8-14 June: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the first of the famous Gordon Bennett Cup races, instigated by the eponymous proprietor of the New York Herald after he moved to Paris to set up a French edition of the paper, was run over a 340-mile course (Paris-Chartres-Orléans-Nevers-Moulins-Roanne-Lyon) [14 June 1900].  France, Germany, England, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the United States were invited to take part and each nation could enter a maximum of three cars powered by an internal-combustion engine, steam or electricity. There was a minimum requirement of 40 kg weight, an insistence on two seats and a requirement that the cars should be built entirely in the country they represented. In future the race was to be held each year in the country that won the cup. Only four teams were represented at the start that year – the United States, France, Germany and Belgium. Fernand Charron won the race for France in a Panchard at an average speed of 39 mph, beating fellow countryman Léonce Girardot by 1 hour 27 minutes……..100 years ago this week, the General Motors Research Corporation was created with Charles F Kettering as its first General Manager [12 June 1920]……. The first race at the Circuit of Mugello (Italy) was won by Giuseppe Campari in an Alfa Romeo [13 June 1920]. It was also the first racing victory for the marque…….90 years ago this week, S C H “Sammy” Davis established the first lap record to be recognised for the Mountains course at Brooklands. His supercharged Riley Nine lapped at 66.86 mph [9 June 1930]. As Sports Editor of The Autocar magazine, Davis aided his prewar motorcycling associate, W. O. Bentley, in starting his company. In 1921, Davis was invited by S. F. Edge to join Edge’s Brooklands AC racing team, in between magazine deadlines, while in 1922 he was part of Aston Martin’s effort to break no less than 32 world and class records at Weybridge. Davis became one of the famous Bentley Boys of the late 1920s. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright in 1927. ……and on the same day [9 June 1930], the second generation Ford Model A commercial vehicles were

introduced……… Briton Henry Segrave, who broke the world land-speed record three times – 152.33 mph (1926), 203.79 mph (1927) and 231.45 mph (1929) – died at the age of 33 after his speedboat Miss England II capsized on Lake Windermere in Cumbria after hitting a log at 98 mph [13 June 1930]. He had unknowingly captured the water speed record and was on a follow-up run incident took place, killing Miss England’s mechanic, Victor Halliwell. Segrave’s unconscious body was recovered, and taken to Belle Grange – a house on the west side of Windermere. He regained consciousness for a moment, was informed that he had indeed broken the record, then died a few moments later of lung haemorrhages………80 years ago this week, Edsel Ford telephoned William Knudsen of the US Office of Production Management (OPM) to confirm Ford Motor Company’s acceptance of Knudsen’s proposal to manufacture 9,000 Rolls-Royce-designed engines to be used in British and US airplanes [12 June 1940]. In May, Roosevelt had called on Knudsen, a former Ford executive who became president of General Motors in 1937, to serve as director general of the OPM, the agency responsible for coordinating government purchases and wartime production. Knudsen had barely settled in Washington when he received an urgent appeal from the British government: The Royal Air Force (RAF) was in desperate need of new airplanes to defend Britain against an expected German offensive. In two meetings in late May and early June 1940, Knudsen and Edsel Ford agreed that Ford would manufacture a new fleet of aircraft for the RAF on an expedited basis. One significant obstacle remained, however: Edsel’s father Henry, who still retained complete control over the company he founded, was known for his opposition to the possible U.S. entry into World War II. Edsel and Charles Sorensen, Ford’s production chief, had apparently gotten the go-ahead from Henry Ford by June 12, when Edsel telephoned Knudsen to confirm that Ford would produce 9,000 Rolls-Royce Merlin airplane engines (6,000 for the RAF and 3,000 for the U.S. Army). However, as soon as the British press announced the deal, Henry Ford personally and publicly canceled it, telling a reporter: “We are not doing business with the British government or any other government.” In fact, according to Douglas Brinkley’s biography of Ford, “Wheels for the World,” Ford had in effect already accepted a contract from the German government. The Ford subsidiary Ford-Werke in Cologne was doing business with the Third Reich at the time, which Ford’s critics took as proof that he was concealing a pro-German bias behind his claims to be a man of peace. As U.S. entry into the war looked ever more certain, Ford reversed his earlier position, and in May of 1941 the company opened a large new government-sponsored facility at Willow Run, Michigan, for the purposes of manufacturing B-24E Liberator bombers for the Allied war effort. In addition to aircraft, Ford Motor plants produced a great deal of other war materiel during World War II, including a variety of engines, trucks, jeeps, tanks and tank destroyers…….70 years ago this week, tickets went on sale for the first 500-mile stock car race at the new Darlington Raceway, South Carolina [8 June 1950]. Prices ranged from $3 general admission to $10 for lower row “box seats.” The event was sanctioned by the Central States Racing Association after NASCAR turned down the initial offer from track president Harold Brasington……. The Dodge Diplomat two-door hardtop was introduced as a mid-year model [11 June 1950]……. 50 years ago this week, rock band, Deep Purple had their van and equipment impounded by East German police while on an European tour, after mistakenly driving too close to the border [8 June 1970]……. Dickie Attwood and Hans Herrmann won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 917K. Porsche’s first overall win at Le Mans [14 June 1970]. Martini “Hippy” Porsche 917L of Gerrard Larrouse and Willie Kauhsen was second. Attwood was suffering from the mumps during race. Herrmann retired after the race…….40 years ago this week, Darrell Waltrip passed Neil Bonnett on the final lap to win the 400-kilometer race on Riverside’s road course in Moreno Valley, California. [8 June 1980]. Waltrip made the decisive pass in the ninth turn of the last lap and edged Bonnett by a car length……30 years ago this week, Rusty Wallace tamed the field on the twisting road course in Sonoma, California, (US) for his fifth win in his last seven starts on road courses [10 June 1990]. Mark Martin finished second as the race ended under the yellow flag…….and on the same day [10 June 1990], Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren MP4/5B won the Canadian Grand Prix held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the second time. It was Senna’s third win for the season having won the season-opening United States Grand Prix and the Monaco Grand Prix just two weeks earlier. Senna won by ten seconds over fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet who drove a Benetton B190. Three second further back in third was British driver Nigel Mansell driving a Ferrari 641………20 years ago this week, Dale Earnhardt took command of the Pocono 500, Pennsylvania (US), with 16 laps remaining and held a narrow advantage entering the final lap [9 June 2000]. Coming across the treacherous “tunnel turn,” Jeremy Mayfield popped Earnhardt sideways and slipped past to record his third career win. “I was just rattling his cage a little,” said Mayfield, who was met with both boos and cheers as he crossed the finish. Earnhardt regained the handle of his car, but dropped to fourth in the final mile…….. Streetka, the Ghia-built star of the 2000 Turin Motor Show, finally evolved from concept to production reality [10 June 2000]. The Streetka, was described by Ford as “a modern interpretation of the traditional two-seater roadster inspired by classics like the MG Midget and Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite.” Designed by an in-house Ford team, Streetka was engineered from the ground-up in a new relationship with the renowned Italian design house and coachbuilder, Industrie Pininfarina…….. The one millionth European Ford Focus rolled off the Saarlouis production line in Germany, the first Ford in Europe to have reached this milestone in under two years [14 June 2000].

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