Louis Bennett LeCocq
1892 - 1919
This signed photograph of Louis LeCocq was taken in either 1915 or 1916. The car is believed to have been a Bullet – Rex LeCocq collection
Although usually listed as a 'Frenchman', Louis Bennett LeCocq was born in Pella, Iowa. He met the Duesenberg brothers in Des Moines, Iowa in 1913 and began working as a mechanic for their fledgling racing team.
In October, 1914, Louis ran his first race as riding mechanic for Ralph Mulford in a Duesenberg in Galesburg, Illinois. They won the 100 mile race when leader Bob Burman ran out of gas just yards short of the finish line.
Louis accompanied the three-car Duesenberg team to Southern California during the winter of 1914-15, riding in several races there. While out west, he was approached by J. Alex Sloan to join his band of barn-storming drivers. Louis accepted and for the next two years, drove for Sloan touring the United States in the process.
In 1917, fellow Sloan driver Eddie Hearne purchased a new Duesenberg and invited LeCocq to be his riding mechanic as Hearne ran the AAA championship circuit. They won sprint races in Trenton, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; and Richmond, Virginia before winning the Uniontown, Pennsylvania board track race from the pole. They finished the year fourth in points for the AAA National Driving Championship.
When Hearne decided to join the Frontenac team prior to a March, 1918 race at Ascot in California, Louis was offered the Duesenberg (now called a Roamer) to drive both in the race and for the rest of the season. (This race pitted the `outlaws' of the IMCA against the `lily-whites' of the AAA.) Louis finished second to Tommy Milton in the first heat, only to flip the Roamer in the second heat. Louis went on to win one of three heats in an April race in Bakersfield, California; won all three heats of a race in Santa Rosa, California; and then participated unsuccessfully at the Uniontown, Pennsylvania board track races in May.
Louis was then drafted into the armed forces for World War I. He spent a few months in the Naval Training Camp at Gulfport, Mississippi, before being released after contracting a serious case of Spanish Influenza.
Louis started the 1919 season driving the Newman Stutz to a fine third place finish in the prestigious Santa Monica Road Race. He fell out of the race while running third in the Ascot All Star Sweepstakes a week later.
Roscoe Sarles won three of the first four races of 1919 in his Roamer / Duesenberg (not the same Roamer owned by Hearne). Sarles then accepted a ride in Barney Oldfield's Golden Submarine for Indianapolis and selected Louis to drive the Roamer for the balance of 1919. Along with the Roamer came a young and very rich riding mechanic from Los Angeles, named Robert Bandini.
LeCocq and Bandini's first race together was on the board track at Uniontown, Pennsylvania where they finished sixth.
Indianapolis was next. They qualified 25th at an average speed of 92.9 mph. During the race they had moved up to fourth position when a tire burst entering turn two on the 96th lap. The car slammed into the wall and burst into flames. Both men were covered in gasoline and burned to death before help could arrive. Howdy Wilcox won the race while Louis' good friend, Eddie Hearne, finished second.
Louis is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery at Pella, Iowa.