Goux (Ballot)
11 Jules Goux
Etablissements Ballot
Ballot 3-L
Chassagne (Ballot)
8 Jean Chassagne
Etablissements Ballot
Ballot 3-L
Wagner (Fiat)
2 Louis Wagner
Fiat SpA
Fiat 802


Montichiari Circuit, Brescia (I), 4 September 1921.
30 laps x 17.30 km (10.75 mi) = 519.0 km (322.5 mi)


1René ThomasSunbeam Motor Car Co LtdSunbeam3.0S-8DNA - Did not appear
2Louis WagnerFiat SpAFiat8023.0S-8
3Henry SegraveSunbeam Motor Car Co LtdSunbeam3.0S-8DNA - Did not appear
4Ralph DePalmaEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-8
5XAutomobiles TalbotTalbot-Darracq3.0S-8DNA - Did not appear
6Pietro BordinoFiat SpAFiat80230S-8
7André BoillotAutomobiles TalbotTalbot-Darracq3.0S-8DNA - Did not appear
8Jean ChassagneEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-8
9Augusto TarabusiSocietà Ceirano Automobili TorinoSCATDNA - Did not appear
10Ugo SivocciFiat SpAFiat80230S-8
11Jules GouxEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-8
12XSocietà Ceirano Automobili TorinoSCATDNA - Did not appear
13XFabbrica Automobili ItalaItala51S2.8S-4DNA - Did not appear
14XFabbrica Automobili ItalaItala51S2.8S-4DNA - Did not appear
15XFabbrica Automobili ItalaItala51S2.8S-4DNA - Did not appear

