Feb 02 2011

Driver Profile: Billy Knipper- Winner of the 1909 Merrimac Valley Trophy

Andrea V: (Italy): " I'm the owner of the trophy won by William Knipper in a Chalmers-Detroit at the Merrimac Valley Trophy Race. Do you have information on the race and Knipper?


William (Billy) Knipper (1882-1968) was an early star of US road races participating in the 1909 Lowell Races, the 1909 vanderbilt Cup Race, the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes and three Indy 500 Races (1911, 1913 and 1914). In the 1914 Indy 500 Guide Guide, Knipper's profile noted:

Billy Knipper is a graduate of the dirt track circuit, having palled with Bob Burman during the latter's numerous barn storming experiences. It is said of him that he drive a circular mile almost as fast as the speed king himself, which is sufficient recommendation for anyone.

Knipper is one of the finest and most gentlemanly fellow in the business, one whom everybody wishes well without exception. It can be truly said of him that he has not an enemy in the world. Burman would rather have him as a teammate, he says, than anyone he knows of, for the simple reason that he can be depended on absolutely.


The trophy that you own was won by Knipper in one of the races held at he three-day automobile racing event on the Merrimac Valley course in Lowell, Massachusetts. On September 6, 1909, Knipper competed against nine "small car" starters in a 127.2-mile race for your "Merrimac Valley Trophy". Automobile Topics described the race in their September 18, 1909 issue:

Billy Knipper was a great favorite with the crowd. He took the lead in the short distance race, making the first round in 12.40, and for four laps he had a friendly brush with hi team-mate, Joe Matson. At the end of the fourth lap, Knipper had a lead of only two seconds over Matson, but on the following round, he opened up a commanding lead and held it to the end.


One month after the Lowell race, Knipper was planning to compete in the 1909 Massapequa Sweepstakes. However when driver Bert Dingley was injured in practice, Knipper became the driver of the #7 Chalmers-Detroit in the 22-lap, 278.08- mile 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race and had one of the best rides of his career. For 15 of the first 20 laps, Knipper was first or second. averaging 65 mph. However, while leading in the 20th lap, his oil line vibrated against the flywheel of the Chalmers-Detroit and was severed. Knipper would finish in third place when the race was called. His fast run did result in some of the most amazing photos from the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race:



On Old Country Road at the Hicksville Turn


Almost losing control on the Westbury Turn from Old Country Road onto Ellison Road in Westbury.


Seconds later, Knipper's mechanician Robert Muller celebrated as the Chalmers-Detroit regained control of the road.


Passing under the Stewart Avenue Motor Parkway Bridge in East Meadow.


Turning off the Long Island Motor Parkway onto a temporary banked road leading to Massapequa-Hicksville Road in Plainedge. The Massapequa Lodge can be seen in the background.



William Knipper was one of six entrants for the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes that ran simultaneously with the Vanderbilt Cup Race. He drove the Italian #54 Lancia.


On lap #8 while taking the Massapequa Turn, Knipper lost control of the Lancia and crashed into a pole. Knipper was thrown from the car and sustained a broken leg whicle his mechanician August Disher was uninjured. Knipper was awarded fourth place.

February 4, 2011 Update: Andrea V: "Ciao, Howard. Thank you for the information. Here are photos of my trophy:"





Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

Archives: 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1909 Race Summary

Drivers Who Raced in the 1911 Indy 500 and the Vanderbilt Cup Races (1904-1910)


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