Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Bridgestone Corporation, Italian Grand Prix, Bub Seven, the first motor race and the Severn Bridge.
120 years ago this week, A.H. Whiting won the first motor race held on a racetrack [7 September 1896]. A crowd of 40,000 people watched Whiting drive a Riker electric car to victory over the five-lap mile-long dirt track course at the Rhode Island State Fair in Cranston, Rhode Island, US at an average speed of 24 mph. Whiting completed the race in just over five minutes to edge out seven others, six of whom were driving petrol-powered engines….. 115 years ago this week, the first long-distance motor race in the United States began in New York City, ending 5 days and 464 miles later in Buffalo, New York [9 September 1901]. In these early days of motor racing, the determining factor was not speed or endurance, but reliability. David Bishop’s winning Panhard et Levassor only averaged a speed of 15 mph, but managed the entire journey without breaking down – a remarkable feat…… 100 years ago this week, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted a day of short racing events termed the “Harvest Classic,” composed of three races held at 20, 50 and 100 mile distances [9 September 1916]…… 90 years ago this week, Louis Charavel ‘Sabipa’ in a Bugatti T39A won the Italian Grand Prix run over 60 laps of the 10 km circuit at Monza [5 September 1926]. It was the final race of the 1926 AIACR World Manufacturers’ Championship season, which was won by Bugatti. The World Manufacturers’ Championship, also known as Automobile World Championship, was a competition organised by the AIACR between 1925 and 1930. Unlike the modern Formula One points system, the championship awarded fewer points for higher finishes; the champion would be the manufacturer which ended the season on the lowest points score. A manufacturer eligibility was gained by competing in at least two Grands Prix in addition to the mandatory Italian Grand Prix and only score points from its highest-placed car…… 80 years ago this week, Raymond Mays established the ultimate lap record for the Mountains course at Brooklands of 49.06 seconds (84.31 mph) driving an ERA [7 September 1936]…… 60 years ago this week, Jean Herbert driving the Renault Etoile Filante (Shooting Star) at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, US set a land speed record for turbine-powered cars of 195 mph [5 September 1956]……50 years ago this week, the first four level motorway interchange opened
[8 September 1966], the M4/M5 Almondsbury Interchange on the fringes of Bristol. It is one of only three four-level stacks in the UK…… On the same day, the Severn Bridge, spanning the River Severn and River Wye between Aust, South Gloucestershire (just north of Bristol) in England, and Chepstow, Monmouthshire in South Wales, via Beachley, Gloucestershire, a peninsula between the two rivers, was opened by the Queen [8 September 1966]. It is the original Severn road crossing between England and Wales and took three and half years to construct at a cost of £8 million. From 1966 to 1996, the bridge carried the M4 motorway. On completion of the Second Severn Crossing, the motorway from Olveston (England) to Magor (Wales) was renamed the M48.The bridge was granted Grade I listed status in November 1999…… In response to the national uproar over automobile safety prompted by Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed into law [9 September 1966]. Nader’s book targeted the American automobile industry’s neglect of safety issues, using General Motors’ dangerous Corvair model as a focus for his criticism. Congress responded to the nation’s concern by passing a new bill, which established federal safety standards with strict penalties for violations. At the signing of the bill, President Johnson assured Nader and a crowd of several hundred that safety was “no luxury item, no optional extra.”….. John Surtees, driving a Chevy powered Lola T70, won the first race of the new Can-Am series, at St. Jovite, Quebec [11 September 1966]. Can-Am started out as a race series for Group 7 sports racers with two races in Canada (Can) and four races in the United States of America (Am). The series, initially sponsored by Johnson Wax, was governed by rules called out under the FIA Group 7 category with unrestricted engine capacity and few other technical restrictions. The final Can-Am races were held in 1987……40 years ago this week, founder of Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest maker of tires in 1930 in the city of Kurume, Fukuoka, Japan, Shōjirō Ishibashi (87), died [11 September 1976]. Bridgestone was named after its founder: In the Japanese language ishi means “stone” and bashi(/hashi) means “bridge” hence the origin of the company’s name in English…… 20 years ago this week, Ford Ka, a small and low-cost addition to the Ford range. was introduced provoking mixed reactions due to its original and striking “new edge” design [11 Septmber 1996]. It was based on the Mark IV Ford Fiesta platform, but with a completely different exterior design. The design borrowed a lot from Ghia’s “Saetta” show car, a roadster designed by Filippo Sapino. The large, one piece, moulded bumpers and wheel arches made the vehicle more durable and easier to repair. The vehicle was manufactured on the existing Fiesta production line in Almussafes, Valencia, minimising new model investment costs. Ford Ka car sold well, and the model range was expanded with the higher specification Ka2, and Ka3….. 30 years ago this week, continuing its enormous expansion of the 1970s and early ’80s, the Nissan Motor Company Ltd. opened its Sunderland,
England, plant, the first Japanese automobile factory in Europe [8 September 1986]. Established in 1933 as the Jidosha Seizo Company, Nissan remained a mid-size automobile manufacturer until it entered the world market in the 1960s, when its sales grew by leaps and bounds. Nissan, as well as several other Japanese manufacturers, continued to grow through the next decade, propelled by the increasing popularity of their fuel-efficient cars. Nissan eventually opened plants in Australia, Peru, Mexico, the United States, and Germany……15 years ago this week, Ford announced that six Model Ts that replicate the 1914 model would be rebuilt as part of the company’s centennial celebration [6 September 2001]….. The Southern Expressway, the world’s
longest reversible one way freeway, was opened to traffic [9 September 2001]. Built to relieve heavy traffic from the major arterial, Main South Road in Adelaide’s south, it is open approximately 22.5 hours per day – a one-way freeway operating for over 11 hours in each direction. The northbound direction occurs on weekday mornings and weekend evenings, the southbound direction occurs on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. It is closed between approximately 12:40am – 1:10am and 12:30pm – 1:30pm except for Saturday and Monday mornings when the direction remains unchanged. The official closing times given by Transport SA are between 12:30am – 2:00am and 12:30pm – 2:00pm. During each closure all road signs, lights and boom gates switch, and the road is inspected by an RAA van for debris or car breakdowns…… 10 years ago this week, powered by a 3-litre 500 hp turbocharged liquid-cooled V-4 that was built from the ground up specifically for taking the land speed record, the BUB Seven became the first two-wheeled streamliner to break 350 mph [5 September 2006]. With a speed of 350.884 mph, the Denis Manning/Chris Carr affair captured the record, which had been
set just two days prior. Fueled by methanol, the V-4 engine had a maximum displacement just under 3,000cc and was engineered to provide increased traction control on the Salt Flats. The 21-foot-long body of the Seven was based on the anatomy of a Coho Salmon, giving it very low drag. It featured a monocoque carbon fiber frame with carbon, aluminium honeycomb and Kevlar shell and used a computer-controlled, 4-speed air-shift transmission……Kimi Raikonnen started his 100th race, but Michael Schumacher beat him to the win at the Italian Grand Prix [10 September 2006]. After the race, in the press conference, Michael Schumacher announced his retirement from Formula One. The race was his 90th victory. Three years later however in 2010, Schumacher returned to F1 with Mercedes.