7-13 September: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Coppa Florio (or Florio Cup) was an automobile race first held in Italy on this day as the Coppa Brescia [10 September 1900]. It was renamed in 1905 when Vincenzo Florio offered the initial 50,000 Lira prize money and a cup designed by Polak of Paris. The cup was to be awarded to the car maker who gained the most wins in the first seven races, beginning with the race held in 1905. In the event, the first seven races were all won by different manufacturers, but Peugeot won the eighth race in 1925 and thus secured the cup with its second win. However, the competition for the cup continued after Lucien Rosengart, then a director of Peugeot, offered to make it available again. The Brescia race ran along the route Brescia-Cremona-Mantua-Brescia. In 1908, the race used the Circuito di Bologna: Bologna-Castelfranco Emilia-Sant’Agata Bolognese-San Giovanni in Persiceto-Bologna. After 1914, most of the Coppa Florio races were co-organized with the Targa Florio at the Circuito delle Madonie circuit outside Palermo, Sicily, running four or five laps, 108 km each. Only in 1927 did the race move to Saint-Brieuc, in honour of Peugeot’s second win in 1925. The race attracted teams from around Europe as well as the 1921 Grand Prix Sunbeams from England and saw such luminaries as Sir Henry Segrave and Jean Chassagne competing………..110 years ago today, Charles W Nash was named President of the Buick Motor Company [9 September 1910]…….90 years ago this week, the Monza Grand Prix comprising

1930 Monza Grand Prix

of four 14-lap heats (separated by class), a 7-lap repêchage, and a 35-lap final, was won by Achille Varzi in a Maserati. His teammates, Luigi Arcangeli and Ernesto Maserati, completed the podium [7 September 1930]…….80 years ago this week, Edmund Rumpler (68), Austrian automobile and aircraft designer, died [7 September 1930]. He collaborated with Hans Ledwinka on the first Tatra car, designed the first German engine to have engine and gearbox as a unit at Adler and patented a swing axle rear suspension system…….70 years ago this week, Victor Hémery (73), the French champion driver of early Grand Prix motor racing, died [8 September 1950]. His most successful year in his racing career was 1905. In August 1905, he drove a Darracq to victory in Circuit des Ardennes at Bastogne,

Victor Hémery

Belgium, and in October 1905 he won the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York, beating Felice Nazzaro, Louis Chevrolet, and Ferenc Szisz. On December 30, 1905, he set a land speed record of 109.65 mph (176.46 km/h) in Arles, France, driving a Darracq. In 1951, Hémery was retroactively awarded the United States Driving Championship for 1905……Racer Victor Hemery (73) died at Le Mans, France [9 September 1950]. In 1904 he joined Automobiles Darracq S.A. as their chief tester and helped prepare cars to compete in that year’s Gordon Bennett Cup. He drove a German Opel-Darracq to victory at Hamburg-Bahrenfeld. 1905 was his most successful year in his racing career. In August 1905, he drove a Darracq to victory in Circuit des Ardennes at Bastogne, Belgium, and in October 1905 he won the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York, beating Felice Nazzaro, Louis Chevrolet, and Ferenc Szisz. On 30 December 1905 he set a land speed record of 109.65 mph (176.46 km/h) in Arles, France, driving a Darracq. In 1951 Hémery was retroactively awarded the United States Driving Championship for 1905. He left Darracq to join Benz & Cie. in 1907 and in 1908 he won the St. Petersburg to Moscow race and finished second in the French Grand Prix. He scored another second-place finish behind Louis Wagner at the United States Grand Prix in Savannah, Georgia. On 8 November 1909 he set another new speed record at Brooklands of 202.691 km/h (125.946 mph) driving the famous “Blitzen Benz” (German for “Lightning Benz”).[1] In 1910 his Benz team finished 1- at the United States Grand Prix, just 1.42 seconds behind winner David Bruce-Brown, the closest Grand Prix to date at the time. In 1911, Hémery won the Grand Prix de France at Circuit de la Sarthe in a FIAT S61……… French driver, Raymond Sommer (44) died at the Haute-Garonne Grand Prix in Cadours, France where the steering failed on his 1100 cc Cooper and the car overturned at a corner [10 September 1950]. Sommer was instantly killed, his traditional canvas helmet proving to be no use at all…….and the Cummins Diesel Special No.61 driven by Jimmy Jackson set a land speed record for diesel-powered cars of 165.23 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, US [10 September 1950]…….60 years ago this week, Mickey Thompson, driving the “Challenger” averaged 406.60 mph in the mile and 409.09 mph in the kilometre [8 September 1960]. The car was powered by four supercharged Pontiac engines. It was not an official record as he was unable to complete the required return run. Thompson then turned to racing, winning many track and dragster championships. Later he formed sanctioning bodies SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG). In 1988 Thompson and his wife Trudy were mysteriously gunned down at their home in Bradbury, California. The crime remained unsolved until 2007, when a former businessman was convicted of having orchestrated the murders…….Mickey Thompson, driving the Challenger I at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, US recorded a one-way run of 406.60 mph, becoming the first driver to break the 400 mph barrier although the run was not recognised as a land speed record [9 September 1960]……. The British Ministry of Transport’s Roadworthiness Test for cars – the MOT – came into force, covering brakes, lights and steering [12 September 1960]. The testing scheme was established to offer a quick and cheap way of finding out whether the brakes, steering and lights of a vehicle were in order or in need of adjustment. Initially, the test was referred to as the ‘10-year test’, because it was aimed at the large number of vehicles of that age on Britain’s roads, thought to number more than 1.5 million at the time. The test was obligatory for vehicles that had been registered more than 10 years ago. However, Autocar reported: “It is hoped that vehicles which are less than 10 years old will also be submitted for examination. In time the scheme will be extended to younger vehicles.” The fee for a test was 15 shillings (75 pence) for cars, including one shilling for a pass certificate, which was not charged if the vehicle failed the test. A retest at a reduced fee was made if, within 14 days of failure, the car was taken for test after repair, or submitted to an authorised examiner for repair and retest. Autocar magazine tried to dispel concerns that this was a government tactic to rid the roads of ageing vehicles: “Requirements of the test are not new or onerous, and any vehicle that has been properly constructed and reasonably maintained should pass without difficulty. It is not the purpose of the test to drive older vehicles off the roads simply because of their age; if they fail the test it will be because they are not roadworthy – and in many cases actually unsafe.“The test is concerned only with brakes, steering gear, lighting equipment and reflectors; defects in other respects will not disqualify unless they have a direct effect on brakes or steering, or unless the tester feels they involve risk of accident or damage in driving the vehicle.” Although most testing stations were at commercial garages, the Ministry of Transport had its own testing station at Hendon, north London, and about 70 others were run by municipalities. Even from the start, though, there were plans afoot to increase the scope and rigour of the test. Autocar wrote: “In due course, issue of a licence to a vehicle 10 or more years old will be made conditional on production of a test certificate. If at the appropriate time a car is not licensed, the owner will be enabled to take his vehicle over public roads for test at a station, within a reasonable distance, at which an appointment has been made.”……… 50 years ago this week, the first Zhiguli, a Fiat-based compact car – cover image, was produced at the new plant Tol’iatti, USSR [9 September 1970]……. The $1830 Ford Pinto designed to compete with compact imports, was introduced in the US [11 September 1970]. However, the car had a design flaw; the location of the petrol tank was such that it was likely to rupture and explode in a rear end collision of over 20mph. It was eventually revealed that Ford knew about the design flaw before the Pinto was released and had calculated that it would take $11 per car to correct the flaw at a total cost of $137 million for the company. Compared to the lowly estimate of $49.5 million in potential lawsuits from the mistake, the Ford report deemed it “inefficient” to go ahead with the correction. A value of $200,000 was assigned by the report for each death predicted to result from the flaw. Ford’s irresponsibility caused a public uproar, and in 1978, a California jury awarded a record-breaking $128 million to a claimant in the Ford Pinto case…….. Porsche won their first Can-Am race when Tony Dean drove his 908 to victory at Road Atlanta in Brazelton, Georgia, US [13 September 1970]. 40 years ago this week, Stephen Reisten ran the UKs first seven second run on a bike, 7.87/174.(Mark Coles) at the World Finals event held at the Santa Pod Raceway, Northampton, England [12 September 1980]. Don Prudhomme made his UK debut in his Army Funny Car. He faced competitors from the USA, Norway, and Sweden as well as the UKs finest in a 16 car field with another 4 non-qualifiers. Tom Hoover was also making his UK debut at the wheel of the Blue Max. Prudhomme qualified at 2 with a 6.22, just behind the UKs Allan Herridge with a 6.21, which turned out to be the quickest time of the weekend. Prudhomme went out in the first round, as did Herridge. Ronnie Picardo was the only Brit to make it to the second round where he was knocked out by Gene Snow. Eventual winner was Harlan Thompson who took the final against Snow……..30 years ago this week, Ayrton Senna took a pole to flag victory to win the Italian Grand Prix from title rival Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger but the star of the show was Jean Alesi, albeit only for four laps! [9 September 1990]. Having qualified fifth, the Frenchman passed Mansell then Prost at the start before the race was stopped as Derek Warwick turned his Lotus upside-down on the start-finish straight. Once again, Alesi brilliantly overtook Mansell and Prost at the re-start before spinning and the race then became a procession to the finish. But Alesi had shown glimpses of brilliance in his less-powerful Tyrrell….. on the same day [9 September 1990], Dale Earnhardt held off Mark Martin on a restart with three laps left to win the Miller Genuine Draft 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Virginia, US. Earnhardt, who led 173 of the 400 laps on the .75-mile asphalt track, logged the eighth of his nine wins for the season on the way to his fourth championship in NASCAR’s top series. Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace completed the top five……..20 years ago this week, the fuel protests which had crippled France the previous week reached Britain with a series of actions across the country [8 September 2000]. The protesters – mainly road hauliers and farmers – displayed their anger at Europe’s highest fuel prices, which were due to rise another 2p per litre within days. There was a 100 lorry “go-slow” protest on the A1 in Tyne and Wear and a convoy of 200-300 people set off to Wales to block the Texaco refinery near Pembroke.

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