Jules Goux wins the Italian Grand Prix with Ballot

by Hans Etzrodt
The first Italian Grand Prix was held in 1921 on the Montichiari Circuit near Brescia, which was Europe's fastest course at that time. From 15 entries only six cars appeared for the start. Quickest was Bordino (Fiat) who drove the fastest lap at 150.4 km/h and led the race until his pit stop on lap 14. Goux (Ballot) then held first place until the end on lap 30, winning the race. Bordino completed only 16 laps, Sivocci (Fiat) disappeared on lap 18 and DePalma (Ballot) lasted only 21 laps. By winning the Italian Grand prix, Goux had achieved Ballot's first victory. Until this time, Ballot had been followed by bad luck at Indianapolis in 1919, 1920 and 1921, including the French Grand Prix. Chassagne (Ballot) came second and Wagner (Fiat) was third but the driver was also French. The Italians were disappointed about losing the race, which simultaneously counted also for the 5th Coppa Florio.
The Gran Premio d'Italia was held for the first time 1921 at Brescia. The Commissione Sportiva des RACI carried out the organization under supervision of Arturo Mercanti, President of RACI (Royal Italian Automobil Club), the AC di Milano with support from the town of Brescia. The regulations required engines of 3-Liter maximum and a weight limit of no less than 800 kg.
      The Brescia races dated back to September 1907, when Minoia won the Coppa Florio with Isotta-Fraschini and Cagno came first in the Coppa di Velocità driving an Itala. Both were passing through Montichiari on a 60.745 km circuit, which was shortened for 1921. The new Montichiari Circuit was only 17.300 km long on flat terrain just south-east of Brescia in the flatland of Montichiari. The triangular shaped course had the start near the beginning of a 6 km straight, heading south, with three stands on the east side and pits opposite with start and finish, from where the drivers darted along the straight in clockwise direction. At its end a new 1.3 km large avenue was built to bypass Montichiari. Here the circuit tuned right and snaked along a 4.2 km road past Carneri and Santella. At its end were the crossroads of Ghedi with a new wide right turn leading north along the 5.4 km straight which ended at Fascia d'Oro. There it headed east along the newly built 423-meter long Parabolica turn, connecting with the other straight leading now south. About 1 km further on was the finish. The racetrack was between ten and eight meter wide, covered with macadam and spread with tar to avoid dust development. Additionally, stands were installed, also a King's tent, restaurants, car parks, cabins for officials and timekeepers, a press stand, telegraph and telephone office, also on various parts of the circuit. The restoration work had cost more than 1.5 million lire. Five engineers and more than 1000 workers with 12 motorized rollers and the same amount of water sprayers had been busy. With the race running over 30 laps, the cars had to cover a total of 519 km. Peter DePaolo, nephew and riding mechanic of Ralph DePalma, wrote, "it made one of the finest automobile race-courses in the world."
      On August 8 Count Vincenzo Florio made a visit to the Brescia Circuit, where the 5th Coppa Florio was to be held at the same time with the Italian Grand Prix. Florio expressed his highest satisfaction for the importance of the year's work at the Brescia Circuit, one of the largest racetracks in the world.
      An Aeronautical race for fast airplanes was held simultaneously with the Grand Prix on Sunday, September 4. On Thursday 8th of September, a Kilometer Speed Trial took place including the 346 km Grand Prix for Voiturettes up to 1500 cc, simultaneously the Grand Prix of the touring airplanes. On Saturday the 311 km Motorcycle Grand Prix was put on, followed on Sunday by the 432 km Grand Prix Gentlemen, simultaneously supported by the Coupe des Dames Grand Prix of Lady drivers.
The race was open to 3-Liter formula cars. At the beginning of August, the Milano AC had received 15 entries, 3 Ballot from France, 2 Sunbeam and 2 Talbot/Darracq from England, from Italy 3 Fiat, 2 Scat and 3 Itala. A large number of these entries were doubtful. The four British cars did not appear, then the Scat and Itala also withdrew, as they had nothing equivalent to fight against the six 8-cylinder cars. So, the race ended up simply between Fiat and Ballot.
      Fiat raced here for the first time their latest 8-cylinder type 802 with a straight-8 (65 x 112) 2973 cc engine with shaft-driven twin ohc for the 16 valves, delivering 110 hp at 4400 rpm. The car's weight was quoted as 860 kg and top speed of 175 km/h. Drivers with their riding mechanics were Ugo Sivocci with Morganti, Pietro Bordino with Ambrogio Bruno and Louis Wagner with Evasio Lampiano. Giovanni Agnelli, the head of Fiat, and the chief designer Guido Fornaca were guiding the team from the pits.
      Ballot entered three of the 3-Liter cars as raced in July at the French Grand Prix, with straight-8 (66 x 112 mm) 2973 cc engine, delivering 107 hp at 3800 rpm. The weight was quoted as 780 kg and top speed as 180 km/h. The drivers and riding mechanics were Jules Goux with Jules Leboucq, Jean Chassagne with Robert Laly and Ralph DePalma with Peter DePaolo. In the pits Ernest Ballot was directing the team which included Ralph DePalma's brother Johnny, who together with his nephew Peter DePaolo serviced and repaired the car. The racing headquarters was in a section of his Paris plant, where Ballot started with the production of 2-Liter sedan cars in 1921.
On Tuesday evening, of August 23 the Fiat of Wagner and Bordino which came from Turin, arrived at the gates of Brescia and drove to Ghedi. Sivocci was not with his two teammates, but also reached the headquarters of Fiat at Ghedi. Before practice on the course, one could talk for a long time with the drivers of the different teams. DePalma, born in Italy, still spoke Italian with a strong southern accent.
      The first practice was on Friday, 25th of August. Wagner had to battle with De Palma, Bordino was impressive and Sivocci retained a very good smile. The red Fiats had something acrobatic throughout their slender lines. The blue Ballots had an aggressive nose, and concluded in an ogival line with the vertical spare tire, more a stern than a bow. More torpedo boat than torpedo.
      The second practice took place on Sunday, one week before the race. There was great curiosity to see the three French cars, as well as their drivers, and especially DePalma, from whom everyone expected the greatest emotions throughout the morning practice. First among the Italians was Sivocci who did not drive fast. Wagner and Bordino were still busy preparing their Fiats, when the first French cars appeared. The one who raised everyone's admiration, even for his elegance, was DePalma in the white combination which stood out against the dark blue color of the car. Shortly thereafter, at a certain distance from each other, the two latecomers also started, and now laps followed one after another, amid the growing interest of the spectators and the improvised timekeepers. A kind of preliminary battle was started between DePalma and Bordino, who managed to stay at the same distance from each other for a long time. But the American seemed to be the winner of this first day, his average was around 7m35s per lap, and his fastest time was in 7m24.4s at almost 140 km/h average speed. At 3 pm, after the tests were suspended, ordinary traffic was re-established on the roads. For Ballot, practice was not over at all. On Wednesday and Thursday morning, DePalma, Chassagne and Goux were on the circuit again at great speed. On Monday, after his race, DePalma would head for London. The Ballot of DePalma would be completely restored in the Paris factory.
      On Thursday, September 1st was the third practice. The cars made their first laps around the circuit between 5 and 6 in the morning. DePalma did not come out, but Goux and Chassagne made brilliantly the best lap in 7m7s and 7m14s. Sivocci made an incomplete lap to adjust the carburetion while Bordino completed two laps, the fastest of which was in 7m25s. Wagner dominated the last practice session. On the way back, from Fascia d'Oro his exploit was heavily commented, times of 7m03s, 7m02s and 7m01s according to some; 7m03s, 7m02s and 6m59s, according to others. These were the figures performed by Wagner, the captain of the red cars during three successive laps.
Scrutineering and Weighing:
took place on Friday morning at the public weighbridge in Castenedole, planned at 9:30 a.m. for Ballot and 10 a.m. for Fiat. The minimum unloaded weight had to be not less than 800 kg; driver and his mechanic had to weigh not less than 120 kg.

