11-12 July: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~11 July~

1925: The Laurel Board Speedway, Maryland, US, staged its first event, a 250 mile race that was won by Peter DePaolo driving a Miller, with an average speed of 126 mph, edging his rival Robert McDonough. McDonough evened the score by beating DePaolo in a rematch at Laurel Speedway in October of that year. The 50 foot wide track was made entirely of 2×4 boards laid on edge, and banked on the turns at 45 degrees. A sell-out crowd jammed the grandstands for the opening day. The WAshington Post described the new marvel: “A wide board track, wrapping 80 acres of ground as a ribbon might encircle an ostrich egg, with a huge grandstand overlooking it all, is ready today to vibrate under the great motor gruel, the inaugural race at the Washington-Baltimore automobile speedway. Never level and in places almost up and down, it is the arena of sixteen speed-crazed drivers, out on a Roman holiday to entertain the populace and in so doing to lower the world’s speed records.” Although the Laurel Speedway had a short life — it was only active as an auto track for two years—many of the best drivers of the era raced there. It addition to DePaolo, Indy 500 winner Ralph Keech, Jimmy Gleason, Russell Snowberger and Fred Winnai all competed at Laurel. For a few years after that, it hosted motorcycle and bicycle races, but was eventually abandoned and torn down.

1926: The first German Grand Prix was held at the AVUS track in Berlin. Run in heavy rain, it was won by native driver Rudolf Caracciola. After he won his sixth and final victory in 1939, no other German driver would take the chequered flag at a German Grand Prix until Michael Schumacher in 1995. The 1926 race was marred by an accident involving driver Adolf Rosenberger, whose car crashed into one of the marshals’ huts, killing three people. The German Grand Prix would not return to the AVUS track until 1959.

1931: Dick Seaman and Whitney Straight both made their debut in speed events at the same Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb in Worcestershire. Both drove Riley’s and neither of them gained an award.

1937: Rudolf Hasse driving an Auto Union Typ C won the Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa-Francorchamps.

1964: Jim Clark won the first British Grand Prix staged at Brands Hatch following the sale of the famous Aintree course for his third successive win at the event. In the first practice session, Trevor Taylor had a very lucky escape when his foot became caught under the brake pedal of his Lotus BRM. He was heading up to the corner at the top of Hawthorn Hill doing 120 mph at the time, and the car flew over the six foot banking, ripping down telephone cables as it went. Taylor was thrown clear and escaped with a grazed back, although the car was badly damaged. He did start the race, but retired after 23 laps due to the cockpit heat and the pain in his back. Before a crowd of over 100,000, Clark lined up in pole position with Hill and Dan Gurney alongside him, and took an early lead. On the third lap, having already broken the lap record, Gurney stormed into the pits with ignition problems and was never in the hunt after that. John Surtees moved into third, and put all his efforts into trying to catch Hill and Clark. On lap 10, Hill began to close on Clark and the two leaders raced barely feet apart, less than a second between them. The two Ferraris of Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini were settled in third and fourth, until Jack Brabham, despite a spin and a pit stop, whipped through on the inside of Bandini on the 66th lap.It seemed inevitable that Hill would eventually pass Clark, but, just when it was needed, Clark pulled out some extra power from the Lotus and kept him at bay. Hill never gave up, and they fought right to the finish, enthralling the capacity crowd. With this victory Clark kept his advantage over Hill in the championship, leading by 30 points to 26.

1970: Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire, England held its first International meeting with “the top Swedish dragster and funny car in attendance”. These were Hazze Fromms “Roaring Viking” Capri Funny and the “Valkyrion” dragster of Bjorn Anderson. The meeting was run as two separate eliminations, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday. It appears that the main event was the Sunday elimination as many cars did not run on the Saturday. Priddle won Saturdays Top Dragster elimination but crashed through some marker boards after getting some oil on his goggles. This wrecked the front end so he was unable to run on the Sunday. To make matters worse he had earlier borrowed the front wheels from John Siggery after a puncture. This meant that John would also have been unable to run on the Sunday until Alan Blount nipped home to Kettering and lent him the wheels from his part built new car.

