Posts Tagged ‘1922 Targa Florio’

Jules Goux, works Ballot 2LS awaits his turn to set off, Targa 1922 (BNF)

I knew little about E. Ballot et Cie two years ago. Then I tripped over a photograph of Ballot 5/8LC #1004 competing at Safety Beach on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula in 1928, my thirst for all things Ballot remains unquenched.

The purchase of that factory 4.8-litre straight-eight 1919 Indy 500 racer – #1004 was raced at The Brickyard by Louis Wagner – and a 2-litre, four-cylinder 2LS – #15 was raced by Jules Goux in the 1921 French Grand Prix – by Alan Cooper, and his Patron, Stephen Brown, is an amazing story.

Harold (Hal) Cooper, and to a much lesser extent Alan, raced the cars with great success in Victoria and New South Wales in the mid-late 1920s. I wrote about their exploits in The Automobile, why don’t you buy a copy, that would make me look good with that nice Editor chappy, Mr Rishton; Back Issue – May 2021 – The Automobile

Ernest Ballot with two of the four 5/8LC 1919 Indy 500 racers out front of his extravagant art deco factory. Albert Guyot at the wheel on the left, Rene Thomas at right (Ballot)
Jules Goux’ Italian GP winning 3/8LC surrounded by 2LS’ in various guises. October 1921 Paris Motor Show held at the Grand Palais, Champs Elysees (Ballot)

Ballot commenced business at 103-105 Boulevard Brune, Paris in 1904 producing a range of simple, side-valve, stationary marine and automotive engines.

A profitable war building Hispano-Suiza aero engines provided Ernest Ballot with the loot to build his own cars. As the conflict wound down, he engaged pioneer aviator and 1914 Indy winner, Rene Thomas and Ernest Henry, to build four cars to contest the 1919 Indy 500, to promote his brand.

Together with The Charlatans – racer/mechanics Paolo Zuccarelli, Georges Boillot and Jules Goux – Henry built the revolutionary twin-cam, four-valve, Grand Prix engines for Peugeot from 1912-1914, from which all GP engines to this day are derived.

With an engine design up-his-sleeve, four 5/8LC, 4816cc, twin-cam, four-valve 125bhp, straight-eight racers, using ladder frame chassis and a four-speed gearbox were built and shipped to the US. The Ballots were quick, but plagued by tyre and magneto troubles, Albert Guyot’s fourth place was the marques’ best result.

Jules Goux and riding mechanic during the 1921 French GP, Circuit de la Sarthe-Le Mans. This 2LS is chassis/engine number 15, the car was purchased by Stephen Brown and Alan Cooper from the factory while in Paris in 1922, then raced in Australia (BNF)
The Goux 2LS is fettled before a crowd of admirers, superb atmospheric shot. The fascination of the public with fast automobiles – French ones at that – leaps off the image (MotorSport)
Joe Boyer’s Duesenberg 183 (DNF conrod) #16 dices with the Goux 2LS in France, 1921 (MotorSport)

Ballot’s Rue Cormeilles design team next attacked work on the 2LS and another Indy/Grand Prix car, the 3-litre 3/8LC.

Henry’s 3/8LC, a 2973cc, 107bhp scaled down 5/8LC was a masterpiece, surely one of the sexiest racing cars ever, four were made. Jules Goux won the 1921 Italian GP aboard one on the Circuito della Fascia d’Oro, at Montchiari, Brescia that September.

A little earlier in July, the French Grand Prix was held, it was the first major European race post-war. Ballot entered three 3/8LCs and a 2-litre 2LS against the mighty eight-cylinder Duesenberg 183s. Over 30 laps of a 17.26km course, 517km, at Le Mans, Jimmy Murphy’s Duesenberg just beat De Palma’s 3/8LC with Jules Goux’ 2LS a staggering third ahead of many nominally faster 3-litre cars.

These Deux Litres Sport were racers for the road, no more than 50, and perhaps as few as 20 were made. The 1986cc (69.9x130mm) 72bhp @ 3800rpm (safe to 4300rpm) engined cars were the first twin-cam 16-valve production road cars ever built.

This poster celebrates the win by Rene de Buck and Pierre Decroze aboard a 2LS in the September 1925 Gran Premio de Guipuzcoa (more usually known as the Spanish Touring Car GP). The pair completed the 1180.5km at an average speed of 98.4kmh. The race was part of the annual San Sebastian festival, the race, on the Lasarte road circuit, was held between the European and Spanish GPs

Other elements of an expensive cocktail included a channel section chassis, half elliptic springs front and rear located solid axles with one (two on some of the racers) Andre Hartford friction shock absorbers per wheel. Four-wheel drum brakes and a close-ratio gearbox completed an advanced package. There was also a catalogued modele de course with minimal doorless, wingless bodywork, a different bonnet and modified exhaust.

