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22-23 September: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~22 September~

Locomobile (1906 American Elimination Trial)

1906: The Vanderbilt Elimination Race was run over ten laps on a 29-mile course near Westbury, Long Island, New York, to decide which five would represent the United States in the international 1906 Vanderbilt Cup. “Crowded excursion trains followed one another from midnight until long after the race had started, discharging thousands at Mineola, Westbury, Hicksville and other stations about the course. Country people from miles around journeyed to the course until the multitude numbered more than 100,000. At least 5,000 automobiles, carrying gay parties of men and women lined the course.” The race started at 06:00 in the morning with cars leaving at one minute intervals. Mongini, Matheson, burst a tyre on the first lap, hitting a telephone pole. He and his mechanic Green were thrown from the car but suffered only bruising. When Tracy crossed the finish line the race was stopped due to the crowd invading the circuit. The following team was chosen to represent America: Joseph Tracy (100-hp. Locomobile), Hubert LeBlon (115-hp. Thomas), H.N. Harding (50-hp. Haynes), Frank Lawell (110-hp. Frayer-Miller), and Walter Christie (50-hp. Christie). “Only the first three covered the full course, and Lawell and Christie were given places on the team; the former owing to the fact that he was still running when the race was called off, and the latter owing to the disqualification of Lyttle (Pope-Toledo), for being towed.”

1935: The Spanish Grand Prix was dominated by Mercedes who took the first three places, the win going to Rudolf Caracciola. Achille Varzi, who had started on the front row in his Auto Union, was forced to retire after a stone smashed his windscreen and cut his face; he resumed after medical treatment but soon after was forced out for good with transmission problems.

1957: Richie Ginther drove a Ferrari to victory in a race at Riverside, California, USA, during the track’s first weekend of formal competition. It closed in July 1989.

1963: Jim Clark sat on pole in a rear-engined Lotus, but it was A J Foyt who won the 200-mile USAC race at Trenton, New Jersey. In a front-engined roadster, this was Foyt’s third of five consecutive wins at Trenton.

1963: Fred Lorenzen celebrated a dominant day at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US lapping the field to win the Old Dominion 500. Lorenzen led 421 of 500 laps in a Holman-Moody Ford, taking the lead from pole-starter Junior Johnson for the final time in the 81st lap. Marvin Panch finished second in the Wood Brothers Ford, one lap back, with Joe Weatherly third, three laps off the pace.

1973: Mick Hand took his 250cc Honda to a new World record of 10.5 seconds for the standing quarter mile at Elvington, Yorkshire. Paul Windross failed to break any records but did cover the flying quarter in 4.91 seconds at 183.29mph on his double-engined Triumph. On four wheels John Dodds took his famous Rolls Royce Merlin engined creation to a World record for the flying quarter at 6.695 seconds and 136.36mph.

1974: The 1974 Canadian Grand Prix was a motor race held at Mosport Park, the fourteenth and penultimate round of the 1974 Formula One season. Niki Lauda was on course for victory, until running over debris on lap 67, causing his Ferrari to spin into barriers, having led the whole race until that point. He also set the fastest lap of the race. Jacques Laffite was also forced out due to picking up a puncture, possibly caused by the same debris on the circuit. Emerson Fittipaldi grabbed the advantage, and led for the rest of the race. It was his 12th career victory, and the last of the season for the McLaren driver. This was the first Grand Prix race for young Austrian Helmuth Koinigg, who would lose his life during the next race at Watkins Glen.

1991: Another Nigel championship bid ended in heartache as well as semi-farcical circumstances at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Starting the race from fourth on the grid, Mansell drove superbly to take the lead. But during a pit stop, one of his tyres was not fitted properly, came off the car and began bouncing down the pit lane. With Mansell gesticulating frantically, his Williams mechanics ran to his car to attach another wheel. Mansell emerged 17th and broke a string of lap records to battle his way back up to sixth only to be black flagged and disqualified for illegally having mechanics work on his car in the pit lane. He drove into the pits, got out without a word to his team and headed tearfully back to his motorhome. “I just don’t believe it,” he said. “I’ve done everything I can and just don’t know what else I have to do.”

Harry Gant – 1996 at North Wilkesboro Speedway

1991: Harry Gant (51) won the Goody’s 500 in Martinsville, Virginia, US, his fourth consecutive victory, to extend his own record as the oldest winner of a race. Gant methodically worked his way to the front from the 12th starting spot, bypassing Rusty Wallace to take the lead for the first time in the 196th of 500 laps. Though Gant set the pace for a race-high 226 laps, his path was not nearly as trouble-free as at Dover the week before. In a contest for the lead after a Lap 376 restart, Wallace nudged Gant into a spin in the .526-mile track’s third turn. Gant’s No. 33 sustained significant front-end damage after third-place Morgan Shepherd became involved, but the 51-year-old drove away from the stack-up. The amount of torn-up sheet metal and smoke around the No. 33’s nose seemed terminal, at least to Parsons. “Looks like that right-front tire is going south and the car is going north,” he said. “Pretty heavy damage to that car, so Harry Gant will not win his fourth in a row, I’m sad to say.” Gant had fallen out of the top 10, but made a fierce charge to prove Parsons wrong. Gant said later that he “ran about 10 laps as mad as a bull,” the hood of his battered Olds held down by bungee cords and the right-front fender peeled away. On the ensuing restart, Gant deftly jumped back up to ninth place, causing Parson to doubt his proclamation. When Gant slipped past Terry Labonte for third, Parsons was beside himself: “This is unbelievable! I crossed Harry Gant off. I said he’s not going to win four in a row, and I don’t know — he just might still do it.” By Lap 448, Gant had come all the way back to the top spot, passing Ernie Irvan and Brett Bodine to take control. After being bumped out of the lead by Bodine one lap later, Gant capitalized when Petree & Co. made quick work of his final pit stop, winning the race off pit road and staying out front the last 47 laps. “I figured we had it in the bag, but then I realized how many laps were still left, and I knew it couldn’t be this easy,” Gant told reporters later. “… It sure is special. I don’t even know what to say about all this anymore.”

