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25-26 August: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~25 August~

Lucy O’Reilly Schell

1927: Lucy O’Reilly Schell finished 12th, driving a Bugatti in the Baule in France. She was the first, and only, American woman to drive in a Grand Prix.

1935: Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W25/35 won the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten. During practice Hanns Geier in his Mercedes lost control at 150 mph and crashed into the timekeepers’ box, ending his racing career.

1967: Richard Petty rolled from the pole position and leads wire-to-wire in a 200-lap main event at Savannah (Georgia , US) Speedway, one of 27 victories that season for the Hall of Famer. Elmo Langley finished second, five laps off the pace of Petty’s Plymouth. Tom Pistone took third, six laps down.

1985: Niki Lauda won the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort in a McLaren MP4/2B-TAG. The race was the 34th and last Dutch Grand Prix and the 25th and last Grand Prix victory for triple (and defending) World Champion Niki Lauda. Lauda’s team mate Alain Prost was second in his McLaren MP4/2B with Brazilian racer Ayrton Senna third in his Lotus 97T.

1986: The first Formula 3000 Birmingham Superprix race was held. The circuit was drenched by torrential downpours from the tail end of Hurricane Charley. Being laid out on public roads the circuit was bumpy, and the cars were thrown around badly. Pierluigi Martini and Luis Pérez-Sala qualified on the front row, followed by Andrew Gilbert Scott. The championship leader Ivan Capelli span early on, in his March 86B Cosworth powered car. Because of long delays, the first race was run at a shorter distance. At every corner there seemed to be someone crashing. The race was red flagged when Andrew Gilbert Scott was experiencing handling problems after an earlier spin. When he exited the Bristol Street Motors Bend on the 21st lap, he lost it and crashed into Alain Ferté’s stationary car, blocking part of the track, with Sala still fighting for the win from a fast catching up Martini. Luis Pérez-Sala was given the win, and Pierluigi Martini given second, with Michel Ferté taking third. The top six drivers were awarded half points as the race was red-flagged on the 24th lap, just before the halfway point of the 51 lap race.

Michael Schumacher – 1991

1991: Michael Schumacher made his debut at Spa. He drove for Jordan after replacing Betrand Gachot, who had been jailed for assaulting a London taxi driver the year before. Schumacher immediately caught the world’s attention by qualifying seventh, albeit 3.4 seconds off the pole time set by Ayrton Senna. In the race the clutch failed on the grid and he retired immediately while Senna led a McLaren one-two at the front of the field. However, Schumacher had made his mark on the sport and was immediately snapped up by Flavio Briatore to race for Benetton at the next event, much to the anger of Eddie Jordan.

1996: Pit lane errors by the Williams team handed the Belgian Grand Prix to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill had locked out the front row and although Schumacher split the pair at the start Villeneuve had the faster car. However, a third of the way into the race the throttle on Jos Verstappen’s Arrows pinned wide open and he crashed at 135mph. A safety car was called out and Williams radioed Villeneuve to come in, but somewhere over the vast expanse of the Spa circuit the message got lost and Villeneuve stayed out on track. As a result Schumacher took the lead and with Villeneuve concerned about some knocking noises from his Renault V10, he settled for second. After the race an elated Schumacher said: “I would not have bet anything for this to happen. There was no way I thought I could win this race. Spa is lucky for me.”

2001: Founder and team principal of Tyrrell Racing, Ken Tyrrell (77), passed away at his home in Surrey. Tyrrell cars were a mainstay of the grid from 1970 to 1998, taking 23 wins before the team entry was sold to British American Tobacco for the start of the 1999 season. It went on to become BAR, then Honda and eventually relived its glory days under the Brawn name. Jackie Stewart, who took all three of his world championships with Tyrrell as the team principal said: “Ken was the most important person in my life outside my family. Without Ken Tyrrell, I would not be where I am today.”

2006: Sebastian Vettel became the youngest ever F1 driver as he made his debut for BMW Sauber during Friday practice for the Turkish Grand Prix. He immediately made an impact on the sport, setting the fastest time of the day with a 1:28.091 at just 19 years and 53 days old. However, he was also fined for exceeding the pit lane speed limit by 4.3km/h. He had to wait until 2007 to get his race debut with Toro Rosso and then won his first grand prix the next year for the same team.

~26 August~

1911: The grandstand collapsed on lap 2 of the Elgin National Trophy in Illinois, US. The race, run over a 8.47 mile road course, was restarted 35 minutes later and was won by Len Zengle.

1934: The first Swiss Grand Prix was held at Circuit Bremgarten, near Bern. It was supported earlier in the day by the voiturette-class I Prix de Berne. Hans Stuck in an Auto Union, having led the race from pole position won the main event.

