19-25 September: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: motorcycle racing, Formula 1, Henry Ford, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Richard Hammond.

120 years ago this week, the first organised motor-cycle race took place when 8 riders raced the 476 miles from Paris to Nantes and back. The winner was M Chevalier on a Michelin-Dion averaging 22.61 mph [20 September 1896]….. Three days later, thirty-two entrants started the 1,060-mile Paris-Marseille-Paris race [24 September 1896]. The competition was the first to be divided into stages, ten in all. During the pauses the machines were put into parcs fermés (secured parking areas), supervised by the police. Only 13 vehicles arrived in Marseille ten days later and the drivers had undergone every kind of adventure, including Léon Bollée running off the road and hitting a tree. Émile Levassor’s partially eponymous Panhard et Levassor skidded and

turned over in a ditch. Levassor was injured, but his co-driver, Charles d’Hostingue, continued after leaving Levassor in the care of some spectators. Levassor never recovered from the injury and died in Paris the following year. Another Panhard et Levassor, driven by Émile Mayade, won the race in 67 hours 43 minutes, at an average speed of just over 15 mph……110 years ago this week, the Vanderbilt Elimination Race was run over ten laps on a 29-mile course near Westbury, Long Island, New York, to decide which five cars would represent the United States in the international 1906 Vanderbilt Cup [22 September 1906]. “Crowded excursion trains followed one another from midnight until long after the race had started, discharging thousands at Mineola, Westbury, Hicksville and other stations about the course. Country people from miles around journeyed to the course until the multitude numbered more than 100,000. At least 5,000 automobiles, carrying gay parties of men and women lined the course.” The race started at 06:00 in the morning with cars leaving at one minute intervals. Mongini, Matheson, burst a tyre on the first lap, hitting a telephone pole. He and his mechanic Green were thrown from the car but suffered only bruising. When Tracy crossed the finish line the race was stopped due to the crowd invading the circuit. The following team was chosen to represent America: Joseph Tracy (100-hp. Locomobile), Hubert LeBlon (115-hp. Thomas), H.N. Harding (50-hp. Haynes), Frank Lawell (110-hp. Frayer-Miller), and Walter Christie (50-hp. Christie). “Only the first three covered the full course, and Lawell and Christie were given places on the team; the former owing to the fact that he was still running when the race was called off, and the latter owing to the disqualification of Lyttle (Pope-Toledo), for being towed.”…..100 years ago this week, Mr. and Mrs. William Warwick and daughter Daisy arrived in New York City in a GMC truck loaded with Carnation Milk products after a 70-day trip from Seattle, to promote the National Parks Highway [19 September 1916]. On the same day, Johnny Aitken won all 3 races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These were the last races held there until after the end of World War I…… The Hudson Super Six completed a promotional “Twice Across America” run from San Francisco to New York City and back to San Francisco [24 September 1916]…… 90 years ago this week, Henry Ford announced the 8-hour, 5-day work week [25 September 1926]. He had already angered other industrialists by doubling his workers’ pay to $5 for an eight-hour day. The moves weren’t altruistic; Ford expected the same level of production from his workers in less time, and believed if he paid them well, he’d create a bigger market for his cars…… 80 years ago this week, American driver Bill Schindler crashed during a sprint race in Mineola, New York [25 September 1936]. Three days after the accident, his left leg had to be amputated, but this loss did not prevent him from continuing his career……30 years ago this week, Lee Anders Hasslestrom ran a 5.99/235 in the first round of the Funny Car elimination, at Santa Pod, Northamptonshire [22 September 1986]. This is considered by many to be the first five second funny car run in the UK. Five Top Fuelers and three Funny Cars were present. The two classes ran together for qualifying and the first rounds, and then had seperate semis and finals. The meeting was abandoned however, due to rain, before the finals could be run. In qualifying Monica Oberg set new UK Top Fuel E.T. and speed records with a 5.82/266 run while Tom Hoover made #2 spot in the Priddle fueler with a 5.84. For qualifying and elimination ladders click here. Sammy Miller was present with his Vanishing Point Trans Am Rocket Car, and put in some four second runs. John Spuffard took a turn in Bill Sherratts Cannonball, the first time he had driven a Funny Car since his Challenger bodied car had burnt to the ground in August. In Pro Comp Steve Read had made it to the final before the meeting was abandoned. He beat Tony Bryntesson in the semis……20 years ago this week, Jeff Gordon won the last NASCAR Winston Cup race ever run at North Wilkboro Speedway in North Carolina, US. [19 September 1996] …… Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve won the Portuguese Grand Prix from team-mate Damon Hill and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, having overtaken the latter on the outside of the final corner while the two were lapping the slow-moving back-marking Minardi of Giovanni Lavaggi (who at the time was described by BBC TV commentator Jonathan Palmer as “desperately slow” and “there because of his money”) [22 September 1996]. This victory, Villeneuve’s fourth of the season, ensured that the Drivers’ Championship battle between him and Hill went to the final round in Japan three weeks later……10 years ago this week, Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond drove Vampire at the former RAF Elvington airfield near York, England to a new British Land Speed Record [20 September 2006].

He reached a speed of 314 mph on his second of three laps, the third lap resulting in a crash that almost cost him his life. However, due to the rules requiring a second run to be taken in the opposite direction and the need for an official to be present, Hammond was not awarded the record…… the production run of 4,038 Ford GTs ended short of the originally planned 4,500 [21 September 2006]…… California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to crack down on illegal street racing and another to allow motorists who lost their car keys to get a replacement from a locksmith rather than just the car dealer [23 September 2006].



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