FEB 29th 2016

That Was The Week That Was: Anniversaries And Milestones From Motorsport’s Past

February 29

1932: American racer Masten Gregory was born. Known as the ‘Kansas City Flash’, the bespectacled all-rounder took part in 38 Grands Prix for Maserati, Cooper, Porsche, Lotus, Lola and BRM between 1957 and ’65, taking a best result of second in the ’59 Portuguese GP in a Cooper T51. He also raced in the Indianapolis 500 and won races in the World Sportscar Championship, but is best known for giving Ferrari its last Le Mans 24 Hours victory, alongside Jochen Rindt in a 250LM in 1965. He died, aged just 53, after a heart attack in Italy in 1985.

March 1

1980: René Arnoux won the South African Grand Prix for Renault, finishing half a minute ahead of the Ligiers of Jacques Laffite and Didier Pironi. The race marked the end of the road for the Shadow team. One of the American squad’s two DN11s scraped onto the grid in the hands of Geoff Lees, the Englishman classified 13th and last, despite suspension failure with eight laps remaining. Making its first appearance in a GP that day was the Italian Osella outfit. The team’s single car, the FA1 of Eddie Cheever, failed to finish after the American spun off early on.

1992: Formula 1 returned to a revamped Kyalami after a seven-year lay-off. Nigel Mansell carried on where he had left off in 1985, with victory for Williams. It was the first win for the FW14B, with Mansell leading home team-mate Riccardo Patrese to kick start his championship challenge. The weekend marked the first appearance in F1 of Italian lady racer Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify her Brabham BT60B.

March 2

1962: Former Grand Prix racer-turned touring car star Gabriele Tarquini was born. He raced in 38 GPs for tail-end teams Osella, Coloni, AGS and Fondmetal between 1987 and ’92, before turning his hand to tin-tops. He won the British Touring Championship for Alfa Romeo in 1994, the European title in 2003, also for Alfa, and the World crown for SEAT in 2009. Now 53, the ever-smiling Italian still competes in the WTCC.

1998: Richard Burns became only the third British driver, along with Roger Clark and Colin McRae, to win a round of the World Rally Championship. Burns and co-driver Robert Reid triumphed for Mitsubishi in the gruelling Safari Rally to break their WRC ducks. They’d go on to win nine more rallies together and lift the 2001 world title.

March 3

1961: Perry McCarthy, BBC Top Gear’s original ‘Stig’, was born. The Londoner raced in Formula 3, F3000 and made it to F1 with the hopeless Andrea Moda team in 1992. And if you want to know how Perry got on, and a lot more besides, read his hilarious book ‘Flat Out, Flat Broke’. Happy birthday Pel!

1992: Lella Lombardi, the only woman to get on the score sheet in a World Championship Grand Prix, died of cancer, aged 50. The Italian raced 12 times at the top level, for March and Brabham. She finished sixth in only her second start – in the shortened 1975 Spanish GP aboard a March 751, earning half a point for her trouble. She won three rounds of the World Sportscar Championship – at Enna-Pergusa and Vallelunga in 1979, and Mugello in ’81, in an Osella-BMW – and raced four times at Le Mans. She also tackled the Spa 24 Hours, the NASCAR Winston Cup and the DTM.

March 4

1933: The world’s fastest school teacher, Nino Vaccarella, was born. The Sicilian sportscar ace won the Le Mans 24 Hours, for Ferrari in 1964, the Sebring 12 Hours in 1970, also for the Scuderia, and the Targa Florio twice – for Ferrari in 1965 and Alfa Romeo in 1971. He also raced sporadically in F1, tