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21-22 September: This weekend in motor sport history

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

~21 September~

1929: Jaroslav Horák and his mechanic in Bugatti T35B hit bike rider Edmund Müller during Ecce Homo hillclimb (Czech Republic) practice. All three died.

French Grand Prix – 1930

1930: The French Grand Prix held over 25 laps of a 15.835 km circuit at Pau for a total race distance of 395.875 km, was won by Philippe Étancelin driving a Bugatti. The race was notable for the fact that Sir Henry Birkin came second in a 4.5 litre supercharged Bentley, which was a stripped-down road car.

1947: Monegasque driver Louis Chiron crossed the finish line in Lyon to win the French Grand Prix in a Talbot-Lago. The race was a continuation of the Grand Prix’s long history and France’s first major post-World War Two race. The event had been suspended for several years during the war, along with almost all other car racing.

Peter Whitehead

1958: Yorkshireman Peter Whitehead (43), who became the first Ferrari F1 privateer after convincing Enzo Ferrari to allow him to buy a Formula 1 car in 1949, died. In ten starts he climbed on the podium once, leading the French Grand prix in 1950 before gearbox problems relegated him to third. In 1958 while competing in the Tour de France Automobile, his 3.4-litre Jaguar, driven by his half-brother Graham, plunged off a bridge at Lasalle, near Nimes. Peter was killed.

1969: Mark Donohue, driving a Chevrolet Camaro, beat Parnelli Jones, driving a Ford Mustang, by 2.17 seconds to win the Sears Point 200 Trans-Am race at Sears Point, California, US. The win clinched Chevy’s second straight Trans-Am title.

1975: Richard Petty outran Cale Yarborough at the finish to score his 175th victory in NASCAR’s premier series, winning the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina, US) Speedway. Petty, the pole starter, led 184 of the 400 laps and wound up 2.4 seconds ahead of Yarborough at the finish. Darrell Waltrip finished third, four laps behind the lead pair.

1975: Gordon Johncock drove a Wildcat-DGS to victory in the USAC Championship race on the oval in Trenton, New Jersey.

1986: Lee Anders Hasslestrom ran a 5.99/235 in the first round of the Funny Car elimination, at Santa Pod, Northamptonshire. This is considered by many to be the first five second funny car run in the UK. 

1986: At the Portuguese Grand Prix Nigel Mansell completed what the Guardian described as “possibly the most important win of his career” to leave him needing victory in the penultimate race in Mexico to secure the championship. It was not to be, but it was “flawless performance” to set up the finale. Ayrton Senna, who started on pole, appeared set for second until he ran out of fuel on the last lap, a situation caused by a malfunctioning computer which showed he had enough left.

1994: Bill Elliott ended a 52-race winless skid with a victory in Darlington’s Mountain Dew Southern 500, South Carolina (US). Elliott overcomes heating problems to score his 40th career victory.

1997: Contested over 71 laps of the 2.697 mile A1-Ring circuit, the Austrian Grand Prix was won by Jacques Villeneuve for the Williams team, from a pole position start. David Coulthard finished second in a McLaren, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen third in the other Williams car. Austrian Formula One veteran Gerhard Berger announced he was to retire at the end of the season, shortly after he qualified 18th on the grid.

2003: Ryan Newman made up a two-lap deficit to win the MBNA 400 at Dover International Speedway, Delaware, US. For the race, NASCAR implemented a rule that prohibited racing back to the caution flag, and gave a lap back to drivers who weren’t on the lead lap. The new rule was announced in the wake of drivers narrowly avoiding a collision with Dale Jarrett’s crashed car a week earlier at New Hampshire.

~22 September~

1906: The Vanderbilt Elimination Race was run over ten laps on a 29-mile course near Westbury, Long Island, New York, to decide which five cars would represent the United States in the international 1906 Vanderbilt Cup. “Crowded excursion trains followed one another from midnight until long after the race had started, discharging thousands at Mineola, Westbury, Hicksville and other stations about the course. Country people from miles around journeyed to the course until the multitude numbered more than 100,000. At least 5,000 automobiles, carrying gay parties of men and women lined the course.” The race started at 06:00 in the morning with cars leaving at one minute intervals. Mongini, Matheson, burst a tyre on the first lap, hitting a telephone pole. He and his mechanic Green were thrown from the car but suffered only bruising. When Tracy crossed the finish line the race was stopped due to the crowd invading the circuit. The following team was chosen to represent America: Joseph Tracy (100-hp. Locomobile), Hubert LeBlon (115-hp. Thomas), H.N. Harding (50-hp. Haynes), Frank Lawell (110-hp. Frayer-Miller), and Walter Christie (50-hp. Christie). “Only the first three covered the full course, and Lawell and Christie were given places on the team; the former owing to the fact that he was still running when the race was called off, and the latter owing to the disqualification of Lyttle (Pope-Toledo), for being towed.”

1935: The Spanish Grand Prix was dominated by Mercedes who took the first three places, the win going to Rudolf Caracciola. Achille Varzi, who had started on the front row in his Auto Union, was forced to retire after a stone smashed his windscreen and cut his face; he resumed after medical treatment but soon after was forced out for good with transmission problems.

1957: Richie Ginther drove a Ferrari to victory in a race at Riverside, California, USA, during the track’s first weekend of formal competition. It closed in July 1989.

