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5-6 May: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~5 May~

Fernando Minoia, Targa Florio 1929. Bugatti T35C

1929: The 20th Targa Florio received 29 entries comprising eight Bugattis, four Alfa Romeos, three Maseratis, two each of Fiats and Salmsons. Bugatti with Divo, Minoia, Conelli and Wagner as official drivers, the Alfa Romeo team with Campari, Brilli Peri and Varzi, as well as the Maserati factory with Borzacchini and Ernesto Maserati emerged as the most potent entries. The 19 car field was completed by ten independent drivers without a real chance to win of which Lepori and Bittmann with Bugattis were the most prominent. Minoia and Divo in official Bugattis dominated the race although Borzacchini’s Maserati held second and third place until falling behind. The race was then between the faster Bugattis and the factory Alfa Romeos of Brilli Peri and Campari. The exhausting race ended after more than seven hours with Divo victorious ahead of Minoia followed by the Alfas of Brilli Peri and Campari, who were the only other finishers.

1935: Achille Varzi in an Auto Union Typ B won the Tunis Grand Prix held at the Carthage Circuit in France.

1950 Olds, La Carrera Panamericana Oaxaca – Puebla

1950: The first La Carrera Panamericana road race began. 132 cars entered the 5-day, 2,178-mile race running the length of Mexico from Juárez on the Texas border to El Ocotal on the border with Guatemala. At least one stage was run each day for five consecutive days. The elevation changes were significant: from 328 feet (100 m) to 10,482 feet (3,195 m) above sea level, requiring amongst other modifications re-jetting of carburettors to cope with thinner air. Most the race was run between 5,000 feet (1,500 m) and 8,000 feet (2,400 m). American Hershel McGriff won in an Oldsmobile that cost $1,800, running on whitewall tyres he picked up for $12. His victory earned him $17,533 dollars, a huge sum in 1950. Sadly four people were killed in the race. A four-year-old Juan Altamirano was hit by the car of Jesús Valezzi and Adolfo Dueñas Costa in the first stage in Cd. Juárez before the start of the race. In the same stage near to finish line the Guatemalan Enrique Hachmeister lost the control of his Lincoln. The Peruvian co-driver Jesús Reyes Molina died in the fourth stage in León, Guanajuato when the Nash of Henry Charles Bradley crashed with a bridge in the Florida river. Reyes Molina was taken to León Hospital, where he died. The Nash Ambassador driven by the Americans Eddie Sollohub-Nicholeo Scott hit the crowd and killed a spectator in the fourth stage.

1951: Reg Parnell driving Ferrari 375 won the International Trophy at Silverstone. A violent thunderstorm caused the race to be cut short by 6 laps.

1953: Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari 500 won the F2 Bordeaux Grand Prix.

1955: Wild youngster Junior Johnson drove an Oldsmobile to his first career NASCAR Grand National victory at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina, US.

1956: Driving a Vanwall, Stirling Moss won the VII BRDC International Trophy run over 60 laps of the Silverstone circuit, at an average speed of 100.47 mph.

1979: In a trial, Dr Hans Liebold lapped the 7.85 mile high speed track at Nardo, Italy in 1 min 52.67 sec in a Mercedes-Benz C111-IV experimental coupe, at an average speed of 250.958 mph – a new record average lap speed on a closed circuit. The car was powered by a V8 engine with two KKK turbochargers with an output of 500 bhp at 6200 rpm

San Marino Grand Prix – 1985

1985: Limited fuel allowances played a big part in the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, as a succession of drivers ran out in the last few laps. Alain Prost (McLaren MP4/2B) took the chequered flag before stopping on the slowing-down lap and being found to be 2 kg underweight in post-race scrutineering, meaning disqualification. Elio de Angelis (Lotus 97T) was initially disqualified for the same reason but was reinstated. Williams driver Nigel Mansell noted that “it wasn’t really racing”. Stefan Johansson (Ferrari 156/85) drove from 15th to 1st before running out of fuel.

1990: Phil Brachtvogel ran the first six second pass on a bike in the UK, 6.97 sec/193 mph at Santa Pod Raceways’ Springnationals. Jim Wheelan ran the lowest E.T. of the meet in his Top Fuel Ford Probe Funny Car at 6.021 sec /206 mph.

1996: WIlliams driver, Damon Hill set the fastest lap at the San Marino Grand Prix on his way to the win in a time of 1:35:26. Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari was second, 16.4 seconds back, after starting from the Pole. Gerhard Berger in his Benetton was third from his seventh starting position.

2001: Bill Homeier (82), AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1953–1955 and 1958–1960 seasons with 14 starts, including the 1954 and 1960 Indianapolis 500 races, died. He holds a unique record from the 1954 Indianapolis 500; he finished in last place, but completed 74 laps, the most for a last place finisher. Homeier eventually retired in the early 1960’s to take up his teaching role. Sadly he suffered tragedy when his wife was killed in an accident in 1969 which Bill was lucky to survive. He was a keen fan of boats and owned a small pier at his home on Tres Palacios Bay.

~6 May~

Allesandro Cagno winner the inaugural Targa Florio in 1906 driving an Itala 35/40 HP for over nine hours averaging 29 mph.

