23-24 January: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

-23 January –

1948: The first annual Automotive Equipment Display and Hot Rod Exhibition, presented by the Southern California Timing Association, opened at the National Guard Armory in Exposition Park, in Los Angeles, California.

1949: NASCAR President Bill France promoted a 100-mile race at the new Broward Speedway. The huge two-mile speedway consisted of a paved circle used as taxiways at the Ft. Lauderdale-Davie Airport, Florida, US. Red Byron set the pack in qualifying with a speed of just over 115 mph. Lloyd Christopher won a preliminary 10-mile “Strictly Stock Late Model” race. Fonty Flock won the 50-lap feature at an average speed of 97 mph.

1955: The Argentine 1000 Kilometers World Sports Car Championship was won by Enrique Saenz Valiente and Jose Maria Ibanez in a Ferrari.

1966: Dan Gurney won his fourth consecutive Riverside 500 to set a Grand National record. Gurney’s streak would be broken the following year, but he would win again at Riverside in 1968. All five of Gurney’s career Grand National victories occurred at Riverside. He also won races in the Indy Car, NASCAR, Can-Am, and Trans-Am Series. Gurney was the first of three drivers to have won races in Sports Cars (1958), Formula One (1962), NASCAR (1963), and Indy Car (1967) (the other two being Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya). In 1967, after winning the 24 hours of Le Mans together with A.J. Foyt, he spontaneously sprayed champagne while celebrating on the podium. Apart from starting this tradition, he also was the first to put a simple right-angle extension on the upper trailing edge of the rear wing. This device, called a Gurney flap, increases downforce and, if well designed, imposes only a relatively small increase in aerodynamic drag. At the 1968 German Grand Prix he became the first driver ever to use a full face helmet in Grand Prix racing.

1972: Jackie Stewart won the first Argentine Grand Prix run since 1960. Argentina’s Carlos Reutemann made his Grand Prix debut in spectacular fashion, claiming pole in his Brabham BT34. Brabham also had a new manager, Bernie Ecclestone. Lotus appeared for the first time in gold and black John Player colours. Sand & gravel strewn on the track in an early incident caused several problems. New Lotus driver Dave Walker stalled, ran back to the pits for a hammer and re-started, but was disqualified for using tools not carried in the car. Meanwhile, Reine Wisell, replaced at Lotus by Walker, continued after getting out of his BRM and manually unsticking the throttle. Reutemann gambled on softer tyres and quickly faded, but after pitting late for new tyres, charged from 14th back to 7th. Stewart’s Tyrell won by 25.9 seconds over Denis Hulme in a McLaren.

1972: Richard Petty won a fog shortened NASCAR GN “Western 500” at Riverside International Raceway. The race began in foggy conditions which worsened, forcing the race to be flagged after 149 of a scheduled 191 laps. Just days earlier, STP had signed a multi-year sponsorship of Petty. The trio of A.J. Foyt, Bobby Allison and Petty dominated the race. Foyt was in 2nd when his transmission broke on lap 107 and Allison was slowed late by a faulty valve spring. Allison’s Chevy was over a minute behind Petty’s Dodge when the red and checkered flags fell. Bobby Isaac, Ray Elder and Hershel McGriff rounded out the top five. Mark Donohue debuted Roger Penske’s AMC Matador. The Bown family had a promising day go sour. GNW star Dick qualified 5th only to have the hood fly up on the pace lap!. He returned to finish 13th while young son Chuck, making his GN debut, crashed.

1977: Carlos Reutemann secured his first win for Ferrari at the Brazilian Grand Prix, his second victory at the event. James Hunt led for half the race until he was forced to pit and concede the lead, and he eventually took second while Niki Lauda was third. After the race an angry Carlos Pace accused Hunt of reckless driving. “He came much too close to me to overtake,” Pace fumed. “There was plenty of room for him to pass and yet he cannoned into mine. The nose covering and radiator were torn off and I was forced to stop.” Hunt ignored Pace’s tirade, but instead slammed race organisers who he claimed in an attempt to clean the track had “scrubbed it so thoroughly we lost traction”. He had a point as seven cars skidded off and only seven of the 22 starters finished. Hunt also took a pop at the media saying he had suffered “harassment by the press”.