1971: Pedro Rodriguez (31) died. An eccentric, he everywhere with his famous deerstalker hat and bottle of Tabasco sauce for use at the world’s finest restaurants. After a slow start he had emerged to become a good Formula 1 driver and an even better one in sports cars. Halfway through 1971 he accepted an offer to drive in an insignificant Interseries race in Germany. While he was dicing for the lead in his Ferrari 512M, a slower car edged him into the wall and his Ferrari burst into flames. He died shortly after he was extricated from the wreck.

1993: Alain Prost secured his 50th grand prix win at Silverstone, aided by early leader Damon Hill’s engine blowing up and Ayrton Senna’s McLaren dying on the last lap. Hill had seemed on course for victory despite Prost slowly closing on him, but the gap was wiped out when a safety car was brought out after Luca Badoer crashed his Lola; on the restart Prost was right behind Hill, capitalising when his car gave up the ghost.

1993: Rusty Wallace edged Mark Martin to win the first race in NASCAR’s premier series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (US). Wallace, a 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, drove from 33rd starting position to lead 106 of 300 laps in the Slick 50 300. Martin, the pole-starter, settled for second place, 1.31 seconds behind at the end. Davey Allison wound up third.

1999: Jacques Villeneuve and Alessandro Zanardi both stalled on the grid causing a restart at the British Grand Prix. While the red flags were out, Michael Schumacher crashed his Ferrari at Stowe corner due to brake failure, breaking his leg. This would keep him out of Formula One until the Malaysian Grand Prix, ending his championship hopes. David Coulthard won the race in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-14 after he started from third position. Eddie Irvine finished second for the Ferrari team and Williams driver Ralf Schumacher came in third. Following a difficult season Damon Hill performed well to finish 5th in his home race and seemed happy enough to carry on for the rest of the season. He had also briefly led the race for a lap, which was the last time he would lead a Grand Prix. This was Toranosuke Takagi’s final classified Formula One race finish. He failed to finish each of his subsequent eight races.

2004: Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari F2004 won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Minardi removed all sponsor logos to mourn the death of the team manager, John Walton who died on July 9, immediately before the race weekend. However, after the event, the team lost their Dutch title sponsor Wilux, mainly because the logos had been removed without the sponsor’s agreement.

2006: At the British Grand Prix Fernando Alonso became the first Spanish driver and the youngest driver (24 years, 10 months, 13 days) to get the Hat Trick (pole position, winning and fastest lap in same Grand Prix). He fell one lap short of clinching the Grand Chelem (he would finally achieve this at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix). This race also featured the first ever pit stop to have involved a woman, during a Midland F1 pit stop for Tiago Monteiro, ITV-F1’s then pit-lane reporter Louise Goodman was the left rear tyre changer.

2010: Fernando Alonso won the British Grand Prix for Ferrari. It was the ninth race of the 2011 season, and saw the introduction of a ban on off-throttle blown diffusers, the practice of forcing the engine to continue to produce exhaust gasses to generate downforce when drivers are not using the throttle.