The more prosaic Ballots were the SOHC, 2-litre 2LT and 2LTS. The extensive competition activity was to build brand awareness of the marque generally, and specifically sell these normal road models aimed at a broader, albeit discerning market.

The 2LS first competed in the hands of Fernand Renard. He won his class and finished sixth outright at the Course de Cote a Gaillon (Gaillon hillclimb), near Rouen in October 1920.

Poor Renard – foreman of Ballot’s test department – died instantly when his 3/8LC collided with a truck which swerved into his path at Montrouge, Paris in February 1921. Testing Zenith carburettors, the experienced driver/riding mechanic was slated for a ’21 French Grand Prix drive, but it was sadly not to be.

Jules Goux, 2LS, French GP , Strasbourg, 1922 (BNF)
1922 French GP. Giulio Foresti, Ballot 2LS at left, and Pierre de Vizcaya, Bugatti T30 at right (BNF)
Foresti, 2LS French GP 1922 (BNF)
Foresti and his mechanic refuel their 2LS. Look carefully at this rare butt-shot, the attention to air-flow under the car is as considered as the rest of the body (MotorSport)

Etablissements Ballot entered two 2LS for Goux and Giulio Foresti in the April 1922 Targa Florio, the pair finished one-two in the 2-litre class. The outright winner was another works-Ballot driver, Count Giulio Masetti aboard a 1918 GP Mercedes 18/100.

In July, Ballot entered three 2LS in the Grand Prix De L’Automobile Club De France. From 1922-1925 major Grands Prix were run to a 2-litre formula. The race, centred on Strasbourg, comprised 60 laps of a 13.38km course, 803km in total.

Ballot and Bugatti (Type 30 straight-eight) competed for the Fugly Cup! Both companies presented aerodynamic, visually challenging machines with amazing cigar shaped bodies.

Felice Nazzaro won in a Fiat 804 2-litre straight-six. All three Ballots uncharacteristically failed with mechanical problems; Foresti after a piston broke on lap 44, Goux crashed on lap 33 and Masetti broke a rod on lap 18. The mechanical problems were thought to be a function of insufficient air getting to the radiator to cool the engine. The Bugatti T30s of Pierre de Vizcaya and Pierre Marco were second and third.

1922 French GP. 2LS streamliner radiator and front suspension detail. Note the sheet aluminium bulkhead supporting the radiator – its grille – and the ally body (BNF)
The Foresti 2LS, Targa 1922 (BNF)
Giulio Foresti at rest during the Targa Florio weekend, note the slab-tank on his ‘22 Targa 2LS. Foresti, a racer and Itala/Ballot dealer, came to Australia to deliver the Cooper brothers’ 5/8LC in 1925. He tested the car at Maroubra in the process of schooling the Coopers in its ways. Alan Cooper came close to killing himself and his mechanic in it days later in a monumental high-speed Maroubra rollover (BNF)
Jules Goux and mechanic at Targa, compare and contrast the bodies of the works-2LS in the various GPs contested in 1921-1922 (BNF)

Two Ballot 2LS were entered in the ’22 Italian GP at Monza but didn’t appear, into 1923 Ballot withdrew from more serious competition.

Dr Jean Haimovicci, a Romanian living in Paris, raced a 2LS at San Sebastian. “Very likely this entry received works support”, wrote Hans Etzrodt, the car appears to be one of the barrel-tank ’22 Targa cars. The doctor was third in the race taking five hours 19 minutes to complete the 445km on roads at Lasarte, south of magnificent San-Seb. Up-front was a pair of 2-litre Rolland-Pilain straight-eights driven by Albert Guyot and Gaston Delalande.

On the other side of The Channel, Malcolm Campbell won a race aboard a 2LS at Brooklands during the Whitsun or April meetings.

Malcolm Campbell, 2LS, at Brooklands during the BARC Easter meeting in 1923 (LAT)

Ballot spent a fortune on his race 5/8LC and 3/8LC GP/Indy 500 cars and the production 2LS. Despite an eye-watering price, these epochal 2-litre cars never came close to covering their development costs. Ernest went banzai! He created a marque instantly with his competition program, but his coffers were groaning as a consequence. So were his shareholders and bankers.

By 1928 Ballot’s range included the SOHC, 2.9-litre eight-cylinder RH, by 1931 the company had been acquired by Hispano-Suiza. Game over, but it was awfully sweet while it lasted.

