Editor: Jaap Horst
The year 1923 marked the first participation of Argentinian race drivers in the Indianapolis 500 race. The team, led by Martin Álzaga Unzué, nicknamed "Macoco", had invited racing drivers Raul Riganti, "Macoco" himself and frenchman Pierre De Vizcaya, a friend of Riganti. Alzaga had ordered three new cars with Bugatti for the race, tempted by the good result obtained by Bugatti in the Grand Prix of Italy in 1922, where where Bugatti reached second place, only a little behind the Fiat of Pietro Bordino.
The cars in question were the Bugatti Type 30 Indianapolis, especially constructed on a "Strasbourg" chassis, with a monoposto body designed by the frenchman Bechereau, who had designed the famous Spad aeroplane, hero of the First World War.
Contrary to what was the planning, Bugatti sent five cars to Indianapolis instead of three. Furthermore the Argentine Bugatti team cars were not new cars, but replicas constructed on used and modified Type 30 chassis. The other two cars, which would be driven by Count Stanislaw Zborowski (chassis 4004) and the Prince of Cystria (chassis 4002), were new cars along the specifications as ordered by the Argentinian team.
Macoco, therefore, soon cried out to the sky, as the cars of the Argentine team were a fiasco, and all had to abandon the race because of mechanical problems.
Worse, the assistance by the Bugatti mechanics during classification and race were far less intensive than envisaged, because the Bugatti team instead of three cars, had to attend the five who had enrolled...
The 1923 race was organised with new rules reducing engine capacity to 2 litres with 46 cars arriving at the start, including Packard, Durant, Duesenberg and Miller of the United States, and Mercedes-Benz and Bugatti as European representatives, among others.
The first Bugatti to drop out of the competition was the mentor of the company, Martin Álzaga Unzué; fracture of a connecting rod threw him out of the race on lap six. On lap 20 Riganti entered the pits, but he would not return to the track, due to a fuel tank rupture. On lap 41 it is the Count Zborowski who suffers the same problem as Álzaga Unzué, and must abandon the race. On lap 165, and having reached fifth place, De Vizcaya enters the pits; the third connection rod fractured for the team.
The only survivor of the Bugatti team was the prince de Cystria, who finished in a poor ninth place. Tommy Milton was the winner of the race, at the wheel of an HCS Special, averaging 91 miles per hour. "Macoco" told about his odyssey to Enrique Sánchez Ortega in "Corsa" in July 1972: "I was in Europe and wanted to form a team to go for a run in Indianapolis. Fiat dominated the racing scene, but could not give me any car for this race, which I planned to run with Riganti. I then got in touch with Ettore Bugatti and I bought the cars identical to those of the Grand Prix of Italy, as one of their cars had finished second only two meters away from Bordino. The Bugatti was driven by Pierre de Vizcaya.
The cars were two-liter eight-cylinders." "The old Bugatti was a deceiver. We were on the circuit Riganti and I, awaiting the arrival of our cars while we admired the wonders that the American cars were. Perfect in every way, immaculate, with engines that were a proof of genius. This was especially the case with Miller. When the boxes arrived with our Bugattis and were opened there on the track, we look at eachotherRiganti and I, we were feeling like escaping from the shame they gave us. The finish of the cars was bad, the bodies were hammered and badly painted, one would feel sorry for the cars. Ettore Bugatti was a hypocrit, a bad person."
"During training we broke six engines. We would be racing on the straight and suddenly exploded ... BOOOMMM ... everything. I was lucky because when I broke my connection rods all parts went out below ... If the parts would have gone to the side or up, they would have cut my legs. Riganti was shocked and had a kind of extensions made for the pedals of his car. He drove as if he was squatting, but if the engine burst, he would be more likely to save his legs ..." "I could only make six laps in the race. After which the engine broke. The whole time during practice I felt under me, a noise like blu-blu-blu-blu, And you know what was happening? Under the seat the oil tank was located, the oil heated up and began to boil: I put a sheet of asbestos between two sheets of aluminum under the seat, so if exploded tank, at least I would go unharmed ... "
Indianapolis marked the first chapter of the romance between the Argentines and the Molsheim brand, and it is in Argentina where the only surviving Indianapolis 1923 car remains, chassis 4004, the car of Count Zborowski.
The original article in Spanish can be found here: www.retrovisiones.com/2014/04/la-patria-bugattista/
Estanislao (Lao) Iacona together with Cristián Bertschi wrote the book: Bugatti Argentina