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18-19 May: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~18 May~

1895: Simone Federmann, driving a Daimler Omnibus, won the first Italian motor race, the 93 km (57.8 miles) Turin-Asti-Turin road race, at an average speed of 15.5 kph.

1949: The first NASCAR-sanctioned event at the Bowman Gray Stadium (North Carolina, US) took place and was won by Fonty Flock. The track was opened by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and Alvin Hawkins, and remains operated by members of the Hawkins family to this day. In 2015, Bowman Gray celebrated its 1,000th NASCAR sanctioned race.

1952: Italian driver Piero Taruffi scored his only win in a World Championship race, driving for Ferrari, at Swiss Grand Prix was a Formula Two race held at Bremgarten Circuit.

1958: The Lotus made its Formula One debut at the Monaco Grand Prix with Cliff Allison finishing in fifth place. The Lotus Engineering Company was founded by Colin Chapman in 1952 as a result of Chapman’s great success in building and racing trial cars. Located in Norfolk, England, Lotus has become over the last few decades one of racing’s most dominant teams. Currently limited to Formula One competition, Lotus was initially a diverse racing team. Lotus dominated Le Mans in the ’50s. The mid-1960s saw the Golden Age of Lotus racing as its British drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill enjoyed great success. Jim Clark won the first World Driver’s Championship for Lotus in 1963. Lotus has in recent years been represented by such virtuoso drivers as Emmerson Fittipaldi and Alessandro Zanardi.

Maria Teresa de Filippis

1958: Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis became the first woman to drive in a Formula One event when she participated in the Monaco Grand Prix, driving a Maserati. Although she was lapped twice in the 24-lap race, she managed to finish, albeit in tenth and last place after nine other cars failed to finish. This would prove to be her only race finish. The race was won by Frenchman Maurice Trintigant in a Cooper Climax.

1958: Junior Johnson posted a popular hometown victory at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, US holding off pole-winner Jack Smith by six seconds in the Wilkes County 160. Johnson, who started third, led the final 82 laps of his sixth triumph in NASCAR’s top series. Rex White took third as the last car on the lead lap. Johnson’s victory was just the second for a car numbered 11, and the first of many that Johnson would be associated with; Denny Hamlin helped the number become the winningest in NASCAR’s premier series earlier this season.

1968: Graham Hill was the first to break the 170 mph barrier in qualifying at Indianapolis 500, and recorded a four-lap average of 171.208 mph in his STP-Lotus 56 turbine car, his fastest lap being 171.887 mph.

1969: Graham Hill in a Lotus-Cosworth won the Monaco Grand Prix. His time of 1:56:59 was 17.3 seconds ahead of Piers Courage in the Brabham, who had a good drive from his ninth spot on the grid. Jo Siffert finished third after starting fifth in his lotus. Polesitter for that race was Jackie Stewart in his Matra, but a UV joint failure ended his day on lap 23. It was also the last Grand Prix for both Cooper and Reg Parnell Racing.

1969: Because of rain, for the first time in history, no car qualified for the Indy 500 on the first weekend of qualifying.

1980: The 38th Monaco Grand Prix, held over 76 laps of the 3.34-kilometre circuit for a total race distance of 254 kilometres, was won by Carlos Reutemann driving a Williams FW07B. The win was Reutermann’s tenth Formula One victory and his first since the 1978 United States Grand Prix. He also became the fifth winner in six races of the 1980 season.

1991: Hiro Matsushita became the first Japanese driver to qualify for the Indy 500 when he qualified 24th.

2003: The Austrian Grand Prix, contested over 69 laps, was won by Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F2003-GA after starting from pole position. Kimi Raikkonen finished second driving for McLaren with Rubens Barrichello third in the other Ferrari. It was the last Austrian Grand Prix to be held until it returned to the renamed Red Bull Ring in 2014.

~19 May~

Serpollet’s “Easter Egg” steam driven car in action in 1902

1902: British Motor Racing was born, in Bexhill-on-sea, when the 8th Earl De La Warr encouraged the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland to organise the ‘Great Whitsuntide Motor Races’. Having business interests in the tyre-making firm Dunlop had led the Earl to create a Bicycle Boulevard on the seafront in 1896, which stretched from the Sackville Hotel in the west to Galley Hill in the east. He turned this bicycle track into a one-kilometre motor racing course in 1902 as, being his own private land, it was exempt from the national speed limit of 12 miles per hour. The races helped bolster his attempts to put Bexhill on the same level as Monte Carlo as a seaside resort for the jet set, and was the first motor racing seen in this country. The 1902 races were won by French driver Leon Serpollent in his steam car Easter Egg, which reached a speed of 55 miles an hour (a replica can be seen at Bexhill Museum). The motoring events lasted until 1907, when the Brooklands motor racing circuit was opened in Surrey, coinciding with Bexhill residents finally getting fed up with the noise of the infernal contraption engine!

