9-10 May This Weekend in Motorsport History

Discover the momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history…….

~9 May~

1906: The first Targa Florio, an open road endurance automobile race, was held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. Founded by wealthy Sicilian wine producer, Vincenzo Florio, it was run over 3 laps of the 92.473 mile circuit, totalling 277.42 miles. The entry list was badly affected by a dock strike in Genoa but the race was won by the Italian driver Alessandro Cagno in an Itala.

1908: The first women’s motor race was held at Brooklands.

1931: The second day of the ‘Double 12 Hours’ at Brooklands, which was won on handicap by an MG Midget, driven in turn by the Earl of March and British aviation pioneer C. S. Staniland, at an average speed of 65.62 mph and covering a distance of 1,574.9 miles. Cars of this make took the first five places in the race. The event ran for 12 hours on the Friday, when the cars were backed up, and restarted at 8 a.m. the next morning for another 12 hours. There were 48 starters, but only 24 finished. The greatest actual distance was covered by a Talbot (1,902.9 miles), which ran into tenth place on handicap. British cars took the first 12 places.

1937: The Germans were in a class of their own at the Tripoli Grand Prix held at Mellaha. Tyre wear proved to be a decisive factor. The Auto Union drivers decided to race flat out and had to make many pit stops to change wheels while the Mercedes- Benz drivers tried to save their tyres. Caracciola, Stuck, Fagioli, von Brauchitsch, Rosemeyer and Lang all had their turn in the lead but Stuck and Fagioli fell back with tyre wear while Caracciola and Seaman slowed down due to sand in the engine. Von Brauchitsch retired and Rosemeyer had a slow pit stop, leaving Hermann Lang, who drove faultlessly, with the deserved victory followed by four Auto Unions. Nuvolari in an Alfa had retired early.

1937: In the largest motor race event in Finland thus far, a clash between the Alfa Romeos of Rüesch and Bjørnstad was expected in the GP class. But to the disappointment for the 40000 spectators the Norwegian started with his troublesome ERA instead, leaving the Swiss to take the pole position. Rolander crashed his Bugatti against the sand bags in the greenhouse curve. The Bugatti turned over and Rolander scratched his hands against the asphalt so the doctor forbid him to start. Carlsson had oil pressure problems with his Monza so when the new oil pump was delayed at the customs Carlsson took over Rolander’s Bugatti. Rüesch took the lead at the start. He was followed by Bjørnstad, Ebb, Patama, Carlsson, Sundstedt, Hallman (Ford) and Elo (Bugatti). Bjørnstad was clearly blocking Ebb and was about to get a warning when the Finnish Mercedes driver finally was able to pass on lap 15. Rüesch had already opened up a 14.5 second gap and soon it became clear that he had no real opposition from the rest of the field. The race turned into a rather monotonous event, where the only real action was on lap 15 when Carlsson passed Patama. After 10 laps Hans Rüesch’s lead was 26 seconds, after 15 laps 36 seconds, after 20 laps 41 seconds and at the finish 47.5 seconds. Local hero Karl Ebb finished second and last year’s winner Bjørnstad third.

1948: Stirling Moss made his racing debut driving his 500cc Cooper in a hillclimb at Prescott, England, sponsored by the Bugatti Owners Club,

1949: The Monaco Grand Prix was cancelled due to the death of Prince Louis II of Monaco.

1954: The III Grand Prix de Bordeaux run over 123 laps of the 2458 metre circuit was won by Jose Froilan Gonzalez in a Ferrari 625.

1959: Fireball Roberts drove to the last of his four victories in NASCAR’s Convertible Division, outrunning Joe Weatherly by nearly a full lap to win at Darlington (South Carolina, US) Raceway. Roberts started 10th and led 120 of 219 laps. Weatherly held on for second place with Larry Frank third. Pole-starter Curtis Turner, Weatherly’s teammate in Thunderbirds owned by Doc White, led 76 laps early before crashing.

1971: Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver drove their Wyer-Gulf Porsche 917K to victory in the 1000 Kilometer race at Spa, Belgium. Their average speed of 154.8 mph still stands today as the fastest road race ever.

1982: At the Belgium Grand Prix at Zolder, John Watson in his McLaren set the fastest lap of the race after starting way back in 12th spot where he went on to win the race in a time of 1:35:41. Keke Rosberg in the Williams was second, seven seconds back and Eddie Cheever was third from starting 16th. Polesitter Alain Prost in his Renault spun off on lap 59 and was done for the day. The other Ferrari of Didier Pironi was withdrawn by the team out of respect for the loss of Gillles Villenuve who perished in qualifying the day before.

1984: Mario Andretti ran the first unofficial 210 mph lap (210.575) at Indianapolis.

