

Going back to the Sunbeams being withdrawn from the 1919 Indianapolis race apparently for being oversize - a story that has been viewed sceptically ever since as the engines on every other appearance were within the limit - I would suggest that it was really linked to aero-engine politics. In 1916 the Sterling Engine Co. of New York negotiated an exclusive right to manufacture Sunbeam-Coatalen aero-engines under licence for $50,000. When America joined the War and the decision was made to concentrate the nation's efforts on the Liberty engine, Sterling were told in August 1917 to forget about Sunbeam and to prepare to manufacture Liberty parts. They were not happy and after the War claimed $162,482 in damages from the American Government for orders they said they had been promised but never received for Sunbeam engines. The US War Department Board of Contract Adjustment did not uphold their complaint at a hearing which I think must have happened not long before the race. My theory therefore is that Coatalen was threatened with litigation if he ran the cars at Indianapolis. Perhaps Sterling could have had the cars impounded or tried to have some sort of claim on any winnings?

 

Can anyone add anything to this? 

 

As Jim suggests, highly unlikely to basically nonsense.

 

As pointed out, first, it is difficult to see how this could could have involved the cars at the Speedway. Second, given the entire, convoluted mess that the acquisition of aircraft and engines was by the United States during the Great War, especially when it came to domestic production, the whole Sunbeam thing was scarcely even a grain of sand on an immense beach. After I suggested this issue of aircraft acquisition as one of several possible topics relating to aviation for a paper in my Great War class, one of my students, a retired Air Force officer, researched and then presented a paper on the topic. Although I knew it was an unholy mess, his paper made it clear that it even worse than I thought, which is saying something. What made it even better in some ways was that he was a former acquisition officer (and A-10 pilot) in the USAF who had worked on the X-32/X-35 JSF program...

 

So, I would suggest that while it is yet another good story, alas, the facts would seem to spoil it...



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#20 oliver heal

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 11:57

Hmm! In the absence of a better explanation I am unwilling to give up on the idea of interference from Sterling but will word it more cautiously.