7-8 December: This Weekend In Motor Sport History

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

~7 December~

1912: Peter Walker, British racing driver, who finished seventh in the 1951 British Grand Prix in a 1.5-liter supercharged BRM V16 despite being half roasted in the stifling cockpit, was born. The same season saw him win Le Mans for Jaguar, sharing a C-type with Peter Whitehead, a feat for which he is best remembered.

1944: Les Graham, who would later win the first post-World War II 500cc motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Royal Air Force.

1958: Jim Hall, driving a Lister-Chevrolet, won the sports car feature race at Hondo, Texas, US.

1962: John Surtees tested a Ferrari F1 car for the first time.

1984: Stockcar and Indycar racer LeeRoy Yarbrough (46) died. His best season was 1969 when he won seven races (including the Daytona 500), tallied 21 finishes in the top-ten and earned $193,211 ($1,089,328.84 when inflation is taken into effect). During his entire career from 1960–1972, he competed in 198 races, scoring fourteen wins, 65 finishes in the top-five, 92 finishes in the top-ten, and ten pole positions. His racing number was 98. When asked about his passion, Yarbrough described racing as “what I call, my life.” Yarbrough was admitted to a mental institution in March 1980 after trying to kill his mother by putting his hands around her neck. All attempts to rehabilitate him (either in Florida or in North Carolina) failed. LeeRoy died in after a fall while suffering from a traumatic brain injury. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

~8 December~

1908: Four 80-acre tracts of land were purchased for $72,000 to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher first envisioned building the speedway in 1905 after assisting friends racing in France and seeing that Europe held the upper hand in automobile design and craftsmanship. Fisher began thinking of a better means of testing cars before delivering them to consumers. At the time, racing was just getting started on horse tracks and public roads. Fisher noticed how dangerous and ill-suited the makeshift courses were for racing and testing. He also argued that spectators did not get their money’s worth, as they were only able to get a brief glimpse of cars speeding down a linear road. Fisher proposed building a circular track 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) long with smooth 100–150-foot-wide (30–45 m) surfaces. Such a track would give manufacturers a chance to test cars at sustained speeds and give drivers a chance to learn their limits. Fisher predicted speeds could reach up to 120 mph (190 km/h) on a 5-mile (8 km) course. He visited the Brooklands circuit outside London in 1907, and after viewing the banked layout, it solidified his determination to build the speedway. With dozens of car makers and suppliers in Indiana, Fisher proclaimed, “Indianapolis is going to be the world’s greatest center of horseless carriage manufacturer, what could be more logical than building the world’s greatest racetrack right here?”

1957: Driving Frank Arciero’s 4.9L Ferrari, Dan Gurney won the sports car race at Paramount Ranch, California.

2002: “If you’re Ralf Schumacher I’m Arnie Schwarzenegger.” That was what a traffic policeman said when he asked Schumacher for his name after stopping him for doing 80mph in a 50mph zone near Kitzbuehl, Austria. He had to call his wife to the police station to prove he was who he claimed to be. Schumacher was banned for a second time – he lost his licence in April 2001 after clocking 100mph in a 60mph limit. His wife Cora’s assessment? “Ralf causes accidents you’d expect from women.”

 

2005: Firestone, a multinational rubber manufacturing giant known for its automobile tires, came under fire from human rights and environmental groups for its alleged use of child labour and slave-like working conditions at a plantation in Liberia.

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