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26-27 May: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~26 May~

Marcel Renault

1903: Marcel Renault, age 31, died without regaining consciousness, 48 hours after crashing on the opening day of the Paris to Madrid race. After another deadly crash, the race was cancelled at the end of the first leg from Paris to Bordeaux, and the era of city-to-city races came to an end. The Paris Races were started in 1897 as a way for manufacturers to show off their cars. The first race, from Paris to Rouen, was a major sensation in the sports world as the first proper car race. The races helped to establish France as the premier car-racing nation in the world. Famous racers like Emile Levassor, le Comte De Dion, Panhard, and Marcel and Louis Renault made their names at these races. Panhard, De Dion, and Renault rapidly became three of the biggest names in manufacturing, their reputations relying heavily on their successes at these high-profile events. Marcel Renault’s death was the last straw for French authorities. Nearly every race resulted in the fatalities of drivers or spectators, and racing on public roads in Europe came to an end.

1907: The world’s first 24-hour race, the Endurance Derby staged at the Point Breeze dirt track in Philadelphia, L US concluded with winners J L Brown an Robert Maynes-who covered 791 miles in their Autocar at an average speed of just under 33 mph.

1912: Cyril Snipe of England with co-driver Pedrini in a SCAT became the first non-Italian winners of the Targa Florio. They completed the 965 kilometre course around the island of Sicily in 24 hours 37 minutes 39 seconds. Snipe defeated a field of 26 cars, including Lancia, Isotta-Fraschini, Fiat and Alfa. The race passed through Palermo; Messina; Catania; Syracuse; Ragusa; Gela; Agrigento; Marsala; Trapani; and back to Palermo.Snipe drove a SCAT again in the 1913 Targa Florio race but failed to finish.

Le Mans – 1923

1923: The first 24 Hours of Le Mans, organised by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, began. The race traditionally starts at 4pm on the Saturday and uses mostly normal country roads. Over the years, several purpose-built sections replaced some of the normal roads previously used, including the Porsche Curves, which bypass the former dangerous Maison Blanche section between buildings. The permanent Bugatti Track surrounds the facilities at the start/finish. That first Le Mans was won by French drivers André Lagache and René Léonard in a Chenard et Walcker. British driver Frank Clement and Canadian John Duff finished fourth in a 3-litre Bentley.

1929: Three spectators died and many more were injured at the Lückendorf hillclimb, Germany when Ernst Mahla’s Bugatti left the road.

1958: Stirling Moss led every lap in driving his Vanwall to victory in the 75 lap Dutch Grand Prix on the 2.6 mile Zandvoort circuit. Moss crossed the line 47.9 seconds ahead of Harry Schell’s BRM, who in turn was 55.2 seconds ahead of his BRM teammate Jean Behra. It was a career best finish for Schell. Moss’ young teammate Stuart Lewis-Evans won the pole in leading a Vanwall sweep of the front row (Lewis-Evans, Moss and Tony Brooks).

Monaco Grand Prix – 1968

1968: Lotus driver Graham Hill, who started from pole position, won the Monaco Grand Prix. Richard Attwood, driving for BRM, gained second place and recorded the fastest lap, while Lucien Bianchi finished in third position in a Cooper, in what was to be these drivers’ only podium finishes. Johnny Servoz-Gavin took the lead from Hill at the start, while Bruce McLaren took out the other Lotus of Jackie Oliver at the chicane on the first lap. Servoz-Gavin was struck by bad luck on lap 3 when he suffered a drive shaft failure and crashed. This set the tone for the rest of the race, when after a series of accidents and mechanical failures, only five cars finished the race, with everyone from 3rd-place finishing at least four laps down on eventual winner Hill, who cemented his reputation as “Mr. Monaco”[3] by taking his fourth win in the principality. It was however a close finish, with BRM replacement Richard Attwood surprising by finishing just 2 seconds behind the Englishman. Even though Hill broke the Monaco lap record three times during the race, it was Attwood who ultimately recorded fastest lap, the only one of his career.

1969: Paul Hawkins (31) was killed when his Lola T70 crashed during the Tourist Trophy race at Oulton Park, England.

1974: At the Santa Pod Raceway Whitsun Holiday Weekend Big Go, Allan Herridge in ‘Stardust’ ran the first funny car six with a 6.87second pass.

