16-17 June: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~16 June~

1905: Léon Théry won the Gordon Bennett Elimination Trial in the Auvergne, France, driving a 96 hp (72 kW; 97 PS).

1929: Bentleys swept the first four places at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Just 25 competitors started the race.The duel that pitted Bentley, victorious, against Stutz in 1928 was still fresh in everyone’s mind. The British team was determined to continue its momentum, entering five cars. For the engine, Bentley continued to use their 4.4 litre powerplant, but also arrived with their secret weapon: the Speed Six, with a 6.6 litre monster of an engine, driven by Woolf “Babe” Barnato and Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin. Against the British fleet, the ten French cars were no match: for the B.N.C., D’Yrsan, S.A.R.A. and Tracta, did not produce enough power to match. To find the real competition, one had to look at the American contingency: Chrysler, Du Pont and Stutz were all hoping to make a splash. Come June 15 of that year, the competitors had barely started the race that the speeds clocked started to rise. Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin shattered the lap record, with an average speed of 133 kph. At the back of the pack, teams tried to organise an attack but the pace was so high, the race looked to be more difficult than ever. The race’s first retirement was recorded after seven laps: the Bentley driven by Bernard Rubin, winner the previous year, and Earl Howe. Meanwhile, the cars continued on their hellish pace and mechanical woes took their toll. After thirty laps, a third of the competitors had already stopped, and that wouldn’t be the end of it. As the hours continued to pass, the drivers had to stay concentrated on a circuit that looked more like a rally special than a race track: the trees along the road are painted white, so drivers knew to avoid them! There was no time to lose in the pits, in which only the drivers were allowed to work on the car! And despite team orders (even back then!) imposed by W.O. Bentley, the beautiful British cars flew to the finish.Bentley, once again, were the big winners, monopolising the first four finishing positions. The No.1 Speed Six of Captain Woolf “Babe” Barnato, who would win three times in three participations, and Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin, who was probably the fastest of the Bentley Boys, covered 2,843 kilometres with an average speed of 118.492 kph claiming its fourth victory, and third in a row, for the British marque. At the back, two French cars would finish the race. Two Tracta ended the day in ninth and tenth places, covering 2000 km with an average of just 85 kph!
1935: The IX Adac Eifelrennen at Nürburgring was started by the new coloured light system (red, yellow and 15 seconds later green). Rudolf Caracciola was able to out-accelerate the Auto Union of Bernd Rosemeyer on the long straight on the final lap to take the flag by 1.9 seconds.
1935: Robert Cazaux (29) in a Bugatti T35B, won at Sézanne, France. On a climb of honor his car overturned and he was killed.

1935:At the Florence – Lucca autostrada, Tazio Nuvolari driving an Alfa Romeo 6.3L became the first to break the 200 mph barrier road speed record.
1951: Driving a Studebaker, Frank Mundy won the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event on a Saturday night at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina. It was the first NASCAR Grand National event to be staged under the lights, Mundy’s first career NASCAR Grand National victory, and the first win for the Studebaker nameplate.

1968: Donnie Allison roared to his first triumph in NASCAR’s premier series, finishing two laps ahead of his brother Bobby at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham (US). Donnie Allison took command of the Carolina 500 when Darel Dieringer retired with engine failure, leading the final 129 laps. James Hylton finished third, six laps off the pace. Richard Brickhouse, making his first Cup start, took fourth, an amazing 30 laps down.
1968: Don Garlits won the Top Fuel Finals at the fourth annual NHRA Spring Nationals drag races at Englishtown, New Jersey, USA. Rico Paris won the Top Gas catagory and Jack Ditmars drove an Opel Funny Car to the AA/FA title. Ronnie Sox won the Super Stock Eliminator.
1972: The first race was staged at the new circuit near Estoril, Portugal. It was built in 1972 on a rocky plateau near the village of Alcabideche, 9 km from the city of Estoril, the beach resort lending its name to the circuit. The course has two hairpin turns, noticeable elevation changes, and a long (986 metre) start/finish straight Its original perimeter was 4.350 km (2.703 mi), and the maximum gradient is nearly 7%. Owned by state-run holding management company Parpública, it was the home of the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix from 1984 to 1996. The capacity of the motorsport stadium is 45,000.The circuit has FIA Grade 1 license. Throughout the years, Estoril has had numerous problems with safety, failing safety inspections on more than one occasion. After the death of Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, a chicane was added which increased the circuit length to 4.360 km (2.709 mi). Estoril sometimes has high crosswinds, which remind many of its Spanish counterpart, the Circuit de Catalunya which also has a similar layout. Many teams were fond of using Estoril for winter testing.
1985: Michele Alboreto in a Ferrari 156/85 won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

1991: Riccardo Patrese in a Williams-Renault FW14 won the Mexican Grand Prix held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit.

