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22-23 June: This Weekend in Motorsport History

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

~22 June~

1902: The first Sassi-Superga Hillclimb was staged near Turin, Italy was won by Vincenzo Lancia in a FIAT 24-hp, the marque’s racing debut.

1903: Pierre de Crawez drove his Panhard 70hp to victory in one of the first races run over a closed circuit (Ardennes Circuit) in Germany.

1930: Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston won the Le Mans 24-hour race in their Bentley Speed Six (cover image), the fourth consecutive win for the marque bin this event. Barnato, in his third and last appearance, recorded his third victory to complete a perfect record.

Sir Henry R. S. “Tim” Birkin

1933: Lieutenant Sir Henry R. S. “Tim” Birkin (36), British racing driver, one of the “Bentley Boys” of the 1920s, died. During a pit stop during the 1933 Tripoli Grand Prix, Birkin burnt his arm badly against the hot exhaust pipe while picking up a cigarette lighter. There are different opinions of what then happened. The traditional view is that the wound turned septic whilst others say Birkin suffered from a malaria attack. It was probably a combination of both that proved fatal, as Birkin died at Countess Carnavon Nursing Home in London, aged thirty-six.

1951: (22nd – 23rd) The Porsche 356 scored its first international success in motor racing, winning the 1100-cc category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This race saw the death of French driver Jean Larivière within the opening laps of the race.

1951: Three Jaguar C-types entered Le Mans, one driven by British drivers Stirling Moss and ‘Jolly’ Jack Fairman, one by fellow Britons Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead (a couple of gentleman farmers), and the other by Britain’s Leslie Johnson with Italian Clemente Biondetti. The Jaguars were an unknown quantity and the crowd were there were to watch the Ferraris, Talbots and Cunninghams. Moss set off at a great rate of knots, breaking the lap record and the opposition. An amazing Jaguar 1-2-3 looked possible until an oil-pipe flange broke on the Johnson/Biondetti car. Then a similar fate befell Moss. The third car’s luck held, however, and Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead recorded a remarkable victory first time out for the C-types.

1952: Alberto Ascari driving a Ferrari 500 claimed victory at the Belgian Grand Prix (F2) held over 36 laps of the 8.8 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Mike Hawthorn made his major racing debut, finishing fourth in his Cooper-Bristol. The Aston-Butterworth made its debut, but the car driven by Robin Montgomerie-Charrington retired with mechanical problems.

1975: James Hunt won the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. It was the first Grand Prix win for Hunt and only Grand Prix win for Hesketh Racing.

1979: Louis Chiron (79), the oldest driver who has ever taken part in a Formula One Grand Prix, aged 58 years, died. The son of the maitre díhotel at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, Chiron was born in the Principality in 1899 and received a ride in a Type 35 Bugatti funded by Alfred Hoffmann. He promptly beat the works teams at the Grand Prix du Comminges, before joining the Bugatti works-team for a few successful years, most notably winning his home Grand Prix in Monaco in 1931. He continued winning for the works Alfa Romeo team, then Mercedes before focusing on sports car racing with Lago-Talbot. After the war Chiron returned to Grands Prix with Lago-Talbot, winning the French Grand Prix in 1947 and 1949. He continued racing when the new Formula 1 World Championship was created and in 1955 he finished sixth in a Lancia D50 at the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. It would be his last point scoring result as he failed to qualify for his home Grand Prix in 1956 and 1958. After retiring from the cockpit he became the Clerk of the Course for the Monaco Grand Prix up until the late 1960s.

1985: Jimmy Hensley got past Tommy Houston with 20 laps left and led the rest of the way to win the Kroger 200 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park (US). Hensley, who posted the third of his nine career wins in the series, was nine seconds ahead of Houston at the finish in the caution-free race. Larry Pearson took third as the first driver one lap down on the .686-mile oval.

1986: Rising star Ayrton Senna started on pole at the Detroit Grand Prix and came away with a hard-earned win, the fourth of his career. The young Brazilian in his Lotus-Renault 98T charged through the field after dropping to eighth with a deflating tyre for his first US Grand Prix victory. The race saw six lead changes among five drivers, and the victory for Senna began a streak that would see him take five United States Grand Prix wins in six years.

1992 (22-23rd): Nine NASCAR drivers conducted a tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first official NASCAR test in the track’s history. The following drivers participated: Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, Ernie Irvan, Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. The top speed of the test was 168.767 mph by Elliott on June 23.

