11-17 January: Motoring Milestones

Discover the most momentous motoring events that took place this week in history …….


110 years ago this week, W. O. Bentley entered the automobile industry as a partner in Lecoqand Fernie, London agents for La Licorne, Buchet, and D.F.P. Cars [15 January 1911]…….100 years ago this week, Durant Motors Inc., was organised by William Durant in New York City, following his termination by the General Motors [12 January 1921]……. The first United States-built Rolls Royce was completed [17 January 1921]…….70 years ago this week, Harry M Bramberry Sr (56), the inventor of nitrided steel piston rings and a consultant to the White Motor Company, died in New York City [11 January 1951]……40 years ago this week, Bobby Allison drove his Ranier Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo to victory as the NASCAR Grand National season opened with the Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway [11 January 1981]. The race was the last allowing full sized 115 inch wheelbase cars, beginning with Daytona all cars would be downsized to 110 inch wheelbase maximum. Darrell Waltrip made his first start for Junior Johnson Racing as did Ricky Rudd with DiGard Racing…….. Graham Whitehead (58), British racing driver, who participated in one Formula One World Championship Grand Prix, scoring no championship points, died [15 January 1981]. He finished second at 1958 24 Hours of Le Mans only weeks before the accident on the Tour de France in which his brother Peter was killed. Graham escaped serious injury and later raced again with an Aston Martin and Ferrari 250GT before stopping at the end…… In light of new guidelines requiring the use of downsized cars (110-inch wheelbase vs. the older 115-inch wheelbase), Richard Petty tested a Dodge Mirada at Daytona, Florida, US [17 January 1981]. The car was unable to run competitive speeds, so Petty gave up any idea of returning to the Chrysler fold……..30 years ago this week, the final phase of the 89 mile long M40 motorway through Oxfordshire was opened by UK Transport Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, giving the West Midlands conurbation its first direct motorway link with London [15 January 1991]. Although the idea for a London-Birmingham motorway through Oxfordshire had been officially proposed in 1969, it had taken more than 20 years to become a reality. The motorway between London and Oxford was constructed in stages between 1967 and 1974. The first section from the High Wycombe Bypass from Handycross to Stokenchurch (J4–5) opened in June 1967 with a temporary junction (J2*) opening in 1969, extending in a southerly direction to Holtspur just outside Beaconsfield. The ‘Beaconsfield bypass’ to J2 was built in 1971 and the ‘Gerrards Cross Bypass’ to J1 was completed in 1973. The section northbound from J5 to J8 (Pitmore to Chilworth Farm at Great Milton just outside Oxford) was completed in 1974. At the design stage a service area was planned for Abbey Barns between Beaconsfield and High Wycombe, between J3 and J4, and the road has the beginnings of slip roads on both carriageways at this point. The plans never reached fruition.[3] Late in the 1960s, not long after the first stretch opened, the Ministry of Transport announced the possibility of building a motorway to link London with Birmingham as an alternative to the M1-M6 route – as well as improving road links to the South Coast ports for The Midlands – but it was not until 1983 that the decision to extend the M40 from Oxford to the south of Birmingham was made. The preferred route was altered to avoid Otmoor after a vigorous road protest, which included selling over 3,000 small squares of a field to people all over the world. The field had been renamed ‘Alice’s field’ as a reference to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll who lived in the area at the time he wrote the book. Construction began at Warwick in October 1987, with work on the section around Banbury starting in February 1988, and finally the section north of Oxford in July 1989. The section between the M42 and Warwick opened in December 1989, and the remainder in January 1991. It was originally planned that the section of the M42 between the M5 and the M40 (Junction 3A) would be renumbered as part of the M40, but this change did not take place.By the time of the full opening, the original M40 had been widened, creating a dual three-lane motorway from start to finish……. A Citroën ZX Rallye-Raid driven by Ari Vatanen won the 13th Paris-Tripoli-Dakar Rally (9,186 km) [17 January 1991]…….20 years ago this week, Louis Krages Sports car driver, AKA “John Winter”, winner of the 1985 24 Hours of Le Mans, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound [11 January 2001]……. Ford Transit was named “International Van of the Year 2001” [12 January 2001]…..Vic Wilson (70), British racing driver who participated in two Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, scoring no World Championship points, died after an accident at Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire [14 January 2001]….. on the same day [14 January 2001], one-time CART team owner Carl Hogan died in New Hampshire at the age of 71……. After almost 10 years of planning and 23 months of construction work, the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire officially opened [15 January 2001]. It was the first purpose-built racetrack in Britain since Brooklands opened in Surrey in 1907……. Jaguar was the first team to unveil its new car ahead of the F1 season and eight days later became the first to crash it when Eddie Irvine went off the circuit in Valencia at about 140mph, wrecking the front end on the tyre barrier after skating across the gravel trap [17 January 2001]. He was uninjured, the car was less fortunate. “Eddie was familiarising himself with the new car,” said a team spokesman. “It was nothing to do with driver error.”

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