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The 1925 Automobile World Championship

by Hans Etzrodt



Prelude
This story is about the first World Championship in the history of automobile racing, a series held from 1925 to 1930. The first year was a time when silent movies brought the daily entertainment, Dixieland and Louis Armstrong were the latest hits and famous erotic dancer Josephine Baker was the darling of Paris. Automobiles were becoming more popular than ever and so was automobile racing. It was a time when eleven automobile manufacturer teams participated in grand prix racing. World Championships for chess, swimming, sailing, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, skating, shooting, and bicycling already existed. So it was natural to also introduce a World Championship for automobiles. This happened then in 1925, a World Championship for the eleven manufacturers, not the drivers.

Alfa Romeo won the 1925 World Championship. This statement is accurate but any other details have to be read with caution because of controversy between the various sources, books and magazines alike. This dispute most probably also explains why so little has been written about this subject or maybe the fact that this first Automobile World Championship in the twenties was much less popular than the Drivers World Championship of today. Due to the prevailing contradictions, several attempts of mine failed to bring order into this muddle or to rewrite the story of the first World Championship. But early in 2002 during a library search there occurred a break while leafing through several magazines. I found the 'Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung', a contemporary magazine published in Vienna, Austria, which contained the evidence I had been looking for. The next step was to confirm the AAZ's accuracy, requiring corroboration from other contemporary sources.

Two automotive researchers, Alessandro Silva and Richard Armstrong came to the rescue. They withheld neither time nor money to dig up extremely valuable information. The whole picture had now become more complete with one Italian magazine article, actually a secondary source but written by librarian Donatella Biffignandi, using a primary source. Additionally, Richard Armstrong had provided three contemporary sources from England, which were of course very helpful but all this new information fueled further controversy.

I now dealt with five independent sources; four primary and one secondary based on primary information. By now I had formed my own opinion but was still faced with uncertainty of the facts. In my despair, I then sent Tony Kaye my fifteen typed pages about these World Championships to gain his opinion. Tony is another self-reliant researcher or amateur historian, meaning he is not doing it for a living. Knowing Tony, I was not at all surprised that he independently came to very much the same conclusion that I had arrived at before. I am very grateful to him for composing this simply outstanding analysis, which you can read about in his separate article. I also thank Tony for patiently reviewing the text of this article.

The story about the 1925 World Championship would not have been possible without the much-appreciated help of Alessandro Silva, Richard Armstrong, Leif Snellman, Don Capps and Tony Kaye. I must also mention Leif's absolutely wonderful drawings, showing the contenders to illustrate the story. Tony's tenacity and unflagging help in scrutinizing the difficult subject resulted in answering for the first time long standing questions. My thank goes to them all.

Whereas this story is written for the general public, just presenting the final findings, Tony Kaye's assertion goes beyond and is the story behind the story. His account therefore separates fact from fiction, giving a detailed analysis, a revelation for the more enquiring reader.


Sources
Instead of placing the source information last of all, it appears at the beginning of the story since it actually belongs to the prior chapter. Besides the primary sources or contemporary magazines, two secondary sources are also included, one 1986 book and one 2000 magazine article. According to present knowledge, the story of this early World Championship has been told only in these two accounts. Closer examination revealed that these reports did not succeed in resolving the confusion completely, despite the serious attempt by their authors to explain the details. Several other books have dealt with this subject superficially but are not listed here because their descriptions do not add to the primary information base.

Almost one year after we thought our stories to be complete, I got hold of contemporary articles from the 1925 AUTOMOBIL-REVUE. This news magazine spelled out certain aspects of the regulations quite clearly, where we had not been absolutely sure before. Therefore this primary source became a welcome additional confirmation of our analyses.

1923     [1] ALLGEMEINE AUTOMOBIL ZEITUNG (Vienna, Austria), November, No.21, p.4.
1924     [2] ALLGEMEINE AUTOMOBIL ZEITUNG (Vienna, Austria), January, No.1, p.6.
1924     [3] The Brooklands Gazette (London, England), December, p.251.
1925     [4] ALLGEMEINE AUTOMOBIL ZEITUNG (Vienna, Austria), No.4 / p.32; 10/33; 11/11; 11/34; 12/50; 14/55; 10/33; 18/18; 22/4.
1925     [5] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.4, p.61: CSI cannot decide yet on World Championship regulations
1925     [6] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.6, p.91: Preview of Italian GP and World Championship regulations
1925     [7] The Autocar (London, England), February 6, p.232, February 13; July 24; September 4, p.416.
1925     [8] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.8, p.132: CSI of AIACR bans German competitors from World Championship.
1925     [9] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.23, p.385: The AIACR re-admitted the German Automobile Club as member.
1925    [10] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.4, p.57: Alfa Romeo in Indianapolis?
1925    [11] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.5/75, 78: Italians in Indianapolis, entries & Alfa Romeo team.
1925    [11a] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr. 38, S. 633-634, 637, July 3, 1925: European GP report & point standing.
1925    [12] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.47, p.797: Italian GP preview, World Championship rules & standing.
1925    [13] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.50, p.859: Delage probably not racing at Italian GP.
1925    [14] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.52, p.891: Italian GP preview and Delage withdrawel.
1925    [15] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.43, p.725: Italian GP entries and why DePaolo will start in the Italian GP.
1925    [16] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.49, p.833, 841: Italian GP preview, arrival of Duesenbergs in Genova.
1925    [17] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.51, p.871: The American drivers traveling to Europe.
1925    [18] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.56, p.957 - 958: Italian GP preview & Duesenberg modifications.
1925    [19] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.51, p.869: Formation of the Alfa-Romeo team at the GP of Italy.
1925    [20] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.54, p.923: 927: Masetti not starting at Monza.
1925    [21] AUTOMOBIL-REVUE Nr.55, p.946: Italian GP preview & practice. DePaolo now with Alfa Romeo.
1925    [22] Motor Age (Chicago, USA), several issues from February to September 1925.
1925    [23] Light Car & Cyclecar (London, England) March, p.27.
1925    [24] The Motor (London, England), February 10.
1925    [25] MOTOR und SPORT (Pössneck, Germany), No.24, p.36; 28/3pp; 32/12-13; 33/19; 35/22-23; 38/18-19.
1986    [26] Adriano Cimarosti (for many years Sport Editor of the Swiss AUTOMOBIL-REVUE): Autorennen, (Bern,
                    Switzerland, 1986), p374: Die ersten Automobil-Weltmeisterschaften der Geschichte.
2000    [27] Donatella Biffignandi (curator of the Museum Biscaretti di Ruffia in Turin): "La luce di una meteora. Primo
                    Campionato Automobilistico del Mondo" in Auto d'Epoca, No.12, 2000, p 66/73, (Treviso, Italy).