1974: In the midst of an energy crisis, and as an infield of hippies stormed the track, Johnny Rutherford came from the 25th starting position, deepest in the field since 1933, to record his first victory in the Indianapolis 500. During the month, as a gesture to the energy crisis, time trials were trimmed from four days down to two, and several days of practice were either reduced by several hours or eliminated outright. The race was also scheduled on Sunday for the first time, thereby ending the “never-on-a-Sunday” policy that had dated to 1911. The reduced practice time was well-received and noticeably adequate, and thus became a permanent change. But four-day time trial sessions was restored for 1975.

1985: A J Foyt made it to his 30th Indianapolis 500 as he got his sluggish Indy-car to start. Following the race, he announced that he would retire from auto racing after the 1987 Indy race. And he did.

1995: Dave Darland won the Hulman Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

1996: Buddy Lazier won the Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 147.956 mph.

1996: Jimmy Vasser won the inaugural CART US 500 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, US.

2001: Vittorio Brambilla (63), a Formula One driver from Italy who raced for the March, Surtees and Alfa Romeo teams,died. The Italian F3 Champion of 1972 moved through F2 into F1 in 1974. His moment came in Austria when he scored the March factory teamís first-ever championship Grand Prix win in pouring rain at the Osterreichring. Swapping March for Surtess in 1977 he also drove for Alfa Romeo in the World Sports Car Championship scoring four wins with the T33 and winning the Championship for the team. Vittorio was involved in the start crash in Monza 1978 which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson, suffering severe concussion which kept him out of the cockpit for almost a year, before Alfa Romeo brought him back for the last three races of the season. He made two more appearances for them in 1980, but it was painfully obvious that his days as a Grand Prix driver were over, though he did race the Osella sports car in a few rounds of the World Championship of Makes, before phasing himself out completely in 1981. He died of a heart attack at the age of 63 while working in his garden.

2001: Rockingham Motor Speedway (cover image) in Northamptonshire, England the first purpose built race track in the UK since Brooklands, was opened by the Queen. It has 13 configurations of track, which can be used for anything from touring cars to motorcycles to rally cars. Rockingham Motor Speedway was constructed on a British Steel works brown field site as a banked oval with the intention of bringing the American oval racing across the Atlantic for the first time. The opportunity was taken to use the infield for further circuits.

2002: Helio Castroneves won the 86th Indianapolis 500, becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500’s since Al Unser in 1970 and 1971. Castroneves was the first driver to win the “500” in each of his first two starts.

2002: David Coulthard sat on pole and held off Michael Schumacher to win the Monaco Grand Prix in a time of 1:45:39, only 1.05 seconds in front of Schumacher. Ralf Schumacher was third in the Williams after starting second. Trulli was fourth in the Renault coming up from seventh on the grid, though 1 lap down from the winner. Fisichella was fifth in his Jordan after starting eleventh, HHF was sixth in the Arrows. Fastest lap went to Barrichello but he was just out of the points in seventh.

~27 May~

Whistling Billy

1905: White’s ‘Whistling Billy’ steam car made its racing debut, with Webb Jay winning the opening 10-mile race at Chicago’s Harlem Racetrack. Arguably the most famous steam car ever produced, ‘Whistling Billy’ was one of the fastest cars of the American dirt track races in the early 20th century, before being all but destroyed in a crash in 1912 and left to rust on an American farm. Whistling Billy was engineered specifically for racing.

1916: Barney Oldfield ran a qualifying lap in his front-wheel-drive Christie at 102.6 mph. It was the first time any driver had rounded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in excess of 100 mph. Oldfield ended up finishing fifth on race day, as Dario Resta beat the field in his Peugeot .Barney Oldfield is remarkable for having set so many landmarks in so many different places in so many different cars. He had a knack for creating history. It was Oldfield who first drove Ford’s 888 cars to success; Oldfield who made Harry Miller famous in the Golden Submarine; Oldfield who beat Ralph DePalma in a series of match races. He somehow always managed to associate himself with the famous figures and venues of his time. He even served a ban for drag racing the African-American heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson.

1923: The first Le Mans 24-Hour race concluded. Winners Andre Lagache and Renee Leonard covered 1,372.928 miles in a 3 litre Chenard et Walcker.

1951: Stirling Moss made his Formula One debut at the Swiss Grand Prix held at Bremgarten. Juan Manuel Fangio in his Alfa Romeo was on pole and set fastest lap of the race to his winning in a time of 2:07:53. over a minute later, Piero Taruffi in his Ferrari was second after starting sixth and Giuseppe Farina in an Alfa was third, he started second on the grid. Consalvo Sanesi was fourth in his Alfa Romeo one lap down from the winner, Emmanuel de Graffenried was fifth in another Alfa.