1996: The Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (cover image) was won by Damon Hill driving a Williams-Renault FW18, ahead of home hero Jacques Villeneuve, Gilles’ son. Michael Schumacher started from the back of the grid, as his crew were still working on his car as the field set off on the warm-up lap. This started a run of mechanical problems for the reigning double World Champion.
2007: Australian Troy Critchley, 36, was driving in a charity event in Selmer, Tennessee, on Saturday, when his drag racing car skidded off the road and into hundreds of spectators, who were not protected by guard rails. Two girls aged 15 and one aged 17 were among the six killed as Critchley performed an “exhibition burnout” – when a drag racer spins his tyres to make them heat up and smoke – at a Cars for Kids charity event.Up to 18 more were injured in the collision, which sent bodies `”flying into the air”, said Selmer Police Chief Neal Burks. In 2008 an indictment was unsealed charging Troy Critchley (38) with 6 counts of vehicular homicide and 22 counts of reckless aggravated assault.

~18 June~

1904: The Gordon Bennett Cup, formally titled the V Coupe Internationale, was held on the Homberg Circuit in Germany. The race consisted of four laps of the circuit to make the total distance 527km (79.465 miles). A German entry had won the previous year’s edition of the race, which meant that the rights to host the race fell to the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD). Germany were to attempt to defend the Gordon Bennett Cup against France, Great Britain, Austria and Italy, and each country was represented by three entries, with the car that finished the race in the shortest time winning the race on behalf of his country. The race was won by Léon Théry driving a Richard-Brasier 80 hp and representing France in a time of five hours and 50 minutes. Camille Jenatzy driving a Mercedes and representing Germany finished in second place and Henri Rougier driving a Turcat-Méry and representing France finished in third place.

1907: Brooklands, the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world. officially opened, having been built by Hugh Fortescue Locke King on his Weybridge estate in Surrey, England at a cost of £150,000. It was the builder’s idea that the motor course would give British motor-car manufacturers a place to test their products with immunity from the 20-mph speed limit. The surface of the track took 250,000 tons of concrete and over 200 carpenters were employed to make the fences, stands etc. The motor course had a lap distance of 2 miles 1,350 yards and a finishing straight of 991 yards, making a total length of 3.25 miles, of which 2 miles were level. The track was 100 ft wide and two steep banks were built into the circuit to allow cars to corner safely at speed.A few days after the opening ceremony a twenty four hour speed record was set at Brooklands by Selwyn Francis Edge, covering 1,581 miles at an average speed of sixty six miles an hour. Then Brooklands career as a motor racing circuit began on 6th July 1907 with its first motor race. With no traditions to call upon, the atmosphere of a horse race was used to make people feel at home. The term “paddock” is still used today for the area where the teams gather as they prepare for a race. This term is a distant echo of early races at Brooklands.ollowing World War One racing at Brooklands continued, with the first British Grand Prix being run at the track in 1926. Into the 1930s competition from Donnington Park and Crystal Palace drove the building of a new road circuit within the perimeter of the old, with some of the old course incorporated, as happened decades later at Indianapolis. Brooklands was also the base used by Malcolm Campbell for the building of his world land speed record cars of the 1930s. Brooklands was still a successful venue in 1939 when the Second World War began. But the war brought damage to the circuit. Brooklands was an important site for military aircraft manufacture, and was targeted by German bombers. The track was damaged both by bombs and by attempts to camouflage the circuit with trees. Brooklands, unable to recover as a venue following the war’s end in 1945, is no longer used as a race track, but the clubhouse, and sections of the track remain. A motor and aviation museum has been created within the old infield. There are many interesting exhibits at Brooklands, including famous racing cars and aircraft. Aviation history at Brooklands is as significant as that of motor racing. The first powered flight by an Englishman took place at Brooklands in 1908. Early aircraft manufacture then took place at Brooklands, with the film Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines being based on the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air Race held at Brooklands in 1911. Military aircraft were built here during both First and Second World Wars. Then Brooklands became an important centre for commercial aircraft manufacture. Sections of the supersonic airliner Concorde were built here, and today the “Delta Golf” Concorde is preserved at the site. Delta Golf was used to test Concorde’s technology, and was the first aircraft to carry one hundred passengers at twice the speed of sound. Other aircraft from both the First World War and Second World War are on display. Today the area of Brooklands is virtually a motoring and aviation theme park. Mercedes Benz World is close by offering driving experiences.
1923: Enrico Ferrari, who would go on to an historic career as a driver for Alpha Romeo before being put in charge of their racing division, won his first race, a 166-mile event at the Circuito del Savio in Ravenna, Italy. After the Ravenna race, Ferrari met for the first time the Count Enrico Baracca and his wife, the Countess Paolina, who would later suggest to Ferrari that he use the prancing horse emblem of their son. “Ferrari,” remarked the Countess, “why don’t you put my son’s prancing horse on your cars; it will bring you luck.” The Countess’s son, Francesco, had been Italy’s premier flying ace in World War I before he was shot down and killed at Mount Montello. On his plane he carried a white shield bearing a prancing black stallion. Ferrari would adopt the emblem, changing the field of the shield to canary yellow in honor of his hometown of Modena.
1926: The Langhorne (Philadelphia, US) Dirt Track staged its first event, a 50-mile race won by Fred Winnai in a Duesenberg.. According to the book Langhorne! No Man’s Land by L. Spencer Riggs: “With all other courses up to that time being fairground horse tracks, Langhorne was the first [one-]mile dirt track built specifically for cars” (p. 5). High-profile American racing clubs like the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), American Automobile Association (AAA), and United States Auto Club (USAC) made Langhorne one of the stops on their national circuits. These events included AMA-sanctioned National Championship Motorcycle races between 1935 and 1956, AAA-sanctioned Championship Car races between 1930 and 1955, and USAC-sanctioned Championship Car races from 1956 to 1970. The USAC races featured (and were won by) notable racers such as A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Gordon Johncock, Lloyd Ruby, and Eddie Sachs. Langhorne was also featured prominently in NASCAR’s early years and hosted at least one NASCAR-sanctioned race every year from 1949 to 1957.
1928: The same Bentley 41/2 that had crashed in 1927 won the Le Mans 24 hours with Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin at the wheel. Sometime before the end of the race the car cracked its chassis, causing the entire contents of the radiator to drain away – with temperatures off the clock, Barnato nursed the car over the line. One more lap and it’s unlikely he’d have made it.

