Discover the momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history…..
1927: World Land Speed Record holder Parry Thomas (42), was killed at Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire, Wales when the chain of his car, the High Special Babs, snapped severing his head. He was the first driver to die during a world land speed record attempt. This was the final world land speed record attempt made at Pendine Sands.
1932: Alfieri Maserati (44) Italian automotive engineer, known for establishing and leading the Maserati racing car manufacturer with the other Maserati Brothers, died from liver complications related to an accident in 1928.
1956: Ernst Loof (48) died in Bonn Germany. A multiple motorcycle champion prior to the war, Loof also worked as a BMW engineer and built the special 328 coupe which Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Baumer used to win the truncated 1940 Mille Miglia. After the war Loof established himself quite a reputation as designer of the Veritas cars and drove one of these BMW-engined machines in the 1953 German Grand Prix. He later developed a brain tumor and died after a long illness.
1957: Jack Smith took the lead from Buck Baker with 14 laps to go and won the 100 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the 1/2 mile dirt Concord Speedway. Baker finished second and Speedy Thompson third, giving owner Hugh Babb’s factory backed Chevy team a 1-2-3 sweep. Mel Larson of Las Vegas won the pole in his independent Ford, but was retired early.
1973: Mike ‘the Bike’ Hailwood, already one of the world’s top motorbike riders switched to four wheels to try his hand at grand prix racing. He was on the grid for the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami when his dar was struck by Clay Regazzoni’s BRM which then burst into flames with Regazzoni unconscious at the wheel. Hailwood immediately dived into the flames, undid Regazzoni’s seatbelts and dragged him clear of the burning wreckage. Clay was taken to hospital with minor burns while Hailwood was awarded the George Medal for his bravery.
1974: Richard Petty drove his Dodge to victory in the ‘Carolina 500’ NASCAR Grand National race at the North Carolina Motor Speedway. Cale Yarborough, in the Richard Howard Chevy, finished more than a lap behind in second. After the race, Petty criticized the new NASCAR point system.
1991: The Intrepid, with Wayne Taylor driving, makes its IMSA GTP racing debut with a second place finish at West Palm Beach, Florida, USA.
1992: Nigel Mansell set the fastest lap on his way to winning the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in his Williams. He also took pole for the race. Riccardo Patrese was second in the other Williams and Ayrton Senna finished third in his McLaren.
1992: Maria Grazia Lombardi (50), best known as Lella Lombardi, a female racing driver from Italy who participated in 17 F1 World Championship Grands Prix, died. She scored a total of 0.5 championship points, and is the only female Formula One driver in history to have a top 6 finish in a World Championship race, at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. Half points were awarded for this race due to a shortened race distance; hence Lombardi received half a point instead of the usual one point.
1996: Jimmy Vasser drove his Reynard-Honda to victory in the CART race in Homestead, Florida, USA. It was the first CART win for Vasser and the first CART race held at Homestead.
2002: The Australian Grand Prix was run in Melbourne, the first race of the season. The race was won by defending World Champion Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F2001, becoming just the eighth driver to win the event three times since it was first held in 1928. Another hero was Mark Webber, the Australian driver making his F1 debut for the Minardi team which was then owned by Australian Paul Stoddart. Weber finished fifth for the minnows earning 2 points and a fantastic reaction from his boss and the home crowd.
1899: Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat with a Jeantaud electric car weighting 1.5 tons won the third of a series of challenges with Camille Jenatzy in the famous Jamais Contente. Sponsored by the French newspaper La France Automobile (with the aim of breaking the 66 second per kilometre record set by Albert Champion) over a 2 kilometre course in Archeres park, near Paris. The Count won and in the process established a new world land speed record of 92.69 km/h (57.60 mph).
1900: The Automobile Club of America (ACA) staged its first race, a round trip between Springfield, Long Island, NY and Babylon, NY. The winner was Andrew L. Riker driving a Riker of his own design, the only electric car in the field.
