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6-7 April: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~6 April~

1899: The 132 miles Pau-Bayonne-Pau road race was won by Albert Lemaître driving a Peugeot.

1917: America entered World War I, and motor racing was suspended throughout the US for the duration. The Indianapolis Speedway became an aviation-repair facility and airport.

1930: René Dreyfus driving a Bugatti T35B won the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo. All six finishers at the Monaco Grand Prix were driving Bugattis.

Mercedes-Benz W165

1939: The Mercedes-Benz W165 Grand Prix racing car was given its first test runs by Rudolf Caracciola and Hermann Lang at Hockenheim, Germany. It competed in just one race, the 1939 Tripoli Grand Prix, where it was driven to victory by Hermann Lang with his team-mate Rudolf Caracciola finishing second. Following an invitation by Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Caracciola entered a W165 for the Indianapolis 500 in 1946, the first post-war 500, and the first under Hulman’s ownership of the track. The car was not allowed out of Switzerland by Swiss customs and so it did not compete.

1952: Luigi Villoresi driving a Ferrari 375 won the Turin Grand Prix at Parco Valentino.

1953: The XIV Grand Prix de Pau, a 3 hour endurance race contested over a 2.834 km circuit was won by Alberto Ascari driving Ferrari 500.

1985: Brett Bodine survived 11 caution periods in the Miller 200 to post his first win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US. Bodine started second and led 58 of 200 laps. Rick Mast finished second with Tommy Ellis third.

1986: The Pontiac Fiero GTP IMSA Camel Lights racer made its race debut, at Road Atlanta in Brazelton, Georgia, USA. Gordon Spice and Bob Earl drove the car to a seventh place finish.

1997: Jeff Burton came on strong in the final 100 miles and racked up his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory as Texas Motor Speedway, Ft Worth (Texas, US) staged its inaugural race, the Interstate Batteries 500. The race was punctuated by several crashes, which contributed to 10 caution flags for a total of 73 laps run under the yellow flag

Fisichella follows the safety car through the crash debris at Interlagos in 2003

2003: The Brazilian Grand Priz was held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos). The controversial race was decided by a court case. When the final result was announced, it emerged that none of the drivers were standing on the correct steps of the podium, as the 1st and 2nd place drivers were in each other’s position, while 3rd place Fernando Alonso was receiving medical attention at the time of the ceremony. The race was eventually won by Giancarlo Fisichella of Jordan, demoting McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen, the initial winner, to second place. The race, which was the Jordan team’s final victory, was also the team’s 200th Grand Prix.

2003: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., made a decisive pass with a controversial dip below the out-of-bounds line to win the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, Alabama, US. NASCAR officials ruled that Earnhardt, Jr., completed the pass on Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson before he crossed below the line.

2005: 1.3 billion people were added to A1 Grand Prix’s potential fan base with the launch of A1 Team China.

~7 April~

E.T. Stead at the helm of his 40hp Mercedes-Simplex

1902: E.T. Stead in a 40-hp Mercedes Simplex climbed La Turbie at a record average speed of 34.73 mph to become the first Englishman to win a continental hillclimb. The 40hp Mercedes-Simplex succeeded the 35hp version and included numerous new features: Its engine compartment was encapsulated so that the cooling air could be fed to the radiator via the flywheel which was fitted with blades. It needed only 7 litres of water. Water was also required for cooling the brakes.

1922: Racer Sig Haugdahl drove the 13.8 litre aero engine powered Wisconsin Special over 180.27 mph on a one-way run at the Daytona Beach racing oval. Haugdahl’s speed was remarkably 24mph faster than the previous world land speed record. There was no clutch, the engine was hooked directly to the rear axle. He structurally taped the body to reduce drags. Haugdahl was the first racer to balance the wheels and tyres on his race car and also the first to travel three miles in a minute. His record however, was never observed by the USAC governing body as none of its members were present to witness the event. Haugdahl’s unofficial record would go untouched for over a decade.

