Friday, May 8, 2015

Indy 500 - Wilfred Bourque (1909)

Image from Indianapolis 500, A History - Volume I by Brian G. Boettcher

Wilfred (Billy) Bourque, a Canadian driver who primarily drove for the Massachusetts-based automaker, Knox, throughout his short career. He racked up wins and claimed the third race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (actually ran on August 19, 1909. Later that same day he died in an accident during the Prest-O-Lite Trophy Race.

Some say Bourque glanced back to check on an approaching car at the prompting of his mechanic, Harry Holcomb, and others say Bourque's car lost a wheel, either way the vehicle ran into a ditch containing a drainage tile. Holcomb was ejected from the car, dying when his head struck a fence post, and sensationalist newspaper reports would say that Bourque drowned in his own blood, pinned under his car.

The end result, the AAA demanded the racing surface at Indianapolis be remade to do away with the numerous, dangerous ruts and that it be oiled and tarred for better traction. The specter of danger and death only increased the track's fame.

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