1992: Roberto Guerrero set an Indianapolis 500 qualifying record, driving his Lola-Buick to an average speed of 232.483 mph and setting the single lap record at 232.618 mph. Born in Medellin, Colombia, in 1958, Guerrero began racing when he was 12 years old. He won two national Kart championships in his home country before being sent abroad to the prestigious Jim Russell Driving School in England. He quickly found success in the Formula Ford ranks in England. Guerrero’s performance as an Indy Car Series racer is best described as workmanlike. While he’s not won many races, he manages to finish in the top 20 in the point standings every year. His best success has come at the Indy 500 itself. It seems the magnitude of the event spurs Guerrero on. In his first Indy 500 in 1984, he finished second behind Rick Mears. It was the best rookie finish since the great Graham Hill won the event as a rookie in 1966. Guerrero finished third in 1985, fourth in 1986, and second in 1987.

1993: Alain Prost driving a Williams-Renault FW15C won the Spanish Grand Prix held at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona from p[ole position in a time of 1:32:27. Ayrton Senna was second in his McLaren 16 seconds back and Michael Schumacher in his Benetton set the fastest lap of the race to come in third from his fourth starting position. As usual, the Williamses took 1-2 in qualifying in Spain, with Prost ahead of Hill, Senna, Schumacher, Patrese and Wendlinger. At the start, Hill got ahead of Prost with no changes behind. Hill was leading Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Patrese and Wendlinger. Hill and Prost pulled away from the rest with Prost taking the lead on lap 11. Later in the race Prost’s car began to handle oddly and Hill closed up on him, attempting to re-overtake the Frenchman, only to retire when his engine failed on lap 41. Schumacher and Senna both pitted for tyres late in the race. Senna had a tardy stop, and he lost nearly all his advantage over Schumacher, who put in a string of fastest laps to close the gap. This challenge was ended when Schumacher went off the track at the final corner, after having to go off line to pass the smoking Lotus of Alessandro Zanardi. Prost won from Senna, Schumacher, Patrese, Andretti and Berger.

1999: Pat Austin set a NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car 1/4-mile speed and elapse time records of 253.23 mph and 5.59 seconds, respectively.

2001: Henry “Smokey” Yunick (77), American mechanic and car designer associated with motorsports, died. Yunick was deeply involved in the early years of NASCAR, and he is probably most associated with that racing genre. He participated as a racer, designer, and held other jobs related to the sport, but was best known as a mechanic, builder, and crew chief. Yunick was twice NASCAR mechanic of the year; and his teams would include 50 of the most famous drivers in the sport, winning 57 NASCAR Cup Series races, including two championships in 1951 and 1953.

2004: During the warm-up lap of the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, a man calling himself Jimmy Jump ran through the starting grid, only to be apprehended soon by the security. While he claimed to have many fans (due to his other performances at football matches), he was criticized for risking the lives of the drivers, even though the cars were still travelling at low speed at this point. The race was won by Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F2004.

~10 May~

1900: The first successful sprint meeting in Britain was held as part of the Thousand Miles Trial managed by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. The flying-start mile course at Welpeck Park (Nottinghamshire), belonging to the Duke of Portland, was not quite level, so cars were timed in both directions. The winner was the Hon Charles Rolls, whose two-way average was 37.63 mph with a 12 hp Panhard. Herbert Austin was placed 9th with a mean of 2mins 37.80 secs for the Wolseley.

1917: Billy Taylor drove his Stutz to victory in the 112.5 mile ‘Universal Cup’ AAA Championship race at Uniontown Speedway, Pennsylvania. Taylor averaged 89.25 mph on the 1.125 mile board track that featured turns banked nearly 40 degrees. It was Taylor’s only AAA Championship race win.

1926: Earl DeVore won the 250 mile AAA Championship race on the 1.25 mile board Charlotte Speedway, North Carolina. DeVore was driving a Miller in what proved to be the only Champ win of his career.

1931: René Dreyfus was the only foreigner in the 22nd Targo Florio where just 13 cars arrived at the start. The Alfa Romeo factory entered five drivers, the Maserati works just three and only one potent Bugatti was present, Varzi’s personal car. Four independents with Alfa Romeos, a Bugatti and a Salmson filled the remaining places. On a dry road, Varzi immediately established a strong lead, which he sustained for three laps while the five Alfa team cars relentlessly hounded him. The Maseratis of Fagioli and Biondetti ended in the ditch early on, whereas Dreyfus’ racecar was retired after ¾ race in hopeless position. Rain had started on lap two and after three laps torrential downpours turned some of the mountain roads into mud pools, resulting in the downfall of the grand prix racers like Varzi. Most cars of the Alfa Romeo team had front fenders fitted before the race to keep the splashing mud away from drivers, faces and goggles. It ended as a great success for Alfa Romeo who for the first time this year were victorious at one of the major races. Nuvolari and Borzacchini finished in the first two places, followed by the disenchanted Varzi in third place, car and driver almost unrecognizably covered in mud.