1902: The American Automobile Association (AAA) was founded. The American Motor League (AML) had been the first organization to address the problems that commonly plagued motorists, but it fell apart due to a diverse membership that featured powerful carmakers who wanted to limit the AML only to issues that affected car manufacturing and engineering. However, soon trade groups such as the Association of Automotive Engineers took its place, paving the way for more specialized automobile organizations. AAA was formed to deal with the concerns of the motorists themselves, and has been America’s largest organization of motorists since.
1917: Earl Cooper won the AAA Championship race on the 1-mile dirt Ascot Speedway, averaging 65.3 mph in his Stutz. It was the 13th win of Cooper’s great career. Future Indy 500 winner Joe Boyer made his AAA Championship race debut.
1923: French driver Etienne Grua died after his 180 hp racecar spun at 150 km/h in a Le Camp hillclimb turn, in France, crashing down a 200 metre deep ravine.
1934: The great Ernie Triplett-Al Gordon duels in AAA Pacific Coast Championship races came to an end after a tragic accident on the dusty 1-mile dirt oval at the California Mid-Winter Fairgrounds. Triplett and Gordon were dueling for the lead when they came upon Swede Smith’s car. Smith had hit another car stalled on the track for many laps. Triplett, Smith and a mechanic that had run to Smith’s aid all died in the resulting accident and Gordon suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries.
1961: Wendell Scott became the first African-American to race on the NASCAR Grand National circuit, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He made 23 starts that season, posting five top-five finishes.
1968: England’s Piers Courage splashed to victory in the rainy final round of the Tasman Cup series, held on the public road Longford circuit in Tasmania. Jim Clark finished 5th, two spots ahead of title rival Chris Amon, and won the Tasman Cup championship, his 2nd straight and 3rd of his career. Clark won the pole, turning a record lap of 122 mph over the fast, tricky 4.47 mile circuit. For winning the pole, Clark received 100 bottles of champagne from a local vineyard. Rain delayed the start of the race almost two hours and the distance was shortened from 28 laps to 15.
1972: Denny Hulme won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. Emerson Fittipaldi finished second with an impressive drive from Peter Revson finishing third, as he started from 12 on the grid. Mike Hailwood set the fastest lap but a suspension failure put him out 23 laps into the race. Jackie Stewart sat on pole, but a gearbox failure put him out.
1978: Ronnie Peterson won the South African Grand Prix from 11th on the grid in his Lotus, ahead of Patrick Depailler in a Tyrrell and John Watson in his Brabham. Mario Andretti set the fastest lap of the race but finished one lap down in seventh. Lauda was on pole for that race, but his engine expired 53 laps in.
1990: At the third race of the 1990 season, the Goodwrench 500, no driver had won a race from pole position for an entire season (29 races), which meant the $7,600 prize, which accumulates for every unsuccessful attempt or rainout, had reached $228,400. Kyle Petty finally broke the streak and clinched the bonus. He led 433 of 492 laps, and collected $228,400 in bonus money, for a total purse of $284,450, a single-race NASCAR record at the time. It would be the highest single cash prize awarded during the tenure of the Unocal Challenge award program. Car owner Felix Sabates presented Petty with a Rolls Royce as a gift for winning the elusive bonus.
1997: Roger Reiman (58), longtime Harley-Davidson dealer who won the inaugural Daytona 200 contested at the Speedway in 1961 as well as 1964–65 died of injuries sustained in a multi-bike accident. He won the AMA Grand National Championship in 1964 and promoted motorcycle racing in his home state of Illinois.
2001: The first race of the F1 season in Australia also saw the first fatality. In a huge accident Jacques Villeneuve hit the back of Ralf Schumacher, launching Villeneuve’s car into the air. It smashed into the concrete retaining wall, and one of the wheels detached and managed to pass through a small gap in the catch fencing killing marshal Graham Beveridge. This accident lead to the eventual introduction of wheel tethers in Formula One.