Time Trials: Day Two!

The attached articles report on the results of the second day of the first time trials that took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the track was paved with brick. These appeared in the December 19, 1909 Indianapolis Star.
 
The article in attachment IMStrials121909 provides an overview of the second day that saw only drivers Walter Christie, Lewis Strang and Newell Motsinger take to the bricks. It was another brutally cold day and these two me were using the most powerful cars that had come to the track, Christie's own front wheel drive "freak" creation and Strang with the 200 HP Fiat. If any machines could record times faster than those established at any other track it would be these two. By his own admission Speedway President Carl Fisher staged the event so late in the year for purpose of having his track claim rights to the fastest speeds of 1909. Christie and Strang delivered for Fisher and his management team.
 
The big news was Strang's new (reportedly) world record of three minutes, 17.70 seconds. The old mark was 4:11.8 by Barney Oldfield at the unpaved Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August. This report is surprising in that I would have assumed Oldfield's time would have been beaten at the new Atlanta Speedway or certainly the concrete-paved Brooklands course in England.
 
Strang and Christie battled for the American quarter mile record. Christie had established a new mark of 8.78 seconds the previous day and then lowered it to 8.37 seconds the morning of the second day. Strang answered with a time of 8.05 seconds to nail down the record for the meet. Strang also lowered his new track mile record from the previous day by more than two seconds with a time of 38.21 seconds.
 
Motsigner in the tiny Empire car lowered the mile record for the small car class to one minute, 17.03 seconds. He had established a mark of 1:20.46 the previous day. No other drivers took to the track.
 
The drivers of the other manufacturers' entries were willing to run but the companies providing the cars refused. The general opinion was that the inclement weather produced excessive danger. Christie had experienced a broken spring the previous day and that was at least in part blamed on the intense cold. The cold, car company officials believed, also impaired the drivers' abilities to respond quickly. It is not clear any medical expertise endorsed this opinion.
 
Speedway President Carl Fisher weighed in with an opinion about the success of the meet saying, "While I am exceedingly proud of our high records made in this season, yet I am more than ever delighted that this midwinter meet is over. It was my ambition to have the new season open with Indianapolis holding all of the laurels. We now have a high prize that will make other tracks spin to equal. Not only that but I am sure we have a track now that will permit much faster time under better weather conditions. I predict marvelous records on this track for next summer."
 
The article estimates that only 150 spectators attended the day's time trials clear evidence of the deterrence of biting cold in spite of free admission. Judges and timers huddled around what was described as "an old-fashioned coal stove" that radiated heat in the judges' stand.
 
Fiat mechanic Anthony Scudellary (as referred to by the reporter) reportedly worked throughout the night to keep his racer warm enough not freeze its fluids. Actually, I believe this is Anthony "Tony" Scudellari who was destined to lose his life in practice for the 1912 American Grand Prize on the Milwaukee road course with driver David Bruce-Brown in 1910. He devised a shield of heavy leather to insulate the carburetor from the cold blowing back from the radiator. He also attached a "hot air pipe" to the carburetor to keep the engine above freezing through the night.
 
Walter Christie with the assistance of driver/mechanic Hughie Hughes worked on the front-wheel drive Christie as well. They blocked all ventilation holes in the floor of the machine. Also, two valves were not properly seated and they adjusted those parts. Note that the car was described as "long-nosed and black."
 
Christie had bet Carl Fisher he could top 120 MPH which was wildly optimistic. A cracked rear spring ended his high speed runs. A note I found interesting is that Christie sat patiently in his car while a parked in the pits after a speed run so photographers could capture the moment. The cameras and film of the day were sensitive to motion and the best images were captured with subjects at rest.
 
Strang reportedly turned his best laps while Christie worked on his car in the pits. Interestingly the article indicates that starter Fred Wagner not only flagged the run but captured it on a stopwatch with such accuracy that he was only one-tenth of a second off the Warner electric timing device officials used.
 
A nice summary of the time trial records and speeds also appeared in the Sunday Star on December 19. Here's a quick rundown of what you will find in the summary:
 

  • Strang set new IMS mile record of 39.21 seconds. That broke his 40.61-second mark of the previous day.
  • Strang reportedly established a new world's record for five miles at three minutes, 17.70 seconds. This broke Barney Oldfield's mark also established at the Speedway in August. That time was 4:11.30.
  • Again it was Strang setting the fast pace with a new American record for the quarter mile at 8.05 seconds or 112 MPH. This edged Christie's record for the same distance set the previous day at 8.75 seconds.

 
The summary breaks down all the runs by Strang and Christie.
 
Strang's runs:

  • First Trial - Quarter-mile: 9.07 seconds; half-mile: 18.62 seconds; kilometer: 23.65 seconds; one mile; 39.21 seconds.
  • Second Trial - Quarter-mile: 8.05 seconds; half mile: 17.82; kilometer: 22.71; mile: 17.82.
  • Third Trial - Quarter mile: 8.92; half mile: 18.62; kilometer: 23.52; mile: 39.66.
  • Fourth Trial - Quarter mile: 9.02; half mile: 18.62; kilometer: 23.52; mile: 39.66.

Christie's runs:

  • First Trial - Quarter-mile: 9.04; half-mile: 18.11; mile: 50.10.
  • Second Trial - Quarter-mile: 10.78; half-mile: 20.67; mile: 52.87.
  • Third Trial - Quarter-mile: 8.92; half-mile: 18.23; kilometer: 22.86; mile: 43.03.
  • Fourth Trial - Quarter-mile (note error in the article reporting this as a half-mile run): 8.37; half-mile: 17.53; kilometer 22.86; mile: 43.03.
  • Fifth Trial - Quarter-mile: 8.70; half-mile 18.08; kilometer 23.45; one mile: 43.03.

Motsinger runs:

  • Mile: One minute, 17.03 seconds.

 
Same-day coverage by the Indianapolis News can be found in a December 18, 1909, article found in an attachment below. The article in attachment IMSNews121809 is a poor quality reproduction, which is particularly frustrating when trying to read the time data. Refer to the information above that can be found in the Indianapolis Star article as I have great confidence it is accurate.
 
The article stresses the cold temperature at only 9 degrees and that Lewis Strang and J. Walter Christie in their big cars were the focus of the day. These were the powerful machines that could set the fastest speeds of the year - and deliver them in Indianapolis. This was Saturday, December 18, and an estimated 200 hardy race fans braved the conditions to get a glimpse at history.
 
An interesting note is that the article says the drivers were not compensated. While there was no gate (attendance) all but Strang and Christie were employees of the manufacturers who campaigned their cars. Strang was almost certainly under contract with the Fiat importer in New York. As for Christie, he was attempting to make a commercial success of a business to produce automobiles so the event was a good promotional opportunity for him.
 
Speaking of Christie, he had found two loose valves at the end of the first day and after making overnight repairs unrealistically predicted that he would eclipse 120 mph on Saturday. This was despite only achieving 103 mph the previous day. A good note from the article is that neither Strang nor Christie could touch the record the former set at Atlanta when he covered a mile in 37.71 seconds. Strang's time of 39.21 seconds was faster than Christie's 43-second mile and established a new record for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Strang drove the same Fiat at both Atlanta and Indianapolis. Overall, Christie ran competitive times but could not match Strang, whose crowning achievement was a new American speedway 5-mile record at 3:17.70.
 

AttachmentSize
IMStrials121909.pdf1.18 MB
IMStrialsSum121909.pdf348.76 KB
IMSNews121809.pdf525.92 KB