No.CarWeightDriverMechanicCombined Weight
4Ballot889 kgRalph DePalmaPeter DePaolo143.1 kg
8Ballot914 kgJean ChassagneRobert Laly144.4 kg
11Ballot895 kgJules GouxJules Leboucq153.3 kg
2Fiat915 kgLouis WagnerEvasio Lampiano149.2 kg
6Fiat920 kgPietro BordinoAmbrogio Bruno126.1 kg
10Fiat920 kgUgo SivocciMorganti130.7 kg
Early Sunday morning after a brief rain shower the sun was seen in the sky. The first great road race in Northern Italy after the Great War attracted an estimated crowd of over 100,000 spectators with 30 to 40,000 cars arriving for two days and nights from all over Italy. The famous Italian poet Gabriele Annunzio was present together with the journalist Benito Mussolini, including the Baroness Donna Avanza in her red Alfa Romeo, who received more applause than the King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen who drove almost unnoticed to the Royal tent. It was announced that only the three Fiat and three Ballot would start. The King of Italy, an enthusiastic motorist, met with the drivers. The weather was beautiful when the start was given at 8:00 a.m. The six cars were released in one-minute intervals onto the billiard-smooth circuit.
  8h00m ~~~~~


  8h01m ~~~~~


  8h02m ~~~~~


  8h03m ~~~~~


  8h04m ~~~~~


  8h05m ~~~~~


Bordino appeared to be the fastest driver. The Fiat drivers forced their cars more than the Ballot drivers. They also took the corners faster than the Ballot team. Sivocci crashed due to tire trouble and stopped on the second lap to change a tire. In adjusted time the field completed the first lap in the following order:
1.Bordino (Fiat)  7m20.6s
2.Wagner (Fiat)  7m27.4s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)  7m30.0s
4.Goux (Ballot)  7m37.0s
5.DePalma (Ballot)  7m40.0s
6.Sivocci (Fiat)12m31.4s