1935: Joseph Cattanéo driving a 1500 cc racing Bugatti skidded into the crowd at the Château-Thierry hillclimb, just 100 metres from the finish, killing 7 and injuring 18. Later that year, Cattanéo was acquitted in court while the organiser of the event, Victor Breyer, had to pay a fine of 200 Francs and hundreds of thousands of Francs compensation to the survivors as well as to relatives of those killed.

1966: Racer Walter Hansgen (46), who enjoyed some early success in the SCCA series, driving a Jaguar-based, self-built Special before being hired by Briggs Cunningham in 1956 and becoming a multiple sports car champion, died. After a stint in Europe in 1958 he began racing in Formula Junior and won a number of races in a Cooper. His shot at Formula 1 came in 1961 when Cunningham agreed to enter him in a Cooper in the United States Grand Prix. He qualified 14th and was doing well in the race until he went off in order to avoid a spinning Olivier Gendebien and wrote off the car. A year later he took part in the non-championship Mexican GP and again did well but retired with mechanical trouble. His 3rd and last opportunity came in 1964 with a 3rd Lotus in the US-GP in which he finished a remarkable 5th. But he stayed in sports cars and in 1966 he and his pupil Mark Donohue shared a Holman Moody Ford GT MKII at Sebring and finished 2nd. Hansgen then went to Indianapolis to test the new Mecom-Lola IndyCar before flying to France for the Le Mans test day. Pushing too hard he went off up an escape road only to find that two large piles of sand had been left there. The car flipped and Walt Hansgen suffered series head injuries from which he died five days later.

1968: The wee Scot, Jim Clark OBE (32), from Kilmany, Fife – one of the greatest grand prix racers of all time, died in a tragic accident during a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim, Germany. Clark, widely regarded as the most naturally gifted Formula One racer of all time, competed his entire career on behalf of Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus. He won two World Championships, in 1963 and in 1965. Clark’s 1965 season is undoubtedly the sport’s greatest individual achievement. At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any other driver. In 2009, The Times placed Clark at the top of a list of the greatest-ever Formula One drivers. His first Drivers’ World Championship came driving the Lotus 25 in 1963, winning seven out of the ten races and Lotus its first Constructors’ World Championship. Clark’s record of seven wins in a season would not be equalled until 1984 when Frenchman Alain Prost won seven races for McLaren. The record would not be broken until Brazilian Ayrton Senna won eight races in the 1988 season, also for McLaren (ironically, Senna’s team mate that year was Prost who again equalled the old record by winning 7 races). However, Clark’s record is favourable compared to Prost and Senna’s as the 1963 championship only consisted of 10 rounds (giving Clark a 70% success rate), while 1984 and 1988 were run over 16 rounds giving Prost a success rate of 43.75% and Senna a 50% winning ratio. In 1963 he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, and he finished in second position behind Parnelli Jones and won Rookie of the Year honours.

1974: James Hunt driving a Hesketh-Cosworth 308 won the the 26th BRDC International Trophy, a non-championship Formula One race held at Silverstone, England.

1984: Niki Lauda won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami driving a McLaren-TAG Porsche MP4/2. Teammate Alain Prost was second and Derek Warwick was third. Patrick Tambay set fastest lap of the race but was out on lap 66 with fuel metering unit problem. Pole sitter, Nelson Piquet’s Brabham was out on lap 29 with a turbo failure.

1985: Alain Prost driving a McLaren-TAG Porsche MP4/2B won the Brazilian Grand Prix at Jacarepagua. Even though René Arnoux finished 4th for Ferrari, he was sacked after the race, with both the team and Arnoux never revealing the reason behind the sacking.

1991: Michael Waltrip led most of the way but Ricky Rudd came on late for a victory in Darlington’s TranSouth 500, South Carolina (US). Waltrip fell to third spot following a pit miscue.

1996: The Argentine Grand Prix was held at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires. Despite suffering a bout of food poisoning, Damon Hill made it three wins out of three, with Jacques Villeneuve helping Williams complete their second one-two of the season.

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