1929: Ray Keech died in crash during AAA championship race at Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA . He is best remembered for winning the 1929 Indianapolis 500, and for setting a land speed record.

1951: In the Belgian Grand Prix, held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Juan Manuel Fangio’s pit crew took 14 minutes 18 seconds to put him back in the race. His Alpha Romeo had been fitted with special, very expensive, concave wheels … one jammed.! His team-mate Nino Farina took just 39 seconds for his stop and he went on to win the race. Today’s teams take, on average, 8 seconds to refuel and change all 4 wheels.

1955: Tim Flock lapped the field to post a dominant wire-to-wire win at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Rochester, New York (US). Flock was one lap ahead of brother Fonty in a 1-2 finish by Carl Kiekhaefer-owned Chrysler’s. Bob Welborn finished third, four laps down at the half-mile dirt track. Only nine of the 21 cars were running at the finish.

1962: Jim Clark won his first Formula One Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, and the first of four consecutive victories in Belgium for the Scotsman (despite thoroughly disliking the circuit) and Team Lotus. It was also the first win for the famous Lotus 25, and the beginning of the famous 6-year-long rivalry between Clark and Graham Hill. Clark would go on to one of the most storied careers in F1 history.

1972: George Follmer drove an AMC Javelin to victory in the SCCA Trans-Am race at Watkins Glen, New York, US.

1973: Denny Hulme in a McLaren-Cosworth M23 won the first World Championship level Swedish Grand Prix, held at the grandly-named Scandinavian Raceway.

1984: Brabham’s defending World Champion Nelson Piquet scored his first win and indeed his first points for the season at the Canadian Grand Prix held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

1986: Before the start of the last race of Italian Sport Prototype Championship meeting, at Pergusa, Italy a service van driven by a circuit security guard crashed head-on into a private car passing in the one-way only small service road, all around the track. The female driver of the car was killed at the scene, her passenger, a young boy, sustained serious injuries. The Pergusa race director immediately stopped the racing event and sent the autodrome ambulance to rescue the unfortunate by-passers, and the start of the race was postponed.

1990: “Handsome” Harry Gant became the oldest driver to win a Winston Cup race when he won the Miller Genuine Draft 500 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, at the age of 50 years, 158 days. Bobby Allison had previously held the record for winning at 50 years, 73 days. Gant benefited from a race plagued by the yellow caution flag, in which the winning speed was just 120mph and 23 cars finished on the lead lap.

2001: The Audi R8 of Frank Biela, Tom Kristianson, and Emanuele Pirro won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Corvette C5Rs finish 1-2 in the GTS class with the Ron Fellows/Johnny O’Connell/Scott Pruett car beating the Andy Pilgrim/Frank Freon/Kelly Collins car.

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