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16-17 March: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~16 March~

1952: Juan Manuel Fangio in a Ferrari 166 won the Eva Duarte Perón Grand Prix at Costanera Norte.

1952: Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari 500 won the Syracuse F2 Grand Prix at Syracuse, New York, US.

1959: Phil Hill was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, which named him “Sportscar Driver of the Year”.

1969: Jackie Stewart driving a Matra-Cosworth MS80 won the Race of Champions at Brand Hatch, England.

1975: Johnny Rutherford won the USAC Championship ‘Bricklin 150’ at FasTrack International Raceway, Cashion, Arizona. Rutherford’s Offy powered McLaren led the last 61 laps on the 1 mile paved oval, crossing the line 5.3 seconds ahead of Gordon Johncock despite a yellow that bunched up the field with 5 laps left. 19 cars started on a track surface that deteriorated badly, cutting many tyres.

1975: Tom Pryce driving a Shadow-Cosworth DN5 won the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.

1980: Riccardo Patrese and Walter Rohrl drove a Lancia Monte Carlo to victory in the Brands Hatch 6 Hours Sports Car race.The winning duo completed 147 laps, finishing a lap ahead of Lancia teammates Eddie Cheever/Michele Alboreto. The race was round 2 of the 1980 World Championship for Makes season.

1980: Sophomore Dale Earnhardt fended off a pesky Rusty Wallace to score his first superspeedway victory in the Atlanta 500 staged in Hampton, Georgia (US). Earnhardt came from the 31st starting position to beat Wallace by 9.55 seconds. Wallace made his NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut in a Chevrolet owned by Roger Penske.

Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson

1980: Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson (59), an American off-road racing legend, died. A hot rodder since his youth, Thompson increasingly pursued land speed records in his late 20s and early 30s. He achieved international fame in 1960 when he became the first American to break the 400 mph barrier, driving his Challenger 1 to a one-way top speed of 406.60 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats and surpassing John Cobb’s one-way world record mark of 402 mph. Thompson then turned to racing, winning many track and dragster championships. In the 1960s he also entered cars at the Indianapolis 500. Later he formed off-road racing sanctioning bodies SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG). In 1988 Thompson and his wife Trudy were mysteriously gunned down at their home in Bradbury, California. The crime remained unsolved until 2007, when a former business partner was convicted of having orchestrated the murders.

1995: McLaren announced Mark Blundell would drive for it while adjustments costing £500,000 were made to its car to accommodate Nigel Mansell. Mansell was livid the car had been built with a cockpit too small and in the event he did not settle and quit after two races.

1996: Wayne Taylor, Jim Pace, and Eric van de Poole drove an Oldsmobile R&S MkIII WSC to victory in the 12-Hours of Sebring.

1996: As predictions go, Eddie Irvine’s was about as wide of the mark as you could get. After Damon Hill’s win in the season opener at the Australian Grand Prix, Irvine said: ”He isn’t good enough to win the World Championship. I just don’t believe Damon has it inside him to become world champion. When you look at him, it’s just not there, is it?. Damon was buried by Jacques in Australia. To be honest, Jacques made him look silly. Jacques looked better in every session, even though Damon has got years more Formula One experience.He drove circles round Damon.” Hill went on to win the drivers’ title that season.

2000: Renault bought Benetton for US$110 million, less than three years after dropping out of the sport, with Flavio Briatore installed as the team principal. Benetton’s chairman Luciano Benetton said they had been driven out by the rising costs of grand prix racing. “Competing is all about winning and if you have a budget that’s less than the others, you can’t expect miracles,” he said.

2001: Robert “Bob” Wollek (57), nicknamed “Brilliant Bob”, a race car driver from Strasbourg, France was killed in a road accident in Florida while riding a bicycle to prepare for the 12 Hours of Sebring. He was struck from behind by a van driven by an elderly driver from Okeechobee, Florida at approximately 4:30 p.m. Just prior to his death, he announced he would retire from racing to serve as an ambassador for Porsche, and was due to sign this agreement upon returning home after Sebring. On race day, the organizers held a one minute silence in memory of Wollek. Wollek was due to start in the Porsche 996 GT3-RS with Johnny Mowlem and Michael Petersen, however, out of respect the car was withdrawn from the race.

2001: In a sign of things to come, McLaren and Ferrari team officials squared up in the pits at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The incident happened when a Ferrari technician stood in front of the adjacent McLaren-Mercedes garage looking in at the cars. A mechanic from the McLaren team then bumped into the Ferrari man, who refused to move away until he was accused of spying and finally pushed out of the garage area. McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said: ‘I didn’t see the incident, but I know the Ferrari guy concerned and his body language is always pretty infuriating. But it is a pit lane. He is not the traditional tyre-spotter and we all live with each other’s tyre-spotters. ‘He was … generally being a bit of a Nosy Parker. There is nothing in the regulations to stop that happening, but when you step back over him as, in this instance, one of our guys did, then in this heat, with a bit of jet lag, the sympathy is not there.”

2002: The largest ever demolition derby (123 participants) took place at Todd & Pollock Speedway, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. It took 47 minutes before the winner – the last remaining mobile car- emerged.

2003: Race car driver Ricky Craven won the Darlington 500, crossing the finish line 0.002 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch for the closest recorded finish in National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) history. In May 2009, more than 5,000 racing fans voted Craven’s victory the most memorable moment in the history of South Carolina’s challenging Darlington Raceway, nicknamed “The Track Too Tough to Tame.”

