24-25 December: This Weekend in Motor Sport History


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1985: Legendary racing driver Prince Bira of Siam died of a heart attack aged 71 while travelling on the London Underground between Hammersmith and Baron’s Court. It was a very ordinary end for an extraordinary character. Officially called Prince Birabangse Bhanudej Bhanubandh – he start

ed racing in a Riley Imp at Brooklands in 1935. Although he raced in 19 modern-era grand prix, he is more famous for his pre-war successes at the wheel of his pale blue and yellow ERA R2B known as Romulus.

2000: John Cooper, the driving force behind the Cooper Car Company died aged 77. With his father, Charles, he started building racing cars after the Second World War; and it was Stirling Moss who gave the company its first GP victory in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix. This was the first rear engine car to win a grand prix and started a revolution – within two years all the cars on the grid were rear engined. “He made a great contribution to the sport of motor racing – he put England back on top,” Stirling Moss said. “It’s thanks to John Cooper that I was able to get into the sport as his racing cars were relatively cheap.” Cooper’s development of the British Motor Corporation Mini — the Mini Cooper — was adored by both rally racers and ordinary road drivers. Before John Cooper’s death, the Cooper name was licensed to BMW for the higher-performance versions of the cars, inspired by the original Mini, sold as the MINI. John, along with his son Mike Cooper, served in an advisory role to BMW and Rover’s New MINI design team. Cooper was the last surviving Formula One team principal from the formative years of the sport, and he often lamented later in life that the fun had long since gone out of racing. He helped establish Britain’s domination of motorsport technology, which continues today, and he received the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to British motorsport. He remained head of the West Sussex family garage business (which had outlets for Mini Cooper at East Preston and Honda at Ferring) until his death.


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1931: Timekeeper Ernst Christ had his plans to build a racetrack in his home town of Hockenheim, Germany unanimously approved by the municipal council. Building work began in March 1932, and only two months later, on May 25 1932, the first motorcycle race in Hockenheim got under way. The essentially triangular course began on the edge of the town and headed out into the forest roads, before looping back on itself. In 1938 the Hockenheimring assumed its more familiar oval layout, with the inclusion of the Ostkurve and widening of the straights creating a high-speed course. Wooden grandstands and other spectator facilities sprung up, and the gradual change from a temporary course to a permanent facility began. In 1938 it was renamed the Kurpfalzring and that name was used until 1947. After World War II, former DKW and NSU factory rider and world record setter Wilhelm Herz promoted the track successfully. Grand Prix motorcycle racing events were held, with the German motorcycle Grand Prix alternating between Hockenheim and other tracks. The original circuit was almost eight kilometres long and consisted of two long straights with a long “Eastern” corner in the forest and a U-turn inside Hockenheim joining them together. In 1965, when the new Autobahn A 6 separated the village from the main part of the track, a new version of Hockenheim circuit was built, with the “Motodrom” stadium section. After Jim Clark was killed on 7 April 1968 in a Formula 2 racing accident, two fast chicanes were added and the track was lined with crash barriers in 1970. A small memorial was placed near the first chicane, at the site of his accident. In 1982, another chicane was added at the Ostkurve (east curve), after Patrick Depailler was killed there in 1980; and the first chicane was made slower as well. The circuit was shortened in the early 2000s.It has a seating capacity of 120,000, due to new large grandstands sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. The complex also features a quarter-mile track for drag racing. It hosts one of the largest drag racing events in Europe, known as the NitrOlympx, and was one of the last Top Fuel circuits to race to 0.25 miles (400 m) before the FIA switched the nitro categories to the now-recognised 1,000 feet (300 m) distance in 2012.

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