29 February – 1 March: This Weekend in Motor Sports History

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

~29 February~

1920: The Beverly Hills Speedway – 1¼ mile boardway – opened. Jimmy Murphy was the star turn in a Duesenberg. The Speedway operated for four years and attracted many historically significant competitors including Ralph DePalma, Jimmy Murphy, and Tommy Milton. It was also the site of a racing accident that killed National Champion (posthumous) and Indianapolis 500 winner Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Because of rapidly increasing real estate values, the Speedway became an uneconomical use of property. The track was torn down and the Association moved its racing operation a few miles away to Culver City, California in 1924.

1964: Racer Tim Mayer (26) was killed when his Cooper-Climax crashed during a practice run at the Longford Course in Tasmania, Australia.

1968: Jean-Pierre Beltoise took the Matra MS11 race car for its first test run at the Aerodrome de Villacoublay-Velizy in Velizy-Villacoublay, France. The Matra MS11 was used by the Matra team during the 1968 Formula One season, developed from the successful MS7 F2 car. It was relatively unsuccessful compared to its sibling, the Cosworth DFV powered Matra MS10 which Jackie Stewart drove to second place in the World Drivers’ Championship. The car was raced almost exclusively by Jean-Pierre Beltoise with Henri Pescarolo driving a second car at the end of the season. Its best outing came at the 1968 Dutch Grand Prix where Beltoise finished second behind Stewart, and recorded the fastest lap. In 1969, Matra set aside the V12 project, concentrating on the DFV-powered MS80.

1996: Texas Motor Speedway, located in the northernmost portion of the U.S. city of Fort Worth, Texas, US opened.

~1 March~

1959: Curtis Turner drove a Holman and Moody Ford Thunderbird to victory in the 110-lap race on the .9-mile dirt oval in Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA. It was the first NASCAR win for a Thunderbird.

1965: Racer Rocky Trosize (25) was killed after a crashing during the Australian Grand Prix in Hobart, Tasmania – photographer Robin Dabrera was also killed in the accident.

1969: Jackie Stewart won the Formula One South African Grand Prix held at Kyalami, the first round of the 1969 F1 season, in his Matra-Cosworth MS10. Stewart started in the second row and went on to lead every lap, finishing 18.8 seconds ahead of Graham Hill’s Lotus.

1970: James Hylton held off a furious rally by Richard Petty to win the Richmond 500 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, US. It was Hylton’s first career NASCAR Grand National win and his first start in a Ford after campaigning a Dodge for four years.

1975: The South African Grand Prix at Kyalami was won by Jody Scheckter in a Tyrrell-Cosworth 007 – the first South African driver to win the race. He took over the lead of the race from Carlos Pace on lap three and took a three second win over over the Brabham BT44B of Carlos Reutemann. Scheckter’s Tyrrell team mate Patrick Depailler finished third.

1980: The Osella (cover image) made its Formula One debut in the South African Grand Prix in Kyalami. But the car designed by Enzo Osella and Giorgio Stirano and driven by Eddie Cheever was involved in an accident and was forced to retire on lap 8. The race was won by French driver René Arnoux driving a Renault RE20. It was Arnoux’ second World Championship victory adding to his win at the previous race the 1980 Brazilian Grand Prix. Arnoux won by 34 seconds over fellow French driver Jacques Laffite driving a Ligier JS11/15. Laffite’s Ligier team mate Didier Pironi was third, completing an all France podium. This was the first race since the 1968 United States Grand Prix to have a podium made up of drivers from just one country. All three drivers were also driving French built cars.

1981: Darrell Waltrip drives the Junior Johnson Buick to win Rocking­ham’s Carolina 500, North Carolina, US. Waltrip has won two of his first four starts with the highly regarded Johnson team.

1984: British racing driver, Peter Walker (71), died. The pre-war ace started his career in 1935 after linking up with his good friend Peter Whitehead. Walker won at Brooklands and Donington Park prior to World War 2, and then took up the sport again after the hostilities. He finished seventh in the 1951 British Grand Prix in a 1.5-liter supercharged BRM V16 despite being half roasted in the stifling cockpit. A strong driver in most disciplines, Walker was most adept in sports cars, winning Le Mans in 1951 and two Goodwood 9 Hours races. Effectively retired after a crash in 1956 left him with serious injuries, racing just once more in a one-off race at Syracuse in 1957.

1986: Dale Earnhardt became the first driver to win the first two races of a Nationwide season with his victory at Rockingham, North Carolina, US. His victory a week earlier at Daytona was his second of seven Nationwide Series wins at Daytona.

1987: Glenn Seton drove a Nissan Skyline to victory in the Australian Touring Car race at Calder Park in Victoria, Australia.

1987: German racing driver Wolfgang Seidel (60) died of a heart attack. He participated in 12 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 2 August 1953. He scored no championship points. Seidel often entered cars under his own name, or under the Scuderia Colonia banner.

1992: The first round of the season at Kyalami was won by Nigel Mansell in his Williams Renault in front of a crowd of 80,000. There was controversy when Andrea Sassetti, the new owner of the hapless Andrea Moda team, was told to pay US$100,000 to enter his team. He disputed this as he had already purchased an existing team; he was forced to pay up despite both the March and Fondmetal teams, who were in a similar situation, being exempt from the fee.

1998: Mark Martin drove his Ford Taurus to victory in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nevada (US). Martin finished 1.6 seconds ahead of teammate Jeff Burton as the Jack Roush team posted a 1-2 showing.

2002: Grand American series driver Jeff Clinton (38) was killed during practice in a crash at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Clinton’s car veered off course as he entered Turn 1 and flipped. He suffered fatal head injuries and died at the scene.

2009: Ron Dennis retired as team principal of McLaren Mercedes F1 team and handed over the reins to Martin Whitmarsh. Dennis remained executive chairman of McLaren automotive and turned his attention to different areas including its road car project.

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