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David Bruce Brown

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David Bruce Brown

Postby strad on Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:46 pm

To paraphrase D-Type
At the risk of attracting another tirade of personal abuse from Don .. I'll add another one from the dim and distant past..
From a Racer Magazine article by Paul Fearnley..

One hundred years ago America was at the hub of grand prix racing. No, really, it was. What’s more, it possessed road racing’s brightest star: David Loney Bruce-Brown, a 20-year-old New York townhouse/Long Island retreat socialite.
Most people thought he was 23. But he had adopted elder brother William’s birth year, in order to race an Oldsmobile at Yonkers’ Empire City on Decoration Day, 1907. (The legally imperative 1910 U.S. Federal Census listed him as 20.)
Handsome “Dave” was a scion of a marriage that united three family fortunes — the odd number courtesy of his father’s late first wife. Dave was related to the Roosevelts. Dave was destined for Yale. Dave had other ideas.
The story goes that in March 1908 he borrowed money from his boxing coach at Yale for a one-way ticket from New York to Florida, a journey during which he charmed the Fiat team headed for the races on Ormond Beach and earned a drive there.
Bruce-Brown’s charm is certainly not in doubt — even his rivals remarked favorably upon it. And it’s true that he did travel on that train, did drive the Fiat “Cyclone” and did beat Willie Vanderbilt’s amateur world mile record. And yes, the wealthy do have a galling tendency to panhandle from those less fortunate. But there is no record of Bruce-Brown having attended Yale; he got no further than Harstrom, a groomer/crammer/feeder school. He had simply decided to apply his wealth, connections, need for speed and linebacker’s physique, balance and commitment to motor racing.
Emanuele Cedrino, Fiat’s New York representative, undoubtedly had witnessed Bruce-Brown win at Empire City and, suitably impressed, chances are that he had always planned to give him a run at Ormond — no matter how vehement his mother’s telegrams of threatened legal action. And herein lies another twist. Ruth, widowed in 1892, was torn between a ,fear for her son’s life — it didn’t help that Cedrino crashed fatally in May — her pride in his achievements and the vicarious thrill of automobile racing. Upon his Ormond success, she wired him her congratulations and his return fare.
Throughout 1909 Bruce-Brown drove a year-old GP Benz. This was a big step up in performance, but he adapted with ease, again winning on Ormond’s wide expanse, and on narrow sprint and hillclimb courses. He could do anything. He was ready for the big league.
It was motor racing itself that was suffering growing pains in 1910. Mercedes and Benz — they wouldn’t merge until 1926— had humiliated their hosts with a 1-2-3-5 finish at the 1908 CP in Dieppe. Happy to milk the glory, Mercedes had no qualms about the resultant French moratorium: GP racing in Europe was put on hold. (Benz and Fiat were less keen but stymied nevertheless.)
Meanwhile, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) and the Automobile Club of America (ACA) were locking horns. The
triple-A, founded in Chicago in 1902, was the industry’s representative. For that company, racing was a means to an end, a promotional tool. Older (by three years), more blue-blooded than blue-collar, the ACA had higher-falutin’ ideas: racing was a means in itself, a chance to reach across the ocean, to improve the breed.
The Vanderbilt Cup, inaugurated in 1904, was America’s most important race. Held under the AAA’s auspices, in 1908 it veered from “European” regulations by raising its weight limit to 1,200kg (2,6451bs). In 1909 engine capacity was limited to 9.8 liters. It had by turns become a stock-chassis event designed mainly to assist American marques. In angry response, ACA franchised its own race, run to European regulations, in Savannah, Ga. Surprisingly, these warring bodies had buried the hatchet before that inaugural American Grand Prize of 1908— won by
Parisian Louis Wagner for Fiat — and, although the race lay fallow in 1909, the plan for 1910 was to hold it two weeks after the Vanderbilt Cup, on the same Long Island circuit.
Bruce-Brown made his international debut at that disastrous Vanderbilt Cup on Oct. 1, Driving for a Benz team in disarray because of team leader George Robertson’s career-ending crash — a jumpy journalist had grabbed his steering wheel during a demo run — the newcomer was classified 12th. He had done well to avoid the carnage that saw two riding mechanics killed and several spectators seriously injured and finished off this controversial venue. Its GP was canceled.
At this point, Savannah’s organizers dispatched a delegation to New York. Their well-policed circuit had been much admired by the drivers, and this last-minute bid got the ACA’s nod: that year’s Grand Prize was to be resited to the go-ahead Georgian port, and rescheduled for Nov. 12.
Bruce-Brown, still an unknown quantity at this level, would climb aboard a new and monstrous 15.1-liter works Benz (there was no restriction on bore or stroke), as would France’s Victor Hemery, holder of the land speed record and winner of the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup. Their main rivals would be the io.i-liter Fiats of Wagner, Felice Nazzaro, the sport’s first superstar, and Italian-American Ralph DePalma. The circuit had been shortened from 25.13 to 17.3 miles. It was
faster, too — averages rose by 5mph — and tire wear during this 415.2-mile race was a concern. Bruce-Brown, fastest in practice, thus planned a waiting game.