1939: The last pre-war racing event was held at Crystal Palace and the area was requisitioned by the military. For its first decade of use from 1927 the track was typical for the time: tarmac on the bends, but just hard-packed gravel on the straights. A popular motorcycle speedway on the layout’s interior attracted crowds of up to 70,000 in the 1920s and also hosted car races – the modern athletics stadium sits on top of where the speedway was. In 1935, plans were laid down for a fully-tarred course of two miles in length, using the original twisting layout around the park’s pathways, and two years later work began – just three days after a huge fire that destroyed the Palace itself. It was described as a miniature Nürburgring at the time, and even the Silver Arrows drove the track: a 645bhp Mercedes Benz W125 was demonstrated in 1937. When racing in the UK coughed back into life in the 1950s, Crystal Palace once again reverberated to the sound of engines. However, a much-shortened, 1.39 mile layout was chosen, utilising just the outer perimeter of the original circuit. The first race in 1953 attracted 40,000 spectators – and so racing was back on the menu for another twenty years. The only major change happened in 1960, when the new national athletics complex and stadium were built: the start-line was moved to the top Terrace Straight, and the writing was on the wall that motor-racing at Crystal Palace was being challenged. Meetings continued to attract huge crowds: one year 100,000 fans turned out to watch a non-championship F1 race! The final international meeting took place in 1972, a Formula 2 race with Surtees, Lauda, Watson and Hill all on the grid. Small club events continued to take place every so often, but cars were becoming too fast for the track’s rudimentary safety provisions and the Greater London Council announced the closure of the track at the end of the year.

1967: James Hylton (cover image), one of NASCAR’s longest-running independent drivers, was born. The Inman, South Carolina, US., native made 601 starts from 1964 to 1993 in NASCAR’s top series and won twice, at Richmond and Talladega, in the 1970s. Hylton, who still races at age 78, most recently competed in a NASCAR national series in August 2011, when he finished 30th in a Camping World Truck Series event at Pocono.

1973: Mark Donohue won the Road America Can-Am race in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, USA, driving a Penske Porsche 917/30. Porsches took the first five finishing positions. Road America is a permanent road course located midway between the cities of Milwaukee and Green Bay. It has hosted races since September 1955 and currently hosts over 400 events a year. Of its annual events, 9 major weekends are open to the public which include 3 motorcycle events including the MotoAmerica (AMA FIM) series, 3 vintage car events, Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, the United Sports Car Racing Series, the SPEED World Challenge, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

1979: Gilles Villeneuve cemented his cult-hero status at the Dutch Grand Prix when he refused to retire with a puncture, and instead drove a lap of the circuit on three wheels with sparks flying from the rear of his Ferrari. Villeneuve had been leading the race after a brave move on Alan Jones at Tarzan corner and looked set for victory until a spin on lap 47 dropped him to second. Villeneuve rejoined but two laps later he spun again, this time the rear-left tyre exploded and left the Ferrari strewn across the middle of the track. However, he didn’t give up and raced back to the pits on three wheels, pulling wheelies along the way and making good time. When he returned to the pits, however, the suspension was too badly damaged to carry on and he was forced to retire. Jones went on to win the race ahead of Villeneuve’s team-mate Jody Scheckter.

1990: Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna claimed his fifth race victory for the season at the Belgium Grand Prix in his McLaren MP4/5B taking a four-second win over the Ferrari 641 driven the reigning world champion, Frenchman Alain Prost. It was Senna’s fourth victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, and his third in succession. Senna’s Austrian team mate Gerhard Berger finished third, while further back Maurício Gugelmin scored a rare point for the Leyton House team in his Leyton House CG901.

1996: One of the most iconic F1 sponsorship deals came to an end when the Philip Morris tobacco company announced it would not renew its sponsorship of McLaren in 1997. Philip Morris’ European president said: “During our 23 years of sponsorship, the Marlboro McLaren team has had unprecedented success, winning nine drivers’ world championships, seven wolrd constructors’ championships and 96 grands prix. We are very proud of that record.”

2007: Lewis Hamilton’s title bid took the first of two major blows as a result of a tyre failure. He had been running in a comfortable third position at the Turkish Grand Prix, ahead of title rival and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, when his front left tyre failed at high speed. He dropped back to fifth, missing out on two points – the exact same margin he lost the championship by to Kimi Raikkonen. His second tyre failure, which stopped him taking the title on that day, came at the Chinese Grand Prix when he ran wide on the pit lane entrance with a balding intermediate. Felipe Massa went on to win the Turkish Grand Prix, ahead of Raikkonen and Alonso.

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