9-10 January; This Weekend in Motor Sport History

Discover the most momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history …….

 9 January

1972: Lee Kunzman won the 75-lap USAC indoor midget race at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum ,Fort Wayne, Indiana, US. Sonny Ates was second followed by Mel Kenyon, Tom Steiner and Roger West.

1972: Ronnie Peterson and Tim Schenken drove a Ferrari 312PB to victory in the 1000K World Championship for Makes endurance race at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1977: In the smouldering heat of the Argentine Grand Prix Jody Scheckter won the 1977 seasons opening in Buenos Aires with the brand new, Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite designed Wolf WR1. It was reigning world champion James Hunt who started off his title defence with pole position in his McLaren. Countryman John Watson shared the front row with him in the Brabham, and Patrick Depailler in the six-wheeled Tyrrell was third on the grid. The weather was, as was very often the case in Buenos Aires oppressively hot, which contributed to the attrition of this race. Watson took the lead at the start with Hunt second. Watson led for the first 10 laps until Hunt moved ahead and pulled away, with Mario Andretti’s Lotus third, but soon the other McLaren of Jochen Mass took the place. Mass had to retire soon after with an engine failure which caused him to spin, and a suspension failure took teammate and race leader Hunt out three laps later. Watson took the lead again, but he also had suspension failures and let teammate Carlos Pace through. Watson eventually retired, and Pace struggled towards the end due to heat in his cockpit and was passed by Jody Scheckter’s Wolf and Andretti, but the latter retired then with a wheel bearing failure. Scheckter took the first win of 1977, with Pace second, and home hero Carlos Reutemann completing the podium for Ferrari. The race is notable as the last time a Formula One constructor won the first Grand Prix the team entered.

1982: Mark Thatcher (cover image), son of the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher along with his French co-driver, Anne-Charlotte Verney, and their mechanic went missing for six days in the Sahara Desert whilst driving a Peugeot 504 in the Dakar Rally. They were declared missing on January 12th and found unharmed three days later after a Lockheed L100 search plane from the Algerian military spotted their white Peugeot 504 some 30 miles off course.

2006: Australian KTM motorcyclist Andy Caldecott (41), died whilst competing in the Dakar Rally, as a result of neck injuries received in a crash approximately 250km (155mi) into stage 9, between Nouakchott and Kiffa in Mauritania.. He won the third stage of the event between Nador and Er Rachidia only a few days before his death. Caldecott, who was married with one child, won the Australia Safari four times from 2000 and 2003 and was competing in his third Dakar. He had retired from riding in 2005, having failed to raise sufficient funds but was given a surprise Dakar Rally chance by KTM just before Christmas, as replacement for Jordi Duran.The death occurred despite efforts by the event organisers to improve competitor safety, including speed limits, mandatory rest at fuTel stops, and reduced fuel capacity requirements for the bike classes.

10 January

1914: Lincoln Beachey in his Curtis biplane and racing driver Barney Oldfield in a Simplex car staged their first “Championship of the Universe” match in Everyville, California, US. The race ended when Beachey’s plane nosedived into the track. They “competed” at 35 venues around the country, including Los Angeles; Salt Lake City; Hamline, Minnesota; Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio; and Brighton Beach, New York. According to an August 13, 1914, newspaper, Beachey’s demonstration at Cincinnati’s Coney Island Amusement Park was “a dazzling and remarkable exhibition of aeroplane flights…. After a bit of skirmishing, he dropped several bombs on a battleship created on the eastern end of the infield of the race track. The bombs were directed with unerring aim while Beachey flew at great speed.” Perhaps the explosives lodged in the mock battleship helped. “Yesterday’s race between the aeroplane and automoibile,” the account continued, “was the first contest of its kind ever staged near Cincinnati, and the contestants were cheered to the echo. On the last lap Beachey was hardly more than twenty-five feet above Oldfield coming down the home stretch.” Together, Beachey and Oldfield earned more than $250,000 (figure around $6 million today) in their 1914 Championship of the Universe. Who won? I’d say Lincoln Beachey and Barney Oldfield were both champions, with thousands of spectators the winners.

1959: New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore was won by Stirling Moss from Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren all driving 2-litre Cooper-Climaxes.

1970: The 1970 New Zealand Grand Prix was a race held at the Pukekohe Park Raceway. The race had 20 starters. It was the 16th New Zealand Grand Prix, and doubled as the second round of the 1970 Tasman Series. Frank Matich won his first New Zealand Grand P in his McLaren Formula 5000 ahead of British racer Derek Bell driving a Tasman Formula specification Brabham-Cosworth. The first New Zealand driver to finish was Graeme Lawrence in the 1969 Chris Amon Ferrari.

1971: Italian driver Ignazio Giunti died competing in the Buenos Aires 1000km race. Unsighted by another car, Giunti’s Ferrari crashed into the back of the Matra of Jean-Piere Beltoise which the driver was trying push along the track to the pits – it was only later that year this was banned. Giunti’s vehicle was thrown into the air, hitting the track 200 yards ahead and bursting into flames. Team-mate Arturo Merzario sprinted 500 yards from the pits and, just as he would do at the Nürburgring in 1976, pulled the driver from the blazing inferno. However, Giunti was already dead although some claimed he died shortly after being dragged from his car. Remarkably, Beltoise escaped unharmed as the impact was on one side of his stricken vehicle while he was pushing at the other.

1997: Marlboro Team Penske’s driver Paul Tracy became the first driver to test on the new Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile (3 km), low-banked, D-shaped oval superspeedway in Fontana, California – which has hosted NASCAR racing annually since 1997.

2004: Joey Payne won the Three Quarter Midget feature at the indoor Atlantic City Convention Hall.

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