22-23 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~22 December~

1997: A miffed David Coulthard found out that a new £55 Nintendo F1 game showed him as being English. Coulthard was listed alongside Damon Hill and Martin Brundle as being among England’s best drivers. A spokesman for Coulthard said: “He has a saltire on his car and his helmet. If they can’t spot that, what hope is there? David will really take exception to this. He’s proud to be Scottish and will be infuriated.”

1998: One of Spain’s greatest champions, Grand Prix motorcycle racer, Ricardo Tormo Blaya (46), died from leukemia. As a member of the Bultaco factory team in 1978, Ricardo Tormo wins his first FIM 50cc World Championship. After a falling out in 1980, Tormo would leave the factory team and would prove to them it was their loss, not his, when, in 1981, he once again is crowned 50cc World Champion but, this time saddling a privately backed Bultaco. He was also a three-time 50cc Spanish National Champion and a four-time 125cc Spanish National Champion. After a divorce from Bultaco, in 1983, together with Jorge “Aspar” Martinez, Tormo signed with the Derbi factory to compete for the 1984 World Championship in the new 80cc category. At the first race of the year at Misano, Tormo’s Derbi suddenly throws a rod putting an end to his Derbi debut. The motorcycle press raise their collective eyebrow, should he have signed with Derbi? The second race of the season was to be held at Spain’s Jarama Circuit. At that time, there were only two official circuits in Spain, one in Jarama and the other in the beautiful Calafat. The team planned test rides before the race, but both circuits were already booked, forcing them to practice in Martorelles. This region of Barcelona was an industrial park just outside of the Derbi factory. The team occasionally had test runs in this area, blocking off the roads to ensure that no cars would interfere with the racers. During a practice prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, a vehicle gained access to the area from one of the team’s assistants who was supposed to have blocked off all of the roads. Tragically, Tormo, who was testing a new racing suit, hit the car and shattered his right leg, ending the career of one of Spain’s greatest Grand Prix racers. In 1994, Tormo received Valencia’s highest honor when he was given the Valencian Community’s High Distinction award. In collaboration with the journalist Paco Desamparados, an autobiography was published, entitled “Yo Ricardo. Una vida por y para la moto” (I am Ricardo. A life by and for motorcycles). In his honor, Valencia’s racetrack was renamed the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.
2003: Zsolt Baumgartner, the first Hungarian to compete in an official race, secured his drive with Minardi thanks to backing worth £2.7 million from his government. Baumgartner made his F1 debut in the 2002 Hungarian Grand Prix as a replacement for Ralph Firman. He was released by Minardi after a season in which he managed only one top-ten finish. Ironically, he replaced Justin Wilson, who himself had only got a drive by virtue of raising £2 million of sponsorship.
2005: Super Aguri were given the go ahead to join the F1 circus. The team, fronted by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki, had submitted a late application to join the grid but had to wait to see if there were objections from any other teams. “I would like to thank all of the teams for approving our late entry,” said Suzuki. “I assure them that the Super Aguri F1 team will co-operate and do our best to reach your expectations.” Super Aguri proved to be anything but super and they they withdrew from the championship four races into their third F1 season having scored four points.

~23 December ~

1922: Salmson , rebodied after a racing accident, was sold in England.

1971: Alessandro Cagno (88), winner of the first Targa Florio, died. One of the toughest competitions in Europe, the first Targa Florio covered 3 laps equalling 277 miles through multiple hairpin curves on treacherous mountain roads in Sicily, at heights where severe changes in climate frequently occurred. Alessandro Cagno won the inaugural 1906 race in nine hours, averaging 30 mph. He was apprenticed at 13 to a Turin engineering factory he was later recruited by Giovanni Agnelli as employee number 3 at F.I.A.T. (Fiat), where he progressed to be a test driver, Agnelli’s personal driver and works racing team driver. In 1906 he won the inaugural Targa Florio in Sicily after switching to the Itala team. Cagno co-founded ‘AVIS-Voisin’ (Atelier Voisin Italie Septentrionale) to build Voisin aircraft under licence. He designed and tested aircraft, founded Italy’s first flying school in Pordenone, and was the first person to fly above Venice. After volunteering as a pilot for the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912) in Libya he invented a bomb aiming device.
1985: “B. Bira” (Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh, 71), Thai Grand Prix motor racing driver (cover image) who raced for the Maserati, Gordini, and Connaught teams, among others, died. Extremly short sighted and always raced wearing glasses or special built goggles, “Bira” was considered to be a good driver if not among the very fastest. He was also an accomplished sculptor and his art works can be seen on the base of a fountain at the Silverstone track.
1993: The 740 bhp V12 Ferrari 93A, a Formula One car designed by Jean-Claude Migeot and built by Scuderia Ferrari for the 1993 Formula One season made its debut to the public. Alesi and Berger had a moderately successful season in the Ferrari 93a, finishing the Constructors Championship in 4th place with 28 points, some 44 points behind 3rd placed Benetton and their Ford powered V8 engined cars.

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