16-17 May: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~16 May~

1908: Middlesex County Automobile Club became the first organisation in Britain to receive written permission, from the Commissioner of Police, to hold a motoring competition on a public road. The President’s Cup event held on the A110 at Cat Hill, Cockfosters in north London was won by Mr Alfred Alexander in his 8-bhp de Dion.

1922: During practice at Brooklands, Kennelm Lee Guinness as timed by friends on the Railway Straight reached 144 mph driving a V12 Sunbeam. On the following day in windy conditions he clocked an official 140.51 mph one way to take a new Brooklands lap record of 123.39 mph along with several other speed records over various distances. His official 137.15 mph flying kilometre record was to stand unbeaten for another seven years.

1936: The first ever motor race in Ireland, the 200 mile Cork Road Race, was held. There were 24 starters and 9 finished the race, which was won by Reggie Tongue in a 1488cc supercharged ERA.

1948: From 1938 to 1947, the Monaco Grand Prix could not be held due to both financial difficulties and a shortage of competitors as well as a deteriorating international climate. Finally on this day, the almost forgotten roar of the engines was once more heard on the streets of the Principality. The race was won by Giuseppe Farina in a Maserati 4CLT.

1948: Racer Ralph Hepburn (51) died when his Novi crashed during a practice run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

1951: Ibsley Circuit, situated at RAF Ibsley, on the Fordingbridge to Ringwood Road in Hampshire, UK, staged its first motor racing meeting. According to ‘Motor Cycling’ magazine it was a great success.

1953: Tim Flock, with riding companion “Jocko Flocko,” prevailed in a 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Hickory, North Carolina, US.. Jocko, a rhesus monkey, had a driver’s uniform and a custom-made seat. It was the first time a NASCAR Grand National winner has a copilot.

1976: The Belgian Grand Prix was won by Niki Lauda driving a Ferrari 312T2, who increased his lead in the World Drivers’ Championship to 29 points by doing so.

1982: The Porsche 956 made its race debut in the World Endurance Championship 6-hour race at Silverstone, England, with Jackie Ickx and Derek Bell starting on pole and winning the Group C class while a Group 6 Lancia LC1 wins overall. Driven by Stefan Bellof in 1983, the 956 holds the all-time record for the fastest vehicle ever to lap the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife, completing the 20.832 km (12.93 mi) circuit in 6:11.13 during qualifying for the 1000km Sports Car race. At the 1985 1000 km of Spa, Bellof died after colliding with Jacky Ickx’s newer Porsche 962. Safety concerns over the 956 led to its eventual end as teams upgraded to the safer 962. The 956’s last win would come courtesy of Joest Racing in the last race of the 1986 WEC season, in what also turned out to be the 956’s last race.

1992: Lights were installed at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it became the first non-short track to host night racing. The first race held under-the-lights was The Winston “all star” race. During the final 10-lap sprint, Dale Earnhardt led Kyle Petty and Davey Allison. On the final lap, Petty nudged Earnhardt in turn three, spinning him out. Petty took the lead into turn four, but as he entered the qual-oval, Davey Allison pulled alongside. The two cars touched as they crossed the finish line, with Allison edging out Petty by less than half a car length. The two cars clipped, and Allison crashed hard into the outside wall, showering bright sparks over the track. Allison spent the night in the hospital instead of victory lane.

1999: The Monaco Grand Prix, contested over 78 laps, was won by Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher after starting from second position. It was Schumacher’s 16th win with Ferrari, breaking the record held by Niki Lauda. His team-mate Eddie Irvine finished second with Mika Häkkinen third for the McLaren team. The race was Schumacher’s second win of the season, his fourth at Monaco, and the result meant that he extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship, to eight points over Irvine and twelve over Häkkinen. Ferrari extended their lead in the Constructors’ Championship, twenty-four points ahead of McLaren and twenty-eight ahead of Jordan with 12 races of the season remaining.

2013: Short track racing great Richard “Dick” Trickle took his own life. Trickle is estimated to have raced in more than 2,220 races, logging more than a million laps while becoming a fan favorite, especially in his home state of Wisconsin. He is regularly billed as the most winning racer in short track history. His accomplishments include 67 wins in 1972, winning seven ARTGO Championships between 1979 to 1987, back to back ASA AC-Delco Challenge championships in 1984 and ‘85, 1968 USAC Stock Car rookie of the year, and 1989 NASCAR Rookie of the Year. While Trickle didn’t have much success in NASCAR he was feared in the short track circuit. NASCAR racer Rusty Wallace competed against Trickle on several levels and following his death stated that Trickle was his mentor. Trickle apparently shot himself while visiting the grave of his granddaughter. He called 911 prior to doing so to inform them where a body could be found. His family later released a statement saying that he had been battling chronic pain for quite some time and no doctor could source it. While it was hard for the family to accept the death they took comfort knowing he was pain free and could rest easy with his angel – his granddaughter who had died in a car wreck.

