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29-30 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~29 December~

1962: British driver Graham Hill won his first World Drivers Championship when he drove his BRM to victory in the South African Grand Prix at East London. Jim Clark had led the race until 20 laps from the finish, when an oil leak forced him to retire. Had this not occurred and had Clark finished the race in first, the Scot would have been crowned world champion instead of Hill.

1988: Mike Beuttler (48), British Formula One driver who raced privately entered March cars, died of complications resulting from AIDS. He was a talented Formula Three graduate from the late 1960s, who then graduated to Formula Two and then to Formula One in 1971. The finance for the team came from a group of stockbroker friends from whom the team took its name – at first Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie Racing, and in 1973 it became Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie-Durlacher Racing. He raced on one occasion, at the 1971 Canadian Grand Prix, for the works March team. Beuttler’s best result was a seventh place in the 1973 Spanish Grand Prix.

2003: Cal Rayborn II, back-to-back winner of the Daytona 200 in 1968 and ’69, died after crashing his bike during a race in New Zealand.

2013: Andy Granatelli (90), racer, entrepreneur, engineer, promoter, business executive, died.

~30 December~

1912: Lee Humiston (cover image), using a 1,000 cc twin cylinder chain driven Excelsior circled the banked one-mile oval track at Prince’s Playa del Rey, California in 36 seconds flat to become the first motorcyclist in the world “officially” timed at 100 mph. One week after his milestone accomplishment, “The Humiston Comet,” (as he was promptly nicknamed by the press) surpassed DeRosier’s record for 100 miles, trimming nearly seven and a half minutes from the fatally injured rider’s best time. Excelsior had won the race to the magic 100 mph mark and they had smashed the Indian-held record for the 100-mile distance as well. The publicity was enormous. Every school boy in America knew that a man had traveled at 100 miles per hour on a motorcycle, and that he had accomplished this feat on an Excelsior built in Chicago.

1956: Fireball Roberts led a 1-2-3-4 sweep for Peter DePaolo Fords in the 90-mile NASCAR Grand National race on the Titusville-Cocoa Airport runways in Florida, US. The DePaolo Engineering team was managed by master mechanic John Holman.

 1963: HRH Prince Chula Chakrabongse (55) died. The son of Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath of Bisnulok and his Russian wife, Ekatrina Desnitskaya, Prince Chula Chakrabongse, was a member of the Siamese (Thai) Royal Family. In England, he ran an automobile racing team called ‘White Mouse Racing’ for himself and his cousin Prince Bira. Chula wrote several books, among them a biography entitled ‘Dick Seaman – A Racing Champion’ about the famous British racing driver. He was 55 years old at the time of his death from cancer.

1975: Hermann Paul Müller (66), German sidecar, motorcycle, and race car driver died. He became German Sidecar Champion in 1932, then in 1936, he took the German 500cc Motorcycle title. He switched to cars the next year, driving for Auto Union. He won the 1939 edition of the FIA French Grand Prix held in Reims. The winner of that season’s European Championship was never officially announced by the AIACR due to the outbreak of World War II. Although Müller would have won the championship on points, the president of Germany’s highest motorsports organisation declared Hermann Lang the champion. After the war he returned to motorcycle racing, winning the 1947 and 1948 German 250cc titles on DKW. In 1955, he won the 250cc world championship riding an NSU Sportmax. He also set quite a number of world speed records in five classes over six distances for NSU on the Bonneville salt flats in 1956. To this day he remains the oldest person to win a Grand Prix Motorcycle world championship, at the age of 46.

Violette Codery

1983: British racing driver and long distance record breaker, Violette Codery (83), died. In 1926 she set a long distance record at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy, when she co-drove a 19.6 hp Invicta for 10,000 miles (16,000 km) at 56.47 miles per hour (90.88 km/h). In July 1926 she averaged 70.7 miles per hour (113.8 km/h) for 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, Paris, and became the first woman to be awarded the Dewar Trophy by the Royal Automobile Club.In 1927 she drove an Invicta around the world in five months, covering 10,266 miles (16,522 km) at an average speed of 24.6 miles per hour (39.6 km/h). She traveled through Europe, Africa, India, Australia, the United States, and Canada accompanied by a nurse, a mechanic, and a Royal Automobile Club observer.

2002: A remarkable outburst by former world champion Alain Prost who labelled his successors little better than “trained monkeys”. He continued: “[The drivers] simply follow the instructions of the engineers and let the computers do all the work. To me it’s not a real racing competition any more. And what’s worse, these drivers are so much a part of the whole system that they have to keep quiet so as not to harm the image of the team or the sponsors. I don’t want to sound old-fashioned, but in the past 10 years drivers have become increasingly like robots.”

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