Ralph Hepburn

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Ralph Hepburn on a Harley-Davidson 1919

Ralph Hepburn (born April 11, 1896 in Somerville , † May 16, 1948 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ) was an American motorcycle and car racer .



Ralph Hepburn, who at the age of ten years with his parents from Massachusetts to Los Angeles moved, began before the First World War with the motorcycle sport . He competed in dirt and board track races and was a member of a motorcycle performance troupe that performed motorcycle art rides all over the west coast. He became nationally known in 1919 as a works driver for Harley-Davidson after his victory in the 200-mile race at Ascot Park . In the early 1920s, he became the top rider in American motorcycle racing. He moved from Harley-Davidson to Indian as a works rider and won the 300-mile National Championship in 1921 and 1922.

Automobile sport

In 1924, Hepburn switched from motorcycle to automobile racing. In 1925 he made his debut on a Miller at the Indianapolis 500 mile race , where he competed 15 times until 1946. His Indianapolis career spanned three decades, and in each of those three decades he was in the lead in at least one race. But he never won the 500 miles. He finished third in 1931 and six years later, when he finished second to Wilbur Shaw , he missed the win by just 2.1 seconds.

During the Second World War he served as President of the Society for Professional American Racing Drivers for a period and in 1946, at the age of 50, competed in his 15,500 mile race. Hepburn qualified for pole position ; led 44 laps in the race, but retired on lap 121 after an accident. In 1948 he was the race on the new single-seater of Preston Tucker contest, but was killed in training. He left behind his wife Ida Mae and a daughter.


  • Rick Popely, L. Spencer Riggs: Indianapolis 500 Chronicle. Publications International Ltd., Lincolnwood IL 1998, ISBN 0-7853-2798-3 .

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