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21-22 April: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~21 April~

1900: Carlo Biscaretti drove a Phenix to victory in the first Italian hillclimb, the 5 km Madonna Del Pilone-Pino Toerinese.

William K. Vanderbilt at the wheel of his 40 hp Mercedes-Simplex. A helper starts the Mercedes with the starting crank.

 1902: William K. Vanderbilt Jr., driving a Mercedes-Simplex at Ablis, France, made land speed record runs of 67.78 mph and 69.04 mph – although setting a new standard for gasoline-powered cars the runs were not officially recognized and failed to exceed Leon Serpolletís 8-day-old record of 75.06 mph in a steam-powered Serpollet.

1916: Georges Louis Frederic Boillot (31), a mechanic by training who began automobile racing in 1908 and became a driving force behind the Peugeot Grand Prix team, died. He become a household name in 1912, winning the French Grand Prix in his Peugeot L76, the first motorcar in the world to have an engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The following year Boillot won the Coupe de l’Auto and became the first driver to win the French Grand Prix twice. In 1913 he was part of the Peugeot’s squad in the Indianapolis 500, setting a new speed record of 99.86 mph (160.70 km/h) in qualifying. While Peugeot dominated the event with Rene Thomas taking the win, Boillot got frustrated with repeated tire failures. A similar fate befell the Frenchman in what would be his last race, the 1914 French Grand Prix at Lyon. His Peugeot was in trouble and finally overheated on the last lap, forcing him to relinquish a top result. When WWI broke out, Boillot became a skilled pilot the new French Air Force, receiving medals such as the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur. Georges Boillot was shot down in a dogfight over Verdun-sur-Meuse, his plane crashing near Bar-le-Duc. and despite being taken to the military hospital at Vadelaincourt in a hurry, he didn’t survive the crash.

1930: C Benitah in an Amilcar won the Moroccan Grand Prix held at the new Anfa Circuit. It claimed the life of driver Count Bruno d’Harcourt during a practice run.

Virginia 500 – 1963

1963: Richard Petty took the lead with 40 laps to go and went on to beat Tiny Lund by a lap to win the NASCAR Grand National ‘Virginia 500’ at Martinsville Speedway. Fred Lorenzen appeared on his way to victory when his Holman-Moody Ford broke an axle. His crew made repairs so quickly that Lorenzen only lost 6 laps on the 1/2 mile paved oval. Jim Paschal was overcome by the heat and pitted just short of half way. A roar went up from the crowd when Lee Petty jumped into Paschal’s car a drove the rest of the race, finishing 8th.

1963: A.J. Foyt drove an Offenhauser powered Meskowski chassis to victory in the 100 mile USAC Championship race on the 1 mile paved Trenton Speedway, New Jersey. It was Foyt’s 2nd straight win in the event.

1963: The 4th Imola Grand Prix was run to Formula One rules at the Autodromo di Castellaccis. The previous three Imola Grands Prix were sports car races held in the mid-1950s, and this was the first Formula One event held at the circuit. From 1981, the circuit was the venue for the San Marino Grand Prix. Run over 50 laps of the circuit, the race was won by British driver Jim Clark in a Lotus 25, lapping the entire field except for second-placed Jo Siffert. Trevor Taylor set the fastest lap after losing more than ten laps with a gear selector problem.

Ascot Park, Calif – 1968 PCLM race. Jack McCoy battling with Ray Elder who is driving ’67 fastback Charger.

1968: Ray Elder drove his Dodge to victory in the 100 lap NASCAR PCLM (Pacific Coast Late Model) race on the 1/2 mile dirt Ascot Park Speedway, California. Don Noel led the first 15 laps before engine trouble set in, then Johnny Steele took over the top spot. Elder caught Steele and a great 15 lap battle took place before Elder emerged with the lead on lap 69. Steele spun trying to get back by Elder, falling to 3rd at the time and an eventual 4th place finish. Elder went on to take the win with veteran Jim Cook finishing 2nd in an Oldsmobile.

