20 – 21 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

Discover the momentous events that took place this weekend in the history of motor sport …….

~20 January~

1924: The banked 5/8-mile dirt Legion Ascot Speedway, Los Angeles opened. Crowds of 10,000 and more were flocking to races held on Sundays in the winter and under the lights on Wednesday nights. The big crowds brought big purses and torrid competition. The speed

and competition came with a price. From 1924 to 1936 some two dozen drivers lost their lives in spectacular crashes. The track became Ascot Motor Speedway and racing continued. On January 25, 1936 the final tragedy struck during a race for two man Indianapolis cars as Al Gordon and riding mechanic Spider Matlock were both killed in a crash.

 This ended racing at Ascot.
1952: Tim Flock won the 100-mile NASCAR season opener at Palm Beach Speedway in West Palm Beach, Florida. The race was 200 laps on the half-mile dirt track. A solid field of 27 cars made the trek to south Florida – a great showing for NASCAR whose GN division was beginning only its 3rd full season.Tim Flock in his #91 Hudson claimed the pole, and Jack Smith qualified alongside him. Frankie Schneider and Ed Samples took the 2nd row in a pair of Oldsmobiles. Iggy Katona – who later made a solid career in ARCA – qualified deep in the field in the sixth start of his 13-race GN career. Al Keller made his 5th start of a limited GN career. Two years later, Keller would be the first driver to win a GN race in a foreign car manufacturer with a victory in Linden NJ driving a Jaguar. Bernard Alvarez escaped injury when his olds flipped over and the roof caved in. NASCAR rules were amended to require the use of steel roll bars on all race cars.
1952: The Rio Grand Prix at Gávea, Brazil was won by José Froilan Gonzalez in a Ferrari 166C.
1957: A Ferrari driven by Cesare Perdisa, Masten Gregory, Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso won the Argentine 1000 Kilometers World Sports Car Championship race on the Costanera circuit. The four drivers covered the 1000 km in 6 hours, 10 minutes. The talk of the race was the V8 Maserati and Stirling Moss built a huge lead in the car before handing over to Juan Fangio. The then four time World Champion proceeded to lap all but Castellotti, only to retire with clutch failure.

1967: The 1965 USAC Rookie of the Year Billy Foster (29) died in a crash while practicing for the ‘Motor Trend 500’ NASCAR GN race at Riverside International Raceway. Foster’s Rudy Hoerr Dodge crashed hard into the turn 9 wall after the brakes failed at the end of the mile long backstraight. The 29 year old driver from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, finished 9th in Champ Car points in 1966 and impressed with a great drive in the season ending non-points race at Fuji, where he retired while leading late in the race after battling (and passing) Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart.
1967: The 1965 USAC Rookie of the Year Billy Foster (29) died in a crash while practicing for the ‘Motor Trend 500’ NASCAR GN race at Riverside International Raceway. Foster’s Rudy Hoerr Dodge crashed hard into the turn 9 wall after the brakes failed at the end of the mile long backstraight. The 29 year old driver from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, finished 9th in Champ Car points in 1966 and impressed with a great drive in the season ending non-points race at Fuji, where he retired while leading late in the race after battling (and passing) Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart.
1968: Three weeks after winning the South African Formula 1 Grand Prix, Jim Clark debuted the new red and white Golden Leaf Team Lotus livery with golden linings at the 3rd round of the 1968 Tasman series by clinching the Lady Wigram Trophy in New Zealand. Contrary to some reports Lotus wasn’t the first team to introduce non-automotive sponsorship. The first ever full sponsorship livery shown to the public on a race car at an international motor racing event had already appeared at the South African Grand Prix, courtesy of Team Gunston.
1971: The Jaguar XJ13 prototype was taken to MIRA for some publicity filming with Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis at the wheel. Unfortunately, a rear tyre (which had been plugged to cure a slow leak) deflated at speed, the car rolled heavily and was nearly destroyed although Norman Dewis was fortunately unharmed. The wreck of the car was put back into storage and later restored by the company.
1994: Ayrton Senna escaped injury after his Williams-Renault span off during a practice session in Portugal. “I braked and the wheels locked,” Senna said. “The car spun round and I stopped against the wall of safety tyres. These things happen in Formula One. I wasn’t hurt at all.”
2005: Professor Sid Watkins, the driving force behind the improvement in medical care at race tracks across the world, announced his retirement after 26 years as the FIA’s medical delegate. He oversaw massive improvements in trackside facilities and safety, and proved a huge favourite in the paddock. A great friend of Senna’s, he considered retiring after the fatal accident at Imola in 1994. Roland Ratzenberger had been killed in practice the previous day and Watkins advised the distraught Senna that he should quit racing there and then, on the eve of his own death. “He was silent,” Watkins said. “I went on, ‘I don’t think the risk is worth continuing; pack it in.’ He gave me a very steady look and, now calm, said, ‘Sid, there are certain things over which we have no control. I cannot quit. I have to go on.’ Those were the last words he ever said to me.” Watkins passed away in 2012, with Jackie Stewart remarking at his memorial service: “‘Unfortunately I’ve been to far too many memorial services. But I would have been to many more were it not for the Prof”.

