24 – 30 April: Motoring Milestones

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130 years ago this week, the first motor car race in history took place, the Neuilly-Versailles-Neuilly, a distance of 20 miles, organised by the journalist Fossier. Compte de Dion and his steam tricycle completed the course in 1 hour and 14 minutes – not so fast in a vehicle that could do almost 40 mph. However, one detail should be mentioned – he was the only competitor! [27 April 1887]…….  110 years ago this week, the first production Chadwick was given its initial road test with company Sales manager Harold B. Larzelere driving in the company of journalist Hugh Dolnar, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, US [27 April 1907]…… 90 years ago this week, Emilio Materassi, driving a Bugatti T35C won the Targa Florio over 5 laps of the 108 km Medio Madonie circuit [24 April 1927]……. The first Dodge Convertible Cabriolet was produced [25 April 1927]……. 80 years ago this week, the first race meeting was held at the Crystal Palace track, called a “miniature Nürburgring” by the British motor press [24 April 1937]. The twisty

Crystal Palace circuit - 1930s

Crystal Palace circuit – 1930s

circuit with a new “Panamac” non-skid surface was completed in 5 months. The Coronation Trophy was won by Pat Fairfield (ERA). The Autocar magazine ran the following story, full of praise for the track: “If the Crystal Palace can continue to hold public imagination as it did last Saturday, a new phase in the history of racing has begun. The whole thing was a fine spectacle; the roars of racing exhausts seemed to sound from every direction at once. Crowds excited by the cornering, spent a hectic time running up a bank to see one group of turns, running back again, the better to observe another.” Sadly, the onset of the Second World War brought a premature end to racing at the park, but not before Crystal Palace had claimed another ‘first’ when Dick Seaman, one of Britain’s first motor racing superstars, completed a televised demonstration run in his Mercedes W125. The event, held in October 1937, was the first time a motorsport event had been broadcast live on TV……. 60 years ago this week, Mike Hailwood took part in his first motorcycle

Mike Hailwood

Mike Hailwood

race, at Oulton Park, England [27 April 1957]……. Paul Goldsmith drove his Smokey Yunick Ford to victory in the 250 lap NASCAR Grand National race at the Greensboro Agricultural Fairgrounds 1/3 mile dirt track in Northa Carolina, US [28 April 1957]. Jack Smith’s factory backed Chevrolet finished 5 seconds behind in second. Under pressure from the manufacturers association, Bill France banned superchargers and fuel injection. Both had been legal because they were available to the public….. On the same day [28 April 1957] the Ferrari Dino 156 F2 debuted in the Naples Grand Prix, Italy with Luigi Musso at the wheel. He finished third. Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn in their Lancia-Ferrari D50A’s were first and second. Hawthorn sat on pole and also set fastest lap but could not out drive Collins on that day…… 50 years ago this week, Fred Lorenzen, one of the most successful Stock Car drivers in history, announced his retirement at a banquet in his honor [24 April 1967]. Suffering from ulcers, the 33 year

Fred Lorenzen

Fred Lorenzen

old driver said “I want to go out while I’m on top…”. The ulcers forced him to miss the North Wilkesboro and Martinsville races. After a brief foray into GN racing in 1956, Lorenzen ran the USAC Stock Car trail, winning the 1958 & ’59 USAC titles before moving South. Lorenzen ran his own car in 1960 until his money ran out and he returned home to Elmhurst, Illinois and began working as a carpenter. The Holman-Moody team called Lorenzen and asked him to drive their factory backed Ford on the GN circuit in 1961. For the next 6 years, the Lorenzen/Holman-Moody combination had great success, earning the blonde haired driver the nickname of “The Golden Boy”. The list of Lorenzen’s accomplishments are truly impressive. In 1963, his earnings of $122,587 marked the first time in NASCAR history a driver had earned $100,000 in a season. He won 26 GN races in his career and at the time of his retirement held the marks for career money earned ($375,000), most wins in races of 250 miles or longer (21), most superspeedway wins (12), consecutive wins in “major” races (5) and was the only driver to have won races at all the existing superspeedways (Atlanta, Charlotte, Darlington, Daytona and Rockingham)…… John Wyer’s Mirage, based on the Ford GT40, made its racing debut in a 1000 km race at Monza, Italy, but the car was plagued with minor breakdowns as Ferrari captured the top two places [25 April 1967]…… Lotus Cars Ltd. introduced its new, ultra low, two-door mid-1498cc engine Lotus Europa, with a top speed of 121 mph [28 April 1967]….. meanhile, Bobby Allison drove away from a duel with James Hylton to win the 100 mile NASCAR GN race on the 1/2 mile dirt Savannah Speedway, Georgia, US [28 April 1967]. Allison took the lead from Hylton on lap 86. Hylton stayed in contention until lap 183, when he spun his Dodge and was hit by Buck Baker. Allison’s J.D. Bracken Chevrolet went on to finish 16 seconds ahead of Richard Petty. Shortly before the race, Allison was named to replace David Pearson in the Cotton Owens Dodge…….40 years ago this week, Robert Horne set a Flying Mile British land speed record at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, in the ex-Scuderia Montjuich Ferrari 512M, chassis number 1002, at a speed of 191.64 mph [24 April 1977]……. 30 years ago this week, John Morton and Hurley Haywood drove the Group 44 Jaguar XJR-7 to victory in the IMSA Camel GT Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside, California [26 April 1987]……. 20 years ago this week, Warren Johnson made the first 6.8 second 1/4-mile run (6.894 seconds) and the first 200 mph pass (200.13) in a Pro Stock drag racer in NHRA history, at Richmond, Virginia [25 April 1997]……. Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Williams, won the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in time of 1:31 [27 April 1997]. He qualified second and set the fastest lap of the race trying to stay ahead of Michael Schumacher who finished right behind him 1.2 seconds later. Eddie Irvine had a good drive from 9th to finish third. Polesitter, Jacques Villeneuve was out with gearbox problems on lap 40…… 10 years ago this week,

Warren Avis

Warren Avis

Warren Edward Avis (91), the American entrepreneur, who founded Avis Rent A Car System Inc. in 1946, died [24 April 2007]. Avis’ early career began as a sales man for a drug company, the working for the Michigan Department of Investigation where he was an agent investigating auto dealership…… BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld made history as the first driver in over 30 years to tackle the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in a contemporary Formula One car [28 April 2007]. Heidfeld’s three demonstration laps round the German circuit in an F1.06 were the highlight of festivities celebrating BMW’s contribution to motorsport. About 45,000 spectators showed up for the main event. Former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck was injured during the race when he crashed his BMW Z4. The following day [29 April 2007]  A1 Team Great Britain broke the home race curse, winning the Brands Hatch Sprint race at the 2006/07 season finale. Forty-two races into the series, Great Britain became the first team to win on home soil.

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