1968: When leader LeeRoy Yarbrough blew an engine with 10 laps to go, David Pearson went on to win the NASCAR GN ‘Gwyn Staley Memorial’ on the .625 mile paved North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina. Yarbrough had a 10 second lead in the Junior Johnson Ford when the motor blew. Pearson’s Holman-Moody Ford crossed the stripe a lap ahead of Buddy Baker’s Ray Fox Dodge.

1985: The late Ayrton Senna won his first of 41 Formula One Championship victories driving a Lotus-Renault at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril. Senna’s uncompromising driving style made him a hero to many and a villain to almost as many. Throughout his eight-year career, he established himself as the sport’s greatest qualifying racer, winning 65-pole positions. Qualifying is a measure of how far a driver can push himself without competition, and this quality was one of Senna’s trademarks, “Sometimes I try to beat other people’s achievements but on many occasions I find it’s better to beat my own achievements. That can give me more satisfaction. I don’t feel happy if I am comfortable.” It was his drive for perfection that made Senna such a great racer. But Senna’s drive often threatened the lives of his fellow drivers. And his unapologetic off-track demeanour was often seen by his detractors as inflammatory. Just before his death in 1993, Senna appeared to be softening to the public. Still competitive, he assumed a calmer, less antagonistic persona on the Grand Prix circuit. Always a pleasure for the press, Senna often delivered more thoughtful responses to questions than did his fellow drivers. In one of his most spiritual quotations Senna explains the relation of the racer to his public, “In many ways we are a dream for people, not a reality. That counts in your mind. It shows how much you can touch people, and as much as you can try to give to those people somehow it is nothing compared to what they live in their own mind, in their dreams, for you.” The tragic accident that cut short Senna’s career remains an object of mystery, and the investigation is not yet closed. Those close to Senna indicate that the Catholic driver had a premonition of his impending death. A haunting comment from the year before his accident reads, “If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go.” It is, arguably, the danger of F1 racing that makes its leading personalities such captivating figures. Like boxers they exist closer to death than do ordinary citizens, and they, thereby, achieve a stature that is larger than life. It is only fair to mention, however, that Senna’s death was just the second such fatality in F1 since the late 1970s.

1991: Darrell Waltrip survived 17 cautions and late-race pressure from Dale Earnhardt to win the First Union 400 at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina) Speedway, marking his first victory since leaving Hendrick Motorsports after the 1990 season to form his own team. Waltrip, who led 52 laps to Earnhardt’s 19, crossed the finish line .81 seconds ahead of his rival. Jimmy Spencer led 70 laps and came home third.

~22 April~

1900: The Turin-Pinerolo-Saluzzo-Cuneo-Turin road race was won by L Gastè driving a Perfecta 6 hp tricycle, who completed the 131 km at an average speed of 64.5 km/h.

1907: The Targa Florio held at Madonie over 3 laps of the 92.473 mile circuit, totaling 277.42 miles, was won Felice Nazzaro in a Fiat.

Felice Nazzaro, 1907 Targa Florio, Fiat race car

1909: The first British Motorcycle Racing Club (BMCRC) race meeting was held at Brooklands.

1921: Leland F Goodspeed, Chief Engineer of the Roamer Motor Car Company, set an unofficial stock car speed record of 105.08 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida, US driving a Roamer D-4-75 with a 4-cylinder Rochester-Duesenberg engine.

1925: Racer Fred Wells (26) was killed when the Wells Hornet, a car he had designed , crashed during a test run on the Long Island Parkway between Central islip and Brentwood, New York, US.

1934: The Alessandria Circuit Grand Prix, held in Bordino, Italy was won by Achille Varzi in an Alfa Romeo B/P3. The event consisted of two heats with five drivers from each heat going to the final. Scuderia Ferrari driver Tadini led the first heat, run in rain, before being passed by his team mate Chiron. The heat was overshadowed by a fatal crash by Swiss driver Carlo Pedrazzini. Varzi, also driving for Ferrari, dominated the second heat. It was rained again during the final. Minozzi spun into the spectator area and Nuvolari crashed into a tree breaking his right leg. The Alfa Romeos of the Ferrari team dominated the final with Chiron leading before letting Varzi by to win on Italian soil and with Tadini and Comotti finishing third and fourth.

