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24-25 March: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~24 March~

1929: The Tripoli Grand Prix was won by Gastone Brilli-Peri driving a Talbot 700. Despite the support of the colony’s extremely enthusiastic governor, General Emilio de Bono, and some initial success, the events failed financially. Only personal intervention by General de Bono kept the 1929 event from being cancelled, and 1930 was marred by a spartan field, little public interest, and the death of Gastone Brilli-Peri in an accident

Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin (1931)

1932: Sir Henry Birkin raised the Brooklands Outer Circuit lap record to 137.96 mph in the 4.5 litre Bentley Blower (Brooklands Battleship), a record which stood for another two years before being beaten by John Cobb driving the 24 litre Napier Railton.

1953: The Rand Grand Prix held at Palmietfontein in South Africa was won by Peter Whitehead in a Ferrari 555.

1956: Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Porsche and Lotus all entered the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race. Also on hand was an official team of 4.4 liter Corvettes. Moss’ Aston Martin fell out early, the Mike Hawthorn/Desmond Titterington Jaguar led 6 hours before retiring with brake failure, and Carlos Menditeguy crashed. Juan Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti won in a brakeless Ferrari. 1955 Indy 500 winner Bob Sweikert impressed by taking third in a private Jaguar he co-drove with Jack Ensley.

1963: NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson drove a Ray Fox-owned Chevrolet to a one-lap victory over Richard Petty in the Hickory 250 at Hickory Speedway, North Carolina, US. Petty, who led 84 laps before Johnson took control at the halfway point, places second with Ned Jarrett third.

1967: The inaugural race in the European Formula Two championship was won by Jochen Rindt in a Brabham-Ford. Graham Hill finished 2nd as F1 stars dominated the initial event. Third finisher Alan Rees was the only non-F1 driver in the top 6. Denis Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham finished 4th through 6th and Jackie Stewart, Hill and Rindt tied for the fastest race lap on the 2.7 mile Snetterton circuit.

1970: Buddy Baker drove a Dodge Charger Daytona to a new World Closed Course Speed Record of 200.447 mph at Talledega International Speedway, Alabama, US.

1981: Nigel Mansell saved Peter Collins from drowning in the ocean off Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

1985: The inaugural race in the European Formula 3000 championship was won by Mike Thackwell. John Nielsen was 2nd in the race, held on the 2.9 mile Silverstone circuit. Christian Danner, Gabriele Tarquini and Roberto Moreno finished 4th through 6th.

1989: Richard Petty failed to qualify for the NASCAR race at Richmond. This ended his run of 513 consecutive starts which started in November 1971.

1991: The Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/6 by a mere 2.9 seconds from Riccardo Patrese, who had to be lifted bodily from the car due to exhaustion and driven to the podium in the medical car.

Bob Said

2002: Racer Boris ‘Bob’ Said (69), first American to win a road race in Europe after World War II – the 1953 Rouen Grand Prix – died while watching TV. He began racing in 1952 in the USA but turned his attention to Europe where he raced with Masten Gregory. He raced in the American Grand Prix in 1959 at Sebring, driving Paul Emery’s ancient Connaught. Bob had to give up racing as he lost his entire fortune in 1962. Not only did Boris Said rebuild his wealth, he through property speculation and real estate, he also took up winter sports as a member of the USA’s bobsled team, participating in the Winter Olympics in 1968 and 1972. Thereafter he became involved with the film industry and turned into an Emmy award winning producer. He got so involved in the industry that he died on the night of the Oscar award ceremony, victim of a heart attack while watching the event on TV. He is the father of NASCAR’s Boris Said Jr.

~25 March~

1901: The Mercedes was introduced by Gottlieb Daimler at the five-day “Week of Nice” in Nice, France. Driven by Willhelm Werner, the car dominated the events at the competition. Mercedes cars were conceived at the same venue in Nice two years earlier. After seeing a Daimler car win a race there, businessman Emile Jellinek approached Gottlieb Daimler with an offer. Jellinek suggested that if Daimler could produce a new car model with an even bigger engine then he would buy 30 of them. Jellinek also requested that the cars be named after his daughter, Mercedes. Daimler died before the Mercedes was released. In 1904, a Mercedes clocked 97mph over a one-kilometer stretch, an astonishing feat in its day. Mercedes cars dominated the racing world for half a decade before Karl Benz’s car company could catch up.