Early Beginnings
As early as October 1923 the possibility of a future automobile championship was discussed at the annual fall conference of the AIACR (Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus) in Paris. We don't know with certainty if suggestions of such an undertaking had been reported prior to this meeting in the Parisian newspaper l'Auto, which was the predecessor of L'Equipe, because such sources are very difficult to consult in the French public library system. On the other hand, the Library at Centre Pompidou in Paris, which is a very accessible and friendly place, does not keep material older than 1945 or it is only possible to access it with great difficulty. It has been stated that the Paris journal "l'Auto" had instigated the idea [2] of a World Championship in automobile sport after the example of other branches of sports like swimming, boxing, wrestling or bicycling. The Gordon Bennett-Races from 1900 to 1905 had much of the character of a World Championship, but they were discarded when the French felt their industry was placed at a disadvantage compared to other nations.

At the AIACR meeting, discussion centered around the increased interest in racing by manufacturers and holding the first European Grand Prix at Monza in 1923. [1] Consequently, the suggestion arose to hold a European Championship for manufacturers and drivers. The winner would receive solely an honorary award. The championship should not depend on one race alone but had to be the result of the outcome of European events, such as the Targa Florio as the most interesting and most difficult race in the world. Additionally, there would be one of the officially recognized touring trials of at least 2000 km and then the Grand Prix of Europe had to be part of it. It was further determined that for the championship only such manufacturer or driver would be considered, who finished in the first three places in one of these contests. Failure to finish in one of these races would mean loss of the championship. The championship award for manufacturer and driver would then be presented individually and independently and was to go to the one who had finished amongst the first three in each contest and whose total sum of the places amounted to the lowest score. In case of an equal numerical total, the higher position in the Grand Prix of Europe was to decide the outcome.

Several constructors and racing drivers had voiced their opinions about the question of a possible World Championship. Besides minor reservations, they viewed it favorably. The President of the ACF, Count Robert de Vogué, cautioned to beware of slipping back into the old mistakes of the Gordon Bennett-regulations. Louis Delage, one of the foremost racing constructors, wanted to have the World Championship limited to commercial cars in imitation of the 24-hour race of Le Mans. Gabriel Voisin liked the idea very much but pointed towards the difficulty of designing a fair formula. André Lombard, Competitions Manager at Salmson, requested full freedom for the constructors in the choice of the type of car, also unconditional freedom in regards to the mechanical components. During a grand prix event, the driver should compete without a riding mechanic and the distance of this pure speed race should be at least 500 km and a fuel amount of one liter per one km. Chevalier René de Knyff, President of the ACF Sporting Commission, feared that the French constructors would not be offered sufficient assurance of a victory! René Thomas believed that the idea could only be accomplished with the help of considerable cash prizes in view of the high costs of preparation and transport. Racing driver Albert Divo (Delage) recommended the creation of French Championships in preparation for the World Championship. Emile Pilain (Rolland-Pilain) suggested that the holding of World Championship races was unnecessary because the present Grand Prix for racing cars and one for touring cars were sufficient. In Italy there also existed interest in the creation of national championships, but the Sporting Commission of the Italian Automobile Club (Turin) did not support such a project.


The Rules
had been formulated by the Automobile Club of Italy [3] to enable the world's championship of motor racing to be decided each year. In January 1925, the CSI (Commission Sportive Internationale) of the AIACR met in Paris and discussed a future World Championship. [5] Present at the meeting were: Chevalier René de Knyff (France), also representatives of the Automobile Clubs of Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Austria and America. Initially the AIACR had sanctioned an International 500 Miles event in Great Britain [7] but the authorities of the Brooklands track cancelled it owing to impending litigation on the subject of noise emanating from the track. In early February, the institution of a World Championship was announced [6] [27] on recommendation by the Automobile Club d'Italia. The proposed draft of the Automobile World Championship rules by Arturo Mercanti (Italy) was approved [4] with slight alterations, such as the exclusion of, the Grand Prix of Spain. [6] The only relevant races were now the Grands Prix of Indianapolis, Europe, France and Italy, from which the competitors had to choose the three or two races that they wanted to contest. [6][12] None of the above mentioned contests would be declared as obligatory, with the exception of the Italian Grand Prix, at which all contestants for the World Championship had to take part. [6] The Grand Prix of Italy had been declared mandatory in appreciation of the services, which the Italian Automobile Club had provided towards the creation of the World Championship for the year 1925. [27] During talks at the CSI meeting in February, it was also decided to exclude German contestants from participation of the Automobile World Championship, since Germany had not yet been granted admission in the AIACR. [8] The AIACR gave approval to the Italian draft and the CSI hastened to regularize the formal rules.

