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20-21 April: This Weekend in Motor Sports History

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

~20 April~

1908: The first British Motor Cycle Club race was held at Brooklands, Surrey, England.The attendance at Brooklands motorcycle events was initially quite small, being mostly knowledgeable enthusiasts, and lacking the ‘Society’ element of the car racing crowd. However, an established pattern of race meetings emerged, speeds rose, the reliability of machines improved and a growing audience became attracted to motorcycle races.Two motorcycle events were held on the Track during the First World War, both organised by the British Motor Cycle Racing Club for men serving in the Armed Forces. One of these was the ‘All Khaki’ Meeting held on 7th August 1915.When the track reopened after the First World War, Brooklands was to witness the golden age of motorcycling when the British racing motorcycle was the best and fastest in the world. In 1933 ‘The Motorcycle’ magazine instituted a Clubman’s Day Meeting which proved an enormous success. Brooklands was the home of so many motorcycle riders. Workshops sprung up around the paddock with names of men and machines painted on the doors. Eric Fernihough, who took the Motorcycle Landspeed Record at Gyon in Hungary in 1937, had a garage by the perimeter of the track on the Byfleet Road.Many epic motorcycle record breaking attempts took place at Brooklands during the 1930s. Eric Fernihough raised the Brooklands lap record to 123.58 mph in 1935 with his Brough Superior, topped in 1939 by Noel Pope at 124.51 mph.

Corsican Grand Prix – 1921

1921: The first and only Corsican Grand Prix was staged to commemorate the centenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. The winner was Albert Guyot driving a Bignan-Sport, and the event is often cited as the birth of sports car racing.

1924: Famed racing legend Peter DePaolo, nephew of racer Ralph DePalma, recorded his first racing victory with a win at the Culver City, California, board track. Racing for the Duesenberg family, DePaolo ran an impressive 135mph on average at the Culver City race. Having earned the first driving spot on the Duesenberg team with his 1924 results, DePaolo achieved historic success in the 1925 Indy 500.

1930: Achille Varzi driving a Alfa Romeo P2 won the Brordino Circuit race held at the Alessandria circuit near Torino, Italy.

1952: The Edwards R-62 made its racing debut, competing without success in the Pebble Beach (California, US) road race. Also making its debut at this race was the modified Porsche driven by Johnny von Neumann that inspired the production of the Porsche Speedster of 1954.

Bill Blair

1952: Taking the lead when Gober Sosebee’s Cadillac broke a spindle with 7 laps to go, Bill Blair won the 100 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the 1 mile dirt Lakewood Speedway, Georgia, US. Ed Samples was 2nd to give Olds 88s a 1-2 finish.

1958: Bob Welborn  (cover image) survived a late race spin that erased his big lead, going on to win the NASCAR GN ‘Virginia 500’ at Martinsville Speedway. Welborn started 20th in the 47 car field on the 1/2 mile paved oval. Leader Jimmy Massey, relief driving Glen Wood’s Ford, blew a tire & crashed on lap 396 to give Welborn a lead he wouldn’t lose.

1958: “Jiggs” Peters drove the John Fray car to victory in the 30 lap USAC Eastern Division Sprint Car feature on the 1/2 dirt oval at the Reading Fairgrounds, Pennsylvania, US.

1961: Cotton Owens took the lead when Ned Jarrett ran out gas with 4 laps to go and went on to win the 100 mile NASCAR GN race on the 1/2 mile dirt Columbia Speedway, South Carolina, US. Owens win gave Pontiac 8 wins in the 15 GN races held to that point in 1961.

1969: Bobby Allison used what he termed a “shot in the dark” last minute chassis set-up on the Mario Rossi Dodge to win the NASCAR GN ‘Gwyn Staley Memorial’ on the .625 mile paved North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, US. Allison passed Buddy Baker on the 299th lap, leading the rest of the way to take the checkered 8 seconds ahead of LeeRoy Yarbrough in the Junior Johnson Mercury. David Pearson finished third & Buddy Baker fourth, all four on the lead lap.

