4-5 January: This Weekend in Motorsport History

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

 

~4 January~

1920: Otto Walker, riding a Harley-Davidson, won the 100-mile motorcycle race at Ascot Park in Los Angeles, California, US.

1944: Charles Jarrott OBE (66), England’s first successful racing motorist died. Jarrott raced from 1900 to 1904, winning the 1902 Circuit des Ardennes race and competing in the 1903 and 1904 Gordon Bennett Cup races. In 1901 he finished 10th in the Paris–Berlin Trail, driving a Panhard et Levassor No 13, and completing the 1105 km in 19 hours and 59 seconds.

1964: The Cape South Easter Grand Prix at Killarney, South Africa was won by John Love, driving a Cooper-Climax T55.

1971: Organisers of the Mexican Grand Prix paid for the chaotic scenes at the previous year’s race after the GP was stripped of its inclusion in the world championship. FIA boss Henri Treu referred to “scandalous events” which “created an extremely dangerous situation for the racers who had to go full speed between two rows of spectators”.

1987: Tom Bigelow won the indoor 100-lap USAC Midget race at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana, US.

1991: Sprint car ace also known as ‘Hungry’ Clark (88), died. Originally a motorcycle exhibitionist, this showman of a driver was also good in dirt and midget cars. Retired after a crash in 1936. Clark was quite an analytical driver who didn’t tend to take too many risks, but he still had a fair amount of natural speed. Clark continued to take an interest in the sport for the rest of his life.

2001: Ever on the lookout for yet another novel new way to promote his interests, Eddie Jordan announced that Jordan were entering the Honda Formula 4-stroke power boat race series. “Not only does it give us a great opportunity to work with Honda [the teams engine suppliers] outside Formula One,” he said “but it also provides a fast, fun and exciting environment in which to promote the Jordan name.” The boat raced by a different journalist at each event- this raised a few eyebrows after TV Presenter Mike Brewer and Jamie Theakston had some hairy moments.

2008: Former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt announced that Michael Schumacher had turned down the chance to take over as team manager. “He would have been the best candidate for this job, but he didn’t want it.” Later Schumacher commented, “When I saw how much passion and dedication that he put into his job, he was at Maranello every day, even weekends. I said to myself ‘Do I need this?’ Simply not.”

2008: The Dakar Rally was cancelled due to safety concerns in Mauritania, following the killing of four French tourists there on Christmas Eve, December 2007. France-based Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in charge of the 6,000 km (3,730 mi) rally, said in a statement they had been advised by the French government to cancel the race. They said direct threats had also been made against the event by an Al-Qaeda affiliate organization.

~5 January~

1925: Ralph DePalma drove a stripped down Chrysler Model B-70 touring car a distance of 1,000 miles in 786 minutes at the Culver City, California tracks, setting numerous stock car records.

1963: Bob van Niekerk in a Lotus-Ford 22 won the Gigi Lupini Trophy held at Killarney in South Africa.

Billy Wade’s fatal crash Daytona

1965: NASCAR Grand National driver Billy Wade died when his Mercury crashed during Goodyear tire tests at Daytona International Speedway. The 34 year old Wade, a native of Houston, Texas was the 1963 NASCAR Rookie of the Year for car owner Cotton Owens. He finished the season with 14 Top 10 finishes in 31 races. He won four consecutive races the following year for Bud Moore Engineering between July 10 and July 19, 1964. The four wins gives Wade the sole distinction of being the only driver to accomplish this feat with his victories at Old Bridge Stadium 10th, a road course at Bridgehampton, New York on the 12th, a July 15 win at Islip Speedway in New York, and fourth win at Watkins Glen. He also accumulated five poles and 25 Top 10 finishes in his 35 starts.. Reportedly, Wade was earning $200 a day for the tests to develop a tire inner liner.

1975: Gary Bettenhausen , driving the Howard Linne , won the 75-lap USAC Midget race at the Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana, US.

1993: Nigel Mansell’s first foray into the world of Indycar could hardly have gone better as he broke the track record at Phoenix Raceway in a Lola-Ford. Mansell tuned his back on F1 after winning the drivers’ championship in 1992 after a falling out with Williams. He went on to win that year’s Indycar title and so was the only man to simultaneously hold the Indycar and F1 crowns – when he secured the US championship, the F1 version was still undecided.

1994: Eliška Junková (93) born as Alžběta Pospíšilová and also known as Elizabeth Junek (cover image), one of the greatest female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history, died. However with communist rule in Czechoslovakia she was largely forgotten by the motor racing world until recently. Eliška Junková (also known as Elizabeth Junek) was raised in Olomouc on the outskirts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A passion for world languages drew her to traveling, and she fell in love with racing cars after spotting a Bugatti in Paris circa 1921. She began taking driving lessons in secret and earned her license a year later. Eventually, she took up with a Czech banker named Cenek Junek, an aspiring professional driver who, because of a wartime injury to his hand, was unable to shift gears. She came on as his riding mechanic, tasked with wrenching and swapping cogs for her husband. It wasn’t long before she won her class at the 1924 Lachotín-Třemošná hill-climb driving a cigar-shaped Bugatti blue Type 30 and championed the sobriquet ‘Queen of the Steering Wheel.’ With riding mechanics banned for the 1925 Grand Prix season, Madame Junek began racing the Bugatti solo and, the following year, took second place at Klaussenpass in Switzerland. While she was physically undersized (something Emilio Materassi and other male drivers ridiculed her for), Junek was diligent and exceptionally cunning. Before the 1927 Targa Florio, she took to the 67-mile route on foot, noting the terrain, envisioning a line, and taking pace notes—the first-ever driver to “walk the course.” Still, she wrecked out of the ’27 Targa Florio after just two laps. The documented reason was steering malfunction; Junek always maintained that somebody moved a rock into a corner as she was clipping the apex in order to sabotage her run. She endured, though, winning her class at the German Grand Prix later that year and returning to the Targa Florio in 1928, where she started from fourth in her supercharged Bugatti Type 35B. By the second lap, she was leading the race.At one point, Junek held multiple-minute leads over a field of pre-war racing icons—Louis Chiron, Albert Divo, René Dreyfus, and Tazio Nuvolari, a man Ferdinand Porsche once called the “greatest racing driver of the past, present, and future.” But the 2.3-liter’s cooling system faltered, causing Junek to finish fifth (but in possession of the second-fastest lap and still just nine minutes behind the victorious Divo).A mere eight weeks after the ’28 Targa Florio, Cenek Junek was killed after crashing his Type 35B during the Grand Prix of Germany. Her husband’s death at the Nürburgring cast a pall over racing; Madame Junek never drove competitively again. In a career that spanned just five years, Elizabeth Junek ran wheel-to-wheel with the world’s best drivers, revolutionized race-day preparation, and became the first (and only) woman to win a Grand Prix. What might she have achieved had she kept racing into the 1930s? For her contribution to motorsport alone, Junek deserves more credit than she’s received.

2000: Otis Stine, was a Pennsylvania Sprint Car driver who was a founder member of the York County Racing Club in 1979, died. He drove his first race in 1934. His main claim to fame is that he was the first ever driver to turn a racing lap of the legendary Williams Grove speedway in 1934. He attempted to run at Indy in 1952 in a Scopa-Offenhauser, but failed to qualify. Stine once finished second in the AAA points and when he retired in 1954, he held numerous track records.

2008: Lewis Hamilton agreed a five-year deal reportedly worth £70 million to remain with McLaren. He rewarded the investment by going on to secure the season’s drivers’ championship.

2008: Brands Hatch – and three other circuits – were bought by former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, ending fears they would be snapped up by property developers.

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