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5-6 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~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

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.

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, 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

Eliška Junková

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.

1996: Ford and Jackie Stewart announced a five-year agreement to form a new Grand Prix team.

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

~6 January~

1952: Allen Heath won the 40 lap Pacific Coast AAA Sprint Car race at the Carrell Speedway, Gardena, California, US. Johnnie Parsons finished second followed by Troy Ruttman.

Vincenzo Florio

1959: Vincenzo Florio (75), Italian industrialist in the wine industry of Sicily, famous for establishing the the Targa Florio road race, died in Epernay, France. The Targa Florio was an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. Founded in 1906, it was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973. While the first races consisted of a whole tour of the island, the track length in the race’s last decades was limited to the 72 kilometres (45 mi) of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, which was lapped 11 times. After 1973, it was a national sports car event until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns. It has since been run as a rallying event, and is part of the Italian Rally Championship.

1968: Chris Amon became the second New Zealander to win his country’s Grand Prix when he averaged nearly 103 mph for 58 laps of the Pukekohe short circuit and brought home his Formula 2-based V6 Ferrari well clear of Frank Gardner’s Brabham-Alfa Romeo V8. Amon set a new lap record of 106.07 mph in his 32nd lap. He ran Lotus-Ford V8 driver Jim Clark a close second through to the 46th lap when the Flying Scot was sidelined with a dropped valve. Amon and Gardner were the only ones to go the distance.

1968: Jean-Pierre Beltoise in a Matra-Ford MS7 won the Cape South Easter Trophy held at Killarney in South African.

1978: The F1CA, soon to be rename FOCA, named Bernie Ecclestone the President of Administration and Chief Executive, Enzo Ferrari the President of Sport, and Max Mosley the Legal Advisor.

1980: Thomas Raymond Mays (80), long-time racer and developer of BRM race cars, died in Bourne, England – cover iimage. Mays was one of ERA’s most notable drivers, winning the British Hill Climb Championship in its first two years, 1947 and 1948 and also the Brighton Speed Trials in 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1950 in his black ERA R4D. He stopped driving racing cars at the end of the 1950 season.

1989: American racer Jim Hurtubise died in Port Arthur, Texas. He competed in the 1960 Indy 500 and later in the Winston Cup and ChampCar series. He retired to run a hunting lodge in Texas where he died of a heart attack aged 56.

1998: In one of the sport’s more bizarre stories, German prosecutors announced it was possible Michael Schumacher would face charges of the attempted murder of his rival Jacques Villeneuve. Schumacher was penalised by the FIA for ramming Villeneuve in the final grand prix in Spain the previous October, and the prosecutor said the possible charges against him were “attempted murder, inflicting grievous bodily harm, coercion, and driving offences”. In the end, and hardly surprisingly, no action was taken.

2000: Veteran F1 commentator Murray Walker, 76, signed a one-year deal with ITV despite earlier insisting he was ready to quit. “I was seriously thinking of jacking it in because I have always wanted to quit while I was ahead,” he said. “This will be my 52nd year in the business and I would hate to have people thinking: ‘Why doesn’t the old fool stop’?” He did just that at the end of the following season.

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