3-4 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

3-4 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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1936: Just three days after the fire at the Crystal Palace, work began on a Grand Prix track with a new “Panamac” non-skid surface. Called a “miniature Nürburgring” by the British motor press, the twisty circuit was completed in 5 months. The first event held at the circuit, the Coronation Trophy, held on 24 April 1937, won by Fairfield (ERA).

1964: Bobby Marshman (28) died from burns suffered a week earlier in a testing crash in Phoenix Arizona. At Indy earlier that year, Bobby in the Pure Firebird Lotus held the one and four lap record, for a short time, on the first day of qualifying until Jim Clark put him in the middle of the front row for the start. By the fifth lap, Bobby had passed Clark for the lead and was running easily in front until the 38th lap when the Lotus bottomed out and knocked the drain plug out of the gearbox. Bad luck dogged Bobby and the Lotus for the rest of the year. Though he never won a USAC Championship race he was known as a definite threat every time out.

1990: Wendell Scott (69), the first African-American NASCAR racer, died of spinal cancer. On December 1, 1963, he won a Grand National Series race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, becoming the first black driver to win a race at NASCAR’s premier

Wendell Scott
Wendell Scott

level. Scott’s career was repeatedly affected by racial prejudice and problems with top-level NASCAR officials. However, his determined struggle as an underdog won him thousands of white fans and many friends and admirers among his fellow racers. He was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.

1997: It was announced Bernie Ecclestone had struck a deal with Hollywood film star Sylvester Stallone that would lead to the first US-based grand prix for almost a decade. “Stallone will film shots of practice sessions and the race itself, which will then be incorporated into film he is making based on F1,” a spokesman said. It was planned to stage the race in 1999 in Las Vegas. In the event the deal failed and it wasn’t until 2000 that a US Grand Prix was held. Writing in the Times, Kevin Eason said: “The plan seemed to be working well and Stallone had become a fixture around the Formula One paddock as he carried out his deep research – or at least as he strode around the paddock a lot with his entourage of burly chums, who all looked like extras from Goodfellas. Trouble was that Sly, as we lovingly came to know him, eventually became such a nuisance that his celebrity appeal waned quite dramatically and it was not long before mechanics did not even look up when he burst into their garages. The fact that Sly also looked about as much like a Formula One driver as Les Dawson and that Americans in the sport are as common as a train arriving on time seemed mere detail. But Bernie, not a man noted for his artistic temperament, had become distinctly nervous about the whole business and politely told Sly that Formula One was not interested in becoming a film star. Not with him, anyway.”

1999: The Ferrari team drivers finished 1-2, with Michael Schumacher leading Rubens Barrichello, in a charity go-kart race in Koln, Germany – featuring past and present racing stars. The event raised $130,000 for the UNESCO “Children in Need” program.

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1926: The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper announced the first Mille Miglia road race in Italy. It was established by the young count Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti, apparently in response to the Italian Grand Prix being moved from their home town of Brescia to Monza. Together with a group of wealthy associates, they chose a race from Brescia to Rome and back, a figure-eight-shaped course of roughly a thousand Roman miles. Later races followed 12 different routes with varying total lengths, and the open-road endurance race took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957.

1959: Stirling Moss, driving an Aston Martin DBR2, won the Governor’s Trophy race at Nassau in the Bahamas.

Stirling Moss - Aston Martin DBR2
Stirling Moss – Aston Martin DBR2

1974: Race car designer Leo Goossen (82) died in Los Angeles. As chief engineer at Meyer and Drake Engineering he continued to develop the Offy throughout the 40s, 50s, and into the 60s; often filling the engine bays of all 33 Indy 500 starters either with Offy engines or their close cousins the V8 Novi engines. After Lou Meyer sold out of Meyer and Drake in the 1960s to form his own company which sold Ford double overhead-cam V8 racing engines in competition with the Offy, Dale Drake and Leo Goosen persevered and reorganized Meyer and Drake as Drake Engineering.

1977: At Indianapolis, Tom Sneva drove his famed Norton Spirit McLaren M24/Cosworth racer for car owner Roger Penske, and became the first driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at a speed at 200 mph (321.9 km/h) or more. He set a one-lap track record of 200.535 mph (322.7 km/h).

1997: Nigel Mansell was stopped by police doing 92mph on a 70mph road in Somerset, weeks after he had taken delivery of his new 170mph £233,000 Bentley. His lawyer subsequently told the court that Mansell was “a highly experienced driver who has an unblemished record as far as accidents are concerned. He is meticulous about road safety,” adding that the car was “well-insulated against noise and crept up over 70mph without him knowing.” The magistrates were unimpressed, banning Mansell for six months and fining him £400.

2006: National Midget Racing Hall of Fame racer Len Sutton (81) passed away after losing his battle with cancer. Sutton started his racing career at Portland Speedway in 1946 shortly after getting out of the Navy and was soon a winner in track roadsters, midgets and

Len Sutton - 1962
Len Sutton – 1962

stock cars on tracks throughout Northwest US. He won four midget races at the Hollywood Bowl in Salem, countless more track roadster races at the track and numerous championships until he left the Northwest in 1956 to race in the big time. Among the championships he won were the 1950, ’54 and ’55 Oregon Midget Racing Association titles and 1954 and 55 Northwest midget championships. Sutton first made the Indy 500 field in 1958 and would race five times, including a runner-up finish to teammate Roger Ward in the 1962 Indy 500.He had three wins in AAA and USAC champ car races in 76 career starts. Sutton retired from driving and became a member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network for many years.

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