8-9 April: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

~ 8 April ~

1901: The first formal automobile race in Great Britain, staged at the Crystal Palace in London, was won by Charles Jarrott driving an 8-hp Panhard et Levassor.

1910: The Los Angeles “The Boards” Motordome, the first speedway with a board track, opened near Playa Del Rey, California, with a nine day series of races and exhibitions. The wooden track had a circumference of 5,281 feet. Board tracks were paved with 2×4’s and were steeply banked at angles as high as 45 degrees allowing car-racing daredevils to reach speeds up to 100mph with no hands on the steering wheel.The L.A. Motordome, affectionately known as “The Boards,” was a huge success. By 1915, nearly a half-dozen board tracks had popped up around the country. By 1931, there were 24 board tracks in operation including tracks in Beverly Hills, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Atlantic City. The Beverly Hills track stood approximately where the prime-time shopping blocks of Rodeo Drive are located now. No tracks have ever approximated the speeds allowed on the heavily banked boards. Board tracks began to fade from existence during the Depression. The lifetime for 2×4’s exposed to racing tires is approximately five years after which deadly splinters and potholes begin to dot the track’s smooth surface. During the Depression, the expensive upkeep of the board tracks made them impractical. The last decade of board racing was a sight to behold. Cars tore down straightaways at 120 mph while carpenter’s patched the tracks from beneath. It wasn’t unheard of for mischievous children to peek their heads up through holes in the board tracks to watch their favourite racers with a squirrel’s eye view. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be!

1916: Racer Bob Burman crashed through a barrier into the crowd at the last Boulevard Race in Corona, California. Burman, his riding mechanic Eric Scroeder, and a track policeman were killed, and 5 spectators were badly injured. The boulevard race started in 1913 as part of the AAA national championship schedule. The race was run on Grand Boulevard, a street that formed a perfect three-mile circle. Bob Burman was coming off an attempt at the world land-speed record at Brighton Beach, New York, where he had run 129 mph. Burman led most of the race at Corona before his blue Peugot broke a wheel, sending the car over the curb and into a pole. A short time later Eddie O’Donnell crossed the finish line in his Duesenberg and took first place. The tragedy ended racing in inland Southern California for almost 40 years.

1973: The 25th BRDC International Trophy, a non-championship Formula One race held at Silverstone, over 40 laps, was won by Jackie Stewart in a Tyrrell-Cosworth 006.

1979: In the Rebel 500 event at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, drivers Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty swapped the lead four times in a last-lap battle before Waltrip finally won the race. The race also featured a pit stop mishap in which driver David Pearson, following a miscommunication with his crew, drove away with only two of his four tires properly changed. Pearson’s car flipped over and retired from the race. The embarrassing incident led to Pearson, who was a top driver, being released from his team, the Wood Brothers.

1979: Canadian Gilles Villeneuve captured pole, fastest lap and the win for Ferrari at the United States West Grand Prix at Long Beach, California, followed by teammate Jody Scheckter, as the Prancing Horses took a big step toward reclaiming the Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships from Lotus. Villeneuve’s second straight win came by almost half a minute over Scheckter, as Alan Jones joined them on the podium for Williams. It was the third win of Villeneuve’s career, his second consecutive, and the third United States Grand Prix win in a row for Ferrari.

2007: The Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang was won by Fernando Alonso in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22. McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished second. This marked McLaren’s first one-two finish since the 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix.

~9 April ~

1935: The Alfa Romeo Bimotore 16-cylinder racecar was unveiled to the press. Although every inch an Alfa Romeo, the Bimotore was the brainchild of Enzo Ferrari and Luigi Bazzi, one of Ferrari’s engineers at Scuderia Ferrari. In the early 1930’s, Scuderia Ferrari had been delegated the responsibility for running the Alfa Romeo racing operation. Indeed, it is said that the 1935 Alfa Romeo Bimotore is the very first car to carry the now famous prancing horse insignia of Scuderia Ferrari on its flanks and above the Bimotore’s valentine heart-shaped grille work. The Bimotore’s distinction was that it had two supercharged straight eight engines, one mounted in the front, the other behind the driver, both engines somehow shoehorned into a special beefed-up chassis. It also had two hand cranks to turn over the engines, one under the grille and one in the rear. The two engines in the 6.3 litre Bimotore came right out of the Alfa Romeo P3: two 3.165 litre engines, which together developed 540 bhp and gave the Bimotore stunning top-end performance; the contemporary Mercedes-Benz developed 430 bhp and the Auto Union developed 375 bhp.

1961: The Brussels Grand Prix was held at Heizel. The race was run in three “heats” of 22 laps each and the times were aggregated. The race was won by Australian driver Jack Brabham in a Cooper T53.

1971: Frank Gardner passed Brian Redman with 2 laps to go and went on to win the European Formula 5000 series race on the Snetterton circuit. Gardner hung a few car lengths back of Redman until making the pass down the long Norwich Straight on the 23rd of 25 laps. Gardner took his works Lola T192 across the line 4 tenths of a second ahead of Redman’s McLaren M18. Only 13 cars entered and just 11 managed to start in the wake of crashes at the opening race at Mallory Park and test/practice mishaps. Opening round winner Mike Hailwood was absent after wrecking his car in a Goodwood test while Gordon Spice and Graham McRae crashed in private practice the day before.

1988: White-haired, underfunded, 50-years-plus former drag-boat and motorcycle race Eddie Hill became the first person to run a ¼ -mile dragstrip in under 5 seconds when he ran a 4.990 second ET in his Top Fuel dragster at the Texas International Hot-Rod Association Nationals. An on-board computer readout showed he set the record on seven cylinders, as one failed at launch.

1995: The Argentine Grand Prix (formally the XVIII Gran Premio Marlboro de la Republica Argentina) was held at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the second round of the 1995 Formula One season and was the first Formula One race to take place in Argentina since 1981. The race, contested over 72 laps, was won by Damon Hill driving a Williams-Renault FW17.

2000: Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F1-2000 won the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.

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