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14-15 September: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~14 September~

1905: The first Tourist Trophy (TT), a regularity trial based on fuel consumption for motor cars and motorcycles, was won by John Napier in an Arrol-Johnston, on the Isle of Man, England. Regulations required a vehicle weight between 1,300 and 1,600 pounds, a wheelbase of at least seven feet, six inches and a load weight of 660 pounds consisting of driver, mechanic (or passenger) and sand ballast. Entries had to accommodate the driver and three passengers (i.e., have a back seat). Examples of the same car had to be available for sale to the public for at least a month after the event. Forty-two cars started the race. Twenty-eight were made in England. Sixteen of the English cars finished plus two from other countries. The race was four laps over the Highland Course. Charles Rolls was a pre-race favorite, but Napier in his 3.8-liter Arrol-Johnson finished first by two minutes and nine seconds over a Rolls-Royce driven by Percy Northey. Rolls had stripped his gears shortly after the start. Napier set the fastest lap of one hour, 31 minutes and nine seconds at 34.30 mph.

1935: Dick Shuttleworth, driving a 2.9 litre Alfa Romeo set a 0.5 mile record of 79.36 mph at the Brighton (England) Speed Trials.

1952: Lee Petty drove his Plymouth to victory in the tragic 250-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Langhorne Speedway, Pennsylvania, US. Rookie driver Larry Mann, competing in only his sixth race, overturned on the 211th lap and died of ­massive injuries. Mann defied a long-standing racing taboo by painting his Hudson green.

1966: “Dyno” Don Nicholson became the first NHRA Funny Car driver to run the 1/4-mile in under 8 seconds when he turned in a 7.96 second pass, in Michigan, US.

1968: Miss Patsy Burt broke the Brighton Speed Trials (England) standing kilometer start record with a time of 20.21 seconds (110.69 mph) in a McLaren Oldsmobile. She was the first lady to win the event and was also the Ladies’ record holder at Shelsley Walsh, the oldest sprint and hill-climb event in Britain, from 1967 to 1978.

1969 Talladega 500

1969: Richard Brickhouse prevailed in the first Talladega 500, Alabama, US a race marked by a boycott of around 30 drivers because of safety concerns and other grievances. The protest at the new 2.66-mile speedway turned into an attempt to unionize the top drivers; the effort ultimately fizzled after NASCAR chairman Bill France Sr. insisted the show go on and ran a well-attended race without them. Brickhouse led the final 11 laps of his only career win in NASCAR’s top series, beating Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott to the line in a field dotted with replacement drivers.

1973: The BMW 2002i of Achim Warmbold and Jean Todt won the Rally Australia. After a successful career as a rally co-driver Todt made his reputation in motor sport management, first with Peugeot Talbot Sport, then with Scuderia Ferrari, before being appointed Chief Executive Officer of Ferrari from 2004 to 2008. Since October 23, 2009 he has been President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

1974: Bobby Unser drove a Chevrolet Camaro to victory in round one of the IROC series at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, US.

1980: Nelson Piquet won the 50th Italian Grand Prix and the first Grand Prix to be held at Imola. It was the first time since the1948 Italian Grand Prix was held at Parco del Valentino that the Autodromo Nazionale Monzadid not host the Italian Grand Prix. Monza was under refurbishment at the time. The race was such a success that a new race, the San Marino Grand Prix was established for Imola. The race was held over 60 laps of the 5.000-kilometre circuit for a total race distance of 300 kilometres.

2001: Mika Hakkinen announced he would be taking a sabbatical year from Formula One, and fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen would take his McLaren seat. In the end the double world champion never returned to the sport despite a number of offers from high-profile teams. After a career spanning four decades, starting karting in 1974 at the age of five, Hakkinen expressed a desire to spend more time with his wife and son.

2003: The fastest overall average speed for a Grand Prix race of 153.842 mph (247.585 km/h) was set by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix.

2008: Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix at Monza aged 21 years and 74 days, driving for Toro Rosso. The day before, Vettel had become the youngest driver to take pole in Formula One history. Vettel finished 12.5 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen in wet weather conditions. The 21 year old drove a race that belied his years, picking up the throttle with metronomic precision in the slippery conditions while running standard-spec low downforce at the 3.6 mile circuit. In the post race press conference Vettel recalled the last few laps: “P1 was still on the board, P1 and a plus and I was leading by quite a bit, and I thought f***k, you know, if you finish the race you will be winning – I apologise – but you know, it was unbelievable. Then I tried to focus again, the conditions were difficult. In the end it was not so difficult to keep up concentration”. The result was also a team best for Toro Rosso, being the only podium finish it ever achieved. The 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton only managed seventh.

