17-18 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

17-18 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History


1968: The London-Sydney Rally which had started from the Crystal Palace racing circuit in London at 2pm on Sunday, November 24th 1968, finished at Warwick Farm (an outer Sydney suburb), in Australia. Roger Clark established an early lead through the first genuinely treacherous leg, from Sivas to Erzincan in Turkey, averaging almost 60 mph in his Lotus Cortina for the 170 mile stage. Despite losing time in Pakistan and India, he maintained his lead to the end of the Asian section in Bombay, with Simo Lampinen’s Ford Taunus second and Lucien Bianchi’s DS21 in third. However, once into Australia, Clark suffered several setbacks. A piston failure dropped him to third, and would have cost him a finish had he not been able to cannibalise fellow Ford Motor Company driver Eric Jackson’s car for parts. After repairs were effected, he suffered what should have been a terminal rear differential failure. Encountering a Cortina by the roadside, he persuaded the initially reluctant owner to sell his rear axle and resumed once more, although at the cost

of 80 minutes’ delay while it was replaced. This left Lucien Bianchi and co-driver Jean-Claude Ogier in the lead ahead of Gilbert Staepelaere/Simo Lampinen in the German Ford Taunus, with Andrew Cowan in the Hillman Hunter 3rd. Then Staepelaere’s Taunus broke down leaving Cowan in second position and Paddy Hopkirk’s Austin 1800 in third place. Approaching the Nowra checkpoint at the end of the penultimate stage with only 98 miles to Sydney, the Frenchmen were involved in a head-on collision which wrecked their Citroën and hospitalised the pair. Hopkirk, the first driver on the scene (ahead of Cowan on the road, but behind on penalties), gave up any chance of victory when he stopped to tend to the injured and extinguish the flames in the burning cars. That left Andrew Cowan, who had requested “a car to come last” from the Chrysler factory on the assumption that only half a dozen drivers would even reach Sydney, to take an unexpected victory in his Hillman Hunter and claim the £10,000 prize. Hopkirk finished second, while Australian Ian Vaughan was third in a factory-entered Ford XT Falcon GT. Ford Australia won the Teams’ Prize with their three Falcons GTs, placing 3rd, 6th and 8th., 

1986: Giulio Ramponi (84), winner of the Mille Miglia in 1928 and 1929, died in South Africa.

1999: NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt underwent back surgery to remove a ruptured disk at University Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.

2001: Toyota finally launched their racing car, after one of the longest development processes in Formula One history. The Japanese team had an entry for the 2001 F1 season but chose not to compete, instead spending the year setting up the team and testing the car. Panasonic Toyota Racing’s F1 car, TF102, was a successor to the team’s 2001 test car, TF101, and came with a brand new livery. The car retained Toyota’s corporate colours of red and white, while additionally carrying the logos of the team’s newly acquired partners AOL Time Warner and Wella. The new car had been designed by a team led by Chief Designer Gustav Brunner. The 2002 race car was powered by the newly developed RVX-02 engine. President of Toyota Motorsport, Ove Andersson, said: “Success is not a matter of money. It is about a good team working well together and getting everything right.” In 140 Grands Prix between 2002 and 2009, when it finally called time, Toyota failed to win a race.


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1898: The first sprint meeting in the world, sponsored by La France Automobile, was held in Archeres Park, near Paris. The course `was flat but very wet, and competitors were timed over 2 km from a standing start, thus providing two sets of figures, for the standing

one-kilometre and the flying kilometre. The Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat, in the 1½ ton Jeantaud electric car, powered by an electric motor and alkaline batteries, covered the first in 72.6 seconds and the second in 52 seconds. His average speed over the flying kilometre, 39.3 mph, automatically became the first official World Land Speed Record. Jeantaud is widely believed to be the first automobile steered by a modern steering wheel rather than a tiller. The tiller was quickly replaced by the steering wheel in the early 1900s.

1909: The first races were held on the newly repaved (with 3,200,000 bricks replacing crushed stone and tar) Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

1949: Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari 166 won the Juan Perón & Buenos Aires Grand Prix held at Palermo Park.

1950: The Presidente Alessandri Grand Prix in Santiago de Chile was won by Juan Manuel Fangio driving a Ferrari 166.

2005: David Keith Duckworth (72), the English engineer best known for designing the Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine, an engine that revolutionised Formula One, died

2007: Lewis Hamilton was suspended from driving in France for a month after being caught speeding at 196 km/h (122 mph) on a French motorway. His Mercedes-Benz CLK was also impounded.

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