19-20 August: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

~19 August~

1909: The first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway took place. Celebration however, quickly turned into a disaster due to the surface

of crushed stone and tar. There were terrible injuries to the race car drivers and spectators. Cars caught fire, there were deaths, and the race was halted and cancelled when only halfway completed (five miles). Louis Schwitzer was declared the winner in front of 12,000 spectators.

1934: The first All-American Soap Box Derby was held in Dayton, Ohio. The national winner was Robert Turner of Muncie, Illinois, who made his car from the wood of a saloon bar. In 1935 the race was moved from Dayton to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain. Continue Reading

1950: Curtis Turner qualified his Oldsmobile at 82.034 mph to win the pole for the inaugural Southern Five-Hundred at Darlington Raceway. Fifteen days of qualifying determined the 75-car field. The quickest five cars each day earned a starting berth.

1956: Joe Weatherly scored a flag-to-flag victory to win the only race for the NASCAR Convertible Series at Heidelberg Raceway just outside of Pittsburgh, US. Weatherly started from the pole and finished one lap ahead of runner-up Gwyn Staley in the 200-lap main event. Danny Letner took third despite enduring tire failure three laps from the end. Continue Reading →

1973: Ronnie Peterson won the Austrian Grand Prix for Lotus ahead of Jackie Stewart and Carlos Pace. Niki Lauda missed his home race due to an accident at the Nürburgring 2 weeks earlier, where he injured his wrist.

1975: Mark Neary Donohue, Jr. (53) died from injuries from a crash during a practice session for the Australian Grand Prix. He lost control of his March after a tyre failed, sending him careening into the catch fencing at the fastest corner on the track, Voëst-Hugel. Continue Reading →

1979: Rick Mears drove a Penske-Cosworth to victory in the USAC Championship race in Trenton, New Jersey, US.

1984: McLaren’s Niki Lauda took the lead in the World Championship with his 23rd career win at the Austrian Grand Prix. Second was defending champion Nelson Piquet in his Brabham-BMW, with Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto completing the podium in third place.

1985: Robert E Barber broke the 79-year-old speed record for a steam car when Steamin Demon, built by Barber-Nichols Engineering Co. [US] reached 145.607 mph (234. Continue Reading →

1986: Warren Johnson became the first NHRA Pro Stock drag racer to hit 190 mph at the end of the quarter-mile when he ran 190.07 mph at Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

1999: Michael Schumacher got behind the wheel of his Ferrari for the first time since his crash at Silverstone resulted in a broken leg. He tested alongside Mika Salo and Eddie Irvine at the team’s Mugello circuit. He limped a little when he got out of his Ferrari after he completed one lap, but after a pause he drove four more laps.

2000: A 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe was sold for $4.4 million, whilst a 1964 Ferrari 330 P3 reached $5.6 million at an auction in California.

2001: Michael Schumacher won his fourth World Championship and equalled Alain Prost’s record of 51 Grand Prix victories at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello in the other Ferrari finished second and McLaren driver David Coulthard finished third.

2004: A controversial incentive scheme for traffic wardens was scrapped. National Car Parks (NCP), which controlled parking for Westminster City Council in central London, had a “Champion’s League” policy. It rewarded the traffic warden who issued the most tickets with a trophy or other prizes including TVs and pay bonuses. Continue Reading →

2004: Sky Sports, the UK’s leading broadcaster of motorsport, signed an exclusive deal to televise A1 Grand Prix, the first of 30 networks to back the series around the globe.

~20 August ~

1922: Three Fiats driven in turn by native Italians Felice Nazzaro, Pietro Bordino, Salamano, Enrico Giaccone and Evasio Lampiano became the first cars to run on the track at Monza, Italy.

1939: The last major grand prix before World War II was staged at Bremgarten in Switzerland, and in a bid to lure the Italians into taking part and challenge the all-conquering Germans, the organisers ran the race in two heats, one for Voiturettes and one for GP cars, with the best from each going to a combined final. On a slippery track, Mercedes dominated with Hermann Lang, that year’s European champion, winning the race, three seconds ahead of Rudolf Caracciola, and German entries occupied the top six places. But the performance of Nino Farina, whose Alfa Romeo came seventh but ahead of several of the more powerful Mercedes and Auto Union entries, took the plaudits for a courageous drive.

1948: NASCAR was forced to ­cancel a number of ­scheduled events due to an outbreak of polio in North Carolina, US.

1949: The first International Trophy at Silverstone was first run and won by Alberto Ascari driving a Ferrari 125 at an average speed o 89.58 mph.

1952: NASCAR issued a new rule that would reprimand drivers who were guilty of reckless highway driving.

1978: Pole-starter David Pearson passed Darrell Waltrip on the final lap to win the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway, clinching the last of 43 wins with the legendary Wood Brothers team. Pearson, who led 56 of the 200 laps in a Mercury, then held off runner-up Cale Yarborough by .32 seconds at the finish as Waltrip faded to third. There were 34 lead changes, including three in the final six laps on the 2-mile oval.

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