1997: In the closest finish in CART history – 0.027 seconds – Mark Blundell won the Budweiser G.I. Joe”s 200 at Portland, Oregon. The win was Blundell’s first in CART.

1997: Jeff Gordon christened the new California Speedway (US) with a win in the California 500, the inaugural event on the two-mile oval. Terry Labonte took second, giving Hendrick Motorsports another 1-2 finish.

2003: On the 71st lap of the Dodge/Save Mart 350, Kevin Harvick was leading Robby Gordon when a caution came out for a crash at a different part of the track. Gordon kept charging (racing back to the caution), and passed Harvick in Turn 7, taking the lead before they crossed the start/finish line. Harvick called it a “chicken move” and Jeff Gordon said “I could not believe it when I saw it” and called his passing under the yellow “unheard of.” The controversial pass, however, was entirely legal under NASCAR rules at the time, and Robby Gordon was assessed no penalty. The so-called “unethical breach of racing ethics” proved to be the winning edge, and Robby Gordon went on to win the race. He was subjected to considerable scrutiny and ridicule after the race for not adhering to the unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” about not racing back to the yellow during normal parts of the race. However, others considered the complaints hypocrisy or “sour grapes” by the losers. Later in the year, racing back to the caution was banned from competition after a dangerous incident at the Sylvania 300.

~23 June~

Winner of the New York to Seattle Transcontinental Endurance Race in a Model T, 1909

1909: A Ford Model T crossed the finish line in the New York City to Seattle Endurance Race after 22 days and 55 minutes to claim the Guggenheim Cup and a $2,000 first prize. A Shawmut came in 17 hours later to win the second-place prize of $1,500, and an Acme car came in on 29 June to claim a $1,000 third prize. The Ford was later disqualified for having switched engines en route. The New York-to-Seattle or Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Race was dreamed up by Robert Guggenheim to coincide with the start of the equally little-known Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle in 1909. Seattle is better-known as sponsor of the 1962 World’s Fair which saw the debut of the Space Needle. The “A-Y-P”, as it is sometimes called, has been largely forgotten, though the 1962 event was in fact developed with the earlier A-Y-P in mind. It was meant to showcase Seattle as a gateway city to Alaska and western Canada as well as the Pacific Rim in general. This all occurred in the wake of the Klondike Gold Rush when thousands of people were headed northwest to seek their fortune in the Yukon and Seattle was a major stopover along the route.Guggenheim was, in part, motivated by his interest in the “better roads” campaign to create a better road system for the country and make roads more suitable for automobiles. Guggenheim had hoped to attract at least 30 participants for the race but, unfortunately, the affair had problems from the start. Deaths from automobile accidents were a public concern even then–324 people had been killed in 1907 alone–and the Manufacturers’ Contest Association refused to sanction the event. Organizers eventually promised that all speed limits would be obeyed and even dropped the word “race” from the event name and called it an “Endurance Contest,” which was probably more accurate anyway. The prize, ponied up by Guggenheim himself, was $2,000 and a trophy plus bragging rights. Unfortunately, only six contestants entered. The start of the race coincided with the start of the A-Y-P on June 1, 1909. President William Howard Taft pressed a golden telegraph key to open the fair and also as a signal to the mayor of New York, George B. McClellan (son of the Civil War General), to fire a golden revolver to start the race. The Stearns dropped out due to mechanical problems on the outskirts of New York City. The rest faced a daunting challenge of summer rains producing deep mud, streams and rivers with few bridges (they often crossed on railroad trestles), and snow in the mountains. The decreased weight of the Fords was an advantage; when stuck, they were light enough for a couple of men to lift up and put wooden planks under the wheels for traction. The race was followed nationally through newspaper accounts. This paragraph ran in the New York Times on June 16: “Hard luck befell the cars in the New York to Seattle automobile race during the past twenty-four hours, and their positions have changed. The Acme car stuck in the mud at Pierce, forty miles south of Cheyenne, early this morning and was nearly all day extricating itself.” Finally, 22 days later Ford No. 2 crossed the finish line at Drumheller Fountain on the University of Washington campus (the fountain is still there) and was declared the winner. The Shawmut crossed the finish line 17 hours later, closely followed by Ford No.1 and the Acme a week later. The Itala dropped out in Wyoming. Ford immediately began a massive advertising campaign touting the inexpensive, lightweight Model T as the best automobile in the race. Sales jumped from 239 in 1908 to over 12,000 in 1909 and kept climbing from there; by 1914 Ford was producing more cars than all other manufacturers combined and by 1916 more than half the cars in the world were Model Ts. Some have even argued that the race saved the company.

