You could have been forgiven if you thought the racing world were coming to an end on April 12th. That was the day it was announced that two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso would be forgoing this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, to make an attempt at the Indy 500, with Andretti Autosports instead. Whether it was your favorite racing web site or Facebook, the Internet was ablaze with stories—and opinions—on what this meant for F1, for Indy and for Alonso. I have to confess, that while it was an interesting development, I didn’t really see what all the hoopla was about. F1 drivers—and champions—have been making periodic pilgrimages to the Brickyard, for as long as there has been a Brickyard, and by and large with pretty mixed results.
In the early days of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500, along with the French and Italian Grands Prix, were international events of such stature that all the world’s best drivers took part. From its opening in 1911 and throughout the 1920s, the Indy 500 included such “foreign” stars as Jules Goux, Pietro Bordino, Andre Boillot, Christian Werner and Rene Thomas to name but a few. However, the ’30s saw a real ebb of Grand Prix talent in the Hoosier Classic, with the exception of Baconin Borzachini in 1930, who unceremoniously finished third from last when his Maserati’s magneto expired after just seven laps.
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