11-12 March: This Weekend in the History of Motor Sports

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~11 March ~

1928: Tazio Nuvolari driving a Bugatti T35C won the Tripoli Grand Prix.

Tazio Nuvolari

Tazio Nuvolari

1928: Louis Chiron in a Bugatti T35C won the Saint Raphael Grand Prix at L’Estérel Plage, in France.

1929: Sir Henry Segrave, driving the 925 hp Napier “Golden Arrow”, designed by Capt. J S Irving, raised the and speed record to 231.446 mph in front of 120,000 at Daytona Beach, Florida, US. Two days later, Lee Bible’s White Triplex crashed and killed a

Golden Arrow - 1929

Golden Arrow – 1929

photographer. Daytona Beach was closed and Segrave was unable to make further runs to achieve the planned higher speeds. Segrave was killed attempting a water speed record the next year. Golden Arrow never ran again.

1951: The Syracuse Grand Prix held at the Syracuse circuit on Sicily was won by Luigi Villoresi in a Ferrari 375.

1979: Gordon Johncock won the first ever CART sanctioned Indy Car race, the ‘Jimmy Bryan 150’ at Phoenix International Raceway. Bobby Unser led until Danny Ongais took over on lap 87. Ongais had a 20 second lead and had lapped all but four cars before a long pit stop under green on lap 119 dropped him to 5th. Johncock took over as Ongais closed quickly before blowing the motor in the Interscope Special 10 laps later. Rick Mears finished second and Johnny Rutherford third. Johncock was driving the Patrick Racing Penske PC6…the first time that a Penske fielded by another team had beaten Penske’s own entries.

1994: Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announced plans for a new racing series, the Indy Racing League, to begin in 1996. The Indianapolis 500 would be its cornerstone event.

1994: Clive Roberts driving a General Motors’ Impact at Fort Stockton Test Center, Texas, USA, established the record for the highest speed achieved by an electric vehicle – 183.822 mph –over a two-way flying kilometer.

2000: Jenson Button walked away from a massive 160mph accident during Saturday practice for his debut grand prix. He had been running fifth fastest when he hit a kerb and smashed into the retaining wall, ripping off two of the car’s wheels. Driving the spare car in qualifying, he was caught out by yellow and red flags and ended up qualifying in 21st. He ended up retiring from sixth place with engine failure in the race.

~ 12 March ~

1908: Lewis Strang drove an Isotta to victory in the 342 mile Savannah Challenge Cup race. Strang averaged 50.7 mph over the 17.1 mile open road circuit in Georgia, US.

1928: The British Racing Drivers’ Club was founded. The founder of the BRDC, Dr. J. D. Benjafield, one of the famed ‘Bentley Boys’ at Le Mans, was keen to organise dinner parties after races for his friends and drivers. It was these dinner parties which were the seeds from which grew the highly prestigious and much respected British Racing Drivers’ Club we know today. The Club was inaugurated early in 1928, with 25 members and a clear set of objectives. These were to promote the interests of motor sport generally; to celebrate any specific performance in motor sport; to extend hospitality to racing drivers from overseas; and to further the interests of British drivers competing abroad. At that time, Membership was restricted to racing drivers of proven success and experience, and quickly grew following the decision of the BRDC to move into race organisation. The first Club-organised event, the BRDC 500-Mile Race, took place at Brooklands in October 1929 and the BRDC badge quickly established itself as a regular feature on overalls worn by the Club pioneer drivers. After the Second World War, the BRDC became a major force in international motor racing, taking over the lease of Silverstone from the RAC in 1952 and subsequently announcing the aquisition of the site’s freehold from the Ministry of Defence in 1971. The Club, through its wholly-owned subsidiary company, Silverstone Circuits Limited (formed in 1966 to develop the commercial aspects of the property), then set in motion a major redevelopment of what had been a wartime bomber training base producing one of the foremost motor racing facilities in the world. A Masterplan for the development of Silverstone is currently being implemented. Silverstone Circuits Limited promote a number of major international race meetings at Silverstone, including the British Grand Prix, plus rounds of the FIA GT Championships, The British Touring Car Championship, Le Mans Series, British Superbike, British F3-GT and, from 2010, the MotoGP World Championship. As a Club, the BRDC has grown to become the most prestigious motor racing club in the world and today, membership totals over 800.

Eric Fernihough on his Brough Superior

Eric Fernihough on his Brough Superior

1938: Eric Fernihough riding his 996cc Brough Superior covers one kilometre at 143.39mph, the highest official speed by a motorcycle at Brooklands.

1961: Fireball Roberts drove the J.D. Braswell Pontiac to a wire-to-wire victory in the 250 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the 1.4 mile banked Marchbanks Speedway. It was the first time a driver had led every lap of a GN superspeedway race. On lap 113, Danny Weinberg passed Roberts low going into turn 1, but his angle into the turn was too steep and he crashed. Roberts had to spin to avoid Weinberg’s Ford, but continued as leader. Finishing 2 laps behind Roberts was the Ford of Eddie Gray with Danny Letner third, also in a Ford. Rex White & Banjo Matthews were the only other GN regulars as NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model series drivers made up the bulk of the 36 car field. It was the last NASCAR GN race held at the track (after a re-configuration in 1967, the track – then known as Hanford Motor Speedway – was torn down in 1984 and reverted to a cotton field).

1967: The Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, UK was won by Dan Gurney, in a Eagle-Weslake T1G.

Eagle Westlake

Eagle Westlake

1993: Alain Prost answered those who doubted he could return from his year’s sabbatical as sharp as he was before by setting the fastest time for the South African Grand Prix, the first round of the 16-race 1993 world championship. Prost, driving a Williams-Renault FW15C, beat fierce rival Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/8 to whet the appetite of fans who had to endure an easy title win for Nigel Mansell the previous season. But Senna continued to seethe, blaming Prost for keeping him out of the Williams set-up. “The way he is behaving is like a coward,” Senna said. “He has everything laid out for him in 1993. It’s like running a 100 metre race with him in running shoes and everybody in lead boots.”

1998: Ferrari revealed it was prepared to offer Schumacher £52 million to remain with it for the rest of his career, and then to continue to act as its ambassador when he did retire. The move came after he was linked with a switch to McLaren-Mercedes despite being paid £17.5 million a year. In the event he stayed, won five more championships and retired in 2006 before making an unexpected comeback in 2010 … with Mercedes.

2005: The first American stop for the A1GP (and so far only) was doomed to fail from the start. The race was announced before Laguna Seca announced it. There was little to no advertisement for the event, and very few fans of European open wheel racing in America even knew about the event. Due to constant rain, the A1GP weekend was canceled by the track a week before the race. Salvador Duran won both the Sprint and the Mian Race for Mexico.

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