  • The World Championship was for manufacturers, not for drivers.
  • 2-liter formula; maximum engine capacity of 2000 cc - 122 cubic inch.
  • Minimum unladen weight 650 kg - 1433 lb. Minimum body width 80 cm - 31.5 inch.
  • Riding mechanic barred but driving mirror was for the first time obligatory as was the empty mechanic's seat.
  • The series consisted of four races of at least 800 km in length: Indianapolis 500, European Grand Prix (Spa),
        French Grand Prix and Italian Grand Prix.
  • Italian Grand Prix participation was mandatory; non-compliance would exclude entrant from the Championship.
  • Participation in the manufacturers national Grand Prix was mandatory, non-compliance would cause ineligibility.
  • Manufacturers were awarded points in only three races of their selection but did not have to compete in all three
        selected races.
  • Only the lowest point score earned by one of its cars would count in each race contested.
  • In case of a tie at the end of the Italian Grand Prix, an extra 200-km race on the Monza race track would be
        staged within 48 hours after the Italian Grand Prix for the same vehicles to produce a final decision. [27]
  • The manufacturer with the lowest points total would be awarded the Championship and would receive 70,000 FF
        cash in prize money and a 30,000 FF trophy.
  • Points Score: 1 point = first place
                             2 points = second place
                             3 points = third place
                             4 points = all other finishers (who completed the total distance of 800+ km).
                             5 points = non finishers (who completed less than the total distance of 800+ km).
                             6 points = non starters


    The Trophy
    was handcrafted in Italy. From the 100,000 FF prize money, 30,000 had to be invested in an art object and 70,000 were in cash. [27] Evidence of the fact that the CSI gave the Italians the organization of the World Championship was that ten days after the Italian Auto Club was given the organization of the Championship, a competition among Italian artists for the 30,000 FF Object d'Art was published [27] A committee, made up of well known Italian artists and writers, was set up to judge the projects that had to fulfill the following requirements: the Trophy had to be made out of bronze with a gold spray, or half with a silver spray and half with a gold spray, one meter tall, and was indisputably to recall automobiles. The Trophy was to be given to the winning manufacturer on September 6 at the end of the Italian Grand Prix. Since the projects initially presented were deemed unsatisfactory, the task was then assigned to the sculptor Antonio Maraini at the end of May [27]. Luigi Fusi, in his book 'ALFA ROMEO All Cars from 1910' describes the trophy, a gift by the Milan municipality, as an artistic bronze work, showing a female figure in the center of a big winged wheel, symbolizing speed. This group was resting on a base of black onyx, adorned with two hippogriffs of classic style. The speed symbols were shown below: a tortoise and two golden styled cars. At the sides were the date and dedication "La città di Milano". In the frame, between the two hippogriffs, the words "First World Championship" were engraved.


    The Contenders

    Alfa Romeo entered their cars under the patronage of the factory-racing department Alfa Corse. The great designer Vittorio Jano led a team, which conceived and built a new Grand Prix car for the 1924 season, the tipo P2 with a 1,987 cc, 8-cylinder, twin o.h.c. engine, producing 140 hp at 5,500 rpm, giving a top speed of 225 km/h. During its first year, this car had won major races. For 1925, the last year of the 2-liter formula, the proven P2's had bigger brake drums fitted and the power had been raised to 155 hp by fine-tuning and using a special blend of fuel, developing 240 km/h maximum speed for their drivers Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari and Count Gastone Brilli-Peri. After Ascari had lost his life at the French Grand Prix, Peter DePaolo drove the third Alfa at Monza.


    Bugatti appeared in 1924 with their new Type 35, a 1,991 cc, 8-cylinder, delivering 90 hp at 6,000 rpm and capable of 180 km/h. In early 1925 this machine had already won the Rome GP and the Targa Florio, but the cars did not show up for the European Grand Prix at Spa, let alone Indianapolis. Five T35 models without superchargers appeared at the French Grand Prix, for Meo Costantini, the brothers Fernando and Pierre de Viscaya, Giulio Foresti and Jules Goux. For the last race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Bugatti produced five Type 35 with 1,493 cc, 8-cylinder, unblown engines, better known as the Bugatti Type 39. H.G. Conway mentions in his book 'Grand Prix Bugatti' about records indicating that these were originally the cars from the 1925 A.C.F. Touring Grand Prix. It is not certain why Ettore Bugatti entered a team of five 1.5-liter cars at Monza for the Grand Prix des Voiturettes, instead of participating with 2-liter T35 models as he had done at the French Grand Prix. Obviously Bugatti stood no chance of winning the World Championship with his non supercharged 2-liter cars, delivering only 90 hp versus Alfa with 155 hp, Delage 190 hp and Duesenberg 150 hp. Since Bugatti had to deal with this clear power disadvantage to aim for outright victory, it suggests that he pursued instead a very likely win in the Voiturette category, which was run concurrently with the Italian Grand Prix. Simultaneously he would gain experience for the 1.5-liter formula, which would come into effect as of 1926.


