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18-19 February: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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1900: The first circuit race, the Course du Catalogue, run over two laps of a 45 mile triangular course at Melun in France, was won by Léonce Girardot in a Panhard.~

Léonce Girardot driving a Panhard at the Course du Catalogue, 1900
Léonce Girardot driving a Panhard at the Course du Catalogue, 1900

1919: Ralph DePalma, driving Packard ‘905’, powered by a 12 cylinder 905 cubic inch aero-engine, at Daytona Beach, recorded a one-way flying mile at 149.887 mph. Although a world record it was not officially recognised as a new land speed record. In all De Palma set all American speed records from one to twenty miles during February 1919.

1934: “Stubby” Stubblefield won a 250 mile Stock Car race held on a 1.9 mile dirt road course at Mines Field (now the site of Los Angeles International Airport). Stubblefield averaged 62.3 mph in a Ford V8, leading a Ford sweep of the top 5.

1962: After 3 years of being the best driver never to win the Daytona 500, Fireball Roberts came to the 1962 edition race of the 500 on a hot roll, he won the American Challenge for winners of 1961 NASCAR events, the pole position for the 500, and the Twin-100 mile qualifier. In the race, he dominated the race leading 144 of the 200 laps and finally won his first (and eventually his only) Daytona 500 win. Richard Petty, who finished second protested Roberts’ win, claiming the Yunikcs team used more than six pit crewmen during the race. Roberts’ win was upheld three days later.

1973: Richard Petty, the “King of Stock Car Racing,” won the Daytona 500 before a crowd of over 103,000 spectators, marking the first time a stock car race had drawn over 100,000 spectators. No longer would there be questions about

Richard Petty - 1973 Daytona 500
Richard Petty – 1973 Daytona 500

NASCAR’s mainstream popularity. On this day in 1979, Petty became the first man to win six Daytona 500s. Winning the most prestigious event in any sport six times is enough to earn the nickname “The King,” but Petty is perhaps most famous for his 1967 season in which he won 27 of 48 races, including a record 10 straight victories. In a sport where mechanical failure is commonplace, Petty’s total domination was seen as superhuman. “The King” came from royal stock. His father, Lee Petty, was the first man to win the Daytona 500.

1998: As the move to make F1 safer rumbled on and against a backdrop of a trial in Italy following the death of Ayrton Senna four years earlier, the FIA announced it was to fit black boxes to all cars with effect from the start of the season three weeks later. “The implications for safety are very encouraging,” said Max Mosley, the FIA president, but not everyone was convinced. “There would certainly have been some additional data gathered,” said Harvey Postlethwaite, technical director of the Tyrrell Formula One team, “but that does not necessarily mean you would be able to tell what caused the accident. Gathering the data is one thing, but interpreting it can be something of a minefield.”

2001: Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt (49), died in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500. His car, the famous black No. 3 Chevrolet, was hit from behind and spun out into the path of Ken Schrader’s car, before crashing head-on into the outside wall at 180 mph. Earnhardt was the 27th driver to die at Daytona since the track opened in 1959.

Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt

Earnhardt, whose tough, aggressive driving style earned him the nickname ‘The Intimidator’, was involved in another crash at the Daytona 500 in 1997, when his car flipped upside down on the backstretch. He managed to escape serious injury. In 1998, he went on to win the Daytona 500, his first and only victory in that race after 20 years of trying. Earnhardt, a high-school dropout from humble beginnings in Kannapolis, North Carolina, said all he ever wanted to do in life was race cars. Indeed, he went on to become one of the sport’s most successful and respected drivers, with 76 career victories, including seven Winston Cup Series championships.

2007: Kevin Harvick edged past Mark Martin to win the 2007 Daytona 500. The 2007 race, held exactly six years to the day of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, was the first time Toyota, a “foreign name plate” car, entered the Daytona 500. Two of the four qualifying Toyotas completed the race, with Dale Jarrett finishing 23rd and Michael Waltrip finishing 30th. Tony Stewart’s wreck that took him out of the race was strangely similar to the one that claimed Earnhardt, although Stewart was not injured in the crash. One car, the Jack Daniels #07 driven by Harvick’s RCR teammate Clint Bowyer, flipped on its top with another car colliding into him, causing Bowyer’s car to catch fire. Bowyer’s momentum carried him over the finish line, upside-down and in flames, for an 18th place finish. The car then righted itself in the infield grass and Bowyer alertly exited the burning vehicle to walk away unharmed.

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High Beech. Kings Oak Speedway – 1928

1928: The first speedway meeting in Britain took place on a disused running cinder track at the rear of the King’s Oak pub in High Beech, Essex. The High Beech meeting made a sensational impact, attracting an extraordinary crowd of 30,000 into the depths of Epping Forest and making front page news in the ‘Daily Mirror’ the following morning!. Within ten months, the new sport (first dubbed Dracing and then settling on its famous title of Speedway) was being played out in over fifty venues in towns and cities all over the UK – including famous London arenas like Stamford Bridge, the White City and Wembley.

1966: The Ferrari 250LM was officially homologated by FIA into GT category.

1984: Cale Yarborough won his fourth Daytona 500. Yarborough passed Darrell Waltrip on the final lap and outran Dale Earnhardt off the final turn to claim victory. Yarborough completed a lap of 201.848 mph (324.828 km/h), officially breaking the 200 mph barrier at Daytona 500.

1989: Darrell Waltrip won his first Daytona 500 after 17 attempts. Coincidentally, the car he drove to victory wore number 17.

1995: Sterling Marlin held off Dale Earnhardt to score his second straight victory in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was running 14th with 11 laps remaining, but charged to second and was edged by Marlin by 0.61 second.

1999: Georg “Schorsch” Meier, German motorcycle racer died aged 88. Famous for being the first foreign winner of the prestigious Senior TT the Blue Riband race of the Isle of Man TT Races in 1939 riding for the factory BMW team, he was also the first motor-cycle racer to lap a Grand Prix course at over 100 mph.

2004: Neel Jani became the first person to drive an F1 car in Bahrain when he took a Sauber for a spin on the streets of Manama. The inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix was held the same year and Jani’s stunt was aimed at drumming-up support among the locals. He hit speeds of nearly 185mph and clearly enjoyed the experience. “I’m very proud that I was the very first to drive a Formula One car in the Middle East and to show to the enthusiastic citizens what Formula One is all about,” said Jani. “It’s also the first time that I have ‘legally’ jumped a red light!”.

2007: Jacques Villeneuve aimed to prove he had talents outside of motorsport, when he released his debut album, Private Paradise. He wrote six of the 13 songs himself, one of which was about his father Gilles. He launched the album in his Montreal café, in front of a crowd largely made up of news reporters. “I bought a guitar in 1996 when I started racing in Formula One and started writing some songs,” he said. “I am stupidly passionate about music, it has become a bit of a drug.”

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