Discover the momentous events that took place this weekend in the history of motor sport …….
1953: Art Chrisman made the first sub-10 second (9.40) run from a rolling start, and the sport’s first 140-mph run, a 140.08 on a ¼ -mile dragstrip at Santa Ana.
1956: Johnny Claes, an English-born racing driver who competed for Belgium, died aged 39 from tuberculosis. Before his fame as a racing driver, Claes was also a jazz trumpeter and successful bandleader in Britain. Claes was one of several gentlemen drivers who took part in Grand Prix racing of post-World War II. His first contact with racing was at the 1947 French Grand Prix, where he served as interpreter for British drivers. He made his debut in 1948, in his own Talbot-Lago, raced under the Ecurie Belge banner. Although Claes never scored any points in the World Drivers Championship, he was, like many of his contemporaries, very active in non-Championship Grand Prix races and sports car races. His first win was at the 1950 Grand Prix des Frontières, held at the Chimay race track. In April 1951 Claes crashed into a crowd while practicing at Sanremo, Italy. He was uninjured but an observer was killed and three onlookers were seriously injured. In 1952 he exchanged his outdated Talbot for a Gordini, and later for a Connaught, always with the Ecurie Belge colours, but he also raced occasionally for works team, including Gordini and Maserati. He also won the 1953 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally and took a class win at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans. Claes teamed with Pierre Stasse in a Porsche to finish 12th in the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans. Together with compatriot Jacques Swaters, Claes finished third in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1958: Paul Goldsmith drove Smokey Yunick’s Pontiac to victory in the last stock car race held on the beach at Daytona, Florida, USA.
1963: Jim Hall won the first United States Road Racing Championship race, at Daytona, Florida, USA, driving a Cooper Monaco.
1985: Rick Johnson made the first 5.5 second 1/4-mile pass in a Funny Car at an NHRA event when he ran 5.588 at Pomona, California.
1993: Jeff Andretti set the (then) unofficial closed-course speed record for IndyCars of 234.5 mph, the fastest speed ever recorded at Texas World Speedway (Texas, US), while testing for the 1993 Indianapolis 500. This marked his first time back in an IndyCar since the 1992 Indianapolis 500 when he lost a wheel and crashed head-on into the wall, smashing both his legs. Andretti’s fast run came at the conclusion of two days of testing where he consistently posted laps in the 230 mph range. Andretti’s Buick-powered Lola was prepared by Pagan Racing of Corpus Christi, Texas.
2006: Midland launched the first Russian Formula One car, the M16. Billionaire Alex Schnaider bought the team in 2005 but ran it under the Jordan name and a British license in his debut season. However, for 2006 the team ran under the Midland banner and, for the first time in F1 history, the Russian flag. Towards the end of the season, the team was sold to Spyker Cars and raced in its last three grands prix under the official name “Spyker MF1 Racing”.
1927: Malcolm Campbell established a new World Land Speed record of 174.883 mph along Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire, Wales driving the British built 500 hp Napier-Aero engined Bluebird. It was his third attempt to break the record, the other two ending in failure. A similar fate almost happened again when Bluebird ground to a halt after just 100 yards. “My heart was quaking”, said Campbell, but luckily the car started again and he sped off. He again avoided disaster in the middle of the record-breaking run when the wind tore off his goggles temporarily blinding him. “It was a most terrifying moment and an experience I never wish to have again as long as I live”, he said later.
1934: Captain George Eyston drove a modified Panhard 35CV 214.64 km (133.37 miles) in 60 minutes at the Montlhery race track. This record made waves at the time, but was obviously soon exceeded. Merely twenty years leader, a Panhard two-cylinder vehicle nearly achieved the same performance, reaching 202 km (125.52 miles) in one hour, with an engine that was only one-tenth of the size.