1996: Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve won the Portuguese Grand Prix from team-mate Damon Hill and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, having overtaken the latter on the outside of the final corner while the two were lapping the slow-moving back-marking Minardi of Giovanni Lavaggi (who at the time was described by BBC TV commentator Jonathan Palmer as “desperately slow” and “there because of his money”). This victory, Villeneuve’s fourth of the season, ensured that the Drivers’ Championship battle between him and Hill went to the final round in Japan three weeks later.

~23 September~

1905: The Vanderbilt American Elimination Trial was held to determine the five entries for the Vanderbilt Cup from 12 American candidates. Albert Dingley driving a Pope-Toledo 60 hp won the 113.2 mile race.

1934: Luigi Fagioli, won the Spanish Grand Prix at Lasarte in a Mercedes-Benz W25/34.

1939: P. MacArthur pulled across the finish line in Ballinascorney, Ireland, winning the last Irish hillclimb before World War II. Hillclimbing events usually took place on a public road, and they became wildly popular in Great Britain and Ireland during the early days of the automobile. Cars of all shapes and sizes would race up a hill, with drivers gunning their engines and showing off the prowess of their new motor car. Cheered on by a crowd of onlookers, the fastest car up the hill won. World War II brought an end to hillclimbs and car racing in general, as manufacturers funneled their efforts into military production. However, hill climbing returned after the war, more popular than ever.

Herb Thomas

1951: Herb Thomas took the lead from pole-starter Billy Carden in the 160th lap and leads the rest of a 200-lap main event at Charlotte Speedway, North Carolina, US becoming the first driver in NASCAR’s top series to win three races in a row. Thomas, in a Fabulous Hudson Hornet, led 105 of the 200 laps on the .75-mile dirt track, site of the the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) race. Shorty York took second place with Donald Thomas third, both in 1950 Plymouths.

1961: Stirling Moss won the Gold Cup race at Oulton Park, England in a Ferguson-Climax P99, the final victory in a major race for a front-engined car.

1972: The famous Crystal Palace racing circuit (cover image)  in London held its final meeting, ending a 45-year racing tradition. The closure had been announced a few weeks before the beginning of the 1972 season, prompted by noise complaints and safety concerns.The circuit opened in 1927 and the first race, for motorcycles, was on 21 May 1927. The circuit was 1-mile (1.6 km) long, and ran on pre-existing paths through the park, including an infield loop past the lake. The surface had tarmac-covered bends, but the straights only had hard-packed gravel.Improvements begun in December 1936 increased the circuit to 2 miles (3 km), and tarmac covered the entire length. 20 cars entered the first London Grand Prix on 17 July 1937, a race eventually won by Prince Bira in his ERA R2B Romulus at an average speed of 56.5 mph (90.9 km/h). Later that year, during the International Imperial Trophy meeting also won by Bira, the BBC broadcast the first ever televised . With the outbreak of World War II, the park was taken over by the Ministry of Defence, and it would not be until 1953 that race meetings could take place again. The circuit had been reduced in length to 1.39 miles (2.2 km), bypassing the loop past the lake, and pressure from the local residents led to an injunction which reduced motor sport events in the park to only five days per year. A variety of races took place, including sports cars, Formula Three, the London Trophy for Formula Two, and non-championship Formula One races. Average speeds continued to rise over the years, with the first 100 mph (161 km/h) lap average set in 1970 by that year’s Formula One world champion, Jochen Rindt. Also in 1970, the injunction limiting race days expired and racing was increased to 14 days a year. However, driver safety was coming into focus in the early seventies and it became clear that racing around a park at 100 mph (161 km/h) was not safe. Expensive improvements were undertaken, but it was not enough to save the circuit. The last International meeting was in May 1972, the final lap record going to Mike Hailwood at an average speed of 103.39 mph (166.39 km/h). The circuit’s location within Greater London made it a popular venue for both film and television settings, The Italian Job filmed on the startline at Crystal Palace for the scene showing initial testing of the Mini Cooper getaway cars and in the paddock area for the scene where a security van is “blown-up”. The Crystal Palace transmitter tower can be seen in the background of this scene. The circuit was also used in Ron Howard’s film Rush, to recreate the last corner accident between James Hunt and Dave Morgan,[1] and for parts of the UFO (TV series) episode The Responsibility Seat. Although the circuit no longer exists (as an actual racing circuit), it can be driven virtually in the Grand Prix Legends historical motor racing computer simulation game, for which it was recreated in detail. It was later converted to several other racing simulation programs, including the popular rFactor. The circuit was used for the prologue time trial of the Tour of Britain cycle race on 9 September 2007, and is used regularly for summer road race league events, normally held on Tuesday evenings.

1975: Rene Thomas (89), winner of the 1914 and former holder of the land speed record, died in France.

1978: Mario Andretti drove a Penske-Cosworth to victory in the last USAC Championship Indy car race at Trenton, New Jersey, US.

Nigel Mansell – 1992 Portuguese Grand Prix

1990: British driver Nigel Mansell took his only victory of the season in his Ferrari 641, and his last for Scuderia Ferrari at Portugeuse Grand Prix. He finished over two seconds ahead of Brazilian driver and series points leader Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Mansell’s team mate French driver Alain Prost kept his fading championship hopes alive with a third placed finish.

2008: NASCAR announced a new random drug-testing policy. Also, all drivers, officials, and over-the-wall crew members would be tested in the preseason.

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