2-8 March: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Automobile Club of America (ACA) staged its first race, a round trip between Springfield, Long Island, NY and Babylon, NY [4 March 1900]. The winner was Andrew L. Riker driving a Riker of his own design, the only electric car in the field……… Gottlieb Daimler (65), pioneer of internal-combustion engine and motor vehicles, died [6 March 1900]. In partnership with Wilhelm Maybach he patented one of the first successful high-speed internal-combustion engines (1885) and developed a carburettor that made possible the use of petrol as fuel. The two used their early petrol engines on a bicycle (1885), a four-wheeled (originally horse-drawn) carriage driven by a one-cylinder engine (1886), and a boat (1887). The two men’s efforts culminated in a four-wheeled vehicle designed from the start as a motor car (1889). This motor vehicle had rear-mounted engine on a tubular frame, with belt-driven wheels, and four speeds. In 1890 Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was founded at Cannstatt, and in 1899 the firm built the first Mercedes car…………50 years ago this week, Sir Reay Geddes, Chairman of the Dunlop Rubber Company Ltd, and Leopoldo Pirelli, Chairman of Pirelli SpA, announced a merger of their two firms [2 March 1970]…….. The great Australian racing driver Jack Brabham enjoyed his 14th and last Grand Prix win at South Africa’s Kyalami circuit [7 March 1970]. Brabham’s career was long by motor racing standards, lasting more than 15 years. He won the world title three times, in 1959, 1960 and 1966 and is the only world motor racing champion to win the championship (in 1966) in a car of his own design, the Brabham……..40 years ago this week, the Audi Quattro coupe was launched to a stunned reception at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show [3

March 1980]. Until then, the all-wheel-drive principle had been restricted to relatively clumsy off-road vehicles, but the Audi Quattro was a genuine high-performance car. A red 1983 Quattro was driven by DCI Gene ‘fire up the Quattro’ Hunt, (played by Philip Glenister) in the television drama Ashes to Ashes (aired on BBC1 from 2008 to 2010)……… Legendary American stockcar driver Lee Roy Yarbrough was admitted to a mental institution after trying to kill his mother by putting his hands around her neck [8 March 1980]. All attempts to rehabilitate him (either in Florida or in North Carolina) failed and Lee Roy eventually died in 1984 after a fall while suffering from a traumatic brain injury. During his career, Yarbrough won the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, the World 600 at Charlotte, the Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C., and the Dixie 500 at Atlanta. His total winnings were more than $450,000. He was involved in severe crashes at the Texas International Speedway in 1970 and at the Indianapolis Speedway in 1971, and he also nearly died from a case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Returned to Racing. He made a comeback in 1972, finishing in the top 10 in nearly every race he entered, but he left the circuit in 1973 to work for a construction company in Jacksonville owned by relatives…….30 years ago this week, at the Firestone Test Center near Fort Stockton, Texas, a team of drivers completed a two day trial during which they set a dozen land speed records with a Corvette ZR-1 and a Corvette L-98 [2 March 1990]. Cars were in near stock condition, minus mufflers and catalytic converters. Records broken included 5000 miles in a time of 28:46:12.462, 5000 km in a time of 17:40:53.748, and 4221.256 miles in 24 hours. Average speed for all record runs were 170-175 mph. The ZR-1 set the 24-hour record, driving over 4200 miles at an average 175-mph. Drivers were: John Heinricy (Corvette Development and Validation Manager), Jim Minneker (Powertrain Manager), Scott Allman (Chassis Development Engineer), racers Tommy Morrison, Don Knowles, Stuart Hayner, Scott Lagasse, and Kim Baker…….. At the third race of the 1990 NASCAR season, the Goodwrench 500, no driver had won a race from pole position for an entire season (29 races), which meant the $7,600 prize, which accumulates for every unsuccessful attempt or rainout, had reached $228,400. Kyle Petty finally broke the streak and clinched the bonus [4 March 1990]. He led 433 of 492 laps, and collected $228,400 in bonus money, for a total purse of $284,450, a single-race NASCAR record at the time. It would be the highest single cash prize awarded during the tenure of the Unocal Challenge award program. Car owner Felix Sabates presented Petty with a Rolls Royce as a gift for winning the elusive bonus……… William Clay Ford Jr., a great grandson of Henry Ford, was promoted by the Ford Motor Company to oversee strategic planning for worldwide operations [8 March 1990]…….20 years ago this week, vever one to back down from controversy, Bernie Ecclestone said he thought a woman could never be an F1 champion [2 March 2000]. “In all likelihood they [women] will never get the opportunity because no one will ever take them seriously,” he said. “Therefore, they’re never ever going to get into a competitive race car. Who is going to take a chance? Ferrari can’t take a chance.”

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