1936: Just 9 cars competed in the Finnish Grand Prix held over 50 laps of the 2.0 km Eläintarharata circuit. Eugen Björnstad won in an Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Monza.

1936: The X° Gran Premio Di Tripoli was run over 40 laps of the Autodromo Di Mellahaa circuit. Stuck was leading the race after having opened up a comfortable gap to his team mate Varzi. Rosemeyer had retired when his car caught fire. But then Auto Union’s new team manager Dr. Feuereissen began to give strange team orders, Stuck was ordered to slow down and Varzi to speed up. Achille Varzi put in a new lap record on the last lap and passed a very surprised Stuck just before the finish line.The whole thing ended with great bitterness and fury for both drivers when they found out the truth. Varzi, who had done nothing wrong, was humiliated in public at the victory party when the Governor of Libya, Marshal Balbo, proposed a toast for the real winner of the race, i.e. for Stuck.

1952: Buck Baker drove a Cadillac-powered open-wheel car to victory in the 200-mile NASCAR Speedway division race at Darlington Raceway, South Carolina, US. Dick Rathmann prevailed in the accompanying 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race, which was added to the program to boost attendance.

1959: The Monaco Grand Prix was held at the Circuit de Monaco over 100 laps of the three kilometre circuit for a race distance of 315 kilometres. Australian racer Jack Brabham driving a Cooper T51 for the factory Cooper Car Company team won the race. It was the first win for Brabham, a future three-time world champion. It was the first World Championship Grand Prix victory by an Australian driver. It was also the first win for the factory Cooper team. Coopers had won races previously in the hands of Rob Walker Racing Team. Brabham finished 20 seconds ahead of British driver Tony Brooks driving a Ferrari 246. A lap down in third was the Cooper T51 of French driver and 1958 Monaco Grand Prix winner Maurice Trintignant of the Rob Walker Racing Team.

1964: Graham Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix in his BRM. He also set the fastest lap of the race finishing ahead of Richie Ginther in the other BRM though he was one lap down. Peter Arundell finished third in his Lotus, three laps down. Jim Clark who sat on pole for the race finished fourth in his Lotus, four laps down from Hill.

1967: Lorenzo Bandini (31) died three days after crashing his Ferrari 312/67 during the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. A calm character, almost ‘unitalian’, Lorenzo Bandini’s debut in F1 came in 1961 with Scuderia Centro Sudís old Cooper-Maserati and moving on to the Ferrari works-team in 1962. Despite a 3rd place at the Monaco-Grand Prix Enzo Ferrari hired Willy Mairesse for 1963 instead. Back at Centro Sud, Bandini now had BRM works-machinery and scored three 5th place finishes. Bandini won the 24 hours of Le Mans sharing a Ferrari 250LM with Ludovico Scarfiotti and when Mairesse was badly injured in the German Grand Prix, Enzo called him back to the Scuderia. In 1964 Bandini scored his only victory in F1 at the Austrian Grand Prix. Until then John Surtees’s loyal lieutenant, Lorenzo suddenly found himself as team leader after the Brit’s fall-out with Enzo early in 1966. After coming in 2nd for the last two editions of the Monaco GP, the Italian was determined to win it in 1967. But when Denny Hulme went past in the final stages, Lorenzo risked too much trying to chase the New-Zealander. He clipped the chicane and rolled his Ferrari 312, suffering appalling burns as the car erupted in flames. This accident marked a significant turning point in attitudes towards improving motor racing safety. Lorenzo passed away three days later as a consequence, shortly before his wife suffered a miscarriage in the same hospital. 100,000 people attended his funeral.

1969: LeeRoy Yarbrough inherited victory when Bobby Allison crashed four laps from the end in a 400-mile main event at Darlington (South Carolina, US) Raceway. Yarbrough led just eight of the 291 laps in a Junior Johnson-owned Mercury. Pole-winner Cale Yarborough — no relation — was second in a Wood Brothers Mercury, one lap down. Paul Goldsmith wound up third while Allison was credited with fourth place.

1997: Mark Martin won the Winston Select 500 at the 2.66 mile Talladega Speedway, Alabama, US., a race which had no caution flags, at a NASCAR 500-mile record speed of 188.354 mph (303.126 km/h), nearly ten years after the introduction of restrictor plates.

