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4-10 February: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation was incorporated with Carl G. Fisher as president [9 February 1909]. The speedway was Fisher’s brainchild and he would see his project through its inauspicious beginnings to its ultimate glorious end. The first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway took place on August 19, 1909, only a few months after the formation of the corporation. Fisher and his partners had scrambled to get their track together before the race, and their

lack of preparation showed. Not only were lives lost on account of the track, but the surface itself was left in shambles. Instead of cutting losses on his investment in the Speedway, Fisher dug in and upped the stakes. He built a brand new track of brick, which was the cheapest and most durable appropriate surface available to him. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway would later be affectionately called “the Brickyard.” Fisher’s track filled a void in the international racing world, as there were almost no private closed courses in Europe capable of handling the speeds of the cars that were being developed there. Open course racing had lost momentum in Europe due to the growing number of fatal accidents. Recognizing the supremacy of European car technology, but preserving the American tradition of oval track racing, Fisher melded the two hemispheres of car racing into one extravagant event, a five-hundred mile race to be held annually. To guarantee the attendance of the European racers, Fisher arranged to offer the largest single prize in the sport. By 1912, the total prize money available at the grueling Indy 500 was $50,000, making the race the highest paying sporting event in the world. However, the Brickyard almost became a scrap yard after World War II, as it was in deplorable condition after four years of disuse. The track’s owner, Eddie Rickenbacher, even considered tearing it down and selling the land. Fortunately, in 1945, Tony Hulman purchased the track for $750,000. Hulman and Wilbur Shaw hastily renovated the track for racing in the next year, and launched a long-term campaign to replace the wooden grandstand with structures of steel and concrete. In May of 1946, the American Automobile Association ran its first postwar Indy 500, preserving an American tradition. Today, the Indy 500 is the largest single day sporting event in the world……..100 years ago this week, the first Voisin

Gabriel Voisin

automobile was completed and test driven by Gabriel Voisin. Eccentric and iconoclastic, Gabriel Voisin was an aviation pioneer who sought to imprint his considerable ego on the world of automobiles [5 February 1919]……Henry Ford was ordered by the courts to distribute profits, with interest, to stockholders back to August 1916 [7 February 1919]……..90 years ago this week, the 1,000,000th Ford Model A was produced. The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at US$500 (in grey, green, or black) to the Town Car with a dual cowl at US$ 1200 [4 February 1929]. Model A production ended in March, 1932, after 4,858,644 had been made in all body styles……..on the same day [4 February 1929] the last Plymouth Model Q was produced. The car, which was particularly economic, was launched on the market by Walter Chrysler to compete with the Ford Model-T . With the creation of the Plymouth brand, Chrysler wanted to expand its offer downwards. The gap between the two brands was then filled with the purchase of Dodge and the creation of the DeSoto brand . The Model Q was presented on 7 July 1928 at Madison Square Garden in New York . On this occasion, the demonstration car that opened the parade was led by the famous aviator

Plymouth Model Q

Amelia Earhart . The model was also known as Chrysler Plymouth .The model was equipped with a motor in side-valve and four-cylinder in-line from 2,791 cm³ of displacement which developed 45 CV of power . This engine was the only one, in the range of the Chrysler group, to be four-cylinder. The engine was front , while the drive was rear . The gearbox was three-speed manual and the clutch was dry single-disc. The brakes were hydraulic on the four wheels. Of the model, a total of 66,097 copies were produced…….80 years ago this week, Rudolf Caracciola established two new D class standing start speed records; 1 km Standing Start: 175.097 km/h (108.800 mph) [20.56 s] and 1 Mile Standing Start: 204.578 km/h (127.119 mph) [28.32 s] in a 3 litre Mercedes-Benz car based on the 1938 GP chassis with fully enclosed wheels and the radiator replaced by internal ice cooling [8 February 1939]. The runs took place at Dessau, Germany where a 10 km section of highway had been specially prepared for record attempts. The central grass strip had been filled, making the available road 27 metres wide…….60 years ago today, the Daytona International Speedway formally opened. Thirteen cars were on hand for the first

qualifying round, but 6 failed tech inspection [7 February 1959]. “Fireball” Roberts turned in a speed of 140.581 mph in a Pontiac to earn the pole for the inaugural 100 mile Grand National qualifying race. Marvin Panch ran 128.810 mph to pace the two convertibles that timed in. The track was built by NASCAR founder William “Bill” France, Sr. to host racing that was held at the former Daytona Beach Road Course. His banked design permitted higher speeds and gave fans a better view of the cars. Since opening it has been the home of the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race in NASCAR. In addition to NASCAR, the track also hosts races of ARCA, AMA Superbike, USCC, SCCA, and Motocross. The track features multiple layouts including the primary 2.5 miles (4.0 km) high speed tri-oval, a 3.56 miles (5.73 km) sports car course, a 2.95 miles (4.75 km) motorcycle course, and a .25 miles (0.40 km) karting and motorcycle flat-track. The track’s 180-acre (73 ha) infield includes the 29-acre (12 ha) Lake Lloyd, which has hosted powerboat racing. Lights were installed around the track in 1998, and today it is the third-largest single lit outdoor sports facility. The speedway has been renovated three times, with the infield renovated in 2004 and the track repaved in 1978 and 2010. The speedway is owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation…….50 years ago this week, Ford guaranteed that everyone of