Hemery didn’t. Nicknamed “The Surly One,” he took off like a rocket and, but for the delays caused by having passed four cars which were started individually at 30sec intervals, his first-lap lead would have been greater than its single second. The man from Brittany moved relentlessly ahead on lap two, and stayed there until lap eight, one-third distance.
In contrast, Nazzaro, an ex-mechanic from Turin, was renowned for starting steadily and gradually cranking up the pressure. He had just set the race’s fastest lap at 13 minutes and 42 seconds, an average speed of 75.7mph. He was closing fast when Hemery had to stop for tires. Effectively it seemed, it was game
over, for Nazzaro was renowned, too, for not making mistakes...
And then a rare wild slide promptly pitched him into a ditch! His car. its back axle bent, was eventually hauled out and he was able to resume. Now, though, Wagner was leading.
But madness pervaded. Ignoring entreaties to stop because of a suspected defective front suspension—an errant bolt had been found opposite his pit — an irate Wagner lost the lead to Willie Haupt in an older, less powerful Benz. The pressure, however, proved too much for the Pennsylvanian, and poor Willie hit a tree 15 feet up! — at the first corner of lap 14.
Three laps later, as feared, Wagner crashed, albeit reportedly because of a broken chain, was flung out and landed in the hospital. Meanwhile, Nazzaro, also in a reckless fury, had been charging along despite his damaged car. He had retaken the lead but his twisted chassis was chewing through drive chains at an unsustainable rate and he had to retire after 19 laps.
This left DePalma and Bruce Brown in first and second places. Both U.S. drivers had been commendably composed, but with a victory now so obviously within reach, and with Hemery, still running first on the road, closing on elapsed time, the stakes had been raised. DePalma, the final starter, and thus two minutes ahead, strove on lap 21 to pass Bruce-Brown, whose only chance of victory was to stay ahead. As the race leader, DePalma had the option of backing off.
If he did, it wasn’t by enough. Bruce-Brown’s Benz did pull away, but not by much, and this had a drastic consequence:
a stone went through the Fiat’s radiator, causing a cylinder to overheat and crack on the penultimate lap.
In contrast to the increasingly edgy and undoubtedly unlucky - DePalma, Bruce-Brown’s demeanor never flickered. Indeed, according to the New York T!meS, the crowd wondered why, with Hemery still pressing, Bruce Brown ~‘didn’t hustle.” Hemery, who had started two minutes and 30 seconds before the American, put his all into a sensational last lap, and then waited at the finish for his teammate.
There, the newfangled electric timing ticked remorselessly until, with just 1.42 seconds in hand, it clicked as Bruce-Brown crossed the line the winner. He had known the size of his advantage entering the final lap, and he had husbanded it with aplomb. The final margin was much too fine, of course — he wasn’t that good — but undoubtedly DB-B had driven an astonishingly mature race, nursing his tires yet staying in contention and pushing by just enough and exactly when he had to.
Bruce-Brown was impassive, the crowd shocked, virtually silent. It was his still fractious mother who broke the spell. Resplendent in white — hat, coat, skirt, gloves — she flittered from the grandstand to embrace her grimy, Redford-esque boy.
The same scene would be played out in 1911. This time at the wheel of a 14.1-liter Fiat, Bruce-Brown gave another display of strength and speed, finesse and accuracy. Lapping as quickly as he had at the start, he emerged victorious from a three-car splash-n-dash. This performance, though, was less of surprise, Bruce-Brown having burnished his burgeoning reputation with a strong performance at the inaugural Indianapolis 500. And by the time of his third American GP appearance, in Milwaukee in October 1912, he had wowed Europe at the revived French GP.
His perpendicular Fiat, with its wooden wheels and detachable rims, was a
dinosaur compared to the new-era twin cam 7.6-liter Peugeots which sat rakishly low on their center-lock wire wheels, yet he led the latter’s Georges Boillot by two minutes after the first (10-lap) day in Dieppe. He would have been farther ahead had he not had to juggle with fuel churns while his rival used a pressurized hose. (It is said that women spectators swooned at the American’s gymnastic pit stops).
Bruce-Brown was still in front three laps into day two, when a cracked pipe required him to refuel away from the pits, causing his disqualification. Nonetheless, he was everybody’s favorite to win the American GP in Milwaukee
.Having already set the fastest practice lap, Bruce Brown pleaded with starter Fred Wagner for a few more laps in order to perfect his gearing. But Wagner had spotted the Fiat’s worn rear tires.... Whether Bruce-Brown didn’t hear the command to stop, or chose not to, we shall never know. For, with teammate ‘Terrible Teddy” Tetzlaff in his sights, he suffered a left-rear puncture at 90mph. He did so at a dangerously narrow point of the circuit and the Fiat cartwheeled into a field near a graveyard.
Perhaps, for the first time in his career, Bruce-Brown had driven like the 22-year old he actually was. He and riding mechanic Tony Scudelari paid the ultimate price for his impetuosity, and with its standard-bearer — a man just two years older than Tazio Nuvolari gone, America became peripheral to grand prix racing. Almost a century later, it still is.

RACER would like to thank Malcolm jeal. Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Tanya Bailey-Smith for their help in the preparation of this story.
Y'all better tie kerosene soaked rags around your ankles, to keep the ants from crawlin up your legs and eating your candy asses
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