Discover the momentous motoring events that took place this week in history …….
110 years ago this week, Guy Lee Evans, riding an Indian, became the first American to win a motorcycle race at Brooklands in England [31 May 1909]………..US president William Howard Taft touched a key in Washington, D.C. that sent a signal to Seattle to open the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Expo at the Seattle World’s Fair, as well as a signal to New York City to initialize the New York to Seattle Ocean to Ocean auto race [1 June 1909]. The first transcontinental race was promoted and sponsored by the Seattle Automobile Club, the AYPE, the Automobile Club of America, Henry Ford, and Robert Guggenheim. The race was intended to showcase the latest products of the automobile industry and to emphasize the need for new and improved roadways across the nation. Because of the lack of roads (particularly west of the Mississippi), participants went west to Chicago, south to St. Louis, on to Denver, and then up through Wyoming, Idaho, and across Washington. Automobiles were still a new technology in 1909 and
many people considered cars too dangerous to be on city streets. Because of the concerns about speed, the organizers divided the Ocean to Ocean race into two events, an endurance run from New York City to St. Louis and a speed race from St. Louis to Seattle. East of the Mississippi, driving was only permitted during daylight and only at legal speeds. West of St. Louis, the rules were wide open. The Auto Club believed the western roads were so bad that speed law violations would be impossible.The Pace or Pathfinder car, preceded the racers in order to select the best routes. The famous Thomas Flyer, winner of the 1908 New York to Paris race, was used as the Pathfinder. When the Thomas Flyer car took two months to cross the country, it was clear that the roads along the way were in bad shape. Robert Guggenheim donated the transcontinental trophy and the prize money for the race. The winner received the trophy and $2,000. Second prize was $1,500. Inscribed with: “Alaska-Yukon Automobile Race Guggenheim Trophy New York to Seattle,” the trophy has small figureheads of Chief Seattle at its base, and pictures of the Agriculture Building and a view of Seattle’s main street near its top.The declared winner of the race was Ford No.2, a stripped down Ford Model T driven by Bert Scott. The Ford arrived in downtown Seattle at 12:55pm on June 23rd, covering the 4,106 miles from New York in 23 days.Five months after the race (and after the close of the AYP), the Model T was disqualified for breaking race rules for changing engines part way through the race. The second place finisher, a Shawmut, was declared the new winner. In the meantime Henry Ford used the victory to help advertise and market the Model T. The roads were bad west of the Mississippi. H.B Harper, one of the participants for Ford, wrote, “every day we wore rubber coats and hip boots and pushed through mile after mile of mud.” Thirty-five miles outside of Denver, both Fords mired in quicksand. Harper said, “with the aid of the roof of a deserted pig pen which. . . we shoved under the wheels. . . we got both cars out and made Denver.” The worst part of the trip for the winning car was over Snoqualmie Pass. The racers crossed Lake Keechelus by ferry at five in the afternoon then floundered in snow in the Pass. They reached the summit at 8pm and went on for another hour and a half. After sleeping for a while, they started out again at 2:30AM. The drivers noted that “in many places we had to dig our way out of the snow and practically climb over logs which lay across the road.” “Besides the snow there were steep grades, and it was pushing pulling, holding back, and digging all the way through the fifty miles.”………..100 years ago this week, the first Citroen car, the Model A went into production, prior to its launch in April [28 May 1919]. A massive advertising campaign had preceded it with full page advertisements in newspapers and magazines announcing the launch of ‘Europe’s first mass production’ car. Orders for 16,000 cars were reported as having been
received within a fortnight and the break-even target of 30,000 was reported as having been reached before any car left the plant. The sales drive was backed with the introduction of over 1,000 Citroen dealers throughout France fully conversant with the model being launched and backed with published repair costs and stocks of spare parts. Owners had access to maintenance manuals and detailed spare parts catalogues. Buyers were barraged with posters and advertisements including eventually the lighting up of the Eiffel Tower with an enormous sign spelling out the name Citroen. All these publications resulted in Citroen forming his own publishing company named ‘André Citroën Editions’…………Col Jesse G Vincent drove a Packard Twin Six as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 – a special Packard with a 299-cid V-12 driven by Ralph DePalma finished 6th, the only time a V-12 engined car finished this race [30 May 1919]. Racers Louis LeCocq of France and Arthur Thurman of Washington state were killed during the event, which was won by Howdy Wilcox in a Peugeot………With the track reopened after the war, local Indiana-born driver Howdy Wilcox driving a Peugeot broke a four-race winning streak by European drivers at the ‘500 [31 May 1919]’. 19 rookies started the race, the most newcomers in one Indy 500 field (if one discounts the “all-rookie” field of 1911). It was also the first Indy 500 win for Goodyear tyres and the first playing of the song “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the 500………The Gilly-Burtigny Climb at Geneva, Switzerland was held, the first hill climb event in Europe [1 June 1919]………..90 years ago this week, Henry Segrave, holder of the land speed record, was knighted by King George V. Seagrave, who set
