Discover the most momentous motoring events that took place this week in history……
140 years ago this week, Thomas Hancock (78) , the father of the British rubber industry whose efforts paralleled those of Charles Goodyear in the United States, died in Stoke Newington, England [26 March 1879]. He invented the masticator, a machine that shredded rubber scraps and which allowed rubber to be recycled after being formed into blocks or sheets………120 years ago this week, Camille
Jenatzy completed ‘La Jamais Contente’ (The Never-Satisfied), the first purpose-built land speed record car [27 March 1899]. The electric vehicle had a light alloy torpedo shaped bodywork and batteries. The high position of the driver and the exposed chassis underneath spoiled much of the aerodynamics. The light alloy, called partinium, is an alloy of aluminium, tungsten and magnesium. Jenatzy driving La Jamais Contente set a land speed record was established in April 1899 at Achères, Yvelines near Paris, France. The vehicle had two direct drive Postel-Vinay 25 kW motors, running at 200 V drawing 124 Amperes each for about 68 hp, and was equipped with Michelin tires. Chassis number was n°25. Jenatzy died in 1913 in a hunting accident. He went behind a bush and made animal noises as a prank on his friends who were hunting with him. It worked too well. Alfred Madoux, director of the journal L’Etoile Belge, fired, believing it was a wild animal. When they realised it was Jenatzy, they rushed him to hospital by car; he bled to death en route, fulfilling his own prophecy he would die in a Mercedes. He is buried at the Laeken Cemetery in Brussels………110 years ago this week, the Brooklands Test Hill opened [25 March 1909]. Built to encourage use of the track for development and test work, it was 352 feet long and divided into three sections, starting with a gradient of 1 in 8, then 1 in 5 and the top third has a gradient
of 1 in 4. Manufacturers to test both the ability of cars to climb steep hills and also of their brakes to stop them coming down used it……..The Coliseum Motordrome in Los Angeles, California, US, opened with Jake De Rosier setting four motorcycle world records [28 March 1909]. The wood plank raceway was the first of its kind anywhere in the world; built right in the middle of the Ballona Wetlands. It was 1/3 mile long, and was the first board track built specifically for racing motorcycles. All motorcycle board races prior to this track were held on bicycle velodromes. Later, cars raced there also; driven by greats like Jimmy Murphy and Ralph De Palma……………100 years ago this week, the first Tatra vehicle, a TL4 truck, was completed [29 March 1919]. The truck was Tatra’s first offering to the automotive world but it was the Tatra car that had inspired engineer Hans Ledwinka to found Tatra. Just after the war, Hans
Ledwinka began construction of a new automobile to be marketed under the marque Tatra, a division of the newly named Koprivnicka Wagenbau of Czechoslovakia. The Tatra High Mountains are among the highest in the Carpathian Mountain Range, the legendary home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ledwinka settled on the name Tatra in 1919, when an experimental model of his car with four-wheel brakes passed a sleigh on an icy mountain road, prompting the sleigh riders to exclaim, “This is a car for the Tatras.” In 1923, the first official Tatra automobile, the Tatra T11, was completed, and Ledwinka’s hope for an affordable “people’s car” was realized. The reliable, rugged T11, like Ford’s Model T, gave many Czechoslovakians their first opportunity to own an automobile. In 1934, Tatra achieved automotive press with the introduction of the Tatra 77, the world’s first aerodynamically styled automobile powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled engine……..70 years ago this week, the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix at Gávea was won by Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati 4CLT/48 [27 March 1949]………. on the same day [27 March 1949], Fonty Flock won his fourth Modified championship race in a row in the 40-lap feature at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, US. Red Byron, the 1948 NASCAR champion, was unable to compete due to illness……….Carlo Abarth founded the Abarth & C. company with Armando Scagliarini (father of Cisitalia racing driver Guido Scagliarini) in Torino, Italy [31 March 1949]. With a Scorpio as the logo, the company made racing cars, and became a major supplier of high-performance exhaust pipes, that still are in production