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15-16 June: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~15 June~

1902: The first hillclimb in Italy, the Consuma Cup event near Florence, in which Nourry’s 8 hp De Dion Bouton averaged 23 mph over a 9.4 mile course.

1929: Ray Keech (29) board track and brick track racer in the 1920s, best remembered for winning the 1929 Indianapolis 500, and for setting a land speed record, died from injuries from a racing accident at the Altoona 200-Mile Race in Tipton, Pennsylvania, US.

1952: Mercedes-Benz 300SLs finished 1-2 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the car of Karl Kling and Fritz Riess beating the car of Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermeyer. It was the first Le Mans win for Mercedes-Benz and first Le Mans win for an enclosed car. After the start Ferrari and Jaguar took the lead, André Simon and Alberto Ascari setting lap records in turn. Too much of a good thing, however: two hours into the race, the clutch of Ascari’s Ferrari 250 S gave up. Simon with the Ferrari 340 America, now led in front of the Robert Manzon / Jean Behra team with their 2.3-litre Gordini. Towards evening the two Frenchmen moved up into the leading position. Meanwhile, an alternator malfunction made itself felt on board the Kling / Klenk team’s 300 SL, forcing Kling to make a 10-minute pit stop; an hour later another 17-minute delay in the pits was called for. Finally, at half-past midnight Hans Klenk took off his helmet, his expression showing resignation and utter disappointment. And the little lightweight 2.3-litre Gordini was still leading. After a pit stop Pierre Levegh, with his 4.5-litre Talbot took over the first place, followed at a distance of 65 kilometres by the 300 SLs of the Helfrich / Niedermayr and Lang / Riess teams. By noon of the following day the number of contestants had shrunk to 19 vehicles. Levegh was still at the forefront, but stubbornly refused to allow his co-pilot Marchand to relieve him. Behind him the two 300 SLs thundered on reliably, lap after lap. Then, just 70 minutes before the end of the race, a damaged connecting rod forced Levegh to abandon between Arnage and Maison Blanche.The two 300 SLs were now unreachably far ahead. In the early hours of the morning the new front runner Theo Helfrich lost his leading position to Hermann Lang due to a driving error. Mercedes-Benz won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess, to whom this success was largely due, it was the most important triumph of their careers. The double victory at Le Mans was preceded by a triple win in Bern on 18 May 1952. Further successes followed in that racing season: a four-fold victory at the Great Jubilee Prize at Nürburgring on 3 August 1952 and another double win in the 3rd Carrera Panamericana in Mexico (19 to 23 November 1952), the last great event of the extremely successful 1952 racing season.

1958: The Belgian Grand Prix was held at Spa-Francorchamps over 24 laps of the 14 kilometre circuit for a race distance of 339 kilometres.The race was won by British driver Tony Brooks in a Vanwall. It was Brooks first solo Grand Prix victory after his car won the 1957 British Grand Prix in a shared driver with Stirling Moss. Brooks finished 20 seconds ahead of fellow Briton Mike Hawthorn driving a Ferrari 246 F1. Brooks’ Vanwall team mate Stuart Lewis-Evans finished third in a career-best finish, the first of just two podium finishes to his short Grand Prix career. The race also marked the first World Championship race start (and finish) by a woman, Maria Teresa de Filippis driving her privately entered Maserati 250F. She finished tenth and last, two laps behind Brooks’ Vanwall.

1961: Guilo Cabianca (38) was killed in a bizarre incident at the Modena Autodrome test track in Italy. The Modena Autodrome was situated near Via Emilia, which crosses the city of Modena. Cabianca was testing a Cooper-Ferrari F1 car, owned by Scuderia Castellotti, when he suffered a suspected stuck throttle. Unable to stop, his Cooper went off track, struck a spectator and then went through the gate of the Autodrome which was open because of men at work near the track. The car crossed the Via Emilia and crashed against the wall of a workshop. Crossing the road, Cabianca’s Cooper struck a bicycle, a motorcycle, and a small mini-van (not a taxi as often reported) and three parked cars. The driver of the mini-van (also called “giardinetta” following a famous van of Fiat) and the motorcycle driver were killed at the scene. The biker was crushed and killed instantly by a heavy block of iron carried on the mini-van. Cabianca was conscious, but died a few hours later at the hospital. The spectator hit just after the car left the track suffered severe leg injuries, but survived.