1994: Roger Penske and Kaiser announced the construction of a racetrack on the site of the abandoned Kaiser Steel mill in Fontana, California, US. A day after the announcement CART announced it would hold an annual race at the speedway. Three months later NASCAR President Bill France, Jr. agreed to sanction Winston Cup Series races at the California Speedway (Auto Club Speedway) upon completion, marking the first time NASCAR has made a commitment to run a race at a track that had yet to be built. Community meetings were held to discuss issues related to the construction of the track and the local effects of events held. The local community largely supported construction of the speedway citing potentially increased land values and rejuvenation of the community. In April 1995, after having toured the sister track Michigan International Speedway, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project. The California Environmental Protection Agency gave Penske permission to begin construction after Kaiser agreed to pay $6 million to remove hazardous waste from the site. Construction on the site began on November 22, 1995 with the demolition of the Kaiser Steel Mill. The 100-foot water tower, a landmark of the Kaiser property, was preserved in the center of the track to be used as a scoreboard. 3,000 cubic yards (2,300 m3) of contaminated dirt was removed and transported to a toxic waste landfill. To prevent remaining impurities from rising to the surface, a cap of non-porous polyethylene was put down and covered with 2 feet (0.61 m) of clean soil. Construction of the track was completed in late 1996.

1998: Bobby Hamilton’s dominating performance netted an overwhelming victory in the Goody’s 500 at Martins­ville Speedway, Virginia, US. Hamilton finished 6.3 ­seconds ahead of runner-up Ted Musgrave to score his third career NASCAR Winston Cup victory.

2003: Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F2002 won the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Kimi Räikkönen, driving for McLaren, finished second with Rubens Barrichello third in the other Ferrari. The remaining points-scoring positions were filled by Ralf Schumacher (Williams), David Coulthard (McLaren), F~rnando Alonso (Renault), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Jenson Button (BAR). Schumacher’s victory for Ferrari was his and the team’s first of the season. Schumacher and his brother Ralf raced despite the death of their mother Elisabeth before the Grand Prix. The brothers led the field at the start with Ralf leading having overtaken Michael and held the lead until the first round of pit stops. As a consequence of the race, Räikkönen increased his lead in the World Drivers’ Championship, over team-mate David Coulthard to 13 points with Schumacher climbing to third. In the World Constructors Championship, McLaren increased their lead to 16 points with Ferrari overtaking Renault for second.

Danica Patrick

2008: Danica Patrick rewrote motor sport history at the Motegi Twin-Ring in Japan by winning the third round of the 2008 IndyCar-Series and becoming the first woman to win a monoposto race on international level.

~21 April~

1900: Carlo Biscaretti drove a Phenix to victory in the first Italian hillclimb, the 5 km Madonna Del Pilone-Pino Toerinese.

1902: William K. Vanderbilt Jr., driving a Mercedes-Simplex at Ablis, France, made land speed record runs of 67.78 mph and 69.04 mph – although setting a new standard for gasoline-powered cars the runs were not officially recognized and failed to exceed Leon Serpolletís 8-day-old record of 75.06 mph in a steam-powered Serpollet.

1916: Georges Louis Frederic Boillot (31), a mechanic by training who began automobile racing in 1908 and became a driving force behind the Peugeot Grand Prix team, died. He become a household name in 1912, winning the French Grand Prix in his Peugeot L76, the first motorcar in the world to have an engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The following year Boillot won the Coupe de l’Auto and became the first driver to win the French GP twice. In 1913 he was part of the Peugeot’s squad in the Indianapolis 500, setting a new speed record of 99.86 mph (160.70 km/h) in qualifying. While Peugeot dominated the event with Rene Thomas taking the win, Boillot got frustrated with repeated tire failures. A similar fate befell the Frenchman in what would be his last race, the 1914 French Grand Prix at Lyon. His Peugeot was in trouble and finally overheated on the last lap, forcing him to relinquish a top result. When WWI broke out, Boillot became a skilled pilot the new French Air Force, receiving medals such as the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur. Georges Boillot was shot down in a dogfight over Verdun-sur-Meuse, his plane crashing near Bar-le-Duc. and despite being taken to the military hospital at Vadelaincourt in a hurry, he didn’t survive the crash.

1930: C Benitah in an Amilcar won the Moroccan Grand Prix held at the new Anfa Circuit. It claimed the life of driver Count Bruno d’Harcourt during a practice run.

1947: Chico Landi in a Alfa Romeo 308 won the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix at Gávea.

