1913 Peugeot L45

This Peugeot L45 was driven by Dario Resta to a top three finish at the 1915 Indianapolis 500 and a first place finish at the 1916 Indianapolis 500. It also won the Vanderbilt Cup that year. The car is powered by a double overhead cam, hemispherical head engine with 16 valves with shaft drive.

The name Dario Resta is often associated with the L45. He was the Italian driver who won the first American Championship. He began his racing career at the age of 23, in 1907. His very early racing career including a Mercedes GP racing car where he piloted it in the Montagu Cup. This was the first race held at the Brooklands track. He would have won the race, but he accidentally continued on the outer circuit instead of finishing on the straight. As a result, he finished in third. He protested the results, but the officials did not change the outcome.

His first victory came a few weeks later at Brooklands, in the Prix de la France.

In 1912, he was recruited by Sunbeam as their official driver. At the close 1914, he was racing in America with a Sunbeam. While in America, he met the Peugeot importer Alphonse G. Kaufman who offered a Peugeot L76 for use during the 1915 season. Resta accepted.

The L76 had been introduced in 1912 and was the first car in the world to come equipped with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It was designed specifically for racing. Georges Boillot was able to win the Grand Prix for French Automobiles in 1912 with an average speed of 110 km/h. The car's design had been created with the help of Ettore Bugatti and Ernest Henry, in association with Zuccarelli, Boillot, and Goux. The design of the vehicle earned it the nickname, the Torpille.

In 1913, the Peugeot L76 won the Indianapolis American Grand Prix with Jules Goux driving.

His first race in the Peugeot was at the American Grand Prix in February on the 3.84-miile track in San Francisco. The 406-mile race was contested by 30 drivers. At the drop of the checkered flag 6 hours and 43 minutes later, Dario had managed to secure the victory. A week later, he was racing in the Vanderbilt Cup, also on the San Francisco track. He once again secured a victory.

The Indianapolis 500 mile race was next on the schedule. Dario Resta was now piloting an evolution of the L76, the L45. It was powered by a 4.5-liter engine and managed to secure a third-place starting position. The race was fiercely competed by both the Resta driven Peugeot and the Mercedes driven by De Palma. De Palma had qualified in second place in the starting grid, behind Howard Wilcox.

Resta fell behind in the pack when his vehicle suffered a tire puncture. Three laps to the end, it was unsure if De Palma's car would be able to finish. A connection rod broke and was just barely able to complete the race and capture the victory.

When World War I broke out in 1917, the racing schedule was affected. Resta took part in only a few minor races during this time. At the conclusion of the war, he returned to Sunbeam. At the 1919 Indy 500 race, it experienced engine problems and was unable to compete. He raced at Sheepshead Bay but with poor results.

Resta took a break from racing and did not return for a few years. He planned to race a Sunbeam at the 1921 ACF Grand Prix at LeMans, but the car was not ready in time. In 1923, he was 39 and he made his return to racing. He raced during the 1923 and 1924 season in a Packard and Sunbeam/Talbot/ Darracq. He used the Talbot 70 in the Voiturette races and the Sunbeam in the Grand Prix events. He raced the Packard at the 1923 Indy 500.

On September 2nd of 1924, Resta was driving a Sunbeam at Brooklands trying to secure a land speed record. He lost control of the car when a security belt broke and punctured a tire. The car crashed injuring his riding mechanic, Perkins. Dario was not as lucky, as he lost his life.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2007

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