~12 July~

1904: Now billed as one of the oldest motorsports events in the United States, the Mount Washington – Climb to the Clouds – was first run, seven years before the first 500-mile race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and 12 years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. Run sporadically throughout the years, many famous racecar drivers and automobile manufacturers have competed in the event through its’ colorful history. Driver Harry Harkness won the first Mount Washington, New Hampshire, hill-climb race driving a 60hp Mercedes. The earliest ascent of Mount Washington in an automobile occurred in 1899, but the aptly named “Carriage Road” had been carrying coaches to the top of Mount Washington since 1861. Answering the public’s desire for auto racing–hill-climb races in particular–local authorities arranged for the first “Climb to the Clouds.” The race attracted entries from car companies who wished to show off their performance capabilities. A contemporary account describes Harkness’ win: “In a chill driving mist that would compel cautious running even on a wide level road, Harry Harkness rushed Mount Washington in the Climb to the Clouds today and placed the record figures for this year at twenty-four minutes, thirty seconds. Something more than the achievements of the drivers of American stock cars was to be expected from the sixty-horsepower $18,000 Mercedes, and from this comparative view the feat was not extraordinary.” In contrast to Harkness and his expensive import, F.E. Stanley, the creator of the Stanley Steamer, drove his eight-horsepower steam engine to the top in twenty-eight minutes and nineteen seconds. Steam cars had dominated hill-climb events until companies like Mercedes could engineer cars that would handle the massive internal combustion engines required to propel them up inclines at higher speeds. The accomplishment of the drivers in these events is perhaps more remarkable than the feats of the cars themselves. Consider the newspaper account of Harkness’ run: “To guide 2,200 pounds of mechanism up an eight-mile narrow mountain road, and to pull up just 4,600 feet above the starting point after averaging twenty miles an hour without a stop is a sure enough test of man and machine.” In order to compete with Harkness’ impressive posted time, Stanley stripped his machine bare for his ascent. The Stanley’s engine had only 15 moving parts, ran silently, and managed only seven horsepower, but at 20mph it would bump and knock around a mountain road even more than its heavier competitors. Stanley eliminated even his seat cushion for the climb, and when he stood at the podium to accept the trophy for the steam car class “he was rather used up with the jolting he got along the way.” The Climb to the Clouds still runs today in late June.

1913: The buildup to the Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France and the race itself were marred by three fatal crashes. Bigio was killed testing his Itala before the race. In a separate incident before the race, Paul Zuccarelli was killed when his Peugeot crashed into a cart, and a spectator was killed when Kenelm Lee Guinness’s Sunbeam crashed into a river. After this race, this circuit- which included an 8-mile (13 km) long straight (which is now known as the D934)- was never used again for motor racing.Georges Boillot won for the second year in succession, at an average speed of 72.141 mph (116.096 km/h). The fastest lap was set by Paul Bablot, at an average speed of 76.718 mph (123.462 km/h).

1922: Baron von Tuna drove a Mercedes 6/25/40, the first supercharged production car to be raced in a hillclimb, to second place in a hillclimb in the Black Forest of Germany.

1925: The first veteran car rally was held, in Munich, Germany.

1966: Bobby Allison cruised from the pole position to score his first victory in NASCAR’s top series, leading 238 of 300 laps at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine (US). Allison, a 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, wound up one lap ahead of runner-up Tony Lund, who led the other 62 laps. Richard Petty came home third in the first Cup race on Oxford Plains’ third-mile asphalt track.

1969: The Trenton Speedway, New Jersey, US staged its first event, the Northern 300 NASCAR race, which was won by David Pearson in a Ford.

1970: The Chaparral 2J ‘sucker car’ (cover image) with vacuum assisted road holding features made its racing debut in the Cam-Am Challenge race in Watkins Glen, New York, but driver Jackie Stewart retired with minor mechanical problems. On the chassis’ sides bottom edges were articulated plastic skirts that sealed against the ground (a technology that would later appear in Formula One). At the rear of the 2J were housed two fans (sourced from a military tank engine) driven by a single two stroke twin cylinder engine. The car had a “skirt” made of Lexan extending to the ground on both sides, laterally on the back of the car, and laterally from just aft of the front wheels. It was integrated with the suspension system so the bottom of the skirt would maintain a distance of one inch from the ground regardless of G forces or anomalies in the road surface, thereby providing a zone within which the fans could create a partial vacuum which would provide a downforce on the order of 1.25–1.50 G of the car fully loaded (fuel, oil, coolant). This gave the car tremendous gripping power and enabled greater manoeuvrability at all speeds. Since it created the same levels of low pressure under the car at all speeds, down-force did not decrease at lower speeds. With other aerodynamic devices, down-force decreases as the car slows down or achieves too much of a slip angle, both of which were not problems for the “sucker car”. The 2J competed in the Can-Am series and qualified at least two seconds quicker than the next fastest car, but was not a success as it was plagued with mechanical problems. It ran for only one racing season, in 1970, after which it was outlawed by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Although originally approved by the SCCA, they succumbed to pressure from other teams, McLaren in particular, who argued that the fans constituted “movable aerodynamic devices”, outlawed by the international sanctioning body, the FIA, a rule first applied against the 2E’s adjustable wing. There were also complaints from other drivers saying that whenever they drove behind it the fans would throw stones at their cars. McLaren argued that if the 2J were not outlawed, it would likely kill the Can-Am series by totally dominating it — something McLaren had been doing since 1967. A similar suction fan was used in Formula One eight years later on the Brabham BT46B, which won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, but Brabham reverted to the non-fan BT46 soon afterwards due to complaints from other teams that the car violated the rules. The car was found to be within technical specifications allowing the victory to remain.


