28-29 November: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

28 November

1895: America’s first race featuring gasoline-powered automobiles was held in Chicago, Illinois, with six vehicles competing: two electric cars, three German Benz automobiles, and one American-made Duryea automobile. The race was organized by Chicago Times-Herald Publisher Herman H. Kohlstaat, who had announced in early 1895 that his newspaper would sponsor a major race between horseless carriages. Kohlstaat, who was offering $5,000 in prizes, including a first-place prize of $2,000, received telegrams from automobile enthusiasts across America and Europe. At the request of entrants still working on their automobile prototypes, Kohlstaat agreed to delay the race, originally scheduled for the summer, until November 28, Thanksgiving Day. When the fateful day finally came, the streets of Chicago were covered with several inches of snow, but six of the 80 original entrants had managed to show up. Because of weather conditions, the course was shortened to a 52-mile round-trip out of Chicago and back. The flag dropped and Frank Duryea and his five competitors drove into automotive history. A few miles into the race, both electric cars broke down, leaving the Duryea brothers to contend with the three Benz vehicles. The German-built Benz cars, driven by two Americans and a German, were no match for Frank and the powerful two-cylinder Duryea automobile. After 10 ½ hours, despite an accidental two-mile detour, Frank crossed the finish line with no other car in sight, having achieved an average speed of 7.5 mph during the race. The only other vehicle to finish, a Benz driven by German Oscar Mueller, completed the race an hour and a half later, although the Gold Medal was awarded to the Morris & Salom Electrobat II for alleged greater ease of operation.

1949: NASCAR announced that the victory dinner to honor divisional champions would take place in Daytona Beach on 1 February 1950. Red Byron was honored as the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock champion, while Fonty Flock was crowned the champion of the Modified division.

1963: Lee Wallard (52) died in St. Petersburg, Florida of a heart attack. Back in 1951, running the popular and smaller than average Offenhauser 4 cylinder normally aspirated engine, Lee Wallard won the Indy 500. Two weeks later he suffered severe burns in a sprint car crash. Wallard attempted a comeback, but the scarring from the burns left him unable to perspire and forced his retirement.

1966: John Surtees, the 1964 world champion, signed a 12-month contract to race for Honda. He had won his title with Ferrari, but walked out on the team midway through 1966 after a dispute, switching to Cooper and winning the Mexican Grand Prix in the last race of the year. The relationship, in which Surtees played a major part in assisting the team develop its F1 challenge, lasted two years and provided one win, in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix.

1977: The new Arrows F1 team moved into their home in Milton Keynes, England.

1990: Paco Godia (69) who drove intermittently in Formula One between 1951 and 1958, participating in 14 World Championship Grands Prix and numerous non-Championship races, died.

1992: American racecar driver, Frank Armi (74) whose racing career ended in the mid-1960s, when he became a television and film sound engineer, died.

2006: The start of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 career came on the test track in Barcelona but lasted two laps before his McLaren broke down. Testing alongside David Coulthard and Anthony Davidson, Hamilton was given some words of warning by Coulthard who said he needed a season of testing before being thrown into the fray. “I value David’s opinion,” Hamilton countered. “He is extremely experienced and I have always looked up to him. In some ways he could be right, but I’ve done all I need to do to get to F1. I have got plenty of time to do the testing pre-season and so we will have to wait and see. I am young, fresh and extremely determined to do well in this sport. I want to win.” As it was, he came within one race of winning the title in his first season.

29 November

1897: The world’s first 2-wheeled motorcycle race was held on an oval track at Sheen House, Richmond, Surrey, England. The race distance was over one mile and was won by Charles Jarrot in a time of 2mins 8 seconds riding a Fournier.

1975: Graham Hill, twice World Drivers Champion and one of Britain’s most popular sportsmen, was killed at the age of 46, along with 5 members of the Embassy Hill Grand Prix team, when the Piper PA 23-250 Turbo-Aztec light aircraft he was piloting crashed in freezing fog near Elstree Airport in Hertfordshire, England. Hill, who won the Drivers Championship with BRM in 1962 and Lotus in 1968, was returning from testing a car in southern France for an end-of-season dinner and dance. After his death, Silverstone village, home to the track of the same name, named a road, Graham Hill, after him and there is a “Graham Hill Road” on The Shires estate in nearby Towcester. Graham Hill Bend at Brands Hatch is also named in his honour. A blue plaque commemorates Hill at 32 Parkside, in Mill Hill, London NW7. In Bourne, Lincolnshire, where Hill’s former team BRM is based, a road called Graham Hill Way is named in his honour,

1984: Ari Vatanen and Terry Harryman won the RAC Rally with a Peugeot 205 T16.

1987: The first race was held at Bob Jane’s Calder Thunderdome in Australia. The Thunderdome is a purpose-built 1.8 km (1.1 mi) quad-oval speedway located on the grounds of Calder Park Raceway. It was originally known as the Goodyear Thunderdome to reflect the naming rights sponsorship bought by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. With its “double dogleg” front stretch and the start/finish line located on a straight section rather than the apex of a curve, the Thunderdome is technically a quad-oval in shape, though since its opening it has generally been referred to as a tri-oval. The track, modelled on a scaled down version of the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway, has 24° banking on Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 while the front stretch is banked at 4° and the back straight at 6°.

1996: Motor Racing journalist and the 1950 World Sidecar Champion (as passenger), Denis Sargent Jenkinson (76), died in Aldershot, UK. Originally an engineer, Jenks became a legend among motoring journalists. Aside actively racing Porsches himself, he famously acted as a navigator to Stirling Moss when the pairing won the 1955 Mille Miglia.

2002: Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo launched an attack on the running of F1 and called for the teams to take control of the sport rather than it to continue being Bernie Ecclestone’s “one-man show”. He said: “We have to have one Formula One owner, but that should be a strong management owner of all the teams. How can we race when we get just 47% of the television revenues, and, to be honest, I don’t know much that is? I don’t want a direct involvement in running it. I don’t want Ferrari or Mercedes running things, but we have to be part of a company with a strong management and, I hope, with Bernie, as long as he is fit enough, to be running it with transparency, a single voice and an increase in income.” The ownership subsequently changed hands but Ecclestone remained – and remains – in tight control of the sport.

2009: Felipe Massa returned to the track four months after a potentially fatal incident when he was hit by a spring at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He competed in a karting event in Brazil, alongside Michael Schumacher who attracted more than a passing interest from journalists as rumours of a comeback gained pace.




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