as Abarth. The marque has won over 10,000 individual race victories and set 10 world records………60 years ago this week, the Rufforth Circuit opened for racing as a 2.1 mile track on an ex-RAF bomber station [28 March 1959]. Located on the B1224, 4 miles west of York. it was used four times that year, but for 1960 a 1.70 mile circuit was used. The circuit hosted Formula 2 and Formula Junior races between as well as numerous sports car events. The circuit was one of many of Britain’s airfields to be transformed into motor racing venues. closed in 1978, but the track layout is still there, although inaccessible to the public………Junior Johnson started 22nd in a 24-car field and roared to victory in a 200-lap main event at Wilson (North Carolina, US) Speedway’s half-mile dirt track [29 March 1959]. Curtis Turner, who led 166 laps, settled for second. Richard Petty finished two laps down in third place, marking his first top-five effort in NASCAR’s premier series………..the following day [30 March 1959] Stirling Moss in a Cooper-Climax T51 won the Glover Trophy at Goodwood………50 years ago this week, the 21st BRDC International Trophy, a non-championship Formula One race held at Silverstone was won by Jack Brabham driving a Brabham-Cosworth BT26 [30 March 1969]………on the same day [30 March 1969], Lucien Bianchi (34) died when his Alfa Romeo T33 spun into a telegraph pole during Le Mans testing.
He won the 1957, 1958 and 1959 Tour de France as well as the Paris 1000 sports car race in the latter two years. Bianchi entered Formula One in 1959, although only with sporadic appearances at first. He drove various cars under the banner of the ENB team, including a Cooper T51, a Lotus 18 and an Emeryson. After a couple of races for the UDT Laystall team in 1961, driving another Lotus, he returned to ENB for whom he drove their ENB-Maserati. He finally secured a more regular drive in Formula One in 1968, with the Cooper-BRM team, although success was elusive despite a bright start. Bianchi managed his best Formula One performance, finishing third at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix, in his first race for Cooper. Bianchi also raced touring cars, sports cars and rally cars, being successful in all disciplines, his biggest victories coming in the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, behind the wheel of a Ford GT40 with Pedro Rodríguez and at Sebring in 1962 with Jo Bonnier. He was also leading the London-Sydney Marathon when his Citroën DS collided with a non-competing car……….40 years ago this week, Bobby Allison used a late-race surge past Richard Petty to win the Northwestern Bank 400 at North Wilkesboro (North Carloina, US) Speedway [25 March 1979]. Petty, who led 211 of the 400 laps, faded to 3.5 seconds back at the checkered flag. Pole-starter Benny Parsons took third as Dale Earnhardt claimed fourth, matching his best finish to that point in his career……..The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that police could not stop motorists at random to check licenses and registrations unless there was reason to believe a law had been broken [27 March 1979]……….The Jaguar XJ6 Series III and Daimler Double-Six Series III were introduced [28 March 1979]……..British Leyland Motors Inc., the United States subsidiary of BL Plc, changed its name to Jaguar Rover Triumph Inc [30 March 1979]……..30 years ago this week, Nigel Mansell in a Ferrari won the Brazilian Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro from his sixth spot on the grid [26 March 1989]. He won over fifth place starter Alain Prost in his McLaren, finished 7.8 seconds behind Mansell. A stirring drive from Mauricio Gugelmin in a March took the third place spot from 12th on the grid. Ayrton Senna in the other McLaren, sat on pole but finished a disappointing 11th, 1 lap down. Riccardo Patrese set the fastest lap of the race in his Williams but was out with a broken camshaft………20 years ago this week, the Renault-Nissan Alliance was signed – the first of its kind involving a Japanese and a French company, each with its own distinctive corporate culture and identity [27 March 1999]……..Ford Motor Company purchased Volvo Cars for $6.45 billion, becoming part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, which also included Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lincoln [31 March 1999]……..10 years ago this week, in Los Angeles US car manufacturer, Tesla Motors unveiled its state-of-the-art five-seat saloon, billed as the world’s first mass-produced, highway-capable electric car [26 March 2009].