~17 May~

1925: The long-distance motor race at the Autodrome de Montlhéry, just outside of Paris, had a remarkable ending. British driver George Duller won, averaging 97.2 mph for the 312 miles, but Italian Count Conelli, who was behind him driving a Bugatti, skidded after crossing the finishing line, overturned and rebounded back on to its wheels. He was allowed second place. British racing legend Henry Segrave was delayed by tyre troubles and finished third.

1931: The Casablanca Grand Prix was held over fifty five laps of a four-mile circuit through the streets of Casablanca formed this event, which in the previous year had been run over a single circuit of 450 miles covering the south of Morocco. With the Sultan as spectator, the cars were off at 2:30 p.m. on May 17. Count Czaikowski prooved victorious on a Bugatti, his average speed being 85.6 m.p.h. Etancelin was second and de Maleplane was third, both driving Bugatti cars. The winner made a record lap of 2 mins. 50 secs.

1947: The first climb of the inaugural series of the British Hill Climb Championship (BHCC) was staged at Bo’ness, near Linlithgow, Scotland. It was one of five events in that year’s championship, the other climbs being held at Bouley Bay (Jersey), Craigantlet (Northern Ireland), Prescott (Gloucestershire) and Shelsley Walsh (Worcestershire). All but Bo’ness still host rounds of the BHCC. That inaugural championship, as well as the 1948 title, went to British driver Raymond Mays.

1959: The 1957 USAC Stock Car champion, Jerry Unser (26) died. Jerry was the first of the Unser family to compete at Indianapolis. In his only start, in 1958, he was caught up in a 13-car pileup on the first lap and flew over the turn three wall, miraculously emerging unhurt. He lost his life in a practice crash before the Indianapolis 500 the following year, leaving behind a widow, Jeanne Unser, and two sons, Jerry and Johnny Unser. His brothers Al and Bobby and his nephew Al Jr. have won the “500”. His son Johnny and nephew Robby have also competed in the race.

1959: Tom Pistone, driving a 1959 Ford Thunderbird, scored his first career win in the 100-miler at Trenton Speedway, New Jersey (US). Rookie Bob Burdick, ­making his first NASCAR Grand National start, captured the pole.

1964: The ‘Christmas Tree’ electronic starting system was used for the first time in drag racing in the UK, at Duxford Airfield, Cambridgeshire.

1981: The Belgian Grand Prix, won by Carlos Reutemann in a Williams-Cosworth FW07C, was marred by two serious incidents involving mechanics, one fatal. In Friday practice a mechanic from the Osella team, Giovanni Amadeo, stumbled off the pitwall into the path of the Williams of Carlos Reutemann. Reutemann was unable to avoid the mechanic, who suffered a fractured skull. He died from his injuries on the Monday after the race. Before the start of the race the mechanics of all the teams staged a protest over the safety measures protecting them, which was soon joined by several drivers who left their cars. As the cars began to overheat from the delayed start, several drivers turned off their engines, among them Arrows driver Riccardo Patrese, expecting another formation lap due to Piquet’s error. However, the organisers began the start sequence as usual once Piquet had regained his position. Patrese was unable to restart his car and waved his arms to signal that he could not take the start. His mechanic, Dave Luckett, instantly came onto the track to restart the car from behind. But after he got onto the track, the lighting sequence to start the race had already begun, and the start went ahead despite the presence of Luckett and Patrese’s gesticulations. In the confusion and likely unable to see Patrese’s stalled car, the other Arrows driver, Siegfried Stohr, ploughed into the back of his team-mate’s car, hitting Luckett. Luckett suffered a broken leg and lacerations but survived the incident. As a result of these events, a new rule was introduced forbidding mechanics from being on the grid within fifteen seconds of the formation lap, and the race starter would use greater caution.

