Dario 'Dolly' Resta (1882 - 1924)
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Dario Dolly Resta

Dario 'Dolly' Resta
One of the most skilled and versatile racing drivers of his age, Italian-bern Dario 'Dolly' Resta was brought to London at the age of two in 1884. Resta went into the motor trade and eventually opened his own business in the West End of London as a naturalised citizen. He took part in the opening meeting at Brooklands on July 6, 1907, driving a 1906 Grand Prix Mercedes entered by the wealthy sportsman F. R. Fry.

The Prix de la France

He was leading the Montagu Cup, the main race of the day, and all set to win when he missed the semaphore signal indicating the final turn into the finishing straight. He went round for another lap, letting Jack Hutton, driving a similar 120 hp Mercedes, through to victory-and a purse of 1400 gold sovereigns. At the August Bank Holiday meeting, Resta made no mistake. Driving the same car, he beat Hutton in the prestigious Prix de la France event.

In 1908 Resta was back at Brooklands with a Mercedes, at the second meeting of the season he was involved in a spectacular collision with Frank Newton. Trying to overtake Resta, Newton drove his 90hp Napier too high on the banked track and the wheels of the two cars touched at around 110 mph, ripping spokes from the Napier and a hubcap from the Mercedes. Resta was sufficiently distracted for Newton to take the lead and win. His subsequent protest was overruled.

Joining Austin

He was still driving well enough to attract the attention of the Austin Motor Company, who invited him to join their team for that year's Grand Prix. Resta's performance in this event is chiefly remembered for the fact that the French threw him in jail for crashing twice in practice, for the Austins were little more than stripped touring cars, and were hopelessly outclassed in the event. Resta was only able to place nineteenth.

Switching to Sunbeam

Resta didn't reappear on the racing scene until 1912, when he joined the Sunbeam team for the Coupe de I' Auto, which he led for several laps before being passed by his team-mate, Victor Rigal, shortly before the finish. Even so, he was second in the Coupe de I' Auto and fourth in the Grand Prix, run concurrently. He also appeared at Brooklands that year, both with the Sunbeam and with a 9½-liter Mercedes. Yet it was as a record-breaker that he made his mark on track history that year, taking world's records from 50 to 1000 miles in a 3-liter Sunbeam, and later he used one of the Coupe de I' Auto cars to add further records to his already impressive collection.

In 1913, Resta was in the Sunbeam team for the Grand Prix (in which he finished sixth), drove a 41.9 hp Mercedes at Brooklands, and was one of the team which averaged 90 mph for 1000 miles in a six-cylinder Sunbeam at that track. Again driving in the Sunbeam team, Resta came fifth in the 1914 French Grand Prix, though in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy that year, his car failed to last a lap. At Brooklands he drove the fearsome V-12 Sunbeam, which had a 9-liter aero-engine and was capable of lapping the track at speeds approaching 115 mph, with a top speed of over 120 mph.

First at Chicago and Sheepshead Bay

When war was declared, Resta's lap speed of 113.97 mph at the August Bank Holiday meeting had been the fastest of the season. He left for the US in the autumn of 1914 on a protracted business trip, during which the American branch of Peugeot signed him to drive one of the 1913 Grand Prix cars in the principal races of 1915. He won the Grand Prize and the Vanderbilt Cup, then took over a 1914 GP Peugeot which was even faster. With this car he came second in the 1916 Indianapolis 500, as well as taking first places at Chicago and Sheepshead Bay, which took him into second place in the US National Championship, earning $37,700 in prize money.

There were greater successes in 1916: first place at Indianapolis and in the Vanderbilt Cup crowned a string of victories which earned him $44,400 in prizes and made him the only foreign driver to become the National Champion of the United States of America. The racing calendar was greatly curtailed in 1917, when the Americans entered World War 1, and Resta gradually became preoccupied with commercial considerations, trying to set up an import business dealing in Sunbeam cars. He reappeared in racing in America in 1923, in the autumn of which year he returned to Britain and rejoined the Sunbeam team.

He won the Voiturette race at Penya Rhin in Spain driving a Talbot-Darracq, in which he also took third place in the Grand Prix at the same meeting. He helped with the development of a new Sunbeam Grand Prix car for the 1924 season, though in that event the cars were plagued by misfiring and could not display their full performance. However, Louis Coatalen decided to go for records with one of the cars, and it was while Resta was in the middle of a successful record session on 3 September, which included a flying half-mile at 122.7 mph and 5 miles at 114.23 mph, that a tire burst and the car smashed through a corrugated iron fence and burst into flames, killing Resta instantly.

Dario Resta seen posing with the four-cylinder, sixteen-valve Sunbeam, prior to the Grand Prix de I'ACF at Lyon in 1914
Dario Resta seen posing with the four-cylinder, sixteen-valve Sunbeam, prior to the Grand Prix de I'ACF at Lyon in 1914. Although Italian born, Resta was a British citizen, who later enjoyed much success in American racing against stiff opposition from the leading American drivers
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