During the first three laps the order remained the same with Bordino driving a lap in seven minutes flat and his total time at 21m25s followed by Wagner 29 seconds behind. DePalma went to the pits on the third lap. When Wagner had to stop on the fourth lap to change a tire, he dropped to fourth place while Chassagne was second ahead of Goux. On the following lap Bordino drove even faster with a new record lap in 6m58.4s. Goux advanced into second position with the field in the following order after five laps:
1.Bordino (Fiat)35m23.6s
2.Goux (Ballot)36m12.2s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)36m15.6s
4.Wagner (Fiat)37m01.0s
5.DePalma (Ballot)40m10.0s
6.Sivocci (Fiat)41m33.4s

On the sixth lap, there were no changes in the order which remained during the following laps. Bordino pushed his Fiat further with a new record in 6m57.0s on lap six, and even faster on the next lap in 6m55.2s Wagner stopped on lap 7 to change a rear wheel. DePalma passed the Parabolica turn rather slow and his car-track marks were visible on the sun heated surface, always the same until he retired. In comparison, the Fiat drivers quite often needed the entire road width while the Ballot drivers almost every time followed the same tire tracks. On the 8th lap Bordino had established an advantage of 1m18s to Goux with Chassagne 22 seconds behind in third place. The order did not change but the cars had fallen further apart from each other after 9 laps with Bordino now over one lap ahead of Sivocci in the slowest Fiat. The times after 10 laps:
1.Bordino (Fiat)1h10m11.8s
2.Goux (Ballot)1h11m43.4s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)1h12m23.6s
4.Wagner (Fiat)1h13m52.8s
5.DePalma (Ballot)1h16m45.0s
6.Sivocci (Fiat)1h17m34.2s

During the second hour Bordino drove a lap in 6m55.0s on lap 11. On the following lap he established the fastest lap of the race in 6m54.2s at 150.362 km/h average speed. Wagner stopped on lap 12 to change a rear wheel. Goux remained in second place but drove laps of just over 7 minutes.
      Gazzetta della Sport wrote, the large grandstand of the Parabolica turn was crowded. The piles of sand bags lined along the inner and outer edges were put on for the "thrill", like the safety net under the somersaults and the trapezes of the acrobats, they are not called to work by the drivers. Everyone turned at 100 km per hour, with the boldness that did not cross the boundaries of wise judgment. Goux on the rope, as if caressing the curve; Chassagne with greater force and Wagner roughly commanding the car.
      After 13 laps Bordino headed for the pits for fuel and tires. After the 14th lap the Ballot of Goux was leading, only 16 seconds ahead of Bordino. On the 15th lap Goux drove in 7m00.2s his best time but thereafter he slowed his pace slightly. His average lap time during the first 15 laps was 7m19.6s, with the times after mid-race as follows after 15 laps:
1.Goux (Ballot)1h46m54.2s
2.Bordino (Fiat)1h48m16.2s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)1h48m17.0s
4.DePalma (Ballot)1h52m47.6s
5.Sivocci (Fiat)1h53m21.4s
6.Wagner (Fiat)1h53m52.2s

After the 16th lap, the three Ballots were in front with Goux leading Chassagne by 1m27s and DePalma six minutes behind the leader. The Fiat drivers Sivocci and Wagner followed further behind with Bordino trailing. Lap after lap the with same order, the spectators under the glowing sun became tired with the monotony. Something happened which had never been seen before. Thousands of motorists started their cars and left in long uninterrupted lines when still half the race was going on. After lap 17, Goux proceeded with a slightly less potent pace, leading Chassagne by 1m40s and DePalma by over six minutes followed by Sivocci, Wagner and Bordino. On lap 19, Bordino stopped at the pits with terminal damage to his car, after 2h10m20s. With 16m14s behind Goux he had completed only 16 laps. After 3 days in the Turin factory, the engine was opened, and a broken connecting rod was found to be the problem, caused probably by a broken oil connection or oil pump. After 19 laps the three Ballots were still in front with Wagner's Fiat in fourth place, while Sivocci retired on the same lap. As he was one lap down, he completed only 17 laps. Officially the magneto had failed, which the team in the pits decided not to replace and Sivocci's car was retired. The day before the race, Fiat removed the American ignition magnetos and replaced them with Marelli types, which was the cause for losing Sivocci's car. The times were as follows after 20 laps:
1.Goux (Ballot)2h22m32.4s
2.Chassagne (Ballot)2h24m32.2s
3.DePalma (Ballot)2h29m03.0s
4.Wagner (Fiat)2h30m27.2s