1908: The first automobile race in Russia, a 438 mile run from St Petersburg o Moscow, was won by Victor Emery driving a Benz.

Otto Merz

1933: Otto Merz (33), winner of the 1927 German Grand Prix, was killed when he crashed at the Avus Circuit in Germany. A few minutes after 13:00, Merz crashed his SSK on the long straight, near the Grunewald station and nearly two kilometers away from the finish line. At the place of the accident the surface changed from cobblestones to tarmac, and traces of the car trajectory were clearly visible on the cobblestones – but suddenly ended. The next mark left by the vehicle was found 36 meters further on, where the car hit the ground again. The Mercedes-Benz crashed into a cement milestone on the right side of the track, and, according to the single eye-witness, it somersaulted and rolled several times. The car stopped with its wheels in the air near an embankment.[6] Ejected from the car, rescuers found Merz on his back on the right side of the track. He was transported to the Hildegard Hospital at Charlottenburg, a suburb of Berlin and very near the accident site, but his condition was beyond help.

1957: Despite a hesitant start to the Monaco Grand Prix, Stirling Moss led away on the first lap from Peter Collins, Manuel Fangio, and Mike Hawthorn. On lap 4 coming out of the tunnel, there was mayhem. Moss went straight through the chicane, sending debris from the wrecked barrier crashing onto the circuit. Collins crashed through the quayside barriers trying to avoid it. Fangio and Brooks slowed to make their way through the carnage. Brooks’ effort was for nought, being hit by Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari, which lost a wheel. Fangio took the lead from Brooks’ damaged car and held it to the checkered flag.

1957: Buck Baker was declared winner of the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway after a crash halted the event on lap 441 of the scheduled 500-lapper.

1958: Archie Scott Brown (31) was mortally injured following an an accident in a sports car race at Spa-Francorchamps, driving a Lister Knobbly and duelling for the lead. He was born with severe disabilities, a result of German measles suffered by his mother during pregnancy, and had no proper front forearm and both legs were radically twisted. But Archie had an enormous talent to drive cars very fast. In fact, many who saw Archie race had no idea he had a disability, such was his skill behind the wheel. He teamed up with Cambridgeshire engineer, Brian Lister, to create a very competitive racing team. Archie even took part in one round of the Formula 1 World Championship at the 1956 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a Connaught B-type.

1985: Alain Prost driving a McLaren-TAG Porsche MP4/2B won the Monaco Grand Prix.

1986: Alan Bates in Nobby Hills Corvette was credited with a 5.99 second run, the first five second Funny Car run at the Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire, England. The run was dismissed by some that saw it as being a mid-six second run although it is often credited as being the first UK Funny Car five.

Willy T. Ribbs

1991: Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Ribbs, a Californian, objects to the obstacles placed in front of African-American racers: “Here we are, moving into a new millennium, and auto racing still looks like 1939 baseball.” Ribbs’s achievement at Indy is especially remarkable, as the cost of running at Indy normally deters racers who don’t have powerful corporate sponsors. While stock-car racing is more accessible financially, the sport hasn’t fared any better in attracting African-American participants. NASCAR officials, however, don’t feel the lack of African-American racers is a reflection of racism within the sport. Longtime President Bill France explained his case: “America is what America is today. Anybody can be anything, regardless of your race or your national origin. You can’t cast a wand and make everything happen that somebody wants to happen.”

1991: Davey Allison started from the pole position and routed the field at Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Carolina (US) leading all 70 laps of NASCAR’s All-Star race in a Robert Yates Racing Ford. Ken Schrader took second place, 2.87 seconds back at the finish. Darrell Waltrip finished third in the last all-star event run during the day at the 1.5-mile track.

1996: The Monaco Grand Prix was run in wet weather, causing significant attrition and setting a record for the fewest number of cars (3) to be running at the end of a Grand Prix race. Olivier Panis scored his sole career Formula One victory, earning the last ever Formula One victory for the Ligier team (and the first ever for engine manufacturer Mugen Motorsports) after switching to slick tyres in a well-timed pitstop.

1997: Troy Ruttman (67), the youngest winner of the Indianapolis 500, at the age of 22 years and 80 days, died. He led several of the 12 Indy 500s in which he participated, but was a frequent victim of mechanical failures. Ruttman retired from racing following the tragedy filled 1964 Indianapolis 500. His son, Troy Jr., became a race car driver as well, but was tragically killed at the Pocono Speedway in 1969 while driving the car his father drove from the 33rd starting spot to a 12th place finish in the 1963 Indianapolis 500.

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