1987: After two mostly uneventful runnings, in 1987, a new format was introduced for NASCAR’s all-star event, The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Following the new numbering format used by the race in 2008, this race is retroactively now known “Sprint All-Star Race III”.) Two segments – 75 and 50 laps, respectively – were concluded with a 10-lap “trophy dash” sprint to the finish. With 7 laps to go, Dale Earnhardt led Bill Elliott in turn four. Towards the quad-oval, Elliott pushed his nose underneath Earnhardt, attempting to take the lead. Earnhardt swiped the car over to block, but slid into the infield grass. He was able to maintain control, veered back onto the track, back in front of Elliott, and held onto the lead. Earnhardt muscled his way around the track over the final six laps, and won. The event has since been one of the most popular events on the calendar.

1987: The Belgian Grand Prix was held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa. It was the third race of the 1987 Formula One season. It was the 45th Belgian Grand Prix and the 33rd to be held at Spa. It was the fourth since the circuit was redeveloped in 1979. The race was won by French McLaren driver Alain Prost driving a McLaren MP4/3. It was Prost’s second win in the Belgian Grand Prix and his 27th Grand Prix victory, equalling Jackie Stewart’s all-time record. Prost won the race by 25 seconds over his Swedish team mate Stefan Johansson.

1992: Nigel Mansell gained the 26th Grand Prix win of his racing career at Imola, San Marino, becoming the most successful British driver in Grand Prix races, and the fourth worldwide. The first start was aborted due to Karl Wendlinger’s March stalling; he eventually started the race at the back of the grid. Stefano Modena started from the pit lane in his Jordan. Mansell led every lap, finishing nearly ten seconds ahead of Patrese. Senna finished third, nearly forty seconds behind Patrese, but was unable to take his place on the podium due to discomfort he suffered all race, and was unable to get out of his car until long after the race ended. Mansell’s win continued his perfect start to the 1992 season, with five wins from the opening five races; this broke the record of successive wins from the start of the season set by Senna the previous year. Brundle finished fourth to pick up his first points of 1992. Alboreto finished fifth, and Pierluigi Martini finished sixth, scoring what would prove to be the Dallara team’s last point in Formula One.

1994: Al Unser Sr. (cover image) announced his retirement from auto racing, ending one of the greatest Indy Car careers of all time. Winning the 1987 race, Al became only the second man to win the Indy 500 four times when he won the race after starting in the 20th position. The next year he broke Ralph DePalma’s seemingly unbreakable record for most laps led at the 500. Al’s 1970 season was one of the greatest ever, as he won 10 races on ovals, road courses, and dirt tracks to capture the national championship. He won back-to-back Indy 500s in 1970 and 1971, and in 1978 he became the first driver to win the “Triple Crown” of Indy racing by placing first in the Pocono 500 and the California 500, as well as at Indy. In 1985, Al won his third and last national championship by edging his son, Al Unser Jr., by one point in the last race of the season. The win also made him the oldest Indy Car champion ever at age 46.

1996: IndyCar veteran Scott Brayton (40) won pole position for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 but was killed after a tyre deflation caused his car to crash into a retaining wall during a practice run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He became the 40th driver to be killed at the sports’ most famous race track.

1997: Troy Ruttman (67) – cover image – a Southern California hot-rodder who in 1952 became the youngest driver to win the Indianapolis 500, died in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, US. He took the lead 20 miles from the finish when Bill Vukovich’s car had a broken steering pin. His victory came while driving one of the famous No. 98 cars entered by J. C. Agajanian, a Southern California race promoter. Ruttman first raced at the so-called Brickyard in 1949 at 19, two years younger than Indianapolis Motor Speedway rules allowed.”I had to fudge to get in,” Ruttman recalled years later. ”I had to produce a birth certificate. Ralph Wayne Ruttman was my cousin, and I used his. They asked me why I went by Troy and I told them it was a nickname. I corrected it when I turned 21.” In 1958, he became the first Indy 500 winner to drive in a Formula One race when he drove at Reims, France. Born on March 11, 1930, in Mooreland, Okla., Ruttman moved to Southern California and became one of a number of young drivers to emerge from that region after World War II and achieve racing fame. But despite his early accomplishments, Ruttman never fulfilled his early promise. Several months after winning Indy, he broke his arm in a sprint-car crash in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During his recuperation he began drinking heavily, and he struggled with alcoholism for the rest of his career. He retired in 1964. Ruttman’s son, Troy Jr., who also became a racer, died in a crash at Pocono Raceway in 1969.His younger brother is Joe Ruttman, a driver on the Nascar Craftsman Truck Series and an occasional participant in Nascar’s Winston Cup series.

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