25-26 July: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~25 July~

1900: The Paris – Toulouse – Paris road race began. It was run in three stages over three days during a heat wave, and tyre troubles were numerous. Levegh on his Mors covered the distance of 838.08 miles, excluding controls, in 20 hours 50 minutes 9 seconds, an average of 40 miles an hour. Pinson was second in 22 hours 11 minutes 1 second, and Voigt third in 22 hours 11 minutes 51 seconds, each driving a Panhard.

1937: Driver Ernst von Delius collided with Richard Seaman during the German Grand Prix held at Nürburgring on lap 6 and the accident was eventually fatal for von Delius, experiencing thrombosis. Von Delius was 25 years old. The race was won by German Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W125

1948: Slick Davis became the first NASCAR ­driver to be fatally injured. The tragedy happened in an event at Greensboro, North Carolina. Curtis Turner started on the pole and won the race. Billy Carden won another NASCAR Modified race held on the same day in Columbus, Georgia.

1971: Peter Revson and Denny Hulme, driving McLaren M8F-Chevrolets, finished 1-2 for Team McLaren in the Can-Am race at Watkins Glen, New York, US.

1977: Bobby Isaac survived a race of attrition to post a dominant win in the Nashville 420 at the 0.596-mile Nashville Speedway (Tennessee. US), at the state fairgrounds. Isaac led 214 of the 420 laps and was two laps ahead of Bobby Allison at the finish. Neil “Soapy” Castles finished third, a whopping 26 laps behind. Only nine of the 36 starters were running at the finish.

1982: Six turbo-charged cars completed the first 6 grid positions at the French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit. Four turbo-charged cars driven by 4 French drivers finished in the top 4 places, and the French Renault team finished 1-2 with René Arnoux winning and Alain Prost finishing second, but under sour circumstances- as Arnoux violated a pre-race agreement that if he and Prost were 1st and 2nd, Arnoux would let Prost by to help his better championship standing.

1993: The German Grand Prix, contested over 45 laps of the Hockenheim circuit, was won by Alain Prost, driving a Williams-Renault, after team-mate Damon Hill was denied a first win by a tyre problem on the penultimate lap. This was Prost’s 51st and final Grand Prix victory.

1993: Dale Earnhardt beat Ernie Irvan by an eyelash to win the DieHard 500 at Talladega, Alabama (US). In one of the closest finishes on record, Earnhardt’s margin of victory was a scant .005 second.

2004: British driver Fiona Leggate completed five races in 24 hours at Silverstone to establish a record for the most races driven by one driver in a day. The five races were part of the MG Car Club Silverstone MG 80 Race Meeting. Leggate won the last race, the Single Driver Enduro Race, with fellow British driver David Coulthard in second place.