~21 January~

1911: Twenty-three cars from 11 different locations around Euroep converged on the tiny Principality of Monaco to compete in the first Monte Carlo car rally. Organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco, the challenging race took place along the French Riviera. Results depended not on driving time alone, but on judges’ assessments of the automobiles’ design and passenger comfort, as well as the condition the vehicles were in after covering the 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) of roads not really made for the horseless carriage. The arbitrary system provoked a minor outrage, but the judges’ decision stood. French car dealer Henri Rougier won first place in a Turcat-Méry 45-bhp model. Second place went to a driver named Aspaigu in a Gobron and third to Jules Beutler in a Martini. The rally was held again the following year, but then not again until 1924. World War II and its aftermath interrupted the annual event, with no rallies from 1940 through 1948.
1964: Mini driver Patrick (Paddy) Hopkirk, and his navigator, Henry Liddon, piloted a Mini Cooper S, (Car No. 37, registration 33 EJB) to victory 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Hopkirk crossed the finish line just 17 seconds behind Bo Ljungfeldt in the far more powerful V8-powered Ford Falcon. The handicap formula at the time, designed to even out the weight and power differences between the various cars, meant the classic Mini actually led the way in the overall standings. Hopkirk defended his advantage in the sprint through the streets of Monte Carlo that rounded off the rally. Such was his fame after this win that he was invited on Britain’s most watched television programme, Sunday Night at the Palladium, and he got to meet the Beatles.
1966: The Monte Carlo rally ended in uproar over the disqualification of British cars. The first four to cross the finishing line were Timo Makinen (Finland) driving a British Motor Corporation Mini-Cooper, followed by Roger Clark (Ford Lotus Cortina), and Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, both also driving BMC Minis. But they were all ruled out of the prizes – with six other British cars for alleged infringements of complex regulations about the way their headlights dipped. The official winner was announced as Pauli Toivonen, a Finn who lived in Paris, driving a Citroen. The British teams’ protest to the race organisers was rejected. They boycotted the official farewell dinner held at the International Sporting Club.Prince Rainier of Monaco showed his anger at the disqualifications by leaving the rally before attending the prize-giving which he had always done in previous years. On 13 October 1966, the supreme motor racing and rally tribunal upheld the disqualifications. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in Paris said the iodine quartz headlights fitted on the British cars were not standard. The Citroen declared the official winner, which had similar lamps, was approved because the bulbs were fitted as standard on some models.

1968: Overcoming a blown tyre and a resultant long pit stop, Dan Gurney won the NASCAR Grand National Motor Trend 500 at Riverside International Raceway for the fifth time. Gurney took the lead for good on the 160th lap, going on to take the Wood Brothers Ford under the checkered flag 36 seconds ahead of David Pearson. Parnelli Jones, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough rounded out a Ford top five sweep. Gurney led Jones by 52 seconds when a rear tyre blew on lap 145. The pit stop took 1 minute, 25 seconds when chunks of rubber had to be removed from around the rear axle. Gurney re-entered the race in third, but it only took him 15 laps to regain the lead. A new safety device made it’s first appearance as a number of cars carried a screen over the driver’s side window. Gurney drove #121, marking the last time that a car with a three digit number won a NASCAR GN race.
1973: Mark Donohue drove Roger Penske’s AMC Matador to victory in the NASCAR Grand National Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway. The Matador was equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels. Donohue, who led 138 of the 191 total laps, took the lead to stay on lap 117 and won by more than a lap. Bobby Allison’s Chevy was 2nd with GN West champ Ray Elder, Bobby Unser and GN West driver Jim Insolo rounding out the top five. The win was the first and only NASCAR GN win for Donohue, and came in only his fifth NASCAR start.
1978: Round 1 of the FIA Cup for Rally Drivers, the 46th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (29 stages, 570 km) began. It was won a week later by Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Vincent Laverne in a Porsche 911 Carrera.

1979: Jacques Laffite dominated the season-opening Argentina Grand Prix, taking pole position, fastest lap and the win in his Ligier Ford even though he was briefly headed by Patrick Deppailler. John Watson took third place despite being involved in an eight-car pile-up on the first corner which caused the race to be restarted. Laffite also won the next grand prix, but reliability issues dogged the rest of his campaign and he finished fourth in the drivers’ championship.
1981: Former British racing driver, Thomas Cuthbert Harrison (74) died. For an amateur driver like Cuth Harrison a 6th place in the 1949 Italian Grand Prix was quite a result. He founded the T.C.Harrison Ford dealership.
1993: There was a row before the season had even started when the Williams team – the holders of the drivers’ and constructors’ titles – were omitted from the list of entrants for the opening race in South Africa. While the oversight was easily remediable by all the other teams agreeing to let them enter, Frank Williams revealed two unnamed rivals had refused to do so without being given “concessions”. A Williams’ insider said: Frank feels he has been publicly humiliated, and his sponsors are up in arms. But he has no need to do anything but just sit it out. Everybody knows that the cars will be on the grid come South Africa.” And so it turned out.
2005: The F1 world was taken aback by the tabloid revelations about the behaviour of Kimi Raikkonen who, so papers claimed, danced drunkenly with a lap-dancer and staged his own impromptu strip show for onlookers in a Mayfair club. “It doesn’t make me any slower,” said a huffy Raikkonen after a team press conference had been dominated by the subject. “It’s my private life.
2012: The fastest unimotorcycle drag race elapsed time of 2.38 seconds was achieved by Roman Koltakov (Russia), who covered 100 ft (30.5 m) at the World Ice Championships of Unimotorcycle Drag Racing at Togliatti, Russia.

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