The pinnacle of Indy’s cross-pollination with the actual World Championship came in 1952 when Alberto Ascari qualified this works Ferrari 375 19th, but dropped out after 40 laps.
The most famous race on earth may have a checkered past as part of the World Championship, but foreign flavor runs throughout the history of the Indianapolis 500
A century ago, the Indianapolis 500 was conceived as the greatest automobile race in the world. While it may have originated as a “500-Mile International Sweepstakes Race,” Indy has been a mainly American spectacle throughout most of its 100-year history. While it’s only been in recent decades that foreign car builders and drivers have come to dominate the race, European entries did enjoy great success at Indianapolis during the early, formative years of the 500-mile race, with factory teams from Peugeot, Delage and Mercedes winning four of the first six runnings.
Jules Goux copped the win for Peugeot in 1913—finishing more than 13 minutes ahead of 2nd place—while Rene Thomas’s Delage was first under the checker the following year. Mercedes and Ralph DePalma—who’d nearly won in 1912—prevailed in 1915 before Peugeot, with Dario Resta up, returned to Victory Lane in 1916, when the race was run to only 300 miles. Peugeot’s contribution to Indy, and racing in general, took the form of the French company’s double overhead-camshaft, four-valve cylinder head design, which was ultimately adopted as the industry standard and remains so to this day. The layout had been conceived and developed independently by a trio of driver-engineers, Paolo Zuccarelli, Jules Goux and Georges Boillot, then taken to Peugeot for implementation (see Page 22).
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