500-mile race in Indianapolis.
He had long been a superstar in North American motor sport when he won the fifth “International Indianapolis 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race” driving a Mercedes Grand Prix racing car on 31 May 1915. And yet for Raffaele DePalma, born in southern Italy in 1882 and known as Ralph, this victory had a very special importance. Back in 1912, in the second of these classic “Indy 500” races, nothing seemed to stand in the way of victory for him: DePalma was in the lead from the third lap until shortly before the end of the race, when engine damage set him back in the penultimate lap. To the rapturous applause of 80,000 spectators, he and his co-driver Rupert Jeffkins pushed the car the remaining three miles to the finishing line for eleventh place.
And now – three years later – triumph was eventually and resoundingly his, with Louis Fontaine as co-driver. DePalma won in 5 hours, 33 minutes and 55 seconds and with an average speed of 144.58 km/h (89.84 mph), having been in the lead from the 135th lap to the end of the race in the 200th lap. Almost 80 years later, Al Unser Jr. harked back to this glorious Mercedes victory in Indianapolis by winning the 500-mile race (804,5 km) on the legendary oval circuit in a Penske-Mercedes PC 23 IndyCar in 1994.