1962: Racer A W Faust (48) was killed when his Lotus-Buick crashed during a 101-mile sports car race at Watkins Glen, US.

1963: Jim Clark sat on pole in a rear-engined Lotus, but it was A J Foyt who won the 200-mile USAC race at Trenton, New Jersey. In a front-engined roadster, this was Foyt’s third of five consecutive wins at Trenton.

1963: Fred Lorenzen celebrated a dominant day at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US lapping the field to win the Old Dominion 500. Lorenzen led 421 of 500 laps in a Holman-Moody Ford, taking the lead from pole-starter Junior Johnson for the final time in the 81st lap. Marvin Panch finished second in the Wood Brothers Ford, one lap back, with Joe Weatherly third, three laps off the pace.

1973: Mick Hand took his 250cc Honda to a new World record of 10.5 seconds for the standing quarter mile at Elvington, Yorkshire. Paul Windross failed to break any records but did cover the flying quarter in 4.91 seconds at 183.29mph on his double-engined Triumph. On four wheels John Dodds took his famous Rolls Royce Merlin engined creation to a World record for the flying quarter at 6.695 seconds and 136.36mph.

1974: The Canadian Grand Prix was held at Mosport Park, the fourteenth and penultimate round of the 1974 Formula One season. Niki Lauda was on course for victory, until running over debris on lap 67, causing his Ferrari to spin into barriers, having led the whole race until that point. He also set the fastest lap of the race. Jacques Laffite was also forced out due to picking up a puncture, possibly caused by the same debris on the circuit. Emerson Fittipaldi grabbed the advantage, and led for the rest of the race. It was his 12th career victory, and the last of the season for the McLaren driver. This was the first Grand Prix race for young Austrian Helmuth Koinigg, who would lose his life during the next race at Watkins Glen.

1991: Harry Gant’s late-race brake failure opened the door for Dale Earnhardt to win the Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, US Gant was attempting to become the first driver to win five straight races since 1971.

1991: Another Nigel Mansell championship bid ended in heartache as well as semi-farcical circumstances at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Starting the race from fourth on the grid, Mansell drove superbly to take the lead. But during a pit stop, one of his tyres was not fitted properly, came off the car and began bouncing down the pit lane. With Mansell gesticulating frantically, his Williams mechanics ran to his car to attach another wheel. Mansell emerged 17th and broke a string of lap records to battle his way back up to sixth only to be black flagged and disqualified for illegally having mechanics work on his car in the pit lane. He drove into the pits, got out without a word to his team and headed tearfully back to his motorhome. “I just don’t believe it,” he said. “I’ve done everything I can and just don’t know what else I have to do.”

Harry Gant – 1996 at North Wilkesboro Speedway

1991: Harry Gant (51) won the Goody’s 500 in Martinsville, Virginia, US, his fourth consecutive victory, to extend his own record as the oldest winner of a NASCAR race. Gant methodically worked his way to the front from the 12th starting spot, bypassing Rusty Wallace to take the lead for the first time in the 196th of 500 laps. Though Gant set the pace for a race-high 226 laps, his path was not nearly as trouble-free as at Dover the week before. In a contest for the lead after a Lap 376 restart, Wallace nudged Gant into a spin in the .526-mile track’s third turn. Gant’s No. 33 sustained significant front-end damage after third-place Morgan Shepherd became involved, but the 51-year-old drove away from the stack-up. The amount of torn-up sheet metal and smoke around the No. 33’s nose seemed terminal, at least to Parsons. “Looks like that right-front tire is going south and the car is going north,” he said. “Pretty heavy damage to that car, so Harry Gant will not win his fourth in a row, I’m sad to say.” Gant had fallen out of the top 10, but made a fierce charge to prove Parsons wrong. Gant said later that he “ran about 10 laps as mad as a bull,” the hood of his battered Olds held down by bungee cords and the right-front fender peeled away. On the ensuing restart, Gant deftly jumped back up to ninth place, causing Parson to doubt his proclamation. When Gant slipped past Terry Labonte for third, Parsons was beside himself: “This is unbelievable! I crossed Harry Gant off. I said he’s not going to win four in a row, and I don’t know — he just might still do it.” By Lap 448, Gant had come all the way back to the top spot, passing Ernie Irvan and Brett Bodine to take control. After being bumped out of the lead by Bodine one lap later, Gant capitalized when Petree & Co. made quick work of his final pit stop, winning the race off pit road and staying out front the last 47 laps. “I figured we had it in the bag, but then I realized how many laps were still left, and I knew it couldn’t be this easy,” Gant told reporters later. “… It sure is special. I don’t even know what to say about all this anymore.”

Jacques Villeneuve – 1996 Portuguese Grand Prix

1996: Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve won the Portuguese Grand Prix from team-mate Damon Hill and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, having overtaken the latter on the outside of the final corner while the two were lapping the slow-moving back-marking Minardi of Giovanni Lavaggi (who at the time was described by BBC TV commentator Jonathan Palmer as “desperately slow” and “there because of his money”). This victory, Villeneuve’s fourth of the season, ensured that the Drivers’ Championship battle between him and Hill went to the final round in Japan three weeks later.

2001: The 1.5-mile lap record at the Rockingham Speedway in Northamptonshire, Europe’s fastest banked oval racing track, was set at 24.719 seconds by Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan in his Ford/Lola Champ Car – at an average speed of 215.397 mph!

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