1998: The Spanish Grand Prix held at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona) was won by Mika Häkkinen driving a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13. Mika Häkkinen qualified in pole position, 0.7 seconds ahead of his McLaren team-mate David Coulthard in second place, with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher a further 0.8 seconds behind in third. The race proved to be a formality for Häkkinen, winning the race ahead of Coulthard in second, and Schumacher in third. Arrows driver Pedro Diniz started from the pit lane due to stalling on the warm up lap. At the start the McLarens got away well, but Schumacher made a poor start and fell back to fifth behind his team-mate Eddie Irvine and Benetton’s Giancarlo Fisichella. They ran in these positions until the first round of pit stops, when Irvine delayed Fisichella sufficiently for his team-mate Schumacher to emerge ahead of them both and regain third. Fisichella and Irvine continued to battle until lap 28, when Fisichella attempted a passing manoeuvre around the outside of Irvine, resulting in a collision spearing them both off into the gravel trap. This led to Fisichella’s Benetton team-mate, Alexander Wurz, inheriting fourth place which he held until the finish. Mika Häkkinen was consistently faster than his team mate David Coulthard throughout the race weekend, unable to match his pace, even though they were in the same car. Respected ex driver and pundit Martin Brundle made the comment that Häkkinen was “in a class of his own”. During the race, Michael Schumacher and Minardi’s Esteban Tuero were given 10 second stop-go penalties for pit lane speeding. The Stewart of Rubens Barrichello earned two points by finishing in fifth place, which were team’s first of the season, this was made possible by the new engine and chassis the team used (however teammate Jan Magnussen ran with the old chassis). Reigning World Champion Jacques Villeneuve finished in sixth place, after Williams had their worst qualifying result since the 1989 United States Grand Prix. On the final lap, Williams driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen passed Prost’s Jarno Trulli for eight place when Trulli was incorrectly shown the blue flags as the marshalls had mistaken the Williams for a Ferrari. “I am truly angry because I had to give up a great battle, and it isn’t fair to lose a position because they are blind and can’t recognise one car from another. Of course it doesn’t matter much to finish eighth or ninth, but for a racer it matters. In a case of a blue flag I didn’t have an alternative”. Jarno Trulli. Post race, Fisichella was given a $7,500USD fine for the collision with Irvine.

2007: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., announced he was leaving Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the team founded by his father in 1996 and owned by Teresa Earnhardt.

Carroll Shelby

2012: Carroll Shelby, the American automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur who gave his name to the famous Shelby Cobra sports car, died at the age of 89. He was one of the nation’s longest-living heart transplant recipients, having received a heart on June 7, 1990, from a 34-year-old man who died of an aneurism. Shelby also received a kidney transplant in 1996 from his son, Michael. The one-time chicken farmer had more than a half-dozen successful careers during his long life. Among them: champion race car driver, racing team owner, automobile manufacturer, automotive consultant, safari tour operator, raconteur, chili entrepreneur and philanthropist. Shelby first made his name behind the wheel of a car, winning France’s grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race with teammate Ray Salvadori in 1959. He already was suffering serious heart problems and ran the race with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue. He had turned to the race-car circuit in the 1950s after his chicken ranch failed. He won dozens of races in various classes throughout the 1950s and was twice named Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year. Soon after his win at Le Mans, he gave up racing and turned his attention to designing high-powered “muscle cars” that eventually became the Shelby Cobra and the Mustang Shelby GT500. The Cobra, which used Ford engines and a British sport car chassis, was the fastest production model ever made when it was displayed at the New York Auto Show in 1962. A year later, Cobras were winning races over Corvettes, and in 1964 the Rip Chords had a Top 5 hit on the Billboard pop chart with “Hey, Little Cobra.” (“Spring, little Cobra, getting ready to strike, spring, little Cobra, with all of your might. Hey, little Cobra, don’t you know you’re gonna shut ’em down?”) In 2007, an 800-horsepower model of the Cobra made in 1966, once Shelby’s personal car, sold for $5.5 million at auction, a record for an American car. It was Lee Iacocca, then head of Ford Motor Co., who had assigned Shelby the task of designing a fastback model of Ford’s Mustang that could compete against the Corvette for young male buyers. Turning a vehicle he had once dismissed as “a secretary car” into a rumbling, high-performance model was “the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” Shelby recalled in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press. That car and the Shelby Cobra made his name a household word in the 1960s. When the energy crisis of the 1970s limited the market for gas-guzzling high-performance cars, Shelby weathered the downturn by heading to Africa, where he operated a safari company for a dozen years. By the time he had returned to the United States, Iacocca was running Chrysler Motors and he hired him to design the supercharged Viper sports car. In the meantime, Shelby had also inaugurated the World Chili Cookoff competition and he began marketing Carroll Shelby Original Texas Chili. In recent years, Shelby worked as a technical adviser on the Ford GT project and designed the Shelby Series 1 two-seat muscle car, a 21st century clone of his 1965 Cobra. He created the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation in 1991 to provide assistance for children and young people needing acute coronary and kidney care. According to its Web site, the foundation has helped numerous children received needed surgery, as well as provided money for research.

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