1906: The inaugural running of the Targa Florio, the legendary open-road endurance race held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. Founded by wealthy Sicilian wine producer Vincenzo Florio, the race was held at Madonie and run over three laps of the 92.47-mile circuit, totalling 277.41 miles. Each lap was an ordeal as the roads weren’t designed for cars. Drivers encountered both domestic and wild animals as well as bandits. Entries had to be production cars of which ten had been made. Other than that, there were no rules. Vincenzo Lancia organized the betting, common at auto races in those days.Thirty cars entered, but a dock strike in Genoa hampered travel, so only ten made it to the start. Each car was sent off from Campofelice every ten minutes. First away was bookie Lancia in his Fiat followed by Jacques Le Blon in a Hotchkiss with his riding-mechanic wife. To the dismay of those who had money on him, Lancia retired due to mechanical failure. Le Blond suffered a number of tire punctures; Mrs. Le Blon had to help changing them. Alessandro Cagno in an Itala 35/40 HP won in 9 1/2 hours averaging 29 mph. Carlo Graziani was second in another Italia while Paul Bablot in a Berliet was third.

1923: The first Circuit of Mantua (Italy) race was won by Antonio Ascari in an Alfa Romeo RLTF.

1928: The first Algerian Grand Prix was first held over a road course in Staouéli, west of the capital Algiers. The race had a small grid made up mostly of Grand Prix Bugattis and Amilcar cyclecars. Local racing driver Marcel Lehoux won the 350 km race, lapping the field as the only Grand Prix car to finish in good order with Guy Cloître finishing second in the first of the Amilcars.

1933: JCC International Trophy at Brooklands run over 250 miles (100 laps) was won by Hon. Brian Lewis driving an Alfa Romeo.

1934: The Formula Libre Tripoli Grand Prix was held on the high-speed Mellaha circuit in Libya (an Italian colony in those days). The track had been widened and the high speed corners had received a slight banking. As the race was held in conjunction with the state lottery there was as usual a high number of entries. After the 1933 scandal where there were accusations that the result may have had been fixed, the rules had been changed so that the owners of the drawn tickets could not come in contact with the drivers before the race. In the last corner Moll tried to pass Achille Varzi but the veteran driver was not to be surprised and closed the gate. Moll later accused Varzi for trying to push him off the road. At the flag Moll was only a car’s length behind Varzi who took the victory for Alfa Romeo just as he had done in 1933.

1935: Louis Fontes driving an Alfa Romeo 2.3 won JCC International Trophy at Brooklands.

1939: The Maserati 4CL race car debuted in the Brooklands International Trophy dash in Surrey, England. The entry of private owner Reggie Tongue, finished third. The 4CL was introduced at the beginning of the 1939 season, as a rival to the Alfa Romeo 158 and various ERA models in the voiturette class of international Grand Prix motor racing. Although racing ceased during World War II, the 4CL was one of the front running models at the resumption of racing in the late 1940s. Experiments with two-stage supercharging and tubular chassis construction eventually led to the introduction of the revised 4CLT model in 1948.

Curtis Turner – 1951

1951: Curtis Turner drove his ­reliable Oldsmobile to win the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Martins­ville Speedway. Curtis Turner parked his Nash Ambassador due to repeated overheating problems.

1956: Tim Flock racked up his third win of the season at North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, US., then surprising the racing world by quitting the championship Kiekhaefer Chrysler team. Buck Baker replaced Flock in the coveted ride.

1956: Robert Manzon driving a Gordini T16 won the Naples Grand Prix held at Posillipo.

1961: Vanwall made its final racing appearance, as John Surtees finished fifth at the Intercontinental Formula International Trophy race in Silverstone, England in the unique rear-engined VW14, known as ‘The Whale’. Vanwall was a motor racing team and racing car constructor that was active in Formula One during the 1950s. Founded by Tony Vandervell, the Vanwall name was derived by combining the name of the team owner with that of his Thinwall bearings produced at the Vandervell Products factory at Acton, London. Originally entering modified Ferraris in non-championship races, Vanwall constructed their first cars to race in the 1954 Formula One season. The team achieved their first race win in the 1957 British Grand Prix, with Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks sharing a VW 5, earning the team the distinction of constructing the first British-built car to win a World Championship race. Vanwall won the inaugural Constructors Championship in 1958, in the process allowing Moss and Brooks to finish second and third in the drivers standings, winning three races each. Vandervell’s failing health meant 1958 would be the last full season; the squad ran cars in a handful of races in the following years, but finished racing in 1961.

1973: Henri Pescarolo lapped the 8.76 mile the Francorchamps circuit, near Spa, Belgium in 3 min 13.4 sec (average speed 163.086 mph) driving a 2993cc V12 Matra-Simca MS670 Group 5 sports car- to establish a new world speed record for a road race circuit.

1984: McLaren driver, Alain Prost from his outside pole position, won the San Marino Grand Prix in a time of 1:36:52. The only other driver to finish on the same lap was sixth place starter, Rene Arnoux in his Ferrari, 13.4 seconds back. Elio de Angelis in the lotus was third. Thierry Boutsen in his Arrows had a great drive from 20th on the grid to finish fifth behind Derek Warwick in the Renault. Andrea de Cesaris hung in there for sixth after qualifying twelfth. Polesitter Nelson Piquet set the fastest lap of the race in his Brabham but was out on lap 48 with a turbo failure.

1987: Mario Andretti set the one-lap speed record at Indianapolis 500 at 218.204 mph.

1991: NASCAR racer Harry Gant broke his own record to become the oldest man to win a NASCAR race, when he won the Winston 500 at the Alabama Superspeedway in Talladega. At 51, Gant ran the fastest on the circuit’s fastest track. The year 1991 would turn out to be a banner one for Gant. Enroute to finishing a personal record fourth place in the Winston Cup Series point race, Gant earned a new nickname by winning four straight events in the month of September. After he won consecutive races at Darlington, Richmond, Dover Downs, and Martinsville, the stock-car press started calling Gant–previously known as “Handsome” Harry–Mr. September. The four-race string also tied the NASCAR record for most wins over a one-month span.

1995: Brian Gerster won the USAC Midget feature race at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

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