    Chiribiri, a small car manufacturer since 1913 in Turin, Italy, built his first 1,400 cc car in 1915. Antonio Chiribiri's products became famous only during the twenties when he started production of little sports and racing cars in 1921. These had a pushrod-operated o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine of 1,453 cc, giving a top speed of 110 km/h. In 1922, an improved "Monza" type was produced with a 1,486 cc, 4-cylinder, twin o.h.c. engine, producing 72 hp at 5,100 rpm. These Voiturettes were able to reach speeds of 165 km/h, driven initially by 'Deo' Chiribiri, Jack Scales and as of 1923 also Tazio Nuvolari amongst others. The only appearance of Chiribiri in the 1925 World Championship was at the Italian Grand Prix, where Luigi Platè and Santoleri retired both Voiturettes.


    Delage racing cars had been around since 1906 and came from Louis Delage's factory in Paris. When the 2-liter formula was in place, Delage produced for 1923 the 2LCV Grand Prix car with a four o.h.c. V-12 engine, giving initially 105 hp. Except for some experiments, the 2LCV ran during the following year without blowers but for 1925 the 1,983 cc, V-12 engine came with twin Roots supercharges, improving the power to an unheard-of 190 hp at 7,000 rpm and the top speed to 215 km/h. The car had a chassis incapable of handling this much power and the car's full potential was thus not realized. In spite of it, the Delage was the only car that could just about compete with Alfa Romeo. Delage drivers for 1925 included Robert Benoist, Albert Divo, Louis Wagner and Paul Torchy.


    Diatto started out 1905 in Turin, Italy, building French Cléments under license, called Diatto-Cléments. Up to 1913 he built various touring models as well as trucks and buses. He started production after the Great War but his first fast touring car appeared not before 1922. At the beginning of the 2-liter formula in 1922, Diatto produced the Tipo 20S with a 1,997 cc, 4-cylinder engine, delivering 75 hp at 4,500 rpm and a top speed of 155 km/h. Alfieri Maserati designed the 1925 Diatto grand prix car with a 1,982 cc, 8-cylinder engine, delivering 130 hp at 5,600 rpm and reaching a top speed of 175 km/h. Drivers were Alfieri Maserati, his brother Ernesto and Emilio Materassi. When the Diatto Company withdrew from racing at the end of 1925, Alfieri Maserati left to start his own company with his brothers.


    Duesenberg brothers had emigrated from Germany to America in the nineteenth century when still children. Later in 1903, they started an automobile supply company in Iowa, followed in 1907 by their first car built in Iowa but named 'Mason' after the projects financier. In 1910, Duesenberg built his first racing car, still under the Mason name and the first Duesenberg racing cars appeared in 1914. After their great victory in the 1921 French Grand Prix, they produced for 1923 the Type 122 in reference to the engine size in cubic inches. This monoposto had a 1,984 cc, 8-cylinder engine, giving 150 hp at 6,000 rpm and won the 1925 Indianapolis 500 in the hands of Peter DePaolo and relief driver Norman Batten. The only other event in the World Championship where the Duesenberg appeared was at Monza with two cars for Tommy Milton and Peter Kreis. Instead of driving for the Duesenberg brothers at Monza, DePaolo handled the third Alfa Romeo.


    Eldridge-Special cars were built by the English driver Ernest Eldridge. Although he had produced several Eldridge Specials with large engines, only the smaller versions appearing in 1925 are of interest here. His first small car had a 1,496 cc, 4-cylinder, Anzani side valve supercharged engine, giving 80 hp at 5,500 rpm, mounted in an Amilcar Grand Sport chassis, reaching 181 km/h at the flying kilometer. With this design he finished fourth at the Grand Prix de l'Ouverture at Montlhéry. This car was followed by a very low-built chassis of his design and equipped again with the same 1.5-liter engine. Eldridge raced this car without success at the Italian and San Sebastian Grand Prix.


    Fiat raced their tipo 805 in 1923. It was equipped with a 1,979 cc, 8-cylinder supercharged engine, producing 130 hp at 5,500 rpm and won the 1923 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. These machines were further improved to nearly 150 hp for the following season but were raced without success. This failure was probably a contributory factor to Fiat's demise in grand prix racing. During 1924, one tipo 805 was prepared with a specially manufactured monoposto body in California to race in some American track races. Visiting Fiat Chief Engineer Francisco Rosso may have helped Pietro Bordino set a record of 131.6 mph to become pole-sitter at the new Culver City board track race on December 14, 1924. In 1925, Bordino came sixth at the Culver City 250 Mile Race and retired at the Charlotte 250 with a broken rear wheel. He then entered and drove the 805 monoposto at Indianapolis, where he finished tenth with French relief driver Antoine Mourre, covering the full race distance of 200 laps. This was the only time that a Fiat appeared at one of the World Championship events but Indianapolis was not an official works effort.


    Guyot was produced by Frenchman Albert Guyot who had been employed for years by Rolland-Pilain as technician and driver. In 1924, he established the company Albert Guyot & Cie. Besides some touring cars, a few racing cars were his better-known products. The first Guyot-Special appeared in 1925. It was based on a Rolland-Pilain chassis with a 6-cylinder, 1,984 cc sleeve-valve engine, built to Burt-McCallum-patents. With a Cozette supercharger the engine produced 125 hp at 5,500 rpm, giving the car a maximum speed of 193 km/h. The Guyot-Special was not entered at its national race, the French Grand Prix, and turned up only in Monza where just one out of three cars showed up. Later that year two Guyot-Specials, were entered for the San Sebastian Grand Prix, but did not appear.