~26 July~

1908: At 6.15 pm the German car, Protos, driven by Lt Koeppen crossed the Paris finishing line in the race from New York via Alaska and Peking, sponsored by the New York Times, after traveling more than 18,000 miles in 170 days – 88 of which had been on the road and averaged over 150 miles a day (with a maximum of 400 in 24 hours). But the declared winner was American Thomas ‘Flyer’ car after the Protos was penalized for traveling part of the way by train. When the Protos was delayed by repairs in America, it was shipped by rail to Seattle in order to sail with the ‘Flyer’ to Russia. On February 12th, 1908 six automobiles had lined up at the start of a 22,000-mile race to Paris. Along Broadway 250,000 people cheer them on as they head north: three French vehicles, De Dion, Sizaire-Naudin and Moto-Bloc; one German Protos; one Italian Zust; and the American entry, a Thomas Flyer. The route they plan to take is across the US via Chicago to San Francisco, from there by ship up to Alaska, across the Bering Straits (which it is hoped will still be frozen), through Siberia to Moscow, then St Petersburg, Berlin and finally Paris. The previous year there had been a race from Paris to Peking, won by Prince Scipio Borghese whose prize was a magnum of champagne, but this is the big one, sponsored by the New York Times and Le Monde. There were snowdrifts and seas of mud; the roads were dirt tracks, if there were roads at all. If there was a railroad track, they drove along it, straddling the rails and bumping from sleeper to sleeper on deflated tyres. By the time the Thomas Flyer reached San Francisco in the third week in March, its nearest competitor, the Zust, was 900 miles behind. The secret of the Flyer, capable of 60 mph and retailing at $4,000, was its team mechanic (and soon main driver) George Schuster, endlessly resourceful and determined. The Flyer was then shipped to Valdez in Alaska, where Schuster surveyed the route to Nome, in theory the beginning of the crossing to Eurasia. He reported to the organisers that it was quite impossible, so it was decided the vehicles should be shipped from Seattle to Japan. After problems over Russian visas, the Flyer ended up the last to leave, but was awarded a 15-day allowance for its time in Alaska, while the German Protos got a 15-day penalty for having been put on a train for part of the American leg. By the time Vladivostok was reached, all three French vehicles had withdrawn; by St Petersburg, and after endless frustrations and adventures, Lieutenant Hans Koeppen’s Protos just had the edge over the Flyer, while the Italians were 3,000 miles behind. The Protos reached Paris on July 26th while the Flyer was still in Berlin, but it finished on July 30th. The French had been grudging in the welcome they gave the Germans, but the Flyer’s arrival was greeted with huge enthusiasm, especially since the penalty and allowance made it the clear winner. The Italian Zust only reached Paris in September. The publicity value of the race for the automobile industry was huge; at the same time it demonstrated to governments the inadequacy of the world’s road systems. Over a thousand photographs taken of the race survive. Its timing could not have been better, since 1908 was the year that Henry Ford introduced his Model T and General Motors was created out of the amalgamation of Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac (then Cadillac in 1909). The absence of a British vehicle indicated the weakness of the industry there, while the presence of three French entrants reflected their dominance. But the lead was soon to cross the Atlantic, though the Thomas firm collapsed in 1913.

1916: Dave Lewis drove a Crawford to victories in the 5 mile and 50 mile events at Des Moines Speedway in Des Moines, Iowa, US. Frank Galvin won the 10 and 20 mile races in a Sunbeam.

1921: Jimmy Murphy driving Duesenberg won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans at 78.10 mph, the first major American victory in Europe.

1924: The last South Harting hill climb (now the B2141 road) event was held. The West Sussex (England) venue was one of the most important motor hill climbs in the country during the 1920s, with Frazer Nash, Aston Martin and Raymond Mays (Bugatti) participating. The event was founded by Earl Russell in 1905.

1925: Antonio Ascari (36) -cover image – died on the way to the hospital after he crashed his Alfa Romeo P2 during the French Grand Prix at Montlhery. He began racing cars at the top levels in Italy in 1919, using a modified 1914 Fiat. Along with Enzo Ferrari, he raced in the first Targa Florio held after the end of World War I in 1919, but did not finish after crashing into a deep ravine. His bad luck there continued in 1920 and 1921, but in 1922 he finished a strong fourth. Driving an Alfa Romeo for Vittorio Jano in April 1923, he narrowly lost the Targa Florio, finishing second to his Alfa Romeo team-mate, Ugo Sivocci. However, the following month at the Cremona Circuit he drove to his first major Grand Prix victory. In 1924, he was again the winner at Cremona in the first race of the P2, then went on to Monza where he won the Italian Grand Prix.1925 promised to be a great year for Antonio Ascari, his car dominating the competition at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps when he won the inaugural Belgian Grand Prix. He could even eat and drink slowly during a pit stop. Antonio left behind a seven-year-old son, Alberto, who would become one of the greats of Formula One racing in the early 1950s and who would also die behind the wheel at age 36 and on the 26th of a different month, four days after a remarkable escape.

1936: Bernd Rosemeyer driving an Auto Union Typ C won the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Manfred Von Brauchitsch lad on the first lap but was then passed by Rosemeyer and Hermann Lang. Rudolf Caracciola retired early. When Rosemeyer on a two stop strategy made his first stop Lang took over the lead but he had broken a finger during a gear change and had to stop for medical attention, Caracciola taking over the car. Later when von Brauchitsch gave up Lang volunteered to race on with that car. Mercedes was in trouble. Louis Chiron survived a high speed crash with minor injuries and Caracciola had to retire for a second time. When Tazio Nuvolari retired his Alfa Romeo no one could hinder a Auto Union triumph with Rosmeyer winning easily from Stuck with Brivio finishing third for Alfa Romeo.

1955: Lancia quit racing and gave all their racing cars and equipment to Ferrari.