1969: Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver drovee a Ford GT40 to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was the last event with the traditional Le Mans-style start, in which the drivers run across the track to enter their cars, as safety belts were now in use, which usually are strapped tight by mechanics. Jacky Ickx demonstrated against the start by walking slowly to his car, putting on his safety belts properly, and thus starting voluntarily at the back of the field. Later in the first lap, John Woolfe was killed, presumably due to not wearing belts properly. The traditional Le Mans-style start was discontinued after this accident, as drivers started in 1970 already strapped firmly into their seats. For this race, metal crash barriers had been installed around the circuit, especially at the Mulsanne Straight, where it was originally just an open road with no protection from the trees, houses and embankments.

1980: Benny Parsons drove from pole position at Michigan International Speedway to win the Gabriel 400. Parsons, who led 75 of the 200 laps, finished one car-length ahead of Cale Yarborough. Buddy Baker finished third as Neil Bonnett and Richard Petty rounded out the top five. It was the only career win at the Brooklyn, Mich., oval for Parsons, who once called nearby Detroit home.

1986: Richard Petty made his 1,000th NASCAR start at the Miller American 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan. Petty’s records of success and longevity are likely never to be broken. “The King,” as he is called, is first all-time in wins (200), races started (1,184), top-five finishes (555), top-10 finishes (712), pole positions (126), laps completed (307,836), laps led (52,194), races led (599), and consecutive races won (10)

1986: Nigel Mansell driving a Williams-Honda FW11 won the Canadian Grand Prix.

1993: James Simon Wallis Hunt (45) died from a heart attack in his house in Wimbledon, England shortly after having asked his fiancée Helen to marry him. James Hunt made a first impression in motor racing with frightening accidents in Formula 3. But once he graduated into Formula 1 with Lord Hesketh’s March privateer team, his career progressed well. Winning the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, now in the Postlethwaite-designed Hesketh 308, opened the doors to replace Emerson Fittipaldi at McLaren the following season. Hunt took the title challenge all the way to the final race at Mount Fuji where third place in torrential rain was enough to secure the title. Having reached the pinnacle, James somewhat seemed to have lost a target to focus on and his career went into a dive. He retired in 1979, finding F1 too dangerous and not worth the risk. After a couple of years away he returned as a TV commentator for the BBC and got more than once in hot water for his laid back commentary style.

1997: Ernie Irvan won the Miller 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race in Brooklyn, Michigan, USA, the scene of his near fatal crash three years earlier. He had tears in his eyes as he brought the 28 car into Victory Lane. The win also came in his last year with Robert Yates Racing.

1997: The Canadian Grand Prix race was marred by a big crash involving Olivier Panis, who broke his legs and would be unable to start the next seven Grands Prix. The race ended under red flag conditions on lap 54 due to this crash.Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari F310B won ahead of Jean Alesi in the Benetton and Giancarlo Fisichella in the Jordan. David Coulthard had been leading, but was delayed for over a lap by a clutch problem during his second pit stop, shortly before Panis’s crash.

1997: Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johanson, and Tom Kristianson drive a Porsche WSC95 to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

2003: Bentley, with an Audi engine and support from Audi works team Joest Racing, won its first Le Mans title since 1930, in the Bentley Speed 8, driven by Italian Rinaldo Capello, Britain’s Guy Smith and the Dane Tom Kristensen, who set a personal record with his fourth straight victory. Another Bentley team consisting of Australian David Brabham and Brits Mark Blundell and Johnny Herbert finished second.

2003: Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari F2003-GA won the Canadian Grand Prix, despite nursing an ailing car home towards the ends of the race, with the Williamses of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya right behind him, and the Renault of Fernando Alonso not far behind them. This was the fourth time that the Schumacher brothers had finished 1-2, having become the first siblings to do so at the 2001 Canadian Grand Prix.