    Mercedes would have been a potential contender. They had successfully raced their 1924 TF, a 2-liter 4-cylinder car, during 1924 Targa Florio. At the Italian Grand Prix six months later, they entered four newly designed Grand Prix cars with a blown 2-liter 8-cylinder M218-engine, producing 170 hp at 7,000 rpm, giving a top speed of 210 km/h. But the team was withdrawn after Count Louis Vorow Zborowski, one of the factory drivers, had crashed fatally at Monza. In response to a request of Mercedes' participation at the 1925 races, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, Stuttgart-Untertürkheim announced in January: "This year we will not participate races to the extent we did in the past year but will reserve a decision in each case on its merits." The ban after WW I, affecting German cars and drivers, had extended only to the French and European Grands Prix and was still in effect. The AIACR had also ruled in February 1925, to exclude German contestants from the World Championship. [8] However, three months later at the May 5, AIACR meeting in Paris [4], the German Automobile Club was re-admitted into the International Association. The voting showed twelve in favor, two against, and four abstentions. [7] [9] The racing circuit at Linas-Montlhéry had even invited the German industry to participate at their opening race in May 1925. Later that year, at the AIACR October conference in Paris, with the recommendation of the ACF, it was decided that Germany should be represented in the International Sporting Commission (CSI) of the AIACR. [4]


    Miller, a business established in about 1907 in Los Angeles, USA and owned by Harry Arminius Miller. In 1916, Miller designed his first racing engine and car. During 1920, a new 2,999 cc, 8-cylinder monoposto was produced. Miller engines were designed for the American speedways, where they powered the winning cars at Indianapolis from 1922 to 1924. The 1925 Miller 122 monoposto had a very narrow single-seater body with a 1,977 cc, 8-cylinder, supercharged engine, producing 200 hp at 5,800 rpm, the highest power output of an engine built for the 2-liter GP formula. A Miller privately entered by Harry Hartz came fourth at Indianapolis, while the only factory Miller car, driven by Bennett Hill, retired with only 69 laps completed. Millers were not entered at any of the other three races of the 1925 World Championship.


    Sunbeam Motor Company from England had a racing history going back as far as 1907. In 1922, the beginning of the 2-liter formula, they raced a 4-cylinder car but improved the following year to a 6-cylinder, capable of 106 hp. For the 1924 season, Sunbeam lowered the chassis and fitted a 1,988 cc, 6-cylinder, blown engine, producing 138 hp at 5,500 rpm, bringing the top speed to 200 km/h. These cars were then entered at the French Grand Prix for Henry Segrave, Count Giulio Masetti and Count Caberto Conelli, the only race of the Championship events where the cars appeared. At season's end Conelli raced one Sunbeam at the San Sebastian Grand Prix where it retired.


    The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
    was held on May 30. Contemporary European magazines referred to this event as the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The inclusion of the premier American race gave the championship the character of a true World Championship. However, only the AAZ (A) mentioned Indianapolis as the first race of the World Championship series. To assure participation of European cars, Indianapolis Racing Circuit Director Pop Meyers undertook a special trip to Europe to win over European factories in starting at Indianapolis. Talks took place in Milan and at one time it seemed quite possible that Alfa Romeo would start in America. [10] But in the end, Director Meyers returned with dashed hopes to Indianapolis. Delage, Sunbeam, Mercedes and Alfa-Romeo had declared that they would not participate. Bugatti had given a hint that their participation would be more than questionable. However, Bordino with his Fiat and Frenchman Guyot would face the Indianapolis starter. Fiat regarded it as impossible to start officially, meaning as a factory entry. Instead, Bordino, who had already left for America during 1924, would stay until May 30 the following year to contest the Indianapolis race. [11]

    The American cars were narrow single-seaters with a body width of less than the required 80 cm - 31.5 in and therefore did not comply with the official AIACR rules. Another difference was in the weight, since AAA rules stated a minimum weight of 1,400 lb - 635 kg versus the AIACR formula rule of 650 kg - 1433 lb. The lightest American car however, was probably the FWD Miller, which still weighed 662 kg. The AIACR was aware that only a few European manufacturers would make the trip to America, since the European cars would have been at a disadvantage to the speedway single-seaters owing to their different design. Likewise, it was questionable if American cars would travel to Europe because their narrow cars would not comply with European rules. Therefore the AIACR decided to award points in only three races of the manufacturer's selection and they did not have to compete in all three selected races.

    The outcome of the 500 Mile race had a factory entered Duesenberg Special in first place, driven by Peter dePaolo and Norman Batten. Second came a FWD Miller but renamed 'Junior 8', driven by Dave Lewis and Bennett Hill. A privately entered Miller by Harry Hartz came fourth, while the only factory Miller, driven by Bennett Hill, retired with only 69 laps completed. Several Duesenberg and Miller Specials finished from third to ninth. In tenth position came the only foreign entry, a factory Fiat 805 with specially manufactured monoposto body, but privately entered and driven by Pietro Bordino with Antoine Mourre as relief driver after Bordino had injured his hand. [22] In the next two places came two Millers while a further ten cars retired or were flagged.

    In regards to points scored, it is only known from later magazine reports that Duesenberg had received one point for winning at Indianapolis. Junior Eight received two points and Miller four. [11a] The single factory Miller for Bennett Hill retired after completing 69 laps and does not show up with five points. So, the question whether Miller received two, four or five points from the AIACR is in the end irrelevant because Miller did not enter the obligatory Italian Grand Prix and was thereby excluded from the final result. The Fiat in tenth place, a non-factory entry, would have received four points for finishing the total of 200 laps but this was not mentioned in any source material.

