Amateurs vs. Pros - 1910

This article discussing one of the motorsports issues of the day appeared in the March 20, 1910 Indianapolis Star. The issue concerned the classification of race drivers as either amateur or professional and to what extent should they compete head-to-head. The article reflects back almost 20 years from the publication date to say that the issue of resolving how drivers of different status should compete had never been more debated. This was also an issue of much debate within the motorcycle racing community.
To fully understand the significance of this report and its implication you need to understand the context of the times. In the earliest days of motoring, 10 to 15 years prior to this article, automobile ownership was reserved for the wealthy. The cars were high technology and especially complicated for 19th Century educated people who had no experience with machinery. They hired "professionals," working class guys who understood that learning about engines assured them of good jobs driving and caring for the automobiles of wealthy socialites and businessmen. They were referred to as chauffeurs and mechanicians.
Some of the wealthy individuals - William K. Vanderbilt Jr., W. Gould Brokaw and Foxhall Keene are great examples - learned how to drive the cars for sport and competed in top racing events like the Vanderbilt Cup and the Daytona-Ormond speed festivals. Some amateurs such as Caleb Bragg proved to be outstanding driving talents but most while competent found it very difficult to succeed over professionals. Barney Oldfield's victory over Vanderbilt at the 1904 competition mile contest at Daytona-Ormond is a classic example.
The article comes to no specific conclusion except that while pros overshadowed amateurs they should not be excluded from marquee events. The Vanderbilt Cup is specifically mentioned and examples of top drivers listed include Vincenzo Lancia, Felice Nazzaro and Victor Hemery are cited as top professionals. Although it is not mentioned I have to wonder if the "international amateur race" discussed by the management team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway may have re-ignited the debate. Or maybe not.
Interestingly just a month prior to publication of this article at the Mardi Gras Speed Festival in New Orleans special amateur races were organized. They were reported to be "uninteresting." Today acknowledged amateurs compete with professionals in the top levels of sports car racing such as the famous Le Mans 24 hour race. While not restricted from competing professionals rarely venture into amateur events such as those sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).

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