16-17 January: This Weekend in Motor Sort History

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

-16 January-

1937: The Grosvenor Grand Prix run in Cape Town, South Africa was won by Ernst von Delius in a Auto Union Type C.

1955: Argentina hosted the first round of the F1 championship, and what was an endurance race in fierce heat – only seven starters finished – was won by Juan Manuel Fangio. It was his first win in a season where he went on to secure the second of his fourth consecutive drivers’ titles. It was a gruelling afternoon. Only Fangio and fifth-placed Roberto Mieres drove the entire distance without the help of a co-driver, and even the indestructible Fangio had to make one lengthy stop for drinks and a cool down.

1960: Bobby Allison won the 30 lap Modified Stock Car race at the Hollywood Speedway, Hollywood, Florida, US.

1966: Racers Jose-Luis Pampyn and Rafael Taravilla were killed during the Monte Carlo Rally when their Fiat crashed between Ales and Uzes, France.

1988: The 56th Monte Carlo Rally, Round 1 of the World Rally Championship started and was won 5 days later by Bruno Saby and Dean-Franbois Fauchille in a Lancia.

1996: Michael Schumacher’s career with Ferrari got off to an inauspicious start when he escaped uninjured after his Ferrari bounced off a guard rail during a test drive at Fiorano at a speed between 60 and 95mph. Schumacher blamed himself for having forced the pace of the car on a track still covered with frost. On the same day at Estoril, Damon Hill also skidded off in his Williams, and went one better than Schumacher by repeating the trick a day later.

2002: Former Formula One driver Ian Ashley was arrested at Heathrow airport for carrying offensive weapons.

2004: The French Grand Prix returned to the schedule after months of financial wrangling, but not everyone was happy with the decision as it extended the season to 18 races, “the absolute threshold,” according to Jaguar boss Tony Purnell.

2007: Benny Parsons (66), who drove in Winston Cup for almost 20 years and won the 1973 championship, and is the answer to a popular trivia question of who is the only driver to win championships in Cup and ARCA (1969), died of cancer. In 1988 he retired from driving and went straight into the TV booth, where he was a regular for ABC, ESPN, and from 2001-06 NBC; Parsons was the first star driver to make such a full-time career change, and he became even more loved by the public because of it.

2010: Kevin Swindell won the 24th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Tulsa, Oklahoma, US. Cole Whitt was second followed by Sammy Swindell, Jerry Coons Jr., Chris Windom, Shane Cottle, Mike Hess, Cory Kruseman, Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson.

-17 January –

1948: The Juan Perón & Buenos Aires Grand Prix held at Palermo Park was won by Luigi Villoresi driving a Maserati 4CL.


1953: The deadliest Grand Prix that ever took place, the Grand Prix of Argentina, was held on the Buenos Aires circuit. Estimates of the number of people who turned up at the track vary from 300,000 to 400,000 – some even suggest as many as half a million people were packed into the circuit. Hours before the race the stands were full, the crowd baking in 37C heat. And still more were trying to get in. Wire-cutters appeared and thousands poured through holes in the fences. With the stands full, they sat by the edge of the track.The police were unable to contain the growing numbers surrounding the circuit, who stood on the grass verges along the edge of the tarmac. As the 4pm start time drew near the drivers became edgy. Some wanted to postpone or abandon the start. The circuit now represented a rally stage, thick with people on either side of the track. The realisation dawned on the drivers that the alternative – not putting on a race – might provoke a riot. So they raced. Alberto Ascari led the cars away, pursued by Juan Manuel Fangio. But as the race began the crowd pressed forward, encroaching onto the track.“Time after time I waved at them to get out of the way, but this only made them worse,” said Mike Hawthorn afterwards. “They began standing in the roadway holding shirts and pullovers, which they snatched away at the last moment like a toreador playing a bull”.The situation grew ever more tense. On lap 21 a stub axle broke on Adolfo Schwelm-Cruz’s Cooper and the wheel bounced into the crowd. Eleven laps later disaster struck. Farina, who had been running third, pitched his car into a spin as a figure darted out in front of him at the Curva Nor Este. The Ferrari spun off the road, toppling bodies as it cut into the crowd. News of the fatalities spread swiftly, inciting mass panic. Another boy ran in front of Alan Brown’s Cooper and was struck down and killed. Ambulances heading to the dead and injured were involved in further crashes.The race continued, with Ascari and his pursuers passing the accident scenes every two minutes for the next two hours. Fangio retired with a transmission problem shortly after Farina’s crash. The chequered flag finally brought an end to the race after three hours. Ascari finished a lap ahead of everyone else. Gonzalez was the first Argentinian driver home in third place behind Luigi Villoresi. Hawthorn was fourth ahead of Oscar Galvez. Brown pressed on until the end in his Cooper, its nose bent and the car requiring three pit stops to refill its radiator. It’s hard to imagine the horror of what went on at this race about which many details are sketchy and little video footage apparently exists. Officials claimed that ten people were killed and 30 more injured. Accounts vary and some put the number of those who lost their lives as high as 30.