~16 June~

1929: Bentleys swept the first four places at the 24 Hours of Le Mans [16 June 1929]. Just 25 competitors started the race.The duel that pitted Bentley, victorious, against Stutz in 1928 was still fresh in everyone’s mind. The British team was determined to continue its momentum, entering five cars. For the engine, Bentley continued to use their 4.4 litre powerplant, but also arrived with their secret weapon: the Speed Six, with a 6.6 litre monster of an engine, driven by Woolf “Babe” Barnato and Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin. Against the British fleet, the ten French cars were no match: for the B.N.C., D’Yrsan, S.A.R.A. and Tracta, did not produce enough power to match. To find the real competition, one had to look at the American contingency: Chrysler, Du Pont and Stutz were all hoping to make a splash. Come June 15 of that year, the competitors had barely started the race that the speeds clocked started to rise. Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin shattered the lap record, with an average speed of 133 kph. At the back of the pack, teams tried to organise an attack but the pace was so high, the race looked to be more difficult than ever. The race’s first retirement was recorded after seven laps: the Bentley driven by Bernard Rubin, winner the previous year, and Earl Howe. Meanwhile, the cars continued on their hellish pace and mechanical woes took their toll. After thirty laps, a third of the competitors had already stopped, and that wouldn’t be the end of it. As the hours continued to pass, the drivers had to stay concentrated on a circuit that looked more like a rally special than a race track: the trees along the road are painted white, so drivers knew to avoid them! There was no time to lose in the pits, in which only the drivers were allowed to work on the car! And despite team orders (even back then!) imposed by W.O. Bentley, the beautiful British cars flew to the finish.Bentley, once again, were the big winners, monopolising the first four finishing positions. The No.1 Speed Six of Captain Woolf “Babe” Barnato, who would win three times in three participations, and Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin, who was probably the fastest of the Bentley Boys, covered 2,843 kilometres with an average speed of 118.492 kph claiming its fourth victory, and third in a row, for the British marque. At the back, two French cars would finish the race. Two Tracta ended the day in ninth and tenth places, covering 2000 km with an average of just 85 kph!

1935: The IX Adac Eifelrennen at Nürburgring was started by the new coloured light system (red, yellow and 15 seconds later green). Rudolf Caracciola was able to out-accelerate the Auto Union of Bernd Rosemeyer on the long straight on the final lap to take the flag by 1.9 seconds.

1935: Robert Cazaux (29) in a Bugatti T35B, won at Sézanne, France. On a climb of honor his car overturned and he was killed.

1951: Driving a Studebaker, Frank Mundy won the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event on a Saturday night at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina. It was the first NASCAR Grand National event to be staged under the lights, Mundy’s first career NASCAR Grand National victory, and the first win for the Studebaker nameplate.

Donnie Allison

1968: Donnie Allison roared to his first triumph in NASCAR’s premier series, finishing two laps ahead of his brother Bobby at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham (US). Donnie Allison took command of the Carolina 500 when Darel Dieringer retired with engine failure, leading the final 129 laps. James Hylton finished third, six laps off the pace. Richard Brickhouse, making his first Cup start, took fourth, an amazing 30 laps down.

1985: Michele Alboreto in a Ferrari 156/85 won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

1996: Jeff Gordon rolled to his fifth win of the season at Pocono, Tennessee (US). Dale Earnhardt finished 32nd, but still led the championship race by 52 points over Terry Labonte.

1996: The Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was won by Damon Hill driving a Williams-Renault FW18, ahead of home hero Jacques Villeneuve, Gilles’ son. Michael Schumacher started from the back of the grid, as his crew were still working on his car as the field set off on the warm-up lap. This started a run of mechanical problems for the reigning double World Champion.

2007: Australian Troy Critchley, 36, was driving in a charity event in Selmer, Tennessee, on Saturday, when his drag racing car skidded off the road and into hundreds of spectators, who were not protected by guard rails. Two girls aged 15 and one aged 17 were among the six killed as Critchley performed an “exhibition burnout” – when a drag racer spins his tyres to make them heat up and smoke – at a Cars for Kids charity event.Up to 18 more were injured in the collision, which sent bodies `”flying into the air”, said Selmer Police Chief Neal Burks. In 2008 an indictment was unsealed charging Troy Critchley (38) with 6 counts of vehicular homicide and 22 counts of reckless aggravated assault.

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