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30-31 December: This weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~30 December~

Lee Humiston
Lee Humiston

1912: Lee Humiston, using a 1,000 cc twin cylinder chain driven Excelsior circled the banked one-mile oval track at Prince’s Playa del Rey, California in 36 seconds flat to become the first motorcyclist in the world “officially” timed at 100 mph. One week after his milestone accomplishment, “The Humiston Comet,” (as he was promptly nicknamed by the press) surpassed DeRosier’s record for 100 miles, trimming nearly seven and a half minutes from the fatally injured rider’s best time. Excelsior had won the race to the magic 100 mph mark and they had smashed the Indian-held record for the 100-mile distance as well. The publicity was enormous. Every school boy in America knew that a man had traveled at 100 miles per hour on a motorcycle, and that he had accomplished this feat on an Excelsior built in Chicago.

1975: Hermann Paul Müller (66), German sidecar, motorcycle, and race car driver died. He became German Sidecar Champion in 1932, then in 1936, he took the German 500cc Motorcycle title. He switched to cars the next year, driving for Auto Union. He won the 1939 edition of the FIA French Grand Prix held in Reims. The winner of that season’s European Championship was never officially announced by the AIACR due to the outbreak of World

Hermann Paul Müller
Hermann Paul Müller

War II. Although Müller would have won the championship on points, the president of Germany’s highest motorsports organisation declared Hermann Lang the champion. After the war he returned to motorcycle racing, winning the 1947 and 1948 German 250cc titles on DKW. In 1955, he won the 250cc world championship riding an NSU Sportmax. He also set quite a number of world speed records in five classes over six distances for NSU on the Bonneville salt flats in 1956. To this day he remains the oldest person to win a Grand Prix Motorcycle world championship, at the age of 46.

1983: British racing driver and long distance record breaker, Violette Codery (83), died. In 1926 she set a long distance record at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy, when she co-drove a 19.6 hp Invicta for 10,000 miles (16,000 km) at 56.47 miles per hour (90.88 km/h). In July 1926 she averaged 70.7 miles per hour (113.8 km/h) for 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, Paris, and became the first woman to be awarded the Dewar Trophy by the Royal Automobile Club.In 1927 she drove an Invicta around the world in five months, covering 10,266 miles (16,522 km) at an average speed of 24.6 miles per hour (39.6 km/h). She traveled through Europe, Africa, India, Australia, the United States, and Canada accompanied by a nurse, a mechanic, and a Royal Automobile Club observer.

2002: A remarkable outburst by former world champion Alain Prost who labelled his successors little better than “trained monkeys”. He continued: “[The drivers] simply follow the instructions of the engineers and let the computers do all the work. To me it’s not a real racing competition any more. And what’s worse, these drivers are so much a part of the whole system that they have to keep quiet so as not to harm the image of the team or the sponsors. I don’t want to sound old-fashioned, but in the past 10 years drivers have become increasingly like robots.”

~31 December~

1948: Sir Malcolm Campbell, legendary racing driver and land speed record holder, died at his Reigate (Surrey, England) home at the age of 63 after a series of strokes. He was one of the few leading drivers of his era, especially those who featured in speed-record attempts, to die in his bed. Campbell became a national celebrity as he broke the land speed record nine times between 1924 and 1935 – on his last attempt he became the first person to drive a car at more than 300 miles per hour.

Malcolm Campbell
Malcolm Campbell

1950: The inaugural race at the Sebring Raceway in Florida, the 6 hour “Sam Collier Memorial”, was won by the team of Fritz Koster/Ralph Deshon driving a Crosley Hot Shot (cover image). The results were determined on a handicap basis. The duo completed 288.3 miles at an average speed of 48.05 mph. This race attracted thirty racecars from across North America. Sebring (pronounced “sea bring”) Raceway is one of the oldest continuously operating race tracks in the United States.The raceway occupies a portion of Sebring Regional Airport, an active airport for private and commercial traffic that was originally built as Hendricks Army Airfield, a World War II training base for the U.S. Army Air Forces. The first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952, and the event would grow to become a major international race. In 1959, the racetrack hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix in the United States. Due to the poor attendance and high costs, the next United States Grand Prix was held at Riverside.For much of Sebring’s history, the track followed a 5.2 miles (8.4 km) layout. In 1967, the Webster Turn between the hairpin and the top of the track was removed and replaced with the faster Green Park Chicane, which was closer to the hairpin and allowed a flat-out run through a very fast corner to the top of the track and the runway; this made the circuit 50 yards longer. The circuit was also widened. Many of these changes were prompted by the 1966 12 Hours where 5 people were killed during the race. Another dangerous section was the Warehouse straight; after a crash where a Porsche went into one of the warehouses and into a crowd, the organizers installed a chicane to move the Warehouse straight further away from the warehouses and buildings. In 1983, the track was changed to allow simultaneous use of the track and one of the runways. In 1987, more changes allowed use of another runway. Further changes in 1991 accommodated expansion of the airport’s facilities, and brought the track close to its current configuration. The entire track could now be used without interfering with normal airport operations. In 1997, the hairpin was removed due to a lack of run-off, and replaced with what became known as the “safety pin”. Gendebien Bend was also re-profiled to slow the cars’ entry to the Ullman straight.

1998: Frank Williams , whose 30 years in Formula One according to The Times “combined ruthlessness with a magnificent obsession that has brought nine constructors’ championships and seven individual driver’s titles,” was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List.

1999: Stirling Craufurd Moss OBE was awarded a KBE in the New Years Honours list for services to motor racing. Regarded by some commentators as “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship”, Moss finished as Formula 1 championship runner-up on four occasions and third a further three times between 1955 and 1961. During his career he competed in over 500 motor races, rallies and sprints, winning 222 of them.

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