25-31 January: Motoring Milestones

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

130 years ago this week, inventor of the first internal combustion engine to efficiently burn fuel directly in a piston chamber, Nikolas Otto (58) – cover image, died [26 January 1891]. Although in 1861 Ailphonse Beau de Rochas had invented and patented the concept of four strokes, with the vital compression of the mixture before ignition, Otto was the first to make it practical…….110 years ago this wee, the first Monte Carlo Rally ended with Frenchman Henri Rougier, in a Turcat-Mery, declared the winner [28 January 1911]. The event, officially the Rallye Monte Carlo,

was organized at the behest of Prince Albert I (great-grandfather of current Prince Albert II and grandfather of Prince Rainier III, who married American actress Grace Kelly). Like many motoring contests of the time, it was seen primarily as a way for auto manufacturers to test new cars and new technologies, much like the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.Results of the hybrid event depended not on driving time alone, but on judges’ assessment of the automobiles’ design and passenger comfort, as well as what condition the vehicles were in after covering 1,000 kilometers of roads not really made for the horseless carriage. The arbitrary system provoked a minor outrage, but the judges’ decision stood. Automobile dealer Henri Rougier won first place in a Turcat-Méry 45-horsepower model. Second place went to a driver named Aspaigu in a Gobron and third to Jules Beutler in a Martini. The rally was held again the following year, but then not again until 1924. World War II and its aftermath interrupted the annual event, with no rallies from 1940 through 1948.Winning the rally gave a car manufacturer a great deal of publicity and trustworthiness. Before Paddy Hopkirk won the rally in 1964, Mini was seen as being just a commuter car. After winning, the Mini Cooper was seen as a world-beater and a hot performance car — all thanks to the Rallye. The Monte Carlo Rally is a racing event unlike any other. Where most speed contests are held on specially prepared and scrupulously maintained race tracks, the Monte Carlo is held on the roads to the north of the principality (which has a total area of just 0.76 square mile). Unlike on a race track, where there are walls to keep the cars from flying off, and safety crews seemingly every 50 yards or so, the Monte Carlo Rally has distinguishing features like narrow mountain roads, cliffs with drop-offs measured in the hundreds of feet, snow and ice. About a quarter of its stages are run at night in pitch blackness. Since 1973, the race has been held in January as the first race of the FIA World Rally Championship season. Running under the WRC calendar, the Monte Carlo Rally has highlighted wins from some of the greatest rally drivers of all time. Sandro Munari won the Monte Carlo three times in a row. Walter Röhrl had four victories. The tragic Henri Toivonen blazed to victory in 1986. Finnish superstar Tommi Mäkinen won four times in a row. And all of them were eclipsed by the young French phenomenon Sébastien Loeb, who has won Monte Carlo a staggering five times. And the cars these drivers piloted to victory also rank as some of the all-time greats: the svelte and diminutive Alpine-Renault A110 1800, the sci-fi–looking Lancia Stratos, the brutal Audi Quattro A2, the suicidally fast Lancia Delta S4, Mitsubishi’s evergreen Lancer Evo and most recently the Citroën Xsara WRC……..70 years ago this week, the Interlagos Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Chico Landi driving a Ferrari 125C [25 January 1951]…… The Ford Victoria, a 2-door hardtop coupe designed by Gordon M Buehrig, was introduced as a midyear model [28 January 1951]…….. Ferdinand Porsche, the legendary Austrian-German automotive engineer, died in Stuttgart, Germany aged 75 [30 January 1951]. In 1898, he was employed by Lohner, a manufacturer of electric cars and, at the age of 23, he designed the Lohner-Porsche. This car was exhibited at the most prestigious car exhibition of the time, L’Exposition Universelle De Paris in 1900. Porsche won the opportunity to design another prototype, a four wheel drive with an electrical motor in each wheel. During the next 25 years, he worked for many different companies. One of his most important achievements was the design of a road train used in the First World War. Porsche joined Daimler Germany in 1923. In 1926, Daimler merged with Benz, providing the opportunity for Porsche to work on the Mercedes S and SSK projects. As well as race cars, he designed a diesel powered truck and a popular automobile. He opened his own engineering office in Stuttgart in 1930. In 1934, the order from Hitler to design and build the first “peoples car” was received. Porsche designed the Volkswagen Beetle, as well as many military vehicles used by the Nazis during World War II. After the war, Porsche spent twenty months in a French prison, and his son took control of the business. Dr. Porsche (he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Stuttgart) was certainly the most prolific automotive designer of first half of the 20th century……..50 years ago this week, the Daytona 24 Hours finished with the team of Pedro Rodriguez/Jackie Oliver winning in a Porsche 917K [31 January 1971]. The Roger Penske entered Ferrari 512M of Mark Donohue/David Hobbs won the pole and led the early stages before electrical trouble and an accident slowed them. At 18 hours, Rodriguez/Oliver held a 43 lap lead when the gearbox seized. It was repaired in 92 minutes, but the Tony Adamowicz/Ronnie Bucknum Ferrari 512 had taken the lead in that time. Rodriguez soon ran them down and regained the lead. The winners completed 688 laps (2,622.5 miles), averaging 109.2 mph with Adamowicz/Bucknum finishing 2nd, one lap behind, and Donohue/Hobbs winding up third…….40 years ago this week, UK Industry Secretary Keith Joseph announced an extra £990 million state aid for British Ley Leyland [26 January 1981]………. Nissan announced plans to build a factory in the United Kingdom [29 January 1981]………30 years ago this week, the US Postal Service issued a four-cent stamp commemorating the Dudgeon Steam Wagon, a steam-powered vehicle built in 1853 by Richard Dudgeon, who astounded New Yorkers by riding it from his home on East Broadway to his place of business at 24 Columbia Street in 1855 [25 January 1991]. The vehicle, capable of holding 10 passengers, was exhibited in New York City’s Crystal Palace, where it was destroyed in October of 1858 when the Palace was leveled by fire. In 1866, Dudgeon built a second steam-powered vehicle similar to his 1857 prototype. However, unlike the first, this vehicle survived and is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Artist Richard Schlecht commemorated Dudgeon’s creation in a 1991 U.S. stamp…….20 years ago this week, Andrey Knyazev, a Russian diplomat in Canada killed a Canadian woman while drinking and driving. He was imprisoned in Russia [27 January 2001]. This incident triggered a crackdown on drunk driving by diplomats in Canada…….. Australian businessman Paul Stoddart purchased the Minardi Formula One team [30 January 2001]. He ran the team for five years before selling it on to Red Bull in 2005 who renamed it Scuderia Toro Rosso. During its time in F1, the team scored a total of 38 championship points; 16 of these were earned by the team’s first driver, Pierluigi Martini.

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