5-11 July: Motoring Milestones

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


120 years ago this week, the speed limit for cars in towns in France was set at 10 km/h (6 mph) [8 July 1901]…….90 years ago this week, the Bentley Company found it could no longer meet its financial obligations and, with Chairman Woolf Barnato unwilling to continue baling it out, it was put into receivership [10 July 1931]. Following a brief battle with Napier, Rolls-Royce, hiding behind the British Equitable Central bought the Company and its assets for £125,275……80 years ago this week, at 3 a.m. Hungary, apart from its capital city, switched to driving on the right-hand side of the road [6 July 1941]……70 years ago this week, Fonty Flock prevailed in a wreck-strewn 100-mile race at the Bain­bridge, Ohio, Fairgrounds. Only five cars finished the brutal event on the one-mile dirt oval [8 July 1951]…….60 years ago this week, the last Renault 4CV, the first French car to sell over a million units, was built [6 July 1961]. First produced in August 1947, the 4CV was a four-door saloon of monocoque construction, with front ‘suicide doors’ (hinged at the rear) and a rear Renault Ventoux engine in a rear-wheel-drive layout. It was superseded by the Dauphine……Fred Lorenzen drove a Holman-Moody Ford to a runaway victory in the Festival 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Georgia, US [9 July 1961]. Lorenzen, who started fifth, led 52 of 167 laps in lapping the field at the 1.5-mile track……50 years ago this week, the 15,000,000th Pontiac automobile was produced, a black Grand Ville 4-door hardtop [6 July 1971]……. Pedro Rodriguez (31) died [11 July 1971]. An eccentric, he everywhere with his famous deerstalker hat and bottle of Tabasco sauce for use at the world’s finest restaurants. After a slow start he had emerged to become a good Formula 1 driver and an even better one in sports cars…..40 years ago this week, Alain Prost driving a Renault RE30 claimed the first of an eventful 51 wins for Renault, at the French Grand Prix.[5 July 1981]…..30 years ago this week, Bill Elliott posted a resounding triumph in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, Florida (US) [6 July 1991]. Elliott led a 1-2-3 sweep for Ford. Darrell Waltrip survived a wicked side-over-side tumble down the backstretch on the 120th lap…….The first French Grand Prix to be held at the new Magny Cours venue, was won by Nigel Mansell in a Williams-Renault FW14 [7 July 1991]……20 years ago this week, less than five months after Dale Earnhardt’s death in the Daytona 500, NASCAR returned to Daytona International Speedway [7 July 2001]. Much to the delight of the crowd, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dominated most of the Pepsi 400. After a late-race caution for a crash on lap 143, Earnhardt, Jr. charged from 7th place to first in less than a lap and a half, and took the lead with 5 laps to go. With teammate Michael Waltrip protecting the position in second place, Earnhardt, Jr. took the dramatic victory. An emotional post-race celebration saw Earnhardt, Jr. mimic his father’s actions by spinning donuts in the tri-oval grass. Ironically, Earnhardt, Jr. and Waltrip finished in reverse order of the Daytona 500……..The BMW Mini went on sale in the UK [8 July 2001]. By 10:00 am the 148 dealerships had taken more than 3,000 orders. The hatchback/hardtop Mini was the first model of the new generation Mini, and was back then known as simply Mini. It was available in Cooper, Cooper S and One variations at launch. In many European markets, the Mini One was powered by a 1.4 litre I4[34] version of the Tritec engine but all other petrol powered Minis used the 1.6 litre I4 version. The names Cooper and Cooper S followed the names used for the sportier version of the classic Mini, which in turn come from the involvement of John Cooper and the Cooper Car Company. The Cooper heritage was further emphasised with the John Cooper Works (JCW) range of tuning options that are available with the Mini. John Cooper also created a one-off racing model of the Mini Cooper S named the Mini Cooper S Works. This car featured many extras which help to improve performance, such as a racing exhaust and air filter as well as uprated suspension. The car also had one-of-a-kind 17-inch (430 mm) racing wheels. The Mk I Mini One, Cooper and Cooper S used some version of the reliable, Brazilian-built Tritec engine, co-developed by Chrysler & BMW; the Mini One D used a Toyota-built 1ND-TV diesel engine. In August 2006, BMW announced that future engines would be built in the UK, making the car essentially British-built again; final assembly took place at Oxford, and the body pressings were made in nearby Swindon at BMW’s Swindon Pressings Ltd subsidiary. The last Mk I variant was the Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit: a light-weight, quasi-race-prepped John Cooper Works model. Hand-finished by Bertone in Italy, it was offered as a limited-production run of 2,000 cars during the 2006 model year, with 444 of those originally intended for the UK market (although ultimately, 459 were sold)……10 years ago this week, Fernando Alonso won the British Grand Prix for Ferrari [10 July 2011]. It was the ninth race of the 2011 season, and saw the introduction of a ban on off-throttle blown diffusers, the practice of forcing the engine to continue to produce exhaust gasses to generate downforce when drivers are not using the throttle.

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