    Remarks are in place to explain some of those odd 'Specials' when a car's name was changed for one reason or another. The Skelly Special, driven by Milton Jones, was named after its entrant H.J. Skelly. This is one of those typical cases of a one-race 'Special' for Indianapolis, which used a modified Ford Model T chassis matched with a Frontenac engine. Skelly was neither a 'constructor' nor a 'manufacturer' but an entrant. Ira Vail's Miller was another 'Special', a Miller car with Miller chassis and Miller engine. This car has gone into the history books as the R. J. Special, in recognition of entrant R.J. Johnson. Reginald Johnson raced himself in some events of the 1925 AAA Championship trail but choose to enter his R.J. Special in no less than five other races for either Ira Vail or Jim Hill. It could not be established if the AIACR had treated the 'Specials' as separate manufacturers. The cars appeared in contemporary reports under the name as entered in the 1925 Indianapolis 500 race and remained so in all later race records.

    Under the heading 'Unsolved Mysteries', it should be mentioned that the possibility of alternative rules existed but no evidence, whatsoever, could be found to substantiate such a thought. Neither did contemporary or even later reports mention this anywhere, nor was proof found in any of the available sources. The first such possibility could have been that non-works entries could not score any points and that therefore only Harry's own Miller -an official works entry- scored 5 points. Another possibility would have meant that manufacturers had to make an official application with the ACI or AIACR for participation at the World Championship and, since Miller did not intend to compete in the Championship, he would not have done so. If such speculative thoughts about additional rules had been in place, they would, in any case, not have affected the final outcome of the World Championship. Only Duesenberg remained there at the end because Junior 8, Miller, Fiat, Skelly Special and R.J. Special were all ineligible for the World Championship since none of them competed in the obligatory Italian Grand Prix.

    1925 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the Indianapolis 500
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    Duesenberg
    Junior 8
    Miller	
    Fiat
    Skelly Special
    R.J. Special
    1
    2
    4
    4
    5
    5
     1
     2
     4
     4
     5
     5



    The European Grand Prix
    was the second round of the World Championship, held on June 28 at Spa over a distance of 805 km. It was the first time that grand prix cars raced at the Belgian circuit, when 12 cars from four teams were entered. The Sunbeams for Henry Segrave, Count Carlo Alberto Conelli, Count Giulio Masetti and George Duller in reserve were not ready in time for the race and instead were sent from the Wolverhampton factory in England directly to Montlhéry for the French GP. The French Guyot-Specials also did not show up for Albert Guyot, Henry Rougier and Belgian Jean Mathys as reserve. A promised Mathis and Diatto did not appear either. That left only a seven-car field, consisting of four 12-cylinder Delages for Albert Divo, René Thomas, Robert Benoist, and Paul Torchy plus Alfa Romeo with three cars for Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari and Count Gastone Brilli-Peri.

    The race was a deplorable and monotonous affair since cars dropped out fairly early. Within the first seven laps, three Delages had retired, followed by Brilli-Peri on lap 27 when his Alfa broke a spring. At half distance only three cars remained in the race but shortly thereafter Albert Divo retired the last Delage. That left just the two Alfas of Ascari and Campari to complete the last third of the 54-laps race. To complete the full race distance, Campari, now the only car left, circled the course twice by himself and arrived at the Finish 21 minutes and 58 seconds after his teammate. Alfa Romeo won and received one point, while Delage were given five for not finishing. Alfa Romeo and Duesenberg both had now seven points each. With two races still to go, anything was possible. Since the American cars were not starting in the French Grand Prix, they were in danger of adding points to Alfa Romeo. Should one of the Alfas win at Montlhéry, they would practically have the Championship in their pocket because the American cars were only competing in two out of a possible three races. [7] [15]

    1925 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the European GP
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    Duesenberg
    Alfa Romeo
    Junior 8
    Miller	
    Fiat
    Skelly Special
    R.J. Special
    Delage
    1
    6
    2
    4
    4
    5
    5
    6
    6
    1
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    5
     7
     7
     8
    10
    10
    11
    11
    11
    



    The French Grand Prix
    on July 26 carried the proviso of an invitational event. Because Germany was not invited, Mercedes was not present but the German company announced in January 1925 that they were not to participate in racing to the extent they had in 1924 but would reserve a decision in each case on its merits. French and Belgian organizers were still enforcing the ban after WW I, affecting German cars and drivers. [4] Additionally, the AIACR had also ruled in February 1925, to exclude German contestants from the World Championship. [8] From a total of 17 entries, only Alfa Romeo, Delage and Sunbeam arrived, each with three cars, and Bugatti with five. During the 80-laps 1,000 km race, the Alfas went into the lead right from the start. After rain began to fall on lap 20, Ascari crashed violently three laps later. At mid-race, after it was announced to the public that Ascari had died on the way to hospital, the two remaining Alfas were withdrawn, now enabling the Delages to come first and second with a Sunbeam in third place. The five Bugattis all finished but were rather slow without the benefit of supercharged engines.

    By receiving one point for their victory, Delage was now equal with Alfa Romeo. Both had a score of six and Duesenberg was one point behind. With only one mandatory race still to be run, the European manufacturers, except Fiat, had their points removed from the Indianapolis 500 for not starting at the American race, while the Indianapolis 500 contestants did not score points at the French Grand Prix for not starting there. Each one of these three contestants had a real chance of winning the World Championship and the Italian Grand Prix was to bring the decision. [12]

    1925 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the French GP
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    Alfa Romeo
    Delage
    Duesenberg
    Junior 8
    Sunbeam	
    Miller	
    Fiat
    Bugatti
    Skelly Special
    R.J. Special
    -
    -
    1
    2
    -
    4
    4
    -
    5
    5
    1
    5
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    5
    1
    -
    -
    3
    -
    -
    4
    -
    -
     6
     6
     7
     8
     9
    10
    10
    10
    11
    11
    Note:
    Manufacturers were awarded points in only three races. The Italian Grand Prix was obligatory and hence was the third race.

    Manufacturers not contesting the Indianapolis 500 now had their points dropped from this event, while the Indianapolis 500 contestants did not add points at the French Grand Prix, which had become the one race that did not count for them.



    The Italian Grand Prix
    on September 6, was the only event which was mandatory to everyone. Speculation centered on the three manufacturers with a real chance to win the Automobile World Championship. Alfa Romeo and Delage both came into the race one point ahead of Duesenberg. The Italian and Swiss motoring press followed the build-up to this last race with great interest. During an August 10 interview, Robert Benoist told Italian journalists that Delage really intended to stay away from Monza because the newly built cars could not be completed on time. [13] By August 20 it was official that Delage would not start. In a letter to Arturo Mercanti of the A.C.I., Louis Delage excused his withdrawal with too little time to restore the cars back to race-worthy condition between the Grand Prix of Italy and the one of San Sebastian.[14] Delage's answer to Mercanti clearly implied that the Spanish race was more important to him than both the Italian GP and the World Championship. Since Alfa Corse had placed no entries at the Spanish race, a Delage win there was almost assured and he would sell more production cars by winning in Spain than by being beaten in Italy. But he avoided that criticism by putting the blame on the AIACR, which had decided on both calendar dates only two weeks apart. Over and above, French politics might have played into it. Since the Italian Club was responsible for the Spanish exclusion from the World Championship, Delage could have sided with the Spanish, to lend the San Sebastian race more importance by entering his team there while at the same time attempting to diminish importance of the Italian Grand Prix by withdrawing his cars at Monza. However, none of those deliberations can be proven to be applicable.

    After Delage had withdrawn, only Duesenberg and Alfa Romeo had any chance to win the title [4] and the Italian make started with one point advantage over the Americans. Should Alfa Romeo win the Grand Prix, it would automatically secure the championship. [7] Should Duesenberg win this race and the Italian machine come in second, there would be a tie for the championship and the final would have to be run within forty-eight hours. Logically, Duesenberg should have been awarded the title for winning two races to Alfa's one. But the Italians wrote the rules and that would have deprived them of a second lucrative race at Monza.

    On July 21, the first thing was heard about an American entry at Monza, when American Championship leader Peter DePaolo was said to be starting. [15] Americans had not contested a European race since 1923. The American Automobile Association, the mightiest automotive organization of America, had prohibited their drivers from participating in European races, because so far they had not been officially recognized by the A.I.A.C.R. Instead, the A.C.A. (Automobile Club of America) Delegate Wm. S. Hogan represented the United States at all A.I.A.C.R. meetings, as other A.C.A. Delegates before him had done so even preceding the A.I.A.C.R. foundation in 1904. The now dominant A.A.A. strived to end this irrational political injustice. Only on the Italians' assurance that they would intercede for the admission of the A.A.A. at the next A.I.A.C.R. meeting, was DePaolo allowed to start at Monza. This deal was probably contrived by the often instrumental journalist W.F. Bradley, who since 1911 had been the AAA delegate to represent their interests in Europe. DePaolo's registration formed the prelude to further American entries by Milton and Kreis. [15] On August 11 it was reported that the three American Duesenbergs with spare parts should arrive in Genova on August 22. [16] De Paolo was expected on Monday, August 10 in Cherbourg and Milton was supposed to arrive there also the same day. [17]

    The single-seat Duesenbergs of Kreis and Milton were modified to two-seat body measurements, according to the required regulations. In spite of it, they still did not conform to the regulations, which stated that the body had to show two seats next to each other. Now both Duesenbergs showed the body width according to regulations but the steering wheel could of course not be transferred and remained in the middle. For this reason, the "both next to each other seats" did not exist. This fact had given rise to the view, that the Americans had now an advantage compared to the European drivers. [18] Furthermore, the Americans distinguished themselves through a painstaking, almost plainly staggering preparation. They had brought complete workshops over the ocean, they carried special tires with them and, end of all ends, their "own" gasoline had also to be there in barrels. [21] None of the reports mention a third Duesenberg being present for DePaolo.

    During mid August a rumor circulated that Alfa Romeo wanted to entrust one of their cars to the well known motorcycle rider Nuvolari, [19] who in Italy was considered as one of the greatest motorcycle racers but also no beginner in automobile contests. Nuvolari was also the Alfa Romeo agent for the Province of Mantova. [19] But during official practice he crashed when the gearbox of his Alfa Romeo P2 seized and Nuvolari spent the following week in hospital. Also Minozzi and Sozzi were considered. Count Giulio Masetti was also mentioned as driver for Alfa Romeo. [14] But on August 28 news reported that Masetti was already committed to drive for Sunbeam at the 200 Miles of Brooklands with a 1.5-liter car and the Grand Prix of San Sebastian and therefore had to turn down Alfa Romeo's offer. [20] There was also American Peter DePaolo. When he had learned about Ascari's death, he had offered to drive in the Grand Prix of Italy with an Italian car, but Alfa Romeo did not respond. Although DePaolo's attitude was described as absurd, it was understandable considering that he was Italian by birth. [14] On Sepember 1, five days before the race, the news was that DePaolo would not, as was originally reported, start with a Duesenberg but would drive the third Alfa Romeo next to Campari and Brilli-Peri. After negotiations with Giulio Masetti and Bordino had turned out unsuccessfully, Engineer Nicola Romeo accepted De Paolo's offer. [21]