1935: The French Grand Prix (formally the XXIX Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France) held over 500km (12.5 km x 40 laps) at Montlhéry, was won by Rudolf Caracciola driving a Mercedes-Benz W25/35.

1963: Worth McMillion made his Grand National racing debut driving a Pontiac at South Boston, Virginia, US. He participated in 62 races until his retirement in 1969. McMillion finished only once in the top-five and eighteen times in the top-ten. Total earnings for this driver were $15,690 ($102,469.08 when considering inflation) after competing in 9,142.0 miles (14,712.6 km) of stock car racing experience. While McMillion had raced in 16161 laps, he was the leader in none of them. His average start was 24th place while his average finish was in 14th place.From 1962 to 1965, McMillion was a driver/owner. Starting in 1965, Worth McMillion drove for other owners like Allen McMillion and Roy Tyner. Most of his races were done in Pontiac vehicles (either in a 1962 Pontiac Catalina or in 1964 generic Pontiac vehicle) while two races would have him use a generic 1962 Chevrolet vehicle. The most money that McMillion has ever earned in a race was at the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He would earn $1,200 ($9,266.52 when considering inflation) for his 14th-place finish after starting in 37th place (out of 44 qualifying drivers).

1963: Jim Clark won the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix scoring Team Lotus’ 10th victory in the World Championship. After starting eighth on the grid Clark passed all of the cars in front of him, including early leader Graham Hill. About 17 laps into the race, with the rain coming down harder than ever, Clark had not only lapped the entire field except for Bruce McLaren, but he was almost five minutes ahead of McLaren and his Cooper. This would be the first of 7 victories for Clark and Team Lotus that year.

1968: Jackie Stewart led the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort from flag to flag, scoring the first Grand Prix win for the Matra MS10-Ford. His teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise finished second and BRM driver Pedro Rodríguez came in third.

1971: Bobby Allison routed the field for his fifth consecutive victory, winning the Space City 300, the only event for NASCAR’s premier series at Meyer Speedway in Houston, US. Allison started from the pole and led 253 of 300 laps on the half-mile asphalt track. James Hylton finished second, two laps down, with Walter Ballard eight laps off the pace in third.

1985: The Detroit Grand Prix was held over 63 laps of the 7 km street circuit for a total race distance of 260 kilometres. Finland’s Keke Rosberg (Williams FW10) took the lead from pole-sitter Ayrton Senna (Lotus 97T) on lap eight, avoided the tyre and brake problems that plagued the other front-runners and held off the Ferrari 156/85s of Stefan Johansson and Michele Alboreto to win. Stefan Bellof earned a scintillating fourth place in his Tyrrell 012, scoring the last points for the legendary Cosworth-Ford V8 engine until 1988. It was the fourth Formula One Grand Prix victory for the 1982 World Champion. Alboreto’s third place allowed him to expand his points lead over Lotus driver Elio de Angelis to seven points. Eventual 1985 World Champion Alain Prost was now nine points behind Alboreto and as far from the championship as he would get all year.

1991: Davey Allison beat Hut Stricklin to win the Miller Genuine Draft 400 at Michigan, US. Stricklin was driving a Buick owned by Bobby Allison, the father of the race winner.

1991: Bertrand Gachot, Johnny Herbert, and Volker Wiedler won the 24-Hours of Le Mans driving a Mazda. It was the first time a marque outside of Western Europe had won the prestigious title. The 1990s has seen a resurgence of interest in Le Mans, as companies struggle to make better handling more durable sports cars for the world market. The 1991 Mazda was also the first car to win Le Mans with a Wankel rotary engine. The engine consisted of four rotors with three sequential spark plugs per rotor. The Mazda drove 3,059 miles (4,923 km) at an average speed of 183 mph (295km/h).

1996: Rusty Wallace ran out of gas while racing in the Miller 400 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, US. Fortunately for Wallace, his tank ran dry after he had crossed the finish line to win the race.

2002: The European Grand Prix held at Nürburgring was won by Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, his first win since his victory at the 2000 German Grand Prix. His teammate Michael Schumacher finished second in another dominating performance by the team. McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Räikkönen finished third. This was the first race at the modified Nürburgring circuit, as the first chicane was replaced by the Mercedes Arena corners.

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