2005: John Tojeiro (81) affectionately known as Toj, an engineer and racing car designer, whose innovations helped to revolutionise car design in the 1950s and ’60s, died. Perhaps his most lasting legacy was in producing a design which AC Cars developed into the AC Ace. From the Ace, Carroll Shelby in turn developed the iconic AC Cobra; marrying a thunderous American V8 engine with the lightweight British chassis.

2008: The first race of the season was held in Australia in front of 200,000 spectators and it marked the 250th grand prix start for Rubens Barrichello. It was not a happy day for him, however, as he was disqualified after ignoring a red light at the pit-lane exit. Lewis Hamilton qualified his McLaren Mercedes on pole position, and went on to win the race and that year’s drivers’ championship. Nick Heidfeld finished second in a BMW Sauber car, with Nico Rosberg third in a Williams, his first ever F1 podium. The race saw a very high rate of attrition, with only seven cars out of the 22-car grid running at the chequered flag – which reduced from seven to six after Rubens Barrichello’s disqualification – with two other drivers being classified as they had completed at least 90% of the 307.574 km race distance in order for classification.

~17 March~

1915: Barney Oldfield won the Venice Grand Prix held in Venice, California driving a Maxwell. Oldfield averaged 68.3 mph for the 300 miles.

1962: The Rand Autumn Trophy held in Kyalami was won by John Love in a LDS-Porsche 4.

1963: Fred Lorenzen drove a Holman-Moody Ford to a 1 lap win in the NASCAR Grand National Atlanta ‘500’ on the 1.5 mile Atlanta International Raceway. Fireball Roberts took himself out of contention on lap 268, losing a lap when he spun his Pontiac in turn 2 after exiting the pits. Roberts edged fellow Pontiac driver Bobby Johns by two feet to take second. Herman Beam’s 84 race finishing streak ended when the clutch failed on his Ford.

1968: David Pearson finished strong at Bristol (Tennessee, US) International Speedway, leading the final 31 laps of the Southeastern 500.

1968: Gordon Johncock took advantage of a late mistake by Bobby Unser to win the USAC Championship season opener, the ‘California 200’ at Hanford Motor Speedway. Johncock was running a distant 3rd with 14 laps to go when Unser went too hard into turn 1 in an effort to beat Roger McCluskey into the turn. Unser spun up the banking and 2nd running Art Pollard hit the wall trying to avoid. Unser restarted after losing a lap, but Pollard was out. Having been in a lengthy battle for the lead with both McCluskey and Pollard, Unser apparently wasn’t aware that McCluskey had lost a lap after a recent stop for fuel. Joe Leonard escaped injury after his new Brawner-Ford hit the wall and burst into flames on lap 53. Unser won the pole in his turbocharged Offy powered Eagle with a speed of 155.709 mph on the 1.5 mile banked paved tri-oval. Sonny Ates and Gary Bettenhausen both made the starting field in upright dirt cars, as did a front engined roadster. It was Johcock’s 2nd straight win at Hanford, both coming in the waning laps. In the Fall 1967 race, Pollard ran out fuel while leading and Leonard crashed with 3 laps left to give Johncock the win.

1968: The McLaren M7A’s raced by Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme finished 1st and 3rd at the non-championship “Race of Champions” at Brand Hatch, England. Pedro Rodriguez finished second in his BRM P133. This race also marked the debut of the Matra MS10-Ford driven by Jackie Stewart who finished 6th.

1974: Wally Booth drove his AMC Hornet to victory over Jack Roush’s Mustang in the Gatornationals Pro Stock finals. It was the first NHRA Pro Stock win for American Motors.

1974: Jacky Ickx driving a Lotus-Cosworth 72E claimed victory in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.

1974: Mike Mosley drove a Drake-Offenhauser powered Eagle to victory in the USAC Championship race at Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

1985: Bill Elliot won the NASCAR Winston Cup race at Atlanta, Georgia in a Ford Thunderbird.

1996: Andre Ribeiro won the Rio 400 in Rio de Janeiro, the first CART race run in Brazil.

2000: Bernie Ecclestone launched a savage attack on Tony Blair after a £1 million donation to the Labour party was returned after it became public knowledge, amid accusations it had been given in a bid to get Formula One an exemption from the ban on tobacco advertising. Ecclestone said they had agreed to stick to a “keep mum” policy, refusing either to confirm or deny questions about any donations. Instead, without warning, Blair “started talking”. In early 1997 he had promised Labour managers that he would keep quiet about his donation. “I rarely regret anything I do, but I’m disappointed that Blair could not keep his word about that,” he said. “I said to those clowns: if someone puts me up against the wall with a machinegun, I will not confirm or deny anything about the donation. They said, okay, okay, we will do the same. The next thing that happens is that Blair has started talking. I only found out by accident. It is third-rate behaviour.”

2002: Sterling Marlin drove his Dodge to victory in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway, South Carolina, US. Steve Park, returning after a six-month layoff due to injury, crashed while leading early. Tony Stewart was shaken up while leading in the late stages when he was involved in a multi-car collision.

2002: The Malaysian Grand Prix was held at Sepang. The Grand Prix is notable for the first lap collision between Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, which led to the Colombian being given a drive through penalty. This decision led to much criticism for the Malaysian stewards, with the victim of the incident, Schumacher, commenting that the decision was “overly harsh” on Montoya. The Grand Prix was won by the Williams-BMW of German Ralf Schumacher, who commented that it was “almost a perfect race”.

2006: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Bobby Hamilton (cover image) announced he had been diagnosed with cancer, causing him to bow out of the 2006 season. The 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion sadly lost his battle with the ­disease on January 7, 2007, aged 49.

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