1909: The Brooklands Test Hill opened. Built in 1909 to encourage use of the track for development and test work, it was 352 feet long and divided into three sections, starting with a gradient of 1 in 8, then 1 in 5 and the top third has a gradient of 1 in 4. Manufacturers to test both the ability of cars to climb steep hills and also of their brakes to stop them coming down used it.

1931: Lord Howe driving a Delage set the all time Brooklands record for Class F (under 1500 cc) of 127.05 mph.

Donnington Park c. 1937

1933: The first ‘road race’ car meeting was held at Donnington Park. English law did not permit racing on public roads, but the Donnington course was laid out in private parkland. The original lap length was 2.25 miles, subsequently lengthened to 3.13 miles for the Grand Prixs of 1937 and 1938. On the outbreak of war, Donnington was closed, the army occupying it as a military transport depot until 1956. Tom Wheatcroft purchased the site in 1971, and spent thousands building a museum for historic cars and reconstructing the circuit for car and motorcycle racing.

1939: Arthur Dobson won the Brooklands Road Championship contested over 37 km, in a 2 litre ERA.

1956: Buck Baker, in a Kiekhaefer Chrysler, won the 100 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the 1 mile dirt Lakewood Speedway. Teammate Speedy Thompson was 2nd to give the Kiekhaefer Chryslers another 1-2 finish. Pontiac factory supervisor Lou Moore, a former Indy Car driver, builder & owner (of the famous Blue Crown Specials that dominated the Indy 500 in the late 40’s), collapsed and later died from a brain hemorrhage.

Buck Baker – Kiekhaefer Chrysler

1961: Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien won the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race in a works Ferrari. Masten Gregory led early in a rear-engined Camoradi Maserati before Pedro & Ricardo Rodriguez took over in a Ferrari. Stops put the Ferrari Dino of Wolfgang von Trips out front, but his steering broke to move the Rodriguez’ brothers back into the lead. Defective rear lights cost the Rodriguez’s badly after dark, giving the lead to Hill/Gendebien.

1966: The first Trans-Am series race, the longest running racing series in the US was run at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida. Future Formula One World Champion Jochen Rindt (see cover image) took the overall victory and Bob Tullius won the Over 2 Litre class.

1972: The Ford-Cosworth powered Mirage M6 made its race debut in the World Championship of Makes 12 Hours of Sebring. Jackie Ickx and Mario Andretti drove a Ferrari 312PB to victory in the race.

1973: The Vuelta de 25 de Mayo was a Turismo Carretera race held on a public road course around the town of 25 de Mayo, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In a country with the avidest passion for motor racing an enormous crowd invaded the roads as usual, and the racers drove at full speed beside the spectators. While watching the race, a father with his two young sons apparently decided to climb a railway embankment to view a more large stretch of the track. As they started to climb the embankment, several people shouted at them but suddenly all three were struck and killed by a train arriving from Buenos Aires. Possibly they did not hear the warnings nor the oncoming train due to the racing cars rumble. Winner of the race was Nasif Estéfano in a Ford Falcon, from Carlos Marincovich in a Chevrolet.

1984: Ayrton Senna made his Formula One debut at Jacarepagua, Brazi, racing for Toleman Motorsport. It was the first round of the 1984 Formula One season and the first race where the FISA mandated 220 litre fuel limit came into effect, with the re-fueling of 1983 now banned. Many of the drivers correctly predicted that this would turn Grand Prix racing into fuel economy runs rather than actual races. Alain Prost won the race in a McLaren MP4/2-TAG.

1990: The Brazilian Grand Prix was held at Interlagos. The race was won for the sixth time by the reigning world champion Alain Prost driving a Ferrari 641. The win extended Prost’s record for most wins of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Prost’s winning margin was 13 seconds over Austrian driver Gerhard Berger driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Berger’s Brazilian team mate Ayrton Senna was third.

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