1967: The sport of Rallycross was born at Lydden, Kent, UK. Rallycross is a form of sprint style automobile racing, held on a closed mixed-surface racing circuit, with modified production or specially built road cars, similar to the World Rally Cars, although usually with about 200 bhp (150 kW) stronger engines, due to e.g. their 45 mm turbo restrictor plates. The sport started as a TV show (with especially invited rally drivers), produced by Robert Reed of ABC television for ITVs World of Sport programme, at Lydden Circuit (between Dover and Canterbury) in Great Britain on this day. The first ever true rallycross was organised by Bud Smith († 1994) and the Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 MC, with the aid of Lydden Circuit owner Bill Chesson († 1999), and was won by later Formula One driver as well as 1968 Rally Monte Carlo winner Vic Elford in a showroom Porsche 911 of the British importer AFN, ahead of Brian Melia in his Ford Lotus Cortina and Tony Fall in a BMC Mini Cooper S. After that inaugural event there were another two test rallycrosses at Lydden, on 11 March and 29 July, before the new World of Sport Rallycross Championship for the ABC TV viewers started with round one on 23 September, to be followed by round two on 7 October. The series was run over a total of six rounds (three at Lydden and three at Croft) and was eventually won by Englishman Tony Chappell (Ford Escort TwinCam), who became the first ever British Rallycross champion after winning the final round of the new series on 6 April 1968 at Lydden. Since 1973, Lydden Circuit has seen rounds of Embassy/ERA European Rallycross Championships and FIA European Championships for Rallycross Drivers, the first 23 (till 1996) all organised by the Thames Estuary Automobile Club (TEAC). To this day, Lydden, as the so-called “Home of Rallycross”, still holds British Rallycross Championship racing, especially with its popular Easter Monday meeting. Rallycross is mainly popular in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Great Britain. An inexpensive, entry level type of rallycross is the Swedish folkrace or its Norwegian counterpart, the so-called bilcross. The folkrace is most popular in Finland where it was founded back in late 60’s. In Europe, rallycross can also refer to racing 1:8 scale off-road radio-controlled buggies.
1968: Porsche recorded a 1-2-3 victory in the Daytona 24 Hours. After the car of Gerhard Mitter had a big crash caused by tyre failure in the banking, his teammate Rolf Stommelen supported Vic Elford/Jochen Neerpasch. When the car of the longtime leaders Jo Siffert/Hans Herrmann dropped to second due to a technical problem, these two also joined the new leaders while continuing with their car. So Porsche managed to put 5 of 8 drivers on the center of the podium, plus Jo Schlesser/Joe Buzzetta on 3rd place, with only Mitter being left out.
1970: Racer Sigmund Haugdahl, often cited as the first to use weights on the wheel rims as a means to balance tyres, died in Jacksonville, Florida, US.
1973: Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood drove a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR to victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona, beating the 3-liter prototypes from Ferrari, Matra, and Mirage.
1979: The Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Jacques Laffite in a Ligier-Cosworth JS11. Patrick Depailler made it a Ligier 1-2 finish as he followed his teammate home, five seconds behind. Carlos Reutemann in his Lotus, took the 3rd spot a lengthy 44 seconds back.
1979: Danny Ongais, Hurley Haywood and Ted Field drove a Porsche 935 to victory in the Daytona 24 Hours Sports Car race, round 1 of the World Championship for Makes. The Ferrari 365 of John Morton and Tony Adamowicz finished 2nd with the Porsche 935 of Rick Mears/Bruce Canepa/Monte Shelton coming home 3rd. The winners completed 684 laps around the 3.84 mile Daytona International Speedway course, averaging 109.409 mph.
1987: Bruce Jacobi crashed during a qualifying attempt at Daytona. He died from his injuries 13 days later.
1989: Conrad ‘Connie’ Kalitta became the first man in NHRA history to record a speed greater than 290 mph in the quarter mile when he ran 291.54 mph at Pomona, California.
1990: Davy Jones, Jan Lammers, and Andy Wallace in a Jaguar XJR-12 won the Daytona 24 Hour.
1996: Despite a late race run by Ferrari 333SP driver Max Papis, the Oldsmobile R&S Mk III of Wayne Taylor, Scott Sharpe, and Jim Pace won the 24 Hours of Daytona. Oldsmobile also took first place in the GTS-1 class with Rob and Charles Morgan’s Aurora finishing seventh overall.
2007: A1 Team China made its first ever step on the podium finishing third in the A1GP Sydney, Australia. Germany continued to show its dominance of the season taking its sixth consecutive victory.
2007: Nick Heidfeld took his BMW Sauber for a run on a frozen lake in St Moritz Switzerland as part of an event for sponsors Credit Suisse. He ran on spiked tyres and the engine had to be warmed up with oil and water every half hour to stop it from freezing. Speaking after the event Heidfeld said: “That was quite a unique experience”.
2008: British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton was verbally heckled and otherwise abused during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Catalonia by several Spanish spectators who wore black face paint and black wigs, as well as shirts bearing the words “Hamilton’s family [sic]”. Hamilton became widely unpopular in Spain because of his rivalry with Spanish former team-mate Fernando Alonso. The FIA have warned Spanish authorities about the repetition of such behaviour. In reaction to this behaviour, the FIA announced on 13 February 2008 that it would launch a “Race Against Racism” campaign.