18-19 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~18 January~

1934: Manfred Von Brauchitsch drove the Mercedes-Benz W25 Grand Prix car during its first test runs, on the Autostrada between Milan and Varese in Italy.

1953: The inaugural Argentine Grand Prix was marred by the death of at least seven people and injuries to dozens more when on the 40th lap Nino Farina ploughed into the crowd which had spilled onto the edge of the track as he tried to avoid a spectator who had tried to cross the circuit. Farina himself escaped with minor leg injuries. Before the start an estimated 200,000, swelled by the decision not to charge for admission, were packed inside the Buenos Aires Autodrome, and by the time the race started they had poured through security fences and onto the perimeter. Despite the tragedy the grand prix continued throughout and was won by Alberto Ascari – he took pole, led throughout, recorded the fastest lap and lapped the entire field.

1970: A.J. Foyt won the Motor Trend 500 NASCAR Grand National race at Riverside International Raceway in a Ford. Foyt took the lead from Parnelli Jones with 25 laps to go and took the checkered 3.5 seconds ahead of a rapidly closing Roger McCluskey in a Plymouth Super Bird. Two drivers were badly injured in seperate crashes. Runner-up for 1969 Rookie of the Year, Buddy Young lost control on oil from a blown engine and flipped wildly end over end going into turn 1. The 27 year old driver, making his first start for the L.G. DeWitt team, suffered a concussion and internal injuries. 48 year old West Coast veteran Jim Cook was critically injured when his Ford went head-on into the end of the concrete wall in turn 9, the impact so great that the car was nearly bent double. Jones qualified at a record 113.310 mph, but was forced to start at the rear following a ruling that his tires were illegal. Jones, a Firestone dealer, had qualified on tires which NASCAR officials ruled were not available in sufficient quantity to make them eligible for competition. A crowd of 43,200 was on hand.

2002: Round 1 of the World Rally Championship, 68th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (15 stages, 397 km) began. It was won by Tommi Makinen and Kai Lindstrom in a Subaru Impreza WRC.

2003: Andy Mackereth won the Three Quarter Midget feature at the indoor Atlantic City Convention Hall, New Jersey, US. Craig Rochelle won the Legends Car race.

~19 January~

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 (cover image) 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.

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.

Ray Harroum

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.

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.

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.

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