three land and one water record, was the first person to hold both titles simultaneously and the first person to travel at over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) in a land vehicle [27 May 1929]. He died in an accident in 1930 shortly after setting a new world water speed record on Windermere in the Lake District, England. The Segrave Trophy was established to commemorate his life……..Louis Meyer stalled on his final pitstop at the Indianapolis 500, handing the race to Ray Keech, who was killed in a racing crash just two weeks after the ‘500’ [30 May 1929]………..The Ford Motor Company signed a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union [31 May 1919]. Ford supplied many of the production parts for car manufacturers in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. Soviet factories also used Ford plants as their construction models. The agreement between Ford and the Soviet government also meant that Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labour force in the use of its parts. Many labourers, including Walter Reuther, returned form the Soviet Union with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial labourer. Reuther, the UAW’s president for many years, claimed to have been galvanised by the spirit of the Soviet workforce. It was over a decade, however, before labour unions won major victories in the U.S. Although the labor activists were for the most part not Communist, nor even Communist sympathisers, Ford officials nevertheless used this threat to keep them at bay for years. During McCarthyism, many of the labour officials who had been in the Soviet Union were cited as perpetrators of “un-American activities.”………80 years ago this week, defending Indianapolis 500 winner Floyd Roberts (39), driving the same car he drove into victory circle in 1938, died in a crash coming off the second turn onto the backstretch on lap 107. Wilbur Shaw won his second 500, driving a Maserati [30 May 1939]……….Just before the outbreak of World War II driving his special engineered MG, in Dessau, Germany, Goldie Gardner took the 750cc up to 1,100cc class records over 2 kilometres, 1 mile, and 5 kilometres distances, at average speeds of 203.5 mph, 203.3 mph and 197.5 mph respectively [31 May 1939]. After an overnight engine rebore, on 2 June 1939 at the same venue he gained the 1,100cc to 1,500cc class records over the same distances at average speeds of 204.3 mph, 203.9 mph and 200.6 mph……….70 years ago this week, on the empty Ostend-Jabbeke motorway in Belgium, a prototype Jaguar XK120 timed by the officials of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium achieved an average of runs in
opposing directions of 132.6 mph- a new production car speed record – with the windscreen replaced by just one small aero screen and a catalogued alternative top gear ratio, and 135 mph with a passenger-side tonneau cover in place [30 May 1949]. In 1950 and 1951, at a banked oval track in France, XK120 roadsters averaged over 100 mph for 24 hours and over 130 mph for an hour, and in 1952 a fixed-head coupé took numerous world records for speed and distance when it averaged 100 mph for a week……….60 years ago this week, a record sixteen cars finished the entire Indianapolis 500 miles as Rodger Ward held off Jim Rathmann for the win [30 May 1959]………..The Dutch Grand Prix held over 75 laps of the four kilometre circuit for a race distance of 314 kilometres, was won by Swedish driver Joakim Bonnier driving a BRM P25 [31 May 1959]. It would be the only World Championship victory of Bonnier’s fifteen-year Grand Prix career. It was also the first win for the Owen Racing Organisation, the race team of the constructor BRM, after almost a decade of effort………. 50 years ago this week, changes to the driving test in Great Britain were introduced [2 June 1969]: • vehicles used in the test must not have dual accelerator control unless this had been made inoperable • a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced • candidates were required to produce their driving licence to the examiner at the test and sign the examiner’s attendance record – examiners could refuse to conduct a test if these requirements were not met……..40 years ago this week, the 37th Monaco Grand Prix won by polesitter Jody Scheckter in a Ferrari 312T4 ahead of Clay Regazzoni (Williams FW07) and Carlos Reutemann (Lotus 79). Patrick Depailler set the fastest lap of the race in a Ligier JS11 [27 May 1979]. It was the last race of 1976 World Champion James Hunt’s Formula One career………on the same day [27 May 1979], the “pack up” rule was employed as a safety measure in the Indianapolis 500, during caution periods, and for the first time in history the Pace Car appeared on the track during the race……….30 years ago this week, two time Formula 1 Emerson Fittipaldi won a thrilling Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 167.581 mph [28 May 1989]. Al Unser Jr. took the lead from Fittipaldi and appeared to be well on his way to his first victory at the Brickyard. Fittipaldi, however, caught Unser in traffic on the second-to-last lap. As the two blazed into turn 3 neck and neck, their cars converged, and Unser’s spun and crashed into the concrete wall. Fittipaldi cruised to victory with ease, while Unser, uninjured from his crash, ran to the track’s edge and applauded his triumphant teammate………. On the same day [28 May 1989], the Mexican Grand Prix held at the Autodrome Hermanos Rodriguez, was won from pole position by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/5 in a time of 1:35:21. Fifth place starter. Riccardo Patrese drove well to finish second 15.5 seconds behind Senna. Michele Alboreto in the Tyrrell was third after starting seventh. Alessandro Nannini had a splendid drive coming from 13th on the grid in his Benetton to finish fourth. Prost was fifth in the other McLaren and Gabriele Tarquini in the AGS took sixth. Nigel Mansell took fastest lap of the race in his Ferrari but gearbox gremlins took him out on lap 43……… 20 years ago this week, Nidia and Patricio Leal were killed when their Ford Explorer skidded into a ditch near Brownsville, Texas, following the unraveling of a Firestone tire [30 May 1999]. Relatives settled with Bridgestone/Firestone in 2000 in the 1st product liability suit following an August 2000, tire recall………. on the same day [30 May 1999], Kenny Brack won the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, which marked the 90th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brack drove for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. During the Indianapolis 500 weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to the largest gathering of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in history………..A 49-year-old grandfather bettered the British land-speed record broken by himself earlier in the day [2 June 1999]. Colin Fallows, an engineer from Northampton, beat the record at Elvington Airfield near York. He then went on to break his own record, clocking 269 mph – 5 mph faster than his first successful attempt.. This new speed beat by 10 mph the former record set 18 years ago by Richard Noble, the man who broke the world land-speed record in October 1997 with the Thrust SSC car. Mr Fallows broke the record twice in his Vampire dragster, powered by an aero engine he had bought for just £500 19 years ago from the Red Arrows.