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10-11 August: This Weekend in Motor Sports History

Discover the momentous motor sporting events that took place this week in history ………

~10 August ~

1907: Prince Borghese of Italy won the 8000 mile, 62-day Peking-to-Paris motor race. Driving like a maniac across Asia and Europe, the Prince encountered brush fires, got stuck in a swamp, and was pulled over by a policeman in Belgium. The policeman refused to believe that the prince was racing, rather than merely speeding. The idea for the race came from a challenge published in an article in the Paris newspaper Le Matin on 31 January 1907, that said: “What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?” There were forty entrants in the race, but only five teams ended up going ahead with shipping the cars to Peking. The race was held despite the race committee cancelling the race due to a lack of participants. The participating teams that went on with their effort anyway were: Itala, Italian, 7 litre engine, driven by Prince Scipione Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi Spyker, Dutch, driven by Charles Goddard with Jean du Taillis Contal, French, three-wheeler Cyclecar, driven by Auguste Pons DeDion 1, French, driven by Georges Cormier DeDion 2, French, driven by Victor Collignon There were no rules in the race, except that the first car to Paris would win the prize of a magnum of Mumm champagne. The race went without any assistance through country where there were no roads or road-maps. For the race, camels carrying fuel left Peking and set up at stations along the route to give fuel to the racers. The race followed a telegraph route so that the race was well covered in newspapers at the time. Each car had one journalist as a passenger, with the journalists sending stories from the telegraph stations regularly through the race. It was held during a time when cars were fairly new, and went through remote areas of Asia where people were not familiar with motor travel. The route between Peking and Lake Baikal had only previously been attempted on horseback. The race was won by Italian Prince Scipione Borghese of the Borghese family, accompanied by the journalist Luigi Barzini, Sr. He was confident and had even taken a detour from Moscow to St Petersburg for a dinner which was held for the team, and afterwards headed back to Moscow and rejoined the race. The event was not intended to be a race or competition, but quickly became one due to its pioneering nature and the technical superiority of the Italians’ car, a 7,433 cc (453.6 cu in) 35/45 hp model Itala. Second in the race was Charles Goddard in the Spyker, who had no money and had to ask others for petrol, and borrowed his car for the race.

1933: Midget car racing was officially born at the Loyola High School Stadium in Los Angeles (US) as a regular weekly program under the control of the first official governing body, the Midget Auto Racing Association (MARA). After spreading across the country, the sport traveled around the world; first to Australia in 1934 at Melbourne’s Olympic Park on December 15, and to New Zealand in 1937. Early midget races were held on board tracks previously used for bicycle racing. When the purpose built speedway at Gilmore Stadium was completed, racing ended at the school stadium, and hundreds of tracks began to spring up across the United States. Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (near Madison) is another major track in the United States operating since the first half of the twentieth century. Soon after in Australia, speedcar racing became popular with the first Australian Speedcar Championship being contested in Melbourne in 1935, its popularity running through the country’s “golden era” of the 1950s and 1960s. Australian promoters such as Adelaide’s Kym Bonython who ran the Rowley Park Speedway, and Empire Speedways who ran the Brisbane Exhibition Ground and the famous Sydney Showground Speedway, often imported drivers from the US including the popular Bob Tattersall and Jimmy Davies. Promoters in Australia during this period often staged races billed as either a “world speedcar championship” or “world speedcar derby”. During this time speedcars were arguably the most popular category in Australian speedway with crowds of up to 30,000 attending meetings at the Sydney Showground and over 10,000 in Adelaide and Brisbane. Speedcars continue to race in Australia, with the major events being the Australian Championship, and the Australian Speedcar Grand Prix (first run in 1938). Along with various state championships, there is also the Speedcar Pro Series and the Speedcar Super Series. Speedcar crowds of 10,000 people are common in Australia.

1940: The last Alexandria Bay (New York) Round the Houses race was won by Alfa Romeo. These races were part of the former ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) circuit.

1946: The first post-war race in Britain, the Ulster Trophy run at Ballyclare was won by ‘Bira’ driving a ERA C-Type at 78.47 mph over 50 miles.

1968: David Pearson sidestepped Richard Petty near the midway point and led the rest of the Myers Brothers 250 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US. Pearson slipped by to lead the final 111 laps, finishing three seconds ahead of pole-starter Petty on the quarter-mile asphalt track. Bobby Isaac finished third, four laps down.

1986: The first Formula One Grand Prix was held behind the Iron Curtain. A record of 200,000 spectators from everywhere from the Eastern European communist countries attended the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 50 years. The race was won by Nelson Piquet for Williams.

1995: Jacques Villeneuve announced he was leaving CART to race for Williams in Formula 1.

1997: Jacques Villeneuve driving for the Williams team won the Hungarian Grand Prix. Damon Hill finished second driving an Arrows car, with Johnny Herbert third driving for the Sauber team. Villeneuve’s victory was his fifth of the season and the sixth for the Williams team.

~11 August ~

Tazio Nuvolari

1953: Tazio Nuvolari (60), Italian motorcycle and racing driver, known as Il Mantovano Volante (The Flying Mantuan) or Nivola, died. He was the 1932 European Champion in Grand Prix motor racing. Dr Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari “The greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.”

1963: Fred Lorenzen posted a dominant victory in the Western North Carolina 500 at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway (US), landing the ninth of his 26 career wins in NASCAR’s top series. Lorenzen, who drove a Holman-Moody Ford, led 452 of the 500 laps in lapping the field on the half-mile asphalt track. Richard Petty finished second, one lap back, with Jim Paschal third, another lap back in another Petty Enterprises Plymouth.

1985: The TWR Jaguar XJR-6 (cover image) made its race debut in the 1000 km World Endurance Championship race at Mosport, Ontario, Canada. Manfred Winklehock was fatally injured in the crash of his 962 during the race which was won by Derek Bell and Hans Stuck driving a Rothmans Porsche 962.

1991: Ernie Irvan led most of the way to win the 218.52-mile race at Watkins Glen, New York (US) a tragic affair that claimed the life of veteran campaigner J.D. McDuffie. The 52-year-old McDuffie died instantly when he slid off the track and hit a steel retaining barrier.

1991: Ayrton Senna won the Hungarian Grand Prix for McLaren, leading home the William’s pairing of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese.

1996: Jaques Villeneuve won the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Damon Hill making it a Williams 1-2. Jean Alesi was third in a Benetton.

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