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19-20 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~19 January~

Gran Premio de Argentina 1958

1958: The crowd’s expectation for the 1958 Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina was to see local hero Juan Manuel Fangio demolish the gringo opposition, as the man from Balcarce had done so often in the past. However, victory went to one of his former teams-mates in a car that the incredulous Argentine public attending the race would only describe as ‘the thing’. The season-opener in Buenos Aires saw a rather tiny grid of just ten cars lining up for the 1958 Argentine GP. A number of teams dreaded the long trip to South America because the introduction of Avgas as the only allowed fuel by regulation had caused serious problems on some engines. Among those refusing to face the long and costly trip, fearing engine failure as the outcome, was the Vanwall works-team, so Stirling Moss made a one-off arrangement with Rob Walker to drive one of his Cooper Climax. What looked like a silly idea at first, the literally powerful opposition of Ferrari and Maserati lapping two seconds quicker in qualifying, dropping Moss down to 7th on the grid, would pay out in the end. Pole-sitter and local hero Juan Manuel Fangio led from the start with Moss already in 5th by the end of the first lap. The expected heat was causing all sorts of problems for the heavier and more powerful cars upfront and their drivers were forced to pit for new tires and to catch a drink. Moss and Walker had discussed a different strategy. Not only needed they to recover the lack of pace to the leaders, a pit stop to change tires would take far too long due to the Cooper’s four studded cast alloy wheels. So the Brit simply kept an eye on his tires, treating them gently and as the race progressed, the Cooper’s lightweight chassis helped to limit tire wear. While the front-runners went into the pits for their scheduled stops Stirling simply kept going. He moved into the lead, was way ahead of the opposition and crossed the line first in his tiny Cooper-Climax as the first driver ever to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix at the wheel of a rear engined car.

1963: CAMRA, the Canadian American Modified Racing Association, was formed at a meeting held in Spokane, Washington, USA. The association’s goal was to standardize modified rules among the racing clubs in the Pacific Northwest. Bill Crow was named CAMRA’s first president.

Joe Weatherly

1964: Joe Weatherly (41), champion AAA motorcycle and NASCAR stock car racer, died from head injuries sustained in a crash during the NASCAR Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, California, US. His head went outside the car and struck a retaining wall, killing him instantly. Weatherly was not wearing a shoulder harness, and did not have a window net installed on his vehicle, because he was afraid of being trapped in a burning car. He is one of two reigning champions of what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series to die during a season as the defending champion (1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who died in a plane crash during the 1993 season, is the other) and the only one of the two to die during a race. Weatherly’s fatal crash, combined with Richard Petty’s crash at Darlington in 1970, eventually led NASCAR to mandate the window net seven years later in 1971. Window nets are used in most stockcar racing series to this day. Weatherly’s grave marker is a sculpture of Riverside Raceway, a checkered flag marking the spot of his fatal crash.

1968: Ray Harroum (89), winner of the first Indianapolis 500, died in Anderson, Illinois, US. Nicknamed the “Little Professor” for his pioneering work of creating the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first open-wheel single-seater racecar, he is known to have started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905–1911. At the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his used what would now be called a rear-view mirror, rather than the riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour (120.060 km/h). Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911. Harroun’s historic Firestone-shod yellow Marmon “Wasp,” in which he won the Indianapolis 500, is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. He won a total of 8 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the second-most of any driver in the history of the track (the only driver with more victories at IMS is Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in 1909–1916).

1973: The inaugural World Rally Championship season began with the 42ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo. At this time, the Monte-Carlo rally was structured as a concentration rally, with teams beginning competition in some nine different cities, with the first objective of the rally being to reach Monte Carlo, followed by two legs of competitive special stages around Monaco and southeastern France. Traditionally run on tarmac roads commonly covered in snow and ice, especially at higher altitudes, bad weather did force cancellation of two special stages. In 1973, and for several years afterward, only manufacturers were given points for finishes in WRC events. Alpine Renault dominated the event, a portent of their further success during the season with their Alpine-Renault A110 1800 car. They would take all three podium positions (Jean-Claude Andruet, Ove Andersson and Jean-Pierre Nicolas) and five of the top six places. The inaugural season comprised 13 events, of which seven have usually been part of the WRC schedule to this day; the Monte Carlo Rally, Swedish Rally, Rally Portugal, Acropolis Rally, 1000 Lakes Rally (now known as Rally Finland), RAC Rally (Wales Rally Great Britain) and Tour de Corse. Alpine-Renault won the manufacturer’s world championship, after which Lancia took the title three years in a row with the Lancia Stratos. The first drivers’ world championship was not awarded until 1979, although 1977 and 1978 seasons included an FIA Cup for Drivers, won by Italy’s Sandro Munari and Finland’s Markku Alén respectively. Sweden’s Björn Waldegård became the first official world champion.

