Sunbeam's run at the 1915 Indy 500

1914 Sunbeam racer at the 1915 Indy 500 (photo credit: LT)

As expressed in the companion post about the 1913 Sunbeam that ran at Indy, this fascinating image found it's way to me recently within the same group of photos. This car is an example of the cars developed by Coatalen, Sunbeam's chief engineer, for the 1914 Tourist Trophy race. Based on the design of the 1913 Peugeot GP cars (famed Swiss designer, Henry, had developed a landmark car - lighter with more horsepower per liter than previously seen), the Sunbeam team, lead by Kenelem Lee Guinness who won, dominated the race. Interestingly, Guinness' car is said to have been painted Purple - the color designated for the British entries in the 1914 TT.

After the team's success at the TT, the Sunbeam team decided to enter at least two cars in the 1915 International race in Indianapolis (The Indy 500). One of America's true international races at the time, the 500 attracted the best European teams and drivers including Peugeot (the 1913 winner), Delage (the 1914 winner), and Mercedes (the 1915 winner). Interestingly, the Peugeot that won in 1913 was an older and heavier 6-cylinder car. However, the new Henry designed 4-cylinder car left such an impression that all future winners at Indy for the next decade (including the Duesenberg and Miller cars) were influenced by it.  

1915 was the first year that cars started based on qualifying order and Sunbeam planned to have the well-regarded Dario Resta, and the factory driver Jean Chassagne, behind the wheel of its entries. However, it appears that Resta was enticed to drive a Peugeot and Chassagne was not able to make the trip. It was for this reason that the Italian Jean Porporato drove in place of Resta. British amateur Noel van Raalte "purchased" the drive for the second mount. As noted in the companion post, two additional Sunbeams (1913 spec cars) were also entered by the Fortuna Racing Team out of NY. Those cars were piloted by Harry Grant and Carl Limberg. 

Jean Porporato qualified in 6th position, but Barney Oldfield had to qualify the second car (14th position) - withdrawing so Noel van Raalte could resume the seat for the race. Porporato (driving the #6 car) would go out on lap 164 with a piston issue and Noel van Raalte (driving the #7 car) would actually finish 10th.

The picture above appears to show the #6 car in front of the garages at Indy with Porporato at the wheel (possibly Chassagne - the two look similar). 


Jean Porporato in the #6 Sunbeam in 1915 at Indy (photo credit: Ivan Wheaton)
UPDATE:
Blog reader Ariejan Bos as identified the drive in the top photo as Jean Porporato - thanks, Ariejan.

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