Alfred Neubauer

1935: Alfred Neubauer, the head of the Mercedes team, ignored Hitler’s instructions that only German drivers should drive German cars and hired the best drivers available to drive the new 3.99 litre, 460 hp W25 at the Monaco Grand Prix. The mechanics looked more like laboratory assistants, the engine oil needed to be pre-heated to become fluid, mechanical parts were covered in electrical heated blankets and the fuel was the same as used in the V1 rockets. The public looked at this in awe. Italiann Luigi Fagioli won the Grand Prix for Mercedes, with Alfa Romeo’s driven by Rene Dreyfus and Antonio Brivio finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

1937: The 2.267 mile Campbell Circuit opened at Brooklands. The lap record of 77.79 mph was set by Raymond Mays driving an ERA.

1946: Gigi Villoresi drove a Maserati 4CL to victory in the first post-World War II Grand Prix, in Nice, France. According to some sources this was the first official Formula 1 race.

1951: The San Remo Grand Prix was held at .Autodromo di Ospedaletti, in San Remo, Liguria, Italy. It was the fourth race of the 1951 Formula One season. The 90-lap race was won by Ferrari driver Alberto Ascari, starting from pole position. Dorino Serafini finished second in a Ferrari and Rudi Fischer third, also in a Ferrari. All cars were 1.5-litre s/c F1 or 4.5-litre F1† unless noted (F2). During practice, Johnny Claes crashed his Talbot after a brake pipe broke – several spectators were killed.

1951: Marshall Teague drove his “Teaguemobile” Hudson Hornet to victory in the 150 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the Arizona State Fairgrounds 1 mile dirt oval. On lap 72, Teague hooked bumpers with the lapped car of Al King, sending King’s Ford flipping. Teague stopped, got out of his car and checked to make sure King was OK before continuing in the race. Six former, current, or future Indy 500 drivers were in the 30 car field.

1956: Stirling Moss, in a privately entered Maserati 250F, won the Aintree 200, a non-championship Formula One race.

1956: Walt Faulkner (38), the first rookie to win pole position at the Indianapolis 500, died after a qualifying crash at a USAC Stock Car event in Vallejo, California.

1956: Buck Baker drove one of the Kiekhaefer team Chrysler juggernauts to victory in the NASCAR GN race on the 1 mile circular dirt Langhorne Speedway, Pennsylvania, US. Future star Fred Lorenzen made his GN debut, finishing 26th.

1957: Jean Behra in a Maserati 250F won the Pau Grand Prix run over 110 laps of the Pau temporary street circuit in France.

1961: The VI Aintree 200 run to Formula One rules at Aintree Circuit, was won by Australian driver Jack Brabham in a Cooper T55.

1962: In the ‘Virginia 500’ won by his son Richard, Lee Petty made his first start since being badly injured in a 1961 Daytona qualifier, finishing 5th with relief help. Junior Johnson used the outside to move from 26th starting to the lead in 56 laps. Johnson later retired with rear gearing problems.

1973: Vern Schuppan drove his March 722 to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix, a 50 lap Formula Libre race held on the public road Upper Thomson circuit. Singapore’s National Sports Promotion Board was the driving force behind the event (the write-up noted: “few governments of the free world take such a direct interest in motor sport…”). The public road course could hardly have been called safe even by 1973 standards, being about 24 feet wide, having less than a yard of guard rail and lined with banana groves for any driver unlucky enough to have an off. And the weather usually was high heat and high humidity. But despite this, each year selected drivers from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States were whisked off to spend Easter in Singapore (Mike Hall and Brian Robertson represented the U.S. and Canada respectively). At the end of the grueling 156 mile race, Schuppan won comfortably ahead of New Zealand’s Graeme Lawrence in a Surtees TS15.

1979: Richard Petty enjoyed a dominant day at Martinsville Speedway to capture the Virginia 500, notching his first victory in a Chevrolet. Petty, known for driving for several manufacturers over the course of his career, started second and led 247 of the 500 laps. Buddy Baker led 196 laps and drove home second, four seconds behind at the finish. Pole-starter Darrell Waltrip wound up third, one lap down.

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