31 December – 1 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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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. 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

Sebring Raceway- early 1950s
Sebring Raceway- early 1950s

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: A knighthood for Stirling Moss who claimed he owed a large part of his fame to both his driving skills and his name. “Thank goodness

Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss

I wasn’t called Hamish, which is what my mother wanted to call me.” He said the honour meant more to him than anything he had achieved on the track. “I have no regrets about not winning the [drivers’] title. This honour, however, is the acceptance of the British nation.”


1932: “Babe” Stapp was declared winner of the accident shortened 100-mile AAA Pacific Coast championship race at Oakland Speedway. The race, twice postponed because of rain, was halted after the second serious accident of the event. Ralph H1965: epburn, 3rd in AAA points in ’31, and Bryan Salpaugh were badly injured in seperate accidents (note: both did race again). Earlier, Salpaugh had set a new lap record of 35.31 (101.95 mph avg.) on the 1 mile high banked oiled dirt oval.

1937: Pat Fairfield won the South African Grand Prix in East London driving an ERA R4A, the first victory for the marque in the hands of a private owner.

1952: Colin Chapman and Michael Allen formed the Lotus Engineering Company.

1965: Jim Clark in a Lotus-Climax celebrated Hogmanay by dominating the South African Grand Prix at East London, leading from pole and breaking the 100mph barrier, winning by half a minute from Graham Hill and John Surtees and even had time to complete an extra lap after the chequered flag was waved a lap too early. Mike Spence, Bruce McLaren and debutant Jackie Stewart completed the points positions. Goodyear made their Grand Prix début with the Brabham team, challenging the Dunlop monopoly.

1968: The South African Grand Prix held at Kyalami Circuit, the first round of the 1968 Formula One season, contested over 73 laps, was won by two time World Drivers’ Champion and 1965 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Clark for Lotus-Ford after starting from pole position. The race is significant as not only the last Formula One race to be won by the Jim Clark, but also the last in which he ever competed, due to his fatal crash at the Hockenheimring in Germany four months later. Jim Clark broke many records during the weekend, such as leading the most Grands Prix (43), having the most laps led (1943), having the most perfect weekends (11), achieving the most pole positions (33) and finally achieving 25 race wins.

1981: Mauri Rose (74), American racecar driver, winner of the Indianapolis 500 three times during the 1940s and inventor of a device that made it possible for amputees to drive an automobile, died aged 85 years.

Mauri Rose - 1948 Indy 500
Mauri Rose – 1948 Indy 500

1996: The TV channel, which eventually became SPEED Channel was launched by Roger L. Werner Jr., E. Roger Williams, Nickolas Rhodes and Robert Scanlon under the name Speedvision. Ownership included Cox Communications, Continental Cable and AT&T. Under their management, Speedvision became the fastest growing cable network of all time while delivering the highest male viewing audience per household of any cable or broadcast network in existence.

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