On the 21st lap the procession continued in the same order but on lap 22 DePalma retired his Ballot. He stopped quite a distance from the stands. Peter DePaolo, DePalma's nephew and riding mechanic stated in his book Wall Smacker that the crankshaft broke. The field had shrunk to three cars, the two Ballots in front ahead of one Fiat. The race had become so boring, that there was a continuous flow of cars exiting the circuit, not interested to see a winning Ballot. The times were as follows after 25 laps:
1.Goux (Ballot)2h58m32.2s
2.Chassagne (Ballot)3h01m45.0s
3.Wagner (Fiat)3h07m18.0s

Spectators kept leaving having lost all interest in this disappointing outcome to be expected. Even the young King of Italy in the special grandstand for honorable guests had enough satisfaction and he decided to leave the grandstand five minutes before the end. The King was at the head of the caravan, as the Ballot of Goux crossed the finish line victorious at the end of 30 laps, after 3h35m09s, to enthusiastic applause by the crowd. Chassagne in the second Ballot followed almost six minutes behind while Wagner had to keep on driving as he was over one lap down after having to change five tires. The Ballot did not have to change their Pirelli tires a single time. Ernest Ballot was standing in front of the vacant King's grandstand when Goux appeared as the winner. Goux was simultaneously winner of the Coppa Florio and the trophy went to Ballot as the winning manufacturer. Two French cars finished on top while the third place was taken by a French driver. Ballot who had produced only racecars, had now achieved their first great victory. Until this moment they had been pursued by bad luck at Indianapolis in 1919, 1920 and 1921 and in France earlier this year.
      The winner of the Italian Grand Prix was awarded an object of art in silver, founded by the A. C. d'Italia to Ballot (driver Goux); the second received a great Gold Medal to Ballot (driver Chassagne); third was given a Gold Medal to Fiat (driver Wagner). The winner of the 1921 Coppa Florio, Ballot (driver Goux) was presented with the Coppa challenge trophy; the second was awarded a reduction of the Coppa Florio which went to Ballot (Chassagne); the third received the Ministry of Industry Price to Fiat (driver Wagner) and an award for fastest lap was given to Fiat (Bordino).
      The Aeronautical Grand Prix held simultaneously, went above the Montichiari circuit over a distance of 280 km. From the 45 entries, all were Italians except the famous French pilot Sadi Lacointe in his Nienport airplane, who won the Aeronautical Grand Prix for France at 230 km/h after 1h13m9.2s.



1.11Jules GouxEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-8303h35m09s
2.8Jean ChassagneEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-8303h40m52s+   5m43s
3.2Louis WagnerFiat SpAFiat8023.0S-8303h45m33s+ 10m24s
DNF4Ralph DePalmaEtablissements BallotBallot3L3.0S-821crankshaft
DNF10Ugo SivocciFiat SpAFiat8023.0S-817ignition magnet
DNF6Pietro BordinoFiat SpAFiat8023.0S-816connecting rod
Fastest lap: Pietro Bordino (Fiat) on lap 12 in 6m54.2s = 150.4 km/h (93.4 mph).
Winner's average speed: 144.7 km/h (89.9 mph).
Weather: overcast, later sunny and hot.

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Automobil-Welt, Berlin
L'Auto, Paris
La Gazzetta dello Sport, Milano
La Stampa, Torino
La Stampa Sportiva, Torino
Le Miroir des Sports, Paris
Omnia, Paris
Stadium, Barcelona
Special thanks to:
Giuseppe Prisco
Alessandro Silva


© 2021 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 12.09.2021