1954: The Maserati 250F recorded its first racing victory as Juan Manuel Fangio won the Argentine Grand Prix in Buenos Aires – Giuseppe Farina, who finished second in a Ferrari 625, qualified for the pole position, at age 47 years, 80 days the oldest driver to accomplish this feat in a Formula 1 championship race. It was the Italian sports car manufacturer’s second victory in Formula 1, duly commemorating their 100th participation at a Grand Prix.

1959: Cooper-Climax drivers Bruce McLaren and Syd Jensen battled out the Hudson Trophy race at Levin, New Zealnad, with the older man winning after his rival went off with a sticking throttle.

1963: The three hour sports car race at Daytona, Florida, USA, was won by Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel of a Ferrari 250 GTO.

1964: The Monte Carlo Rally started. It ended on 23rd January with Paddy Hopkirk and his co-driver Henry Liddon causing sensation when he piloted a Mini Cooper S, (Car No. 37, registration 33 EJB) to victory against the toughest competition from Ford and Saab.

1965: The 1965 NASCAR Grand National season got underway at the Riverside Raceway in California. Parnelli Jones took the lead on the drop of the green flag with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett in hot pursuit. Jones would lead the first 36 laps before his Mercury began to experience problems in the valve train. Junior Johnson took over for two laps before Dan Gurney slipped into the lead he would hold until lap 81. On lap 82 it was Johnson out front again but Gurney went back to the point on lap 91. A. J. Foyt muscled his way to the front on lap 92 and he managed to hold on to that lead until lap 128. On lap 129 Dan Gurney almost effortlessly moved his Wood Brothers mount back to the lead and the rest of the way it was all Gurney. The checked flag waved on lap 185 giving Gurney his third consecutive Motor Trend 500 win. In fact, at that point, Gurney had won all three races at the track and those were, to date, his only NASCAR wins. After the race, Gurney told the crowd of 61,474 who had spent almost six hours watching the race, that he “never strained the car at all. I was in a good position and never had to stand on it”. Gurney completed the 500 miles at an average speed of 87.708 mph, slowed by 2 caution flags, and would finish 27 seconds ahead of second place.A.J. Foyt was challenging Junior Johnson for second place with 16 laps to go when he got his Holman-Moody Ford into the dirt in turn nine and flipped end over end, another crash that has made numerous highlight films and was used in a movie or two. A.J. was transported to the hospital in a great deal of pain. Doctors determined he had suffered a broken back and a fractured left heal. His condition was listed as “Fair”. A freak accident resulted in the death of one 20 year old race fan. The fan and several of his friends were watching the race from a extended fork lift between turns one and two. Dick Powell spun in that area and slid into the safe embankment and in the excitement to see the accident, the fans on the fork lift all went to the same side of the platform at the same time putting the forklift off balance. The forklift tipped and crashed to the ground killing the fan, Ronald Pickle of San Diego and injuring three other fans. There was also a fire on pit road as the Ford of Ned Jarrett burst into flames on a routine stop. Fire crews were on the scene immediately and put out the blaze.

1976: Round 1 of the World Rally Championship began with the first stage of the 44th Monte Carlo Rally (23 stages, 530km). The rally was won a week later by Sandro Munari and Mario Manucci driving a Lanca Stratos HF.

1991: A Citroën ZX Rallye-Raid driven by Ari Vatanen won the 13th Paris-Tripoli-Dakar Rally (9,186 km).

1995: What seemed at the time to be the end of an era as Lotus announced it was withdrawing from F1 because of chronic financial problems. Formed in 1952, Lotus had been an ever present since it made its F1 debut in 1958, going on to win six drivers’ championships and seven constructors’ titles. “I am confident that there is a path through all this to long-term security,” said owner David Hunt, brother of former champion James. “Other than Ferrari, the Lotus name is arguably the strongest in grand prix racing. What I want to avoid is allowing the team to be put in a situation where it is going to struggle around at the back of the grid and have its name dragged further through the mud.” Sadly, that just what happened in 2010 when the brand returned under Malaysian ownership. It laboured near the back of the field all season and a fight subsequently started over who had rights to the name – manufacturer Proton or team boss Tony Fernandes. At least that was dragged through the courts rather than mud.

2001: 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. 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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