    The Italian organizer had their race open for all comers [4] with the result of attracting manufacturers not seen before. The entry list showed that Delage paid the penalty and withdrew, Bugatti entered in the Voiturette class and only one Guyot of three appeared. There were also two Chiribiris, one Diatto and one Eldridge-Special. Had Milton not encountered problems with his Duesenberg in the race, he most probably would have given the Alfas some rather stiff competition because the American cars were on a par in speed with the Alfas. In the 800 km race Duesenberg came only fourth while Alfa Romeo as victor became indisputable World Champion with seven points. [4] For winning the title, Alfa Romeo was awarded the trophy, a sculpture of a young girl running, symbolizing speed. To mark their winning of the World Championship, an encircling laurel wreath was added to the radiator badge on all Alfa Romeo models from 1926 onwards.

    1925 World Championship Unofficial Standings after the Italian GP
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    Point Scoring Table
    1 = for 1st place
    2 = for 2nd place
    3 = for 3rd place
    4 = all other finishers
    5 = non-finishers
    6 = non-starters

    Manufacturers with gray background were ineligible. They either did not contest the mandatory Italian GP or did not compete in their national GP as was the case with Guyot-Special.

    Alfa Romeo
    -
    1
    5
    1
     7
    Delage
    -
    5
    1
    6
    12
    Duesenberg
    1
    6
    -
    4
    11
    Junior 8
    Sunbeam	
    Miller	
    Fiat
    2
    -
    4
    4
    6
    6
    6
    6
    
    -
    3
    -
    -
    6
    6
    6
    6
    14
    15
    16
    16
    Bugatti
    -
    6
    4
    3
    13
    Skelly Special
    R.J. Special
    Guyot-Special
    5
    5
    -
    6
    6
    6
    -
    -
    6
    6
    6
    5
    17
    17
    17
    Chiribiri
    Diatto
    Eldridge-Special
    -
    -
    -
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    5
    5
    5
    17
    17
    17

    As already mentioned before, the possibility of additional rules existed but absolutely no evidence was found to substantiate such a thought. The first such possibility could have been that non-works entries could not score any points and therefore only an official works entry scored. Additionally, manufacturers might have had to make an official application with the ACI or AIACR for participation in the World Championship and lastly, Chiribiri, Diatto and Eldridge did not make these applications but there exists entirely no proof for this. Such additional rules would in any case not have affected the final outcome of the World Championship with the exception of the last three finishers, Chiribiri, Diatto and Eldridge-Special, which were nowhere mentioned in the final World Championship results of contemporary reports. Race promoters allowed extra time for stragglers to complete the full distance after the winner had finished the race. Those unable to comply were flagged off and did not classify. Yet such time allowance regulations were not mentioned in the source material and would not have affected the World Championship outcome since such rules were not applied. Only at Indianapolis was the last car running flagged off the course before completing the full distance.

    1925 World Championship Unofficial Final Standings
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    Alfa Romeo
    Duesenberg
    Bugatti
    Chiribiri	
    Diatto
    Eldridge-Special
    -
    1
    -
    -
    -
    -
    1
    6
    6
    6
    6
    6
    5
    -
    4
    6
    6
    6
    1
    4
    3
    5
    5
    5
     7
    11
    13
    17
    17
    17

    The significance of the word 'unofficial' in 'World Championship Unofficial Standings' means that the tables were constructed from the best understanding of the championship regulations, but they do not represent official standings, since these were not issued by the AIACR. Shown are merely the computed points results based on possibly incomplete information about the regulations.



    For comparison: How the point scoring systems would have looked, utilized by the two secondary sources.

    Adriano Cimarosti - 1925 World Championship Point Scoring System
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    1 = for 1st place
    2 = for 2nd place
    3 = for 3rd place
    4 = all other finishers
    5 = non-finishers
    6 = non-starters


    Alfa Romeo
    Duesenberg
    Bugatti
    6
    1
    6
    1
    6
    6
    5
    6
    4
    1
    4
    3
    13
    17
    19
    Adriano Cimarosti's points total of 13, 17 and 19 leads to the individual scores shown in this chart. He came very close, except that he did not eliminate one race for each entrant. He ignored the points for Chiribiri, Diatto and Eldridge.


    Donatella Biffignandi - 1925 World Championship Scoring System
    Manufacturer Indiana-
    polis 500
    European
    GP at Spa
    French
    GP
    Italian
    GP
    Total
    Score

    1 = for 1st place
    2 = for 2nd place
    3 = for 3rd place
    4 = all other finishers
    5 = non-finishers


    Alfa Romeo
    Duesenberg
    Bugatti
    -
    1
    -
    1
    -
    5
    4
    5
    4
    1
    4
    3
     6
    10
    12
    Donatella Biffignandi adopted her points scoring system from the 1925 Auto Italiana magazine. She also ignored the points for Chiribiri, Diatto and Eldridge.





    Sorting Fact from Fiction

    by Tony Kaye


    Back to 1925 index

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    © 2005 Hans Etzrodt , Leif Snellman - Last updated: 20.02.2007