1975: Bobby Allison dominated the Western 500 NASCAR Grand National race at Riverside International Raceway. Allison led all but 18 of the 191 laps in Roger Penske’s AMC Matador to take the win 22.6 seconds ahead of David Pearson in the Wood Brothers Mercury. Cecil Gordon was third, seven laps down. Time of the race on the 2.62 mile road course was 5 hours, 4 minutes, 25 seconds. Richard Petty challenged Allison until sliding up into the turn 9 wall on the 33rd lap. After repairs, Petty returned and finished 7th. The current Winston Cup point system was first used in this race. Only 12 GN regulars showed up for the race, with the Junior Johnson team with driver Cale Yarborough the most notable of those missing.

1975: Gary Bettenhausen, driving the Howard Linne # 93, won the 100-lap USAC Midget race at the Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana, US.

1980: Darrell Waltrip, driving the DiGard Gatorade Chevrolet, won the Winston Western 500 NASCAR stock car race, six days after it began. It had been rain delayed on lap 26.

1986: Johnny Parsons, driving the Helmling Racing # 4, won the 100-lap USAC Midget race at the Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana, US.

1990: Round 1 of the World Rally Championship, 58th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (20 stages, 556 km) began. It was won by Didier Auriol and Bernrad Occelli driving a Lancia Delta Integrale 16V.

2000: Round 1 of the World Rally Championship, 58th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (20 stages, 556 km) began. It was won by Didier Auriol and Bernrad Occelli driving a Lancia Delta Integrale 16V.

2005: Ever the slick operator, Bernie Ecclestone headed off growing rumours of an F1 breakaway by agreeing a deal with Ferrari which tied them to the sport until 2012, worth an estimated US$150 million. “This is not just about money,” said a Ferrari spokesman not altogether convincingly. “This is about securing Ferrari’s future in Formula One without the team being a drain on the resources of the road car company.” In a joint statement Ferrari, the FIA and Ecclestone’s Formula One Management group heralded the deal as representing a new Concorde agreement from 2008 to 2012. “It raises the inevitable question as to whether the FIA can unilaterally announce the implementation of a new Concorde agreement just because Ferrari has signed it unilaterally,” said a rival team insider.

~20 January~

1924: The banked 5/8-mile dirt Legion Ascot Speedway (cover image), Los Angeles opened. Crowds of 10,000 and more were flocking to races held on Sundays in the winter and under the lights on Wednesday nights. The big crowds brought big purses and torrid competition. The speed and competition came with a price. From 1924 to 1936 some two dozen drivers lost their lives in spectacular crashes. The track became Ascot Motor Speedway and racing continued. On January 25, 1936 the final tragedy struck during a race for two man Indianapolis cars as Al Gordon and riding mechanic Spider Matlock were both killed in a crash. This ended racing at Ascot.

1952: Tim Flock won the 100-mile NASCAR season opener at Palm Beach Speedway in West Palm Beach, Florida. The race was 200 laps on the half-mile dirt track. A solid field of 27 cars made the trek to south Florida – a great showing for NASCAR whose GN division was beginning only its 3rd full season.Tim Flock in his Hudson claimed the pole, and Jack Smith qualified alongside him. Frankie Schneider and Ed Samples took the 2nd row in a pair of Oldsmobiles. Iggy Katona – who later made a solid career in ARCA – qualified deep in the field in the sixth start of his 13-race GN career. Al Keller made his 5th start of a limited GN career. Two years later, Keller would be the first driver to win a GN race in a foreign car manufacturer with a victory in Linden NJ driving a Jaguar. Bernard Alvarez escaped injury when his olds flipped over and the roof caved in. NASCAR rules were amended to require the use of steel roll bars on all race cars.

