24-25 October: Motoring Milestones

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


24 October

1924: More than 50,000 people pack the grandstands and infield for the inaugural race at the first Charlotte Speedway (north Carolina, US). The 250-mile contest featured the same drivers who competed in the Indianapolis 500, was won by Tommy Milton in a Miller. The track, a daringly-banked mile oval, is built of two-by-four wooden boards. The cars, one-seat ancestors of modern-day Indy racers, reach speeds of 130 mph. The speedway was part of a national circuit of board tracks that lifted racing from its dirt-track origins. But the Charlotte Speedway closed in 1927, victim of a dangerously-deteriorating surface — boards popped out and stood upright — and shrinking crowds.

1932: R.G.J. Nash driving a Frazer Nash special called ‘The Terror’ set the fastest time ever by a car up Brooklands’ Test Hill at 7.45 seconds, at an average of 32.44 mph. The ‘The Terror’ reportedly crested the hill at 50 mph and flew about 40 feet before landing! Built in 1909, the 352 feet long Test Hill was divided into three sections, starting with a gradient of 1 in 8, then 1 in 5 and the top third has a gradient of 1 in 4. The Test Hill was used by manufacturers to test both the ability of cars to climb steep hills and also their brakes to stop them coming down.

1948: Nino Farina gave Ferrari their first F1 victory when he won a minor event at Lake Garda, Italy in a Type 125.

1954: Lee Petty finished last in the season finale at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina, US) Speedway, but secured his first NASCAR Grand National champion­ship. Petty finished 283 points ahead of runner-up Herb Thomas. California driver Lou Figaro lost his life in a tumble three laps from the finish.

1965: Richie Ginther won the Mexican Grand Prix at 94.26 mph to give Honda its first ever Formula One victory. It was also tyre supplier Goodyear’s first ever win.

1971: Jo Siffert (35) who won the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix, was killed in the non-championship World Championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch GB, the scene of his first and greatest victory in 1968. The suspension of his BRM had been damaged in a lap 1 incident with Ronnie Peterson, and broke later. This was not admitted by BRM until much later when a BRM ex-mechanic accidentally divulged this fact. The BRM crashed and immediately caught fire. Siffert could not free himself from the burning car.

1976: Richard Petty turned in a dominant second half to roll to victory in the American 500, leading 193 of the 492 laps at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham. Petty, who led all but 10 of the final 164 laps, finished more than a lap ahead of runner-up Lennie Pond. Darrell Waltrip — the Hall of Famer who famously finished second to Pond in the 1973 NASCAR Rookie of the Year vote — came in third, three laps down. Richard Petty’s teenage son Kyle would attend his father’s victory celebrations; getting ready for his NASCAR career. The average speed of the race was 117.718 miles per hour (189.449 km/h).

-25 October-

1902: 23-year-old American Barney Oldfield made his racing debut in a Ford 999 at the Manufacturers Challenge Cup in Grosse Point, Michigan. The race was the beginning of a legendary racing career for Oldfield, who soundly beat his competition, including the famed fellow-American driver Alexander Winton. The cigar-chomping Oldfield went on to become the first truly great American race-car driver, winning countless victories and breaking numerous speed and endurance records.

1903: Felice Nazzaro in a Panhard 70HP followed by Pierre de Caters in a Mors and Alexander Burton in a De Dietrich 45HP, won the Padova – Bovolenta race. The sprint ended in the same order.

1958: Stuart Lewis-Evans (28) died from injuries received after crashing heavily at the dusty Ain-Diab circuit during the season-ending Moroccan Grand Prix. His Vanwall’s engine seized and sent him lurching into barriers at high speed, and his car burst into flames. He was airlifted back to the UK, but died in hospital of his burns six days after the accident.

1959: Jack Smith roared from the middle of the pack on Concord (North Carolina) Speedway’s half-mile dirt track to win the Lee Kirby 300, the season finale for NASCAR’s top series. Smith, who took the green flag in 18th in a draw for starting position, took the lead when Cotton Owens was sidelined by mechanical failure in the 90th lap and led the rest of the 300-lap main event. Lee Petty took second place, one lap down, while Buck Baker placed third, seven laps off the pace.

1964: The Mexican Grand Prix staged perhaps the most dramatic finale in the history of the Formula One World Championship. Championship points could only be scored by the first six place finishers (9-6-4-3-2-1). Arriving to the race, three drivers had a chance of winning the title: Graham Hill (BRM) with 39 points, John Surtees (Ferrari) with 34 points and Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax) with 30 points. In order to win the title Clark had to win the race and hope that John Surtees would finish not higher than third and Graham Hill not higher than fourth. Surtees could only win the title by finishing first, in each case, or second, unless Hill finished as high as third. Surtees finished second, to win the World Championship by one point over Hill (40 to 39) behind Dan Gurney. The race began with Clark leading from pole position with Dan Gurney running second in the Brabham-Climax (Gurney had only ten points going into this race having won the French Grand Prix and scored a sixth place at the Belgian Grand Prix). Hill and Lorenzo Bandini, Surtees’ teammate at Ferrari, were duelling for third place with Surtees running a distant fifth, seemingly with no chance at winning the title. Then Bandini ran into the back of Hill’s car causing him to spin and lose a few places. Thereafter Hill’s car ran with a crimped exhaust pipe causing him to lose power. The championship was now firmly in Clark’s grasp. If the positions remained the same, he would be champion with four victories to Hill’s two victories, although they would be tied on points at 39. But on the penultimate lap, Clark’s engine seized and the positions were now Gurney-Bandini-Surtees. The title was back in Hill’s grasp. Realizing that Surtees could win the title by finishing second, the Ferrari team manager frantically signalled Bandini to slow down as he passed the pits to enter the last lap so as to let Surtees through. Bandini dutifully did so and Surtees finished second, thus winning the World Championship by one point over Hill (40 to 39).

1970: Australian Jack Brabham, three times Formula One champion (1959, 1960, and 1966) and founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor, announced his retirement.

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