Discover the most momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history ……..
1926: The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper announced the first Mille Miglia road race in Italy. It was established by the young count Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti, apparently in response to the Italian Grand Prix being moved from their home town of Brescia to Monza. Together with a group of wealthy associates, they chose a race from Brescia to Rome and back, a figure-eight-shaped course of roughly a thousand Roman miles. Later races followed 12 different routes with varying total lengths, and the open-road endurance race took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957.
1959: Stirling Moss, driving an Aston Martin DBR2, won the Governor’s Trophy race at Nassau in the Bahamas.
1974: Race car designer Leo Goossen (82) died in Los Angeles. As chief engineer at Meyer and Drake Engineering he continued to develop the Offy throughout the 40s, 50s, and into the 60s; often filling the engine bays of all 33 Indy 500 starters either with Offy engines or their close cousins the V8 Novi engines. After Lou Meyer sold out of Meyer and Drake in the 1960s to form his own company which sold Ford double overhead-cam V8 racing engines in competition with the Offy, Dale Drake and Leo Goosen persevered and reorganized Meyer and Drake as Drake Engineering.
1977: At Indianapolis, Tom Sneva drove his famed Norton Spirit McLaren M24/Cosworth racer for car owner Roger Penske, and became the first driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at a speed of 200 mph (321.9 km/h) or more. He set a one-lap track record of 200.535 mph (322.7 km/h).
1997: Nigel Mansell was stopped by police doing 92mph on a 70mph road in Somerset (England), weeks after he had taken delivery of his new 170mph £233,000 Bentley. His lawyer subsequently told the court that Mansell was “a highly experienced driver who has an unblemished record as far as accidents are concerned. He is meticulous about road safety,” adding that the car was “well-insulated against noise and crept up over 70mph without him knowing.” The magistrates were unimpressed, banning Mansell for six months and fining him £400.
2006: National Midget Racing Hall of Fame racer Len Sutton (81) passed away after losing his battle with cancer. Sutton started his racing career at Portland Speedway in 1946 shortly after getting out of the Navy and was soon a winner in track roadsters, midgets and stock cars on tracks throughout Northwest US. He won four midget races at the Hollywood Bowl in Salem, countless more track roadster races at the track and numerous championships until he left the Northwest in 1956 to race in the big time.
~5 December ~
1925: The paved track at Marouba Speedway, New South Wales, Australia, opened. It was reported to have had a capacity of 70,000. The 1 mile banked concrete bowl was the scene of some large and successful race meetings before a decline in attendances saw the track close in 1927, but reopened many times in the 1930s. Despite the banking being too steep to walk up it was still not enough for the speeds achieved, and four competitors lost their lives going over the top of banking. Three others also died at the circuit, two of whom were motorcyclists. The sensationalist media of the day dubbed it a “killer track” which did little to improve the fortunes of the venue. By the 1940s the track was crumbling due to flooding and poor quality concrete and in 1947 it was demolished and a housing commission suburb was built on the site.
1949: The Central States Racing Association, a rival Midwestern-based stock car racing sanctioning body, announced it would sanction the inaugural Southern 500 at the new Darlington Raceway, South Carolina, US in 1950. Track president Harold Brasington attempted to get NASCAR to sanction the first 500-mile stock car race, but Bill France turned down the offer, fearful the Strictly Stock cars couldn’t go a full 500 miles.
1975: The funeral of former world champion Graham Hill was held at St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire. Over 2,000 people attended – another 2,000 listened outside – and Jackie Stewart was among the pall bearers. “In an age which is short of joy, he brought happiness for millions, and in drawing out that happiness, he drew admiration for excellence and for character,” said the Bishop of St Albans
2002: Gloomy times in the F1 business. Days after Jaguar announced 76 redundancies, Arrows laid off 130 jobs at their Leafield base as a result of them being refused an F1 entry. The news came as another blow to the industry which was struggling to come to terms with falling sponsorship revenues and declining TV audiences across the globe.