Bert Dingley

21/8/1885 - 7/4/1966

Bert Dingley

Born in Oakdale, California, Bert Dingley was one of the pioneering West Coast drivers.

He started racing in 1904 and later in the year joined the Pope Motor Car Company works team. At his first meeting for them at the Los Angeles Agricultural Park he drove a Pope-Toledo in four races taking three firsts and a second.

The following year he raced in the American Elimination Trial for the Vanderbilt Cup Race once again driving a Pope-Toledo. Bert overtook Joe Tracy in the Locomobile on the last lap to take the win by 59 seconds, covering the 113 miles at an average speed of 56.2 mph. This earned him one of the five entires for the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

In the race he was running well on the first lap when he suffered mechanical problems. A lengthy stop for repairs ensued and one completed he rejoined but was still well behind in 12th place when the race ended.

For the 1906 American Elimination Trial, Dingley was asked by his friend Herb Lytle to be his riding mechanic and together they took their Pope-Toledo to a fourth place finish. Sadly though they were disqualified for receiving outside assistance to start the car on lap 8.

In 1909 he raced a Chalmers-Detroit in AAA taking wins at Portland and Santa Monica. In the seven races he also took 2 seconds and a third. This was enough for him to be declared the first American Championship Car Racing Champion. However when the 1902 to 1908 championship results were reviewed on the basis of better information in 1951 Dingley was stripped of the championship which was then awarded to George Robertson.

In October that year he caused a bit of a stir at the Fairmont Park Motor races when his wife joined his as his riding mechanic for four laps during practice. It was not the first time she had ridden with her husband and had actually raced with him at Portland. She actually had to do some work as Bert got a puncture. While she removed the tyre Bert got the new one ready and put it on.

Returning to drive for Pope again in 1910, he entered the Vanderbilt Cup Races in 1910 driving a Pope-Hartford. The race now featured pits with two crew members who could help the driver and riding mechanic though their activities were limited to changing tyres and refueling and topping up oil and water. They could also help with the cranking of the car to restart it. He started in 20th and was running well and up to 5th place on lap 8 but at the finish he had dropped to tenth, having completed the 22 laps at an average speed of 59.90 mph.

1911 he continued with the Pope-Hartford in AAA taking a win in San Francisco as well as a second in San Francisco, Bakersfield and Santa Monica.

He didn't race much in 1912. He did enter the Indy 500 driving a Simplex he started 10th but retired on lap 116 with a broken con-rod.

He started 1914 racing a Pope-Hartford in the William K. Vanderbilt Cup at Santa Monica but retired in practice. At this time Bert was in charge of the sales department of the Los Angeles Pope-Hartord dealership so when Frank Young, a wealthy young man who as acted as a riding mechanic for Bert in 1913 acquired the 14 litre S74 Fiat with an unrepairable engine, it was logical to install a Pope Hartford OHV replacement into the chassis. After rejecting every sugestion for a name for the resulting machine in desperation someone uttered "Oh no" and that was it...the Ono was christened.

They took it to the newly opened Pacific Coast Speedway, seven miles south of Tacoma, after a promissing 4th in the first race, the 200 mile Golden Potlach Trophy Race, he was then seriously injured the following day in the second, the 250 mile Montamarathon Trophy Race, and spent months recovering in the hospital.

Bert Dingley died at the age of 84 on April 7, 1966 in Indianapolis, Indiana.



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