1982: The South African Grand Prix at Kyalami was overshadowed by a dispute between the drivers and FISA, the sports governing body which for some time threatened to cause the cancellation of the race. The drivers had spent Thursday locked in their hotel after objection to new so-called superlicences which, they claimed, removed their ability to enter into contract negotiations during a season. They refused to practice for the Saturday grand prix, and although a truce was called in time to allow the race to happen, FISA suspended the licenses of 29 of them immediately after the finish. Alain Prost in a Renault won despite suffering from such severe tyre vibrations that he was unable to read his instruments – team-mate Rene Arnoux , who had recorded his tenth career pole and who suffered from similar problems, took third with Carlos Reutemann in second. Keke Rosberg came fifth despite the gear knob of his Williams all but blocking the pedals of his car. The other big story was the return of former champion Niki Lauda after two years away to take fourth. “Niki was just fantastic … so fit,” said McLaren’s joint boss Ron Dennis. “It went better than we dared.”

1983: Dana Carter, driving the Rollie Helmling # 54, won the 100-lap USAC Midget race at the Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio, US.

2003: Eddie Irvine announced his retirement after failing to secure a drive for the season. “It’s a sad day for Formula One that Eddie can’t continue,” said former team boss Eddie Jordan. “With Jordan, Ferrari especially, and Jaguar he’s shown great style and lots of character. He has done well out of Formula One and Formula One has been richer for his colourful and intelligent presence.” Flavio Briatore, the team manager of Renault, said: “Eddie was a throwback to former times – a driver who liked to party and enjoy himself but also took his profession very seriously.”

2006: NASCAR announced that the “Car of Tomorrow” would be run at 16 races in 2007, 26 races in 2008, and the full schedule in 2009.

-24 January –

1936: The 1933 AAA Pacific Coast champion and Indy 500 veteran, Al Gordon, died in a crash in what would prove to be the last race held at Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles California, as the grandstands at the track burned down shortly after the race.

1948: The General San Martín Grand Prix at Mar del Plata was won by Giuseppe Farina in a Maserati 8CL.

1954: Ken Miles drove the R-1, an MG special he built, to victory in the Desert Trophy Race at Palm Springs, California, US.

1963: An 851-cc Saab 96, driven by Swedes Erik Carlsson and Gunar Haggböm, became the smallest car to win the Monte Carlo Rally. The exploits of Erik, aka ‘On the Roof’, Carlsson helped put Saab on the automotive map in the 1960s. He is a double winner of the Monte Carlo Rally in 1962 and 1963 and also took a hat-trick of RAC Rally victories in 1960-62. Now 82 years old, Erik was born in Trollhättan, Sweden, the home town of Saab, and was a works driver for the company throughout his career. Today, he is still employed as a roving ambassador for Saab. Erik Carlsson was married to Pat Moss (1934-2008), who was also a successful rally driver with several wins in the Monte Carlo Rally ladies class, She was the younger sister of racing driver Sir Stirling Moss. Erik’s ‘David and Goliath’ battles against larger, more powerful cars are now legendary in the annals of international rallying. With small two-stroke engines, 748 or 841 cc, the first Saabs lacked power for competition use and to overcome this disadvantage Erik developed a special driving technique. It was necessary to keep the engine revving at all times, so he used left foot braking while keeping his right food hard on the accelerator pedal. This allowed him to make the most of his car’s light weight and manoeuvrability while cornering.

1971: The Argentine Grand Prix in Buenos Aires was won by Chris Amon in a Matra MS120.

2000: Twenty-year-old Jenson Button became the youngest F1 driver, when he signed a five-year deal with BMW. “I am still on cloud nine,” Button said when wheeled out to face the media. “The last 45 minutes have been amazing; difficult to explain because I’ve never experienced anything like this before.” Moss was fulsome in his praise. `It’s a fantastic achievement and I wish him all the best,’ he said. `I’m obviously sorry to have been pushed out of the record books as the youngest British F1 driver, but what the hell. We’ll have to start calling him `The Boy’, as they referred to me when I was new to it.”

2005: Eddie Jordan completed the sale of his eponymous F1 team to the Midland Group, owned by Alex Shnaider, a 36-year-old Canadian entrepreneur of Russian origin. Many doubted whether Midland were in it for the long term, and so it proved as the team was sold twice more in the next two years. “I have devoted 35 years of my life to motor racing and have had some really fantastic times,” Jordan said. “I came into F1 on a wing and a prayer. No-one gave us a chance. Frank Williams is the only other team owner to have come through the ranks from Formula Ford to F1. I’m immensely proud of that.”

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