4 – 5 March: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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~4 March ~

ount Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat on his electric vehicle - the Jeantaud

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat on his electric vehicle – the Jeantaud

1899: Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat with a Jeantaud electric car weighting 1.5 tons won the third of a series of challenges with Camille Jenatzy in the famous Jamais Contente. Sponsored by the French newspaper La France Automobile (with the aim of breaking the 66 second per kilometre record set by Albert Champion) over a 2 kilometre course in Archeres park, near Paris. The Count won and in the process established a new world land speed record of 92.69 km/h (57.60 mph).

1900: The Automobile Club of America (ACA) staged its first race, a round trip between Springfield, Long Island, NY and Babylon, NY. The winner was Andrew L. Riker driving a Riker of his own design, the only electric car in the field.

1917: Earl Cooper won the AAA Championship race on the 1-mile dirt Ascot Speedway, averaging 65.3 mph in his Stutz. It was the 13th win of Cooper’s great career. Future Indy 500 winner Joe Boyer made his AAA Championship race debut.

Ernie Triplett

Ernie Triplett

1934: The great Ernie Triplett-Al Gordon duels in AAA Pacific Coast Championship races came to an end after a tragic accident on the dusty 1-mile dirt oval at the California Mid-Winter Fairgrounds. Triplett and Gordon were dueling for the lead when they came upon Swede Smith’s car. Smith had hit another car stalled on the track for many laps. Triplett, Smith and a mechanic that had run to Smith’s aid all died in the resulting accident and Gordon suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries.

Wendell Scott

Wendell Scott

1961: Wendell Scott became the first African-American to race on the NASCAR Grand National circuit, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He made 23 starts that season, posting five top-five finishes.

1978: Ronnie Peterson won the South African Grand Prix from 11th on the grid in his Lotus, ahead of Patrick Depailler in a Tyrrell and John Watson in his Brabham. Mario Andretti set the fastest lap of the race but finished one lap down in seventh. Lauda was on pole for that race, but his engine expired 53 laps in.

1990: At the third race of the 1990 season, the Goodwrench 500, no driver had won a race from pole position for an entire season (29 races), which meant the $7,600 prize, which accumulates for every unsuccessful attempt or rainout, had reached $228,400. Kyle Petty finally broke the streak and clinched the bonus. He led 433 of 492 laps, and collected $228,400 in bonus money, for a total purse of $284,450, a single-race NASCAR record at the time. It would be the highest single cash prize awarded during the tenure of the Unocal Challenge award program. Car owner Felix Sabates presented Petty with a Rolls Royce as a gift for winning the elusive bonus.

1997: At the third race of the 1990 season, the Goodwrench 500, no driver had won a race from pole position for an entire season (29 races), which meant the $7,600 prize, which accumulates for every unsuccessful attempt or rainout, had reached $228,400. Kyle Petty finally broke the streak and clinched the bonus. He led 433 of 492 laps, and collected $228,400 in bonus money, for a total purse of $284,450, a single-race NASCAR record at the time. It would be the highest single cash prize awarded during the tenure of the Unocal Challenge award program. Car owner Felix Sabates presented Petty with a Rolls Royce as a gift for winning the elusive bonus.

2001: The first race of the F1 season in Australia also saw the first fatality. In a huge accident Jacques Villeneuve hit the back of Ralf Schumacher, launching Villeneuve’s car into the air. It smashed into the concrete retaining wall, and one of the wheels detached and managed to pass through a small gap in the catch fencing killing marshal Graham Beveridge. This accident lead to the eventual introduction of wheel tethers in Formula One.

~5 March ~

1961: Defending NASCAR Grand National champion Rex White drove his Chevy to a wire-to-wire win in the 100-mile race on the 1/2 mile dirt Ashville-Weaverville Speedway. Cotton Owens’ Pontiac finished 6 seconds behind.

1965: John Love in a Cooper-Climax T55 won The Rand Autumn Trophy at Kyalami in South Africa.

1966: The Rand Autumn Trophy at Kyalami was won by John Love in a Cooper-Climax T79.

1967: Jack Brabham brought the 1967 Tasman Cup season to a close by driving his Brabham-Repco to victory in the “South Pacific Cup” race on the 4.47 mile public road circuit. The win ended a frustrating Tasman series for Brabham, who was plagued with mechanical trouble the previous 7 rounds. It was the 5th career Tasman win for the 3 time World Champion.

1967: An angry David Pearson took the 100th win of his NASCAR Grand National career when he took the checkered in the ‘Carolina 500’ at North Carolina Motor Speedway. Benny Parsons and Pearson hooked fenders while battling for the lead with 36 laps to go, spinning Pearson. Pearson pitted for new tires then ran down and passed Parsons for the lead. Donnie Allison, driving relief for brother Bobby, finished second in the Bud Moore Ford. Parsons wound up third. Afterwards, Pearson said “I was the maddest I’ve ever been. I don’t think he did it for meanness, but I was determined I was going to run him down and pass him. I wasn’t going to do anything crazy like take us both out of the race. But I wanted to win this one real bad.”

1971: American-born motor racing Mario Andretti enjoyed the first Grand Prix win of his career when he won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in a Ferrari. It was the first of 12 wins for Andretti, who won the World Title in 1978.

Tom Pryce

Tom Pryce

1977: Tom Pryce (27) died during the 1977 South African Grand Prix driving for the Shadow Team. His team mate in the other Shadow car, Renzo Zorzi, had a mechanical fault and came to a stop off the track by the barriers, about 30 seconds ahead of Pryce. A marshall carrying a heavy metal fire extinguisher rushed across the track towards the car, with the race still in progress. Pryce, who was driving the next car on the scene, could not avoid the marshall and hit him at full speed, killing him. At the same time, the extinguisher struck Pryce full in the face, and despite his helmet, the force of it broke his neck and killed him instantly. It later turned out that the force of the blow had actually torn his helmet clean off his head, as it was found several hundred yards away from where his car finally came to a stop. With Pryce dead at the wheel, his car continued uncontrolled down the straight part of the track for some distance, until it finally struck another car at the next bend. This double tragedy brought about severe changes in the rules governing marshalling at Grands Prix.

1989: Bob Gliden driving a Ford Probe at Houston, Texas recorded the lowest elapse time by a petrol-driven engined dragster from a standing start for 440 yards – 7.256 seconds.

1995: Jacques Villeneuve won the CART Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, held on the streets on downtown Miami, Florida.

Gregg Hansford

Gregg Hansford

1995: Gregg Hansford (44), Australian motorcycle and touring car racer died while competing in a Supertouring race in 1995 at Phillip Island. Hansford’s Ford Mondeo slid off the track and hit a tyre wall at high speed. The car bounced back onto the track where he was hit by Mark Adderton’s Peugeot 405 at over 200 km/h. Hansford died moments after the impact.

2001: As the Cracker Barrel 500 neared finality at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick had stormed into the top-five late, and into contention for the win with a daring three-wide split of two other cars as the white flag fluttered in the cold spring air. On the final lap, he engaged in an epic door-to-door duel with Jeff Gordon – one he won by inches in a photo finish.

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