their dealers would have at least one Capri on the forecourt by this 5 February 1969. The Capri was sold as “the car you always promised yourself” and over the next eighteen years nearly two million people in Europe and America fulfilled that promise. Eleven years after the Capri was launched it was still in the top ten selling cars in Britain, The likes of Jackie Stewart, Cliff Richard and of course Bodie and Doyle all drove Capris at one time or another…….. Jochen Rindt splashed to his second win of the ’69 Tasman Series season when he won a rainy 45 lap, 101.5 mile round 6 on the 2.25 mile Warwick Farm circuit, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia [9 February 1969]. The race also decided the Tasman championship as Chris Amon clinched the title when he and his lone challenger Piers Courage were eliminated in a first lap incident……..40 years ago this week, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Jacques Laffite in a Ligier-Cosworth JS11 [4 February 1979]. Patrick Depailler made it a Ligier 1-2 finish as he followed his teammate home, five seconds behind. Carlos Reutemann in his Lotus, took the 3rd spot a lengthy 44 seconds back…… on the same day [4 February 1979] Danny Ongais, Hurley Haywood and Ted Field drove a Porsche 935 to victory in the Daytona 24 Hours Sports Car race, round 1 of the World Championship for Makes. The Ferrari 365 of John Morton and Tony Adamowicz finished 2nd with the Porsche 935 of Rick Mears/Bruce Canepa/Monte Shelton coming home 3rd. The winners completed 684 laps around the 3.84 mile Daytona International Speedway course, averaging 109.409 mph………Richie Evans won the second night Modified feature of the World Series Of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at the New Smyrna Speedway, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (US) [10 February 1979]. Merv Treichler was second followed by Dave Nichols, Kenny Bouchard and Jamie Tomaino………30 years ago this week, Conrad ‘Connie’ Kalitta became the first man in NHRA history to record a speed

Conrad ‘Connie’ Kalitta

greater than 290 mph in the quarter mile when he ran 291.54 mph at Pomona, California, US [4 February 1989]……..Derek Bell, Bob Wolleck, and John Andretti drove a Jim Busby entered Porsche 962 to victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona, beating the second place Jaguar of Price Cobb, John Nielson, Jan Lammers, and Andy Wallace by only 90 seconds [5 February 1989]. It was the 50th Porsche 962 win in the United States……..Dean Billings won the All American Midget Series race at the Volusia County Speedway, Barberville, Florida (US). Ed Loomis was second followed by Kevin Olson, Jack Hewitt and Bill Ripp [8 February 1989]……..The Mazda MX-5 was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, with a price tag of US$14,000 [10 February 1989]. The MX5’s first generation, the NA, sold over 400,000 units from May 1989 to 1997 – with a 1.6 L (98 cu in) straight-4 engine to 1993, a 1.8 L (110 cu in) engine thereafter (with a de-tuned 1.6 as a budget option in some markets) – recognizable by its pop-up headlights. The second generation (NB) was introduced in 1999 with a slight increase in engine power; it can be recognized by the fixed headlights and the glass rear window, although first generation owners may opt for the glass window design when replacing the original top. The third generation (NC) was introduced in 2006 with a 2.0 L (120 cu in) engine. Launched at a time when production of small roadsters had almost come to an end, the Alfa Romeo Spider was the only comparable volume model in production at the time of the MX-5’s launch. Just a decade earlier, a host of similar models — notably the MG B, Triumph TR7, Triumph Spitfire, and Fiat Spider — had been available………20 years ago this week, Mike Dunn set a NHRA Top Fuel 1/4 mile ET record of 4.503 seconds at Pomona, California (US) [6 February 1999]……..Umberto Maglioli, who gave Porsche their first overall Targa Florio win, died at the age of 69, after a long illness, in Monza, Italy [7 February 1999]. An accomplished and versatile sports car racer, Maglioli won the 1953 Targa Florio and 1954 Carrera Panamaricana for the Lancia team and 14 years later posted the last major win of his career in the Targa Florio, this time sharing a factory Porsche with Vic Elford. In between, Magioli competed as an occasional reserve driver for the Ferrari factory team, finishing third in the 1954 Italian Grand Prix (sharing with Froilan Gonzalez) and third in the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix (sharing with Giuseppe Farina and Maurice Trintignant). In 1956 he had three races in a Maserati 250F and his final Grand Prix outing came at the Nurburgring in a 1.5-liter Porsche the following season…….10 years ago this week, the French government announced that it would give $8.4 million in low interest loans to Renault SA and PSA Peugeot-Citroen in exchange for pledges that the car makers wouldn’t close any factories or lay off workers in France for the duration of the funding [9 February 2009]……. the following day [10 February 2009] General Motors Corp. said it would cut 10,000 salaried jobs, citing the need to restructure itself with a government deadline looming and amid some of the worst sales in the auto industry’s history.

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