18-24 May: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, Sir Henry Segrave, driving his 1914 Opel 1.4 litre Grand Prix car, won his debut race at Brooklands, England [20 May 1920]……. Road-tax discs for obligatory display on windscreens were proposed by the British government [21 May 1920]. Introduced in January 1921, they cost £1 per bhp and were 5 inches in diameter with a vertical ‘expiry’ cross in the background, shadowed by either of four differing lines to note the year at a distance. Available as an annual (dual-colour) or 3-monthly (differing single colours) tax disc, they expired on either 24 March (spring equinox), 30 June (summer solstice), 30 September (autumn equinox) or 31 December (winter solstice)…….70 years ago this week, Juan Manuel Fangio won the Monaco Grand Prix in an Alfa Romeo 158, the first of 24 Formula 1 Grand Prix victories [20 May 1950]……… The very first multiple first lap pile-up in the World Championship took place at the Monaco Grand Prix [21 May 1950]- cover image. Waves crashing over the harbour front caught out Farina who skidded, stalled, and helplessly took out eight other cars. Juan Manuel Fangio picked his way through the wreckage to win the race by two miles! The victory was the first of the 24-Grand Prix victories in his illustrious Formula One career. Born in 1911, near Balacarce, Argentina, Fangio started his professional career as a mechanic. At age 23, he drove his first race in a converted Ford taxi that fell apart during the event. Fangio struggled early on in his career as a racer, but his passion for the sport led him to continue racing while he supported himself as a mechanic. Just before World War II, Fangio began racing a Chevrolet stock car. He won the Gran Premio Internacional del Norte, a race from Buenos Aires to Peru and back. Winning the 6,000-mile race brought Fangio instant notoriety in his home country. At 36, Juan Manuel Fangio was considered too old to race. Undeterred, he began a career as a Formula 1 driver. In 1949, his first full season, he won six times in 10 races. The next year he was invited to drive for the prestigious Alpha Romeo team. He finished second in the World Driver’s Championship. The next year he won it. Fangio then bounced between the Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, and Ferrari teams en route to establishing himself as the world’s best driver. He became a national hero in his adopted Italy as well as at home in Argentina. He won four World Driver’s Championships in the 1950s, but his fine results do not do justice to his extraordinary talent. In 1957, the 46-year-old Fangio returned to the Maserati team. Maserati’s equipment was nearly obsolete at the time, and Fangio raced with a considerable handicap. Fellow racer Phil Hill evaluated Fangio’s racing ability: “With most drivers, you figure 25 percent driver, 75 percent car. With the old man, you know it’s 40 percent driver, 60 percent car, so he’s already got us beat with that something extra that’s inside of him.” The German Grand Prix that year was apt testament to Fangio’s genius. Racing against the tighter Ferraris in his weak-kneed Maserati, Fangio decided not to take a full load of fuel in his car. His plan was to build a huge lead on his competitors with a lighter car, and then to pit to take on more fuel. The other cars would run the race without stopping. Fangio was 28 seconds ahead when he pitted, and 28 behind when he came out of the pits. He passed leader Mike Hawthorn on the final lap, and won the race by four seconds. Juan Manuel Fangio is often considered the most talented driver to ever race. One wonders what his career would have been like had he had the opportunity to race early in his life………..The fourth race of the 1950 NASCAR season was run at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia, the first race in the lineage of the Virginia 500, the spring race at the track. Buck Baker won the pole [21 May 1950]. Curtis Turner got his second-straight Grand National win with a decisive triumph. The Roanoke, Virginia, “Blond Bomber” dashed ahead of Baker in the 11th lap and led the rest of the way in the 150-lap, 75 mile feature at the half-mile dirt oval. Jim Paschal finished second in a four-year-old Ford, Lee Petty was third and Glenn Dunnaway came in fourth. Cyde Minter picked up fifth spot. Turner’s Oldsmobile outdistanced the field by two full laps. He up to only 2.5 points behind leader Tim Flock, who fell victim to rear end problems after 97 laps. Baker started on the pole at 54.216 mph in a Ford police special. He faded to eighth at the finish. Herb Thomas was running among the leaders in his Ford when a spindle broke in the final laps. He got credit for 14th in the field of 25…….The Nash-Kelvinator Corporation registered the ‘Rambler’ and ‘Statesman’ names as trademarks [22 May 1950]. The Statesman was the 1950 version of the economy Nash 600, while the Rambler name, used by its ancestral company 1900-1913, was reintroduced for the firm’s new compact car………40 years ago this week, the 38th Monaco Grand Prix, held over 76 laps of the 3.34-kilometre circuit for a total

race distance of 254 kilometres, was won by Carlos Reutemann driving a Williams FW07B [18 May 1980]. The win was Reutermann’s tenth Formula One victory and his first since the 1978 United States Grand Prix. He also became the fifth winner in six races of the 1980 season……. The Triumph TR8, an eight-cylinder version of the “wedge-shaped” Triumph TR7 sports car, designed by Harris Mann, and manufactured by British Leyland, was launched in the US [19 May 1980]. Because of its outstanding performance, the TR8 was often dubbed the “English Corvette”. The majority of TR8s were sold in the United States and Canada…..30 years ago this week, Orion films released Cadillac Man, starring Robin Williams. The movie follows a day in the life of Joey O’Brien (Williams), a shameless used-car salesman with a weakness for women [18 May 1990]…….20 years ago this week, as hundreds of NASCAR fans left a stock car race at Lowes Motor Speedway (Charlotte Motor Speedway), North Carolina (US) and were crossing a pedestrian bridge to the parking lot, two loud cracks were heard [20 May 2000]. Following the second crack, an 80-foot section of the 320-foot concrete-and-steel walkway snapped in half. Pedestrians fell 17 feet to U.S. Highway 29 below, crushed by broken pieces of concrete, coolers, grills, and other pedestrians. The bridge failure injured 107 people. One man among the most injured suffered a broken back, broken pelvis, severed nerves and both legs crushed. Hospital officials said people suffered from broken bones, bruises, head and spinal injuries. At least 13 were injured critically………The Nevada Open Road Challenge was held on a 90 mile stretch of highway S.R. 318 between Lund and Hiko. 78 of over 200 cars were Corvettes. A modified 1992 Corvette recorded the top speed of 227 mph [21 May 2000]…… BMW Group and Ford Motor Company announced that they had signed a definitive agreement for Ford to buy the Land Rover business from BMW [22 May 2000]…….. 10 years ago this week, the A66 Keswick coach accident occurred in Cumbria, England [24 May 2010]. A Honda Civic collided with a coach carrying children home from Keswick School on the A66 road in Cumbria, United Kingdom. Three people were killed and four were left seriously injured. Approximately thirty people sustained less severe injuries. The accident occurred very near Keswick in an accident hotspot. The outcome of the inquest was that the likelihood is that the Honda driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and the deaths were the “result of a tragic accident”

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