~15 September~

Antonio Ascari

1888: The birth of one of Italy’s early motorsport heroes, Antonio Ascari, in Bonferraro. Starting out as a mechanic, he took on an Alfa Romeo franchise and from graduated into driving. He began racing cars at the top levels in Italy in 1919, using a modified 1914 Fiat. Along with Enzo Ferrari, he raced in the first Targa Florio held after the end of World War I in 1919, but did not finish after crashing into a deep ravine. His bad luck there continued in 1920 and 1921, but in 1922 he finished a strong fourth. Driving an Alfa Romeo for Vittorio Jano in April 1923, he narrowly lost the Targa Florio, finishing second to his Alfa Romeo team-mate, Ugo Sivocci. However, the following month at the Cremona Circuit he drove to his first major Grand Prix victory. In 1924, he was again the winner at Cremona in the first race of the P2, then went on to Monza where he won the Italian Grand Prix. 1925 promised to be a great year for Antonio Ascari, his car dominating the competition at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps when he won the inaugural Belgian Grand Prix. He could even eat and drink slowly during a pit stop. The 36-year-old Ascari was killed while leading the 1925 French Grand Prix in an Alfa Romeo P2 in the first race at the new Autodrome de Montlhéry south of Paris. He crashed at the fast left handed corner on the straight that headed back to the banked section of the track; Ascari died of his injuries on his way to hospital in Paris. He left behind a seven-year-old son, Alberto, who would become one of the greats of Formula One racing in the early 1950s and who would also die behind the wheel at age 36 and on the 26th of a different month, four days after a remarkable escape. Antonio Ascari is interred in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.

1923: The last race staged at the Jamesville Fair Ground, Wisconsin, US, was won by Red Parkhurst.

1924: Jimmy Murphy (29), American race car driver who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1922 and the American Racing Championship in 1922 and 1924, died. As he charged for the lead late in a race promoted by a friend, at the Syracuse, New York fairgrounds dirt track race, his car slid sideways and crashed through the inside wooden rail. A large piece of the rail was pushed through Jimmy’s chest, and he died before he could be taken to the hospital.

1950: The first race staged at the Opa Locka Speedway, Florida, US was won by Bob Gegen in a supercharged MG TC.

1951: The Aston Martin DB3/1 made its racing with debut at the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Dunrod, Ireland, but the car driven by Lance Macklin had to retire due to bearing failure.

1985: Ayrton Senna driving a Lotus 97T won the rescheduled Belgium Grand Prix. It was Senna’s second World Championship victory and the first of five he would win at Spa-Francorchamps. Senna won by 28 seconds over British driver Nigel Mansell driving a Williams FW10. Third was World Championship points leader, French driver Alain Prost driving a McLaren MP4/2B. The win promoted Senna to third in the drivers’ standings and third place allowed Prost to expand his lead over Ferrari driver Michele Alboreto to 16 points.

1991: Harry Gant turned in a dominant second half of the race to win the Peak Antifreeze 500 at Dover International Speedway, Delaware, US lapping the field for his third win in a row in NASCAR’s premier series. Gant, who led 326 of the 500 laps on the mile track, strung wins together at Darlington, Richmond, Dover and Martinsville during his hot streak, which earned him the unofficial nickname of “Mr. September.” Geoffrey Bodine finished second with Morgan Shepherd third. Just 16 of 40 cars were running at the finish, largely because of a 15-car wreck that thinned the field in the 69th lap.

1996: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, located in Clark County, Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada (US) staged its first race, an IndyCar event, which was won by Richie Hearn.

2001: Italian racing driver Alex Zanardi suffered a huge crash while racing in the Cart series in Germany on this day in 2001. Lucky to survive the crash, Zanardi had to have both his legs amputated. Astonishingly, he was back racing again within two years. 

2002: In another dominating 1-2 finish for Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello won the Italian Grand Prix, on a two-stop strategy, in front of his one-stopping teammate Michael Schumacher. Jaguar-Cosworth’s Eddie Irvine finished third.

2002: Freshman driver Ryan Newman held off a late-race gallop by Kurt Busch to win the rain-shortened event at New Hampshire International Speedway (US). Newman led the final 41 laps and was only a car length ahead of Busch when rain curtailed the event after 207 of the scheduled 300 laps have been run.

2007: Rally driver Colin McRae (39) and three other people were killed when their helicopter crashed near Lanark in Scotland. The son of five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae and brother of rally driver Alister McRae, Colin McRae was the 1991 and 1992 British Rally Champion and, in 1995 became the first British person and the youngest to win the World Rally Championship Drivers’ title, a record he still holds. McRae’s outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors’ title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

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