The nautical theme of the Ballot logo dates back to Ernest Ballot’s beginnings in the French Navy, where he trained as an engineer. The Masetti 2LS with Ernest Ballot in the foreground, French GP 1922 (BNF)

Postscript…

What intrigues me, is what the chassis numbers of the works 2LS’ were/are? Was the car raced by Campbell in the UK a works racer, or a production modele de course?

It seems to me there were three (at least) works prepared and raced 2LS’. Sure, there were changes of bodywork from one event to the next, but my thesis is that the chassis’ used were probably the same throughout.

Those of you who have the voluminous, sumptuous and extravagant ‘Ballot’ by Daniel Cabart and Gautem Sen have a head start.

Do get in touch if you can assist; mark@bisset.com.au

The rear, most of it, of the Goux 2LS during the 1921 French GP weekend. The spare – look closely – is mounted vertically within the rear bodywork 3/8LC style (BNF)

Credits…

Hans Etzrodt and Kolumbus.fi, the libraries of Alistair McArthur, David Rapley, Bob King and Brian Lear. BNF-Bibliotheque Nationale de France, LAT, MotorSport, ‘Ballot’ Daniel Cabart and Gautam Sen, and the late David McKinney on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece…

(BNF)

Let’s finish as we started, with the majesty of the 1922 Targa Florio, again it’s Jules Goux, 2LS.

Finito…

Carlo Massola and riding mechanic aboard his works Diatto Type 20 during the April 1922 Targa Florio weekend. DNF after one of four 67 mile laps. #18 is the nose of Giulio Foresti’s Ballot 2LS – a Maroubra visitor in 1925 (BNF)

Formed by 30-year old Guglielmo Diatto in Turin in 1835 as a coach-builder, Fratelli Diatto later morphed to railway engineering in 1864 before (Vittorio and Pietro Diatto, grandsons of Guglielmo) focusing on new-fangled motor automobiles in collaboration with Adolphe Clément in 1905. Its first cars were licensed Clément-Bayard designs, known as Diatto-Cléments.

After Clement’s 1909 departure, Diatto (Societa Anonima Autoscostruzioni Diatto), a major concern of over 500 employees, made its own cars, the 12/15hp Tipo Unico was its most popular pre-War.

After the conflict Diatto built the Giuseppe Coda designed Tipo 20. Powered by a 2-litre SOHC four, it produced 40bhp and was exported globally. With assistance from the Maserati brothers – Alfieri Maserati split his time between his Bologna factory and Diatto in Turin – Diatto produced the short-wheelbase 2-litre, DOHC, 75bhp Tipo 20S Grand Prix car for the 2-litre formula which commenced that year.

Carlo Massola was a FIAT mechanic and test driver before joining Diatto to fill a similar role. He contested the 1922 Targa Florio in a Tipo 20 (or 20S, accounts vary) but failed to finish, as did Domenico Gamboni in the other works car which started; Giulio Masetti won in a 1918 Mercedes GP 18/100.

At the end of the year Massola emigrated to Australia to join the Ongarello brothers’ Diatto Australian agency, based in Melbourne.

He successfully raced his Targa Diatto, and other marques, at Aspendale amongst other venues from 1923, later still he took Australian citizenship. His son Silvo was a noted racer/engineer post-war; HRG, Bugatti and the M.M. Holden are amongst his race/construction credits.

The Ongarellos sold Diatto Tipo 20A’s in rolling chassis form, the most infamous of which was owned by Melbourne’s Roaring Twenties gangster, Joseph ‘Squizzy’ Taylor who was gunned down in a 1927 Carlton shootout (in a Barkly Street terrace, not the Diatto!).

After a succession of financial reconstructions, Diatto ceased car production in 1927 to manufacture other products. In 2007 the Carrozzeria Zagato revived the brand for a concept car displayed at the 2007 Geneva Motor, the Diatto Ottovù Zagato.

I am in the process of researching an article about Carlo inspired by Bob King with the assistance of the Massola family. Carlo’s race record in Australia is pretty clear, his career in Europe is not.

I am keen to hear from any readers, particularly Italians who may have access to race-records in the decade before 1923, to fill in the gaps. Gimme a yell at mark@bisset.com.au if you can assist, many thanks!

Alfieri Maserati and mechanic, Diatto GP305/20S 3-litre four, DNF oil-tank, during the November 1922 268 mile Coppa Florio. Boillot won on Peugeot 174S. Wonderful action, whites of the eyes shot (Wiki-unattributed)

Credits…

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, ‘Diatto’ Sergio Massaro via Bob King Collection, Wikipedia

Tailpiece…

(S Massaro)

Beautiful drawing from the Massaro book showing a race Diatto 20S long-tail. The light-alloy, holey wheels date from 1923.

Finito…