1964: Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon (80) racer for Sunbeam and Talbot in the 1920s and later a Member of Parliament, died in Buckinghamshire, England. Curzon, better known as Lord Howe, made his race debut at the comparatively old age of 44, in the 1928 Irish TT with a Bugatti Type 43. After leaving the House of Commons he pursued his driving career with increasing vigour. During the 1930s he became a well known driver, competing in many national and international races, most notably the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he gave Ala Romo their first victory at the event. He entered the endurance classic six times between 1929 and 1935, only missing the 1933 event. For the first year he was entered as a part of the Bentley factory team, but latterly he entered his own cars. It was in his own Alfa Romeo 8C that he won the race in 1931, driving in partnership with Henry Birkin.

1976: George Sounders (73), winner of the 1927 Indianapolis 500, died.

1976: Lee Kunzman, John Martin, Roger McCluskey, Dick Simon, and George Snyder tested the new pavement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a 10-lap “race” during the Governors Conference. Indiana Governor Otis Bowen declared the race a tie.

1987: Bill Elliott stormed to victory from the pole position to win the Talladega 500 at Talladega (Alabama, US) Superspeedway, marking the last race at the 2.66-mile track without carburetor restrictor plates. Elliott topped qualifying with a speed of 203.827 mph, which was the last 200-mph-plus qualifying effort before Marcos Ambrose’s 203.241 mph pole-winning lap at Michigan last month. Elliott led the final 38 laps and edged Davey Allison by .15 seconds in a 1-2 sweep by Fords. Dale Earnhardt was third in a Chevrolet. The race was run with a special restricted carburetor on every car, but plates were not introduced until the following year.

1987: The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was won by eventual 1987 World Champion, Nelson Piquet driving a Williams FW11B. It was his first win of the season and his third win in the German Grand Prix having previously won for Brabham in 1981, and Williams in the previous year. Piquet won by over a minute and a half from Swedish driver Stefan Johansson driving a McLaren MP4/3, who coasted over the finish line on three wheels due to a tyre puncture suffered just past the pits on his last lap. The Swede’s second place was the 50th podium finish for the Porsche-designed TAG turbo engine. Piquet inherited the win after engine failure claimed his team-mate, Briton Nigel Mansell, and reigning champion, Frenchman Alain Prost (McLaren MP4/3). Ayrton Senna finished third in his Lotus 99T. Just seven cars were classified at the end of the race, as the long straights took their toll on engine reliability. Naturally asiprated cars finished as high as fourth place with Frenchman Philippe Streiff leading home a team one-two in the Jim Clark/Colin Chapman Trophy standings for Tyrrell as Jonathan Palmer finished in fifth place. In sixth was French driver Philippe Alliot driving a Lola LC87 for the new Larrousse team. It was Alliot’s second top six finish in Formula One and Larrousse’s first world championship point, although the Constructor’s Championship point would be credited to the chassis designers, Lola Cars. Piquet’s win vaulted him into the championship lead for the first time in 1987, putting him four points ahead of Senna and nine ahead of Mansell.

1992: Contested over 45 laps of Hockenheim, the German Grand Prix was won by Williams driver (and polesitter) Nigel Mansell. Ayrton Senna finished the race in second place for the McLaren team whilst Michael Schumacher took the final podium spot in his Benetton. Ayrton Senna dropped out of title contention at this race, although it seemed inevitable that only Mansell would be Driver’s Champion anyway – he clinched the title at the next race in Hungary.

1998: The U.S. 500, the most prestigious race in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series turned to tragedy when a wheel from Adrian Fernandez’s car flew into the grandstands during a crash on lap 175 of the 250 lap race, killing three fans and wounding six others at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

1998: A mixed-up grid resulted from a wet/dry qualifying session, with Giancarlo Fisichella taking his first pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring. Mika Häkkinen won the race. Coulthard was a lap down on lap 2 having been involved in two collisions but finished 2nd just behind his team mate.

2006: Popular broadcaster and ­former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons began treatments for lung cancer. Parsons would succumb to the disease less than six months later on January 16, 2007. He was 65.

2009: Jaime Alguersuari (Spain, b.23 March 1990) aged 19 years 125 days became the youngest driver to finish a Formula One World Championship race when he finished the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary. Jamie was racing for Toro Rosso – he finished 15th in the race.

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