21-22 December: This Weekend in Motor Sporting History

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

~21 December~

Gary Hocking

1962: Gary Hocking (25), a former world motorbike champion who had switched to cars as he felt they were safer, was killed practising for the Natal Grand Prix. After leaving his country of birth Rhodesia to compete in motorbike racing Europe in 1958 and made an immediate impact, finishing 3rd behind the works MV Agustas at the Nürburgring. He was sponsored by Manchester tuner/dealer Reg Dearden, who provided him with new 350cc & 500cc Manx Norton racers.[citation needed] He spent the winter of 58/59 with the Costain family at their home “Lindors” in Castletown on the Isle of Man, learning the Isle of Man TT course with George Costain, an established rider for the Dearden team, who had won the Senior Manx Grand Prix on a 500 Dearden-tuned Manx in 1954.[citation needed] In the 1959 Junior TT, he finished a credible 12th from 22nd on the grid, an impressive achievement for a first-timer to the circuit. In 1959, he was offered a ride by the East German MZ factory and finished second in the 250cc championship. During practice for the 1959 Junior TT, his and the machines of team mates Terry Shepherd and John Hartle 350 Manx’s were fitted with the top-secret works 350cc Desmodromic engine, but they ran standard engines for the actual race. MV Agusta offered Hocking full factory support for the 1960 season and he repaid their confidence by finishing 2nd in the 125cc, 250cc and 350cc classes. Following the retirement from motorcycle racing by defending champion, John Surtees in 1961, Hocking became MV Agusta’s top rider and went on to claim dual World Championships in the 350cc and 500cc classes, in a dominant manner against little factory mounted opposition. Hocking was deeply affected by the death of his friend, Tom Phillis at the 1962 Isle of Man TT. After winning the Senior TT, he announced his retirement from motorcycle racing and returned to Rhodesia. He felt motorcycle racing was too dangerous and decided a career in auto racing would be safer. Later that year, on the 22nd of December he was killed during practice for the 1962 Natal Grand Prix at the Westmead circuit. His car, a Rob Walker entered Lotus 24, ran off the edge of the track at the end of the long right hand corner & somersaulted end over end twice. Gary’s head struck the roll hoop & he died some hours later in the Addlington hospital in Durban. It is possible that the car suffered a front nearside suspension failure & this cased the car to veer sharply to the left & somersault. He was 25 years old. Hocking is buried at Christchurch Cemetery, Newport, Gwent in Wales.

1966: The film Grand Prix was launched in the US – although it was criticised for its lack of plot, fans loved the real race scenes mixed in with staged action. The lead character – Pete Aron – was played by James Garner and numerous F1 drivers made cameo appearances. These included Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham. The film was finally released on DVD in 2006. During filming at Brands Hatch in July 1966, Garner had to be pulled free from a blazing car after a stunt got out of hand. He suffered minor burns. “I must remember not to wear nylon socks next time,” he quipped. “They melt in the heat.”

~22 December~

1997: A miffed David Coulthard found out that a new £55 Nintendo F1 game showed him as being English. Coulthard was listed alongside Damon Hill and Martin Brundle as being among England’s best drivers. A spokesman for Coulthard said: “He has a saltire on his car and his helmet. If they can’t spot that, what hope is there? David will really take exception to this. He’s proud to be Scottish and will be infuriated.”

Ricardo Tormo Blaya

1998: One of Spain’s greatest champions, Grand Prix motorcycle racer, Ricardo Tormo Blaya (46), died from leukemia. As a member of the Bultaco factory team in 1978, Ricardo Tormo wins his first FIM 50cc World Championship. After a falling out in 1980, Tormo would leave the factory team and would prove to them it was their loss, not his, when, in 1981, he once again is crowned 50cc World Champion but, this time saddling a privately backed Bultaco. He was also a three-time 50cc Spanish National Champion and a four-time 125cc Spanish National Champion. After a divorce from Bultaco, in 1983, together with Jorge “Aspar” Martinez, Tormo signed with the Derbi factory to compete for the 1984 World Championship in the new 80cc category. At the first race of the year at Misano, Tormo’s Derbi suddenly throws a rod putting an end to his Derbi debut. The motorcycle press raise their collective eyebrow, should he have signed with Derbi? The second race of the season was to be held at Spain’s Jarama Circuit. At that time, there were only two official circuits in Spain, one in Jarama and the other in the beautiful Calafat. The team planned test rides before the race, but both circuits were already booked, forcing them to practice in Martorelles. This region of Barcelona was an industrial park just outside of the Derbi factory. The team occasionally had test runs in this area, blocking off the roads to ensure that no cars would interfere with the racers. During a practice prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, a vehicle gained access to the area from one of the team’s assistants who was supposed to have blocked off all of the roads. Tragically, Tormo, who was testing a new racing suit, hit the car and shattered his right leg, ending the career of one of Spain’s greatest Grand Prix racers. In 1994, Tormo received Valencia’s highest honor when he was given the Valencian Community’s High Distinction award. In collaboration with the journalist Paco Desamparados, an autobiography was published, entitled “Yo Ricardo. Una vida por y para la moto” (I am Ricardo. A life by and for motorcycles). In his honor, Valencia’s racetrack was renamed the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.

2003: Zsolt Baumgartner, the first Hungarian to compete in an official race, secured his drive with Minardi thanks to backing worth £2.7 million from his government. Baumgartner made his F1 debut in the 2002 Hungarian Grand Prix as a replacement for Ralph Firman. He was released by Minardi after a season in which he managed only one top-ten finish. Ironically, he replaced Justin Wilson, who himself had only got a drive by virtue of raising £2 million of sponsorship.

2005: Super Aguri were given the go ahead to join the F1 circus. The team, fronted by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki, had submitted a late application to join the grid but had to wait to see if there were objections from any other teams. “I would like to thank all of the teams for approving our late entry,” said Suzuki. “I assure them that the Super Aguri F1 team will co-operate and do our best to reach your expectations.” Super Aguri proved to be anything but super and they withdrew from the championship four races into their third F1 season having scored four points.

 

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