INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2001 -The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is providing fans in Europe with a glimpse of one of the sport's most prized trophy collections, thanks to a partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Fifty-four...
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2001 -The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is providing fans in Europe with a glimpse of one of the sport's most prized trophy collections, thanks to a partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Fifty-four pieces of the Speedway's Rudolph Caracciola collection are on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, the birthplace of the Mercedes-Benz brand of luxury and sport automobiles. The trophies will be on display in Stuttgart until mid-April, after which they will be returned to Indianapolis and placed back on display in the Hall of Fame Museum. The late Caracciola, a native of Remagen, Germany, won numerous races for Mercedes-Benz over a 30-year career in the early 20th century, plus three European driving championships (the equivalent to today's Formula One World Championship) in 1935, 1937 and 1938. Caracciola's legend grew from his very first race, the 1926 German Grand Prix at the Avus circuit in Berlin. Caracciola, at the time a 25-year-old weekend racer and salesman for Daimler-Benz, won the event in a factory sports car he borrowed for the weekend. He would go on to win other notable events such as the 1929 Tourist Trophy in Northern Ireland, the 1936 Grand Prix de Monaco and the 1931 Mille Miglia, in which he was the only non-Italian to win for 24 years until Stirling Moss in 1955. Caracciola's trophies became part of the Speedway's collection thanks to a longtime friendship between the German driver and Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1945 until his death in 1977. Caracciola and Hulman became close friends by accident - literally. Hulman invited Caracciola to compete in the 1946 Indianapolis 500, for which Caracciola was scheduled to drive a pre-war Mercedes-Benz W165, but the car did not clear customs in Switzerland. Car owner Joel Thorne then invited Caracciola to compete in a Thorne Engineering car. Caracciola crashed violently in the Speedway's Turn 2 during practice after - it is believed - he was struck in the face by a bird. He suffered a concussion and skull fracture. Hulman and his wife, the late Mary Fendrich Hulman, invited Caracciola and his wife, Alice, to be their guests in Terre Haute, Ind., while Caracciola recuperated. Their friendships remained strong until Caracciola's death in 1959. In 1968, Alice presented the Hulman's with the trophy collection. More than 100 pieces of the Caracciola collection remain on display at the Speedway's museum. Silver and crystal trophies from the Grands Prix of Ireland, Hungary, Italy and Germany are just a few of the many items steeped in Grand Prix history on display.
The Hall of Fame Museum, located in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children age 6-15 and free for children age 5 and younger.