Virginia 500 – 1963

1963: Richard Petty took the lead with 40 laps to go and went on to beat Tiny Lund by a lap to win the NASCAR Grand National ‘Virginia 500’ at Martinsville Speedway. Fred Lorenzen appeared on his way to victory when his Holman-Moody Ford broke an axle. His crew made repairs so quickly that Lorenzen only lost 6 laps on the 1/2 mile paved oval. Jim Paschal was overcome by the heat and pitted just short of half way. A roar went up from the crowd when Lee Petty jumped into Paschal’s car a drove the rest of the race, finishing 8th.

1963: A.J. Foyt drove an Offenhauser powered Meskowski chassis to victory in the 100 mile USAC Championship race on the 1 mile paved Trenton Speedway, New Jersey. It was Foyt’s 2nd straight win in the event.

1963: The 4th Imola Grand Prix was run to Formula One rules at the Autodromo di Castellaccis. The previous three Imola Grands Prix were sports car races held in the mid-1950s, and this was the first Formula One event held at the circuit. From 1981, the circuit was the venue for the San Marino Grand Prix. Run over 50 laps of the circuit, the race was won by British driver Jim Clark in a Lotus 25, lapping the entire field except for second-placed Jo Siffert. Trevor Taylor set the fastest lap after losing more than ten laps with a gear selector problem.

1968: Ray Elder drove his Dodge to victory in the 100 lap NASCAR PCLM (Pacific Coast Late Model) race on the 1/2 mile dirt Ascot Park Speedway, California. Don Noel led the first 15 laps before engine trouble set in, then Johnny Steele took over the top spot. Elder caught Steele and a great 15 lap battle took place before Elder emerged with the lead on lap 69. Steele spun trying to get back by Elder, falling to 3rd at the time and an eventual 4th place finish. Elder went on to take the win with veteran Jim Cook finishing 2nd in an Oldsmobile.

1968: When leader LeeRoy Yarbrough blew an engine with 10 laps to go, David Pearson went on to win the NASCAR GN ‘Gwyn Staley Memorial’ on the .625 mile paved North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina. Yarbrough had a 10 second lead in the Junior Johnson Ford when the motor blew. Pearson’s Holman-Moody Ford crossed the stripe a lap ahead of Buddy Baker’s Ray Fox Dodge.

Ayrton Senna (1985)

1985: The late Ayrton Senna won his first of 41 Formula One Championship victories driving a Lotus-Renault at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril. Senna’s uncompromising driving style made him a hero to many and a villain to almost as many. Throughout his eight-year career, he established himself as the sport’s greatest qualifying racer, winning 65-pole positions. Qualifying is a measure of how far a driver can push himself without competition, and this quality was one of Senna’s trademarks, “Sometimes I try to beat other people’s achievements but on many occasions I find it’s better to beat my own achievements. That can give me more satisfaction. I don’t feel happy if I am comfortable.” It was his drive for perfection that made Senna such a great racer. But Senna’s drive often threatened the lives of his fellow drivers. And his unapologetic off-track demeanour was often seen by his detractors as inflammatory. Just before his death in 1993, Senna appeared to be softening to the public. Still competitive, he assumed a calmer, less antagonistic persona on the Grand Prix circuit. Always a pleasure for the press, Senna often delivered more thoughtful responses to questions than did his fellow drivers. In one of his most spiritual quotations Senna explains the relation of the racer to his public, “In many ways we are a dream for people, not a reality. That counts in your mind. It shows how much you can touch people, and as much as you can try to give to those people somehow it is nothing compared to what they live in their own mind, in their dreams, for you.” The tragic accident that cut short Senna’s career remains an object of mystery, and the investigation is not yet closed. Those close to Senna indicate that the Catholic driver had a premonition of his impending death. A haunting comment from the year before his accident reads, “If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go.” It is, arguably, the danger of F1 racing that makes its leading personalities such captivating figures. Like boxers they exist closer to death than do ordinary citizens, and they, thereby, achieve a stature that is larger than life. It is only fair to mention, however, that Senna’s death was just the second such fatality in F1 since the late 1970s.

1991: Darrell Waltrip survived 17 cautions and late-race pressure from Dale Earnhardt to win the First Union 400 at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina) Speedway, marking his first victory since leaving Hendrick Motorsports after the 1990 season to form his own team. Waltrip, who led 52 laps to Earnhardt’s 19, crossed the finish line .81 seconds ahead of his rival. Jimmy Spencer led 70 laps and came home third.

 

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