22-28 June: Motoring Milestones

Discover the momentous motoring events that took place this week in history ……….

120 years ago this week, Oliver Lippincott became the first motorist in Yosemite National Park, when he drove there in his Locomobile steamer [24 June 1900]. Lippincott would start a trend with his visit, as motorists increasingly chose to drive to National Parks, avoiding the more time-consuming train and coach rides. By 1901, a number of other motorists had made the trip to Yosemite, mostly in Locomobiles. A personal account survives from motorist William A Clark, who, with his wife, drove the fifth car into the park. Clark, who travelled from San Francisco, eloquently expressed the miraculous feeling of climbing to the elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level on the Big Oak Flat Road: “Individually, our souls were inspired; mentally, we were enchanted; personally, we could say nothing, for words fail when the Creator lays before us the sublime in the highest sense.” Of his arrival into the Yosemite Valley, Clark described a less sublime, but equally sympathetic, brand of satisfaction: “We ran our machine into the midst of a circle of Eastern tourists, seated around a large campfire. To say that the apparition of an automobile suddenly appearing among them called forth general applause and hearty congratulations but feebly expresses it.” The automobile is in large part responsible for creating the uniquely American culture of the National Park…… 110 years ago this week, Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. was founded as A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) in Milan [24 June 1910]. The company has been involved in car racing since 1911. It was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986, when it became a part of the Fiat group. In February 2007, the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Group Automobiles, now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy. The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. On June 24, 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A. ventured into motor racing, with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models. In August 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo -30 HP the first car to be so badged. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, which backed the Ing. Nicola Romeo & Co, went broke and the government needed to support the industrial companies involved, among which was Alfa Romeo, through the “Consorzio per Sovvenzioni sui Valori Industriali”. In 1925, the railway activities were separated from the Romeo company, and in 1928, Nicola Romeo left. In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the banner of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government, which then had effective control. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War, and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars, though the Italian government parent company, Finmeccanica, struggled to make a profit, so it sold the marque to the Fiat Group in 1986. Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motorsport, including Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing, and rallies. It has competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries (usually under the name Alfa Corse or Autodelta), and private entries. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motorsport, which gave a sporty image to the whole marque. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins of any marque in the world……90 years ago this week, Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston won the Le Mans 24-hour race in

their Bentley Speed Six, the fourth consecutive win for the marque bin this event [22 June 1930]. Barnato, in his third and last appearance, recorded his third victory to complete a perfect record…….Frederick Henry Royce pioneering car manufacturer, who with Charles Stewart Rolls founded the Rolls-Royce company, was knighted by King George V [ June 1930]…….80 years ago this week, Henry Ford was awarded the James Watt International Medal by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers at a diner in Detroit, Michigan [ June 1940]…….70 years ago this week, the seventh race of the 1950 NASCAR season was run at Dayton Speedway at Dayton, Ohio [25 June 1950]. Dick Linder won the pole. Jimmy Florian muscled his Ford past Curtis Turner with 32 laps remaining and won the 100-mile event at Dayton Speedway. It was the first win in Grand National competition for the Ford nameplate. The lead changed hands six times among four different drivers with Florian holding the upper hand on two occasions for a total of 40 laps. Along with ushering in Ford’s first win, Florian established another “first” on the muggy afternoon. He pulled into victory lane and climbed out wearing nothing but his white pants. The 27-year-old Cleveland mechanic said he decided not to wear a shirt due to the hot weather and since there was no NASCAR rule requiring him to do so. “It was awfully hot and I knew I’d be more comfortable without a shirt,” said Florian. “I’ve done it several times before, but not in the Grand Nationals.” Dick Linder started on the pole and led on two occasions for 35 laps. He eventually finished second as Buck Barr came in third. Turner wound up fourth and Art Lamey was fifth. Lloyd Moore finished 23rd in the field of 25 and failed to earn any championship points, but he still held a 202.5 point lead over Lee Petty who finished eighth. Florian jumped to third in the standings, 171.5 points out of first place. Frank Mundy drove a Nash Ambassador, but fell out early with mechanical problems. Herschel Buchanan drove another Nash to a sixth-place finish……..60 years ago this week, NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood scored a wire-to-wire victory at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, starting third and leading all 200 laps of the International 200 [26 June 1960]. Wood finished half a lap ahead of Lee Petty, the last driver on the lead lap. Rex White took third place…….Juan Jover (56), the first Spaniard to drive in Formula One died in a road accident when his convertible left the road and fell off a cliff near Sitges in Catalonia [28 June 1960]……. 50 years ago this week, filming of staged racing sequences for the movie “Le Mans” began [22 June 1970]. The star of the film, Steve McQueen had intended to actually race a Porsche 917 together with Jackie Stewart, but the 26 entry was not accepted. Instead, in the movie, he was shown starting the race on the blue 20 Gulf-Porsche 917K, which in the real race was driven by Jo Siffert and Brian Redman. The race-leading white 25 Porsche 917 “Long tail” was piloted by Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens, Jr..The Porsche 908/2 which McQueen had previously co-driven to a second place in the 12 Hours of Sebring was entered by Solar Productions to compete in the race, equipped with heavy movie cameras providing actual racing footage from the track. Additional footage shot after the race used genuine racing cars of the day, mainly Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 models, painted as real competitors which staged the main rivalry in the 1970 season and the film. According to rules, 25 of each sports car had to be built, so enough were available, compared to few if any of the prototype class. In the crash scenes, cheaper Lola T70 chassis were sacrificed, disguised with bodywork of the Porsche and Ferrari. Despite being depicted as the factory-backed Ferrari team, the 512’s used were borrowed from Belgian Ferrari distributor Jacques Swaters. Enzo Ferrari had been approached to supply the cars but refused official Ferrari participation after reading the script and finding out that the movie ends with a victory for Porsche. Enzo told the producers they could only use the factory 512’s if the script was re-written to have a Ferrari win the race. His request was refused…….30 years ago this week, Phil Brachtvogel ran the first 200 mph bike pass in the UK, 201.75 mph at Avon Park [23 June 1990]…… Alain Prost driving a Ferrari 641/2 won the Mexican Grand Prix held at Hermanos Rodriguez [24 June 1990]. In winning Prost became only the second multiple-winner in Mexican Grand Prix history, joining British driver Jim Clark. It was Prost’s second win for the year after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix. Prost won the race by 26 seconds over his British team mate Nigel Mansell. Third was Austrian driver Gerhard Berger driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Prost’s win and Berger’s third coupled points leader Ayrton Senna stopping with a puncture late in the race allowed both drivers to close to be eight points behind Senna……….. Paramount released ‘Days of Thunder’, a film created by the team that brought the world Top Gun [27 June 1990]. In Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise starred as Cole Trickle, a brash young stock-car racer with more skill than brains. He gets a ride from team owner Tim Daland (Randy Quaid), and sets out to take the NASCAR establishment by storm in his Mellow Yellow car.

 

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