1952: The Rio Grand Prix at Gávea, Brazil was won by José Froilan Gonzalez in a Ferrari 166C.

1957: A Ferrari driven by Cesare Perdisa, Masten Gregory, Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso won the Argentine 1000 Kilometers World Sports Car Championship race on the Costanera circuit. The four drivers covered the 1000 km in 6 hours, 10 minutes. The talk of the race was the V8 Maserati and Stirling Moss built a huge lead in the car before handing over to Juan Fangio. The then four time World Champion proceeded to lap all but Castellotti, only to retire with clutch failure.

1963: Dan Gurney drove a Holman-Moody Ford to victory in the ‘Motor Trend 500’ NASCAR Grand National race at Riverside International Raceway. Gurney earned $14,400 for his first NASCAR GN win, leading 110 of the 185 laps in a race which took 6 hours to run. A.J. Foyt’s Pontiac was 36 seconds behind. 3rd through 10th was a who’s who: Troy Ruttman, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Johns, Ned Jarrett, rookie Billy Wade, Jim Pardue, West Coast champ Danny Letner and Joe Ruttman in his first start. Richard Petty tried an automatic transmission, but it broke on lap 27. Point leader Jim Paschal flipped a dozen times, was unhurt, but fell to 14th in points. Pardue took over the points lead ahead of Jarrett.

1967 Monte winners – Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon celebrate in Monaco

1967: A Mini Cooper S driven by Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon won the Monte Carlo Rally.

1967: The 1965 USAC Rookie of the Year Billy Foster (29) died in a crash while practicing for the ‘Motor Trend 500’ NASCAR GN race at Riverside International Raceway. Foster’s Rudy Hoerr Dodge crashed hard into the turn 9 wall after the brakes failed at the end of the mile long backstraight. The 29 year old driver from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, finished 9th in Champ Car points in 1966 and impressed with a great drive in the season ending non-points race at Fuji, where he retired while leading late in the race after battling (and passing) Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart.

1968: Racer Luciano Lombardini was killed when his Lancia Fulvia crashed near Skopje, Macedonia, Yugoslavia during the Monte Carlo Rally.

1968: Three weeks after winning the South African Formula 1 Grand Prix, Jim Clark debuted the new red and white Golden Leaf Team Lotus livery with golden linings at the 3rd round of the 1968 Tasman series by clinching the Lady Wigram Trophy in New Zealand. Contrary to some reports Lotus wasn’t the first team to introduce non-automotive sponsorship. The first ever full sponsorship livery shown to the public on a race car at an international motor racing event had already appeared at the South African Grand Prix, courtesy of Team Gunston. The first Company to line up two fully liveried Formula 1 cars at the grid of a Grand Prix was the Gunston Cigarette Company of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Gunston introduced tobacco sponsorship to motor racing when they sponsored Rhodesian drivers John Love and Sam Tingle in the 1968 South African Championship for F1 and F5000 machinery.

1980: Lenny Boyd won the Three Quarter Midget feature at the indoor Atlantic City Convention Hall, New Jersey, US.

1990: Ivan “The Iron Man” Stewart won the Grand National Off-Road Sport Truck race at the Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, California, US.

1996: Round 1 of the FIA 2-litre World Championship for Manufacturers, 64th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (30 stages, 619 km) began. It won by Patrick Bernardini and Bernrad Occelli in a Ford Escort RS Cosworth .

2004: Alan Brown (84), British racer, team owner, and first man to race the Vanwall Special, died from a heart attack.

2004: NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian Z. France announced radical changes to the method used to determine the annual champion in 2004. Officially called the “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup,” the new points structure involved the top 10 ­drivers in the points standings through the first 26 races to compete for the title over the final 10 races.

2005: Professor Sid Watkins, the driving force behind the improvement in medical care at race tracks across the world, announced his retirement after 26 years as the FIA’s medical delegate. He oversaw massive improvements in trackside.

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