1-2 April: This Weekend in the History of Motor Sports

~1~ April

1903: The Polish Count Eliot Zborowski, father of the creator of the ‘Chiity-Chitty-Bang-Bang cars, became the first competitor to be killed during a hillclimb, when he crashed his Mercedes at Le Turbie., near Nice, France. The event was abandoned and the course subsequently shortened to less that half its former length.

1967: Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren teamed in the new Ford Mk. 4 to win the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race. Changes to the circuit made the course faster than ever as the winners broke all records, averaging 103.13 mph and covering 1,237.6 miles. Like Daytona, Mike Spence set fastest lap in the Chaparral 2F he shared with Jim Hall, only to retire.

1972: Neil ‘Soapy’ Castles won the 200-mile Grand National NASCAR Eastern Division race at Greenville, South Carolina, US – his first victory in over 400 starts dating back to 1950.

1978: Triumph TR7 V8 was homologated for rallying.

1979: The final Cannonball Run began at Darien, Connecticut. The only rule was to reach the Portofino Restaurant in Redondo Beach, Californian in the shortest time possible. Speeding citations received along the way were the driver’s responsibility and did not disqualify the vehicle (although having to stop to receive a ticket increased the vehicle’s overall time). David Heinz of Tampa, Florida and David Yarborough of Charleston, South Carolina completed the 3,000 miles driving a black XJS Jaguar in just 32 hours and 51 minutes.

1993: Alan Kulwicki (38), nicknamed “Special K” and the “Polish Prince”, an American NASCAR Winston Cup Series racecar driver,

died in a plane crash returning from an appearance at the Knoxville Hooters in a Hooters corporate plane on a short flight across Tennessee before the Sunday spring race at Bristol. Alan, son of USAC mechanic and engine builder Jerry Kulwicki, grew up in Milwaukee. His father didn’t approve of his son racing cars, but Alan raced all the same. He became the youngest racer to start a late-model stock- car race in Wisconsin when, at the age of 18, he started a race at the Hales Corners Speedway. He took home $27. Little by little, Alan worked his way up the ranks of American stock-car racing. Continuing to pursue his dream to race on the NASCAR circuit, Alan owned, maintained, and raced his own cars throughout his career. He became the Winston Cup Circuit’s “Rookie of the Year” in 1986, a remarkable feat considering he raced without heavy corporate sponsorship. The next year his success brought him a sponsorship from Xerox. Alan went on to win the Winston Cup Circuit in 1992. His untimely death prevented him from defending his title. The 38-year-old Kulwicki had been the first owner-driver to collect the championship since Richard Petty did so in 1979, as well as the first NASCAR champ to hold a college degree.

2001: David Coulthard in a McLaren won the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

~2~ April

1925: After an accident involving Francis Giveen’s Bugatti at the Kop in Buckinghamshire, the RAC banned hillclimbs on public roads because of difficulties in controlling spectators in places to which the public had the right of access. This was immensely damaging for British motor sport.

1934: The Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo was won by Guy Moll in an Alfa Romeo B/P3. Moll (at 23 years and 10 months old) remained the youngest driver to have won a Monaco GP until Lewis Hamilton (at 23 years and 4 months) won in 2008.

1939: Hermann Lang in a Mercedes-Benz W154/39 won the Pau Grand Prix in France, run over 100 laps (172 miles in total).

1950: The Ferrari 195S, a racing sports car produced by Ferrari was introduced at the Giro di Sicilia. It was similar to the 166 MM. The two cars, one open and one closed coupe, shared that car’s 2250 mm (89 in) wheelbase but sported an enlarged 2.3 L (2341 cc/142 in³) version of the Colombo V12. These two initial cars were forced to retire, but three came to the Mille Miglia of that year, with the event won by the 195 S Touring coupe of Giannino Marzotto.

1972: Dennis Priddle ran unopposed at Santa Pod in front of 23,000 people in the final to record the quickest E.T. outside the US with a 7.06 at 181mph. His opponent was to have been Clive Skilton but a sheared fuel pump drive in the fire up lane ended Clives race. Dennis had earlier set a new top speed record at 204mph. Clive was debuting the UKs first rear engined fueler, ‘Revolution 3’. Teething troubles saw a few non-starts for the car but by the end of the meeting Clive had recorded a best of 7.70. Freddie Whittle took the Top Competition Altered final in ‘Shutdown’.

1972: Racer Speedy Thompson died one day before his 46th birthday, suffering a heart attack whilst driving in a NASCAR event in Charlotte, North Carolina, US.

1978: The USA Grand Prix West at Long Beach (the East version was held later in the season at Watkins Glen) was won by Carlos Reutemann who took the lead at the halfway mark from Ferrari team-mate Gilles Villeneuve, when he crashed, and won by 11 seconds. Mario Andretti finished second to maintain a share of the Championship lead with Reutemann. It was Ferrari’s weekend as they dominated practice, qualifying and one of their cars led every lap of the race.

2006: A1 Grand Prix held its first Gala Awards night honouring the success and achievements of the 2005/06 teams and drivers. Champion A1 Team France became the first team to officially be presented with the World Cup trophy.

2006: The Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park was won by Fernando Alonso, driving a Renault R26. Kimi Räikkönen second, and Ralf Schumacher third. Polesitter Jenson Button retired from the race when his engine blew on the final lap, stopping just ten metres from the finish line, losing a points scoring position (fifth place) in the process. The race was not the traditional season opener, after being delayed because of the Commonwealth Games which were staged in Melbourne at the time of the opening round. Murray Walker made a return to the commentary box for a one-off with Australia’s Network Ten.

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