1987: Nigel Mansell squeezed every last drop out of his Williams, overtaking team-mate Nelson Piquet three laps from the end of the British Grand Prix before running out of fuel on his lap of honour. Piercarlo Ghinzani had a less than memorable day after he ran out of fuel and was then push started by his mechanics. Add in that he had already angered stewards with a couple of extra laps at the end of qualifying, they wasted no time in disqualifying him. At the start, Prost was the quickest and took the lead, only to be passed by Piquet at Maggotts; Mansell soon followed his teammate. The race then became a close fight between the two Williams drivers, as neither Senna (also Honda powered) nor Prost were a match for them. Lotus were finding that while the active suspension worked well on bumpy street circuits, at smoother tracks like Silverstone finding balance with the car was proving difficult. Piquet led most of the race. By lap 35 Mansell was around 2 seconds behind his teammate. Both Williams drivers were scheduled to complete the race without a tyre change, but Mansell and the team elected to make a stop in order to change tyres. Mansell rejoined the race some 29 seconds behind Piquet, with 28 laps remaining. On fresh rubber Mansell began an epic charge which saw the lap record broken 8 times to the delight of the over 100,000 strong British crowd. By lap 62 the two cars were nose to tail and on lap 63 Mansell performed his now famous ‘Silverstone Two Step’ move, selling Piquet a dummy on the Hangar Straight and then diving down the inside into Stowe Corner. 2 corners after crossing the finish line, Mansell’s car slowed down and was engulfed by the crowd. Initially it was thought that he had run out of fuel, but he had actually blown up the engine, out of the stress of running the last 6 laps on “Q” mode (which gives the engine +100hp), and risking running out of fuel at any moment (his fuel display was reading “minus 2.5 laps”). In fact that incident was the last straw for the patience of the Honda management, since it had – again – threatened their easily attainable 1, 2 result. Honda moved to McLaren the following year, leaving Williams with no options but to sign for underpowered Judd V8 units. Nelson Piquet went on to sign with Lotus on the following weeks, a move that kept Honda powering that team in 1988 as well. Senna finished a quiet race in third place while his teammate Satoru Nakajima had his best F1 finish by coming home 4th. Rounding out the points were Derek Warwick (Arrows-Megatron) and Teo Fabi (Benetton-Ford).

1992: At the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Nigel Mansell scored his 28th Formula One win, putting himself third on the all-time Formula One win list. He also set fastest lap and was on pole position. His teammate Riccardo Patrese finished 2nd, 39 seconds back. Martin Brundle finished 3rd for Benetton, his teammate, Schumacher was 4th.

1998: A soggy British Grand Prix was marred by dismal stewarding which enabled Michael Schumacher to take the win after a penalty was issued by them so late on that Ferrari were able to bring him into the pits on the final lap, meaning he won the race in the pit lane and before he technically served the stop-start punishment. His offence came when he overtook race leader Mike Hakkinen as the safety car left the track, but a slow response from the stewards allowed Ferrari’s morally dubious exploitation of the rules.

2009: Mark Webber’s maiden Formula 1 win came at the German Grand Prix and despite a drive-through penalty when he clipped Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn on the first corner. It was not a good day for Barrichello and team-mate Jenson Button whose early-season dominance was becoming a memory. They struggled with a three-stop strategies, finishing sixth and fifth respectively.

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