East African Coronation Safari -1953

1953: The four-day East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika began, as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and it kept that name until 1974, when it became the Safari Rally. It was won by Alan Dix and Johnny Larsen in a VW Beetle. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Safari Rally. It was one of the most prestigious and celebrated rallies of its time, as well as one of the toughest. The Safari Rally was notorious for being by far the most difficult rally in the WRC championship to win- some had said that winning this particular rally was the equivalent of winning 3 other rallies. The arduous conditions such as the constantly changing weather and the very rough roads- often rife with sharp rocks made life very difficult for team personnel- repairs were constantly having to be made to the cars and a lot of time would be often lost- and all this work had to be done in sometimes intense heat and humidity. The event adopted the special stage format in 1996. From that edition until 2002, it featured over 1000 km of timed stages, with stages well over 60 km long, unlike most rallies which had under 500 km of total timed distance. This meant that the winner’s total time was above 12 hours in 1996 and decreased to two seconds shy of 8 hours in 2002. The event was part of the World Rally Championship calendar for many years until being excluded after 2002 due to the lack of finance and organisation in 2003. The Kenyan government is trying to get the rally’s WRC status restored. Since 2003 the event has been part of the African Rally Championship organised by the FIA. It is currently known as the KCB Safari Rally after its sponsor, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). Local driver Shekhar Mehta was the most successful in the event with five outright victories (1973, 1979–1982).

1962: Inness Ireland won the BRSCC race at Brand Hatch, England, in a Ferrari 250 GTO.

1962: The 1498cc Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine made its race debut in a Lotus 23 sports car during the Nurburgring 1000km race.

1970: The 1970 London-Mexico World Cup Rally, the first of two World Cup Rallies to be held and the second of four marathon rallies to be held in a nine-year period beginning with the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, ended. The motor rally started at Wembley Stadium in London on 19 April 1970 and finished in Mexico City, covering approximately 16,000 miles (25,750 km) through Europe and South America. It was won by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm, driving a Ford Escort.

1972: Dennis Priddle achieved the first six-second run outside the United States with a 6.995 /185 he followed it up with a 6.93/208 mph at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire.

1972: Gary Bettenhausen led 138 laps of the Indianapolis 500 until his engine blew on lap 176. Jerry Grant gained the lead but pitted for new tyres on lap 188 in teammate Bobby Unser’s pit. Bettenhausen’s Penske teammate Mark Donohue win after leading 13 laps. After a post-race re-examination, scoring was stopped on Grant because of the pit lane violation. Bolt-on wings were allowed for the first time, and during qualifying Bobby Unser ran over 196 mph, breaking the one-year-old track record by over 17 mph. During the race, Wally Dallenbach Sr.’s car caught fire on each of his three refueling stops.

1977: The Donington Park circuit closed in 1939 due to World War II, when it became a military vehicle depot, re-opened.

1979: The 37th Monaco Grand Prix won by polesitter Jody Scheckter in a Ferrari 312T4 ahead of Clay Regazzoni (Williams FW07) and Carlos Reutemann (Lotus 79). Patrick Depailler set the fastest lap of the race in a Ligier JS11. It was the last race of 1976 World Champion James Hunt’s Formula One career.

1979: The “pack up” rule was employed as a safety measure in the Indianapolis 500, during caution periods, and for the first time in history the Pace Car appeared on the track during the race.

1984: Rick Mears won his second Indianapolis 500. Race rookies included Michael Andretti, Roberto Guerrero, and Al Holbert.

Eddie Cheever at the 1990 Indianapolis 500

1990: Arie Luyendyk (Netherlands) completed the Indianapolis 500 in 2 hours 41 minutes 18.404 seconds, at an average speed of 299.3 km/h (186 mph), in a Lola-Chevrolet.

1990: The 48th Monaco Grand Prix held over 78 laps of the three kilometre circuit for a race distance of 259 kilometres was won by defending race champion Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, who led every lap of the race driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Like his previous win in the US, Senna’s rival for the race was the unexpected form of young French driver Jean Alesi driving a Tyrrell 019. Senna held a one second gap over Alesi at the finish. It was Senna’s third win at the Monaco Grand Prix. The only other driver to complete full race distance was Senna’s Austrian team mate Gerhard Berger.

2001:Michael Schumacher driving for the Ferrari team won the Monaco Grand Prix, contested over 78 laps. Rubens Barrichello finished second in the other Ferrari with Eddie Irvine third for the Jaguar team. Schumacher’s win was his fourth of season, and Irvine’s third place was the first podium position for the Jaguar team.

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