5-6 November: This Weekend in Motorsport History

5th November

1950: The first Pebble Beach Road Races (California) were staged, with the main event won by Phil Hill in a Jaguar XK120. The races were  managed under the auspices of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of  America), as were most races from that day to this. The route was originally 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long, but was lengthened from 1951 onwards to 2.1 miles (3.4 km). Not all of the “track” was paved; the original 1950 route consisted of both paved two-lane roads and sections of dirt or loose gravel.

1952: Joe James, who competed in two Indianapolis 500s, died on this day after an accident three days earlier at San Jose Speedway. A native of Mississippi, that year he was the AAA Midwest Sprint car Champion with six victories to his name. On October 17 he was crowned as the champion at a banquet in Dayton, Ohio. Sixteen days later he was blinded by the sun, failed to see a yellow flag and ran over a wheel on the track. His car flipped and he suffered massive head injuries. A Joe James Memorial Auto Race , set up in 1953, ran every year until the track was closed in 1999.

1966: David Piper and Richard Atwood drove a Ferrari 365P2/3 to victory in the 9 hour sports car race at Kyalami, South Africa.

1978:  Richard Petty appeared to win the NASCAR Winston Cup race at Atlanta, Georgia, USA, but after the scoring was rechecked, the win was given to Donnie Allison. This was Allison’s last career victory.

1987: Sports car and Grand Prix driver, Adolf Brudes von Breslau (50) died. Brudes began his racing career on motorcycles before switching to cars, taking third place in the 1940 Coppa Brescia just before Italy’s entry into the Second World War. He started racing again after the war and took part in the 1952 German Grand Prix in a Veritas RS-BMW after which he competed in many varied production car events, mainly for Borgward.

1989:  On a rainy day in Adelaide the 1989 Australian Grand Prix was stopped after only one lap due to excessive rain. On the restart, Ayrton Senna led the field from pole, but retired after 13 laps. His buddy Thierry Boutsen gained the lead after starting 3rd on the grid and scored his second Grand Prix win. Boutsen had earned his first win in Canada earlier that season.

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6th November

1907: The first track records were set at Brooklands Frank Newton in a 25.6 hp Napier covered the flying 1/2 mile at 77.92 mph and H C Tyron in a 38.4 hp Napier raised this record to 86.75 mph later in the day.

1909: Joe Nikrent drove a Buick to victory in the Los Angeles-to-Phoenix road race. Nikrent covered the 480 miles in 19 hours and 13 minutes at an average speed of 24.98 mph.

1909: Victor Héméry set a new speed record at the Brooklands circuit of 202.691 km/h (125.946 mph) driving the famous 200hp “Blitzen Benz” (Lightning Benz).

1933: English Racing Automobiles Ltd was founded by Humphrey Cook, a wealthy young Oxford graduate who had a passion for motor racing and was determined to construct a competitive British car to compete successfully on the international circuits.

1949: Rex Mays (36), AAA Championship Car driver was killed in a crash during the only Champ Car race held at Del Mar Fairgrounds race track in Del Mar, California. Mays swerved to miss a car that had crashed in front of him. The car went out of control and flipped, throwing Mays to the track surface, where he was hit by a trailing car.

1955: Jack McGrath died at the age of 36 at the last race of the 1955 season on the dirt track in Phoenix, Arizona. The first driver to qualify for Indy at over 140 mph, McGrath had a fine record at the brickyard but never won the race. The race was won by Jimmy Bryan driving a Kuzma-Offy.

1965 Richard Atwood and David Piper drove Piper’s Ferrari 365P2 to victory in the Rand 9 Hour Race at Kyalami, South Africa.

1977: The first side-by-side eight second bike race in Europe occurred during Santa Pod Raceways Fireworks Spectacular. Henk Vink just got to the line first with an 8.47/155 to John Hobbs 8.76/166.

1988: Regarded by fans a true “underdog”, independent owner/driver Alan Kulwicki won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race at Phoenix, the track’s first Cup event. After he took the checkered flag,

Kulwicki  proceeded to turn his car around and make a clockwise (backwards) victory lap, much to the delight of fans. By driving in the opposite direction, Kulwicki was able to lower his window net, and wave directly to the fans. Kulwicki called it a “Polish victory lap,” (Kulwicki was of Polish descent). Kulwicki, who had done it previously in lower rungs of racing, would repeat the gesture after winning the 1992 championship. Following his death in 1993, several drivers adopted the celebration to honor Kulwicki’s memory.

1994: Damon Hill’s victory in the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix kick-started his faltering, and ultimately futile, championship bid. In a two-part  race, interrupted because of rain, Hill beat Michael Schumacher by three seconds leaving him needing just to finish ahead of him in the season finale in Adelaide to take the title. “I was on the radio on every lap,” Hill said, “being informed of Michael’s progress and it just served to spur me on. I told them there was no point telling me to go faster, because I was already on the limit.” In dreadful conditions, Martin Brundle admitted he had a lucky escape when he came within an inch of hitting a caterpillar tractor removing Gianni Morbidelli’s Footwork. “I really thought that was it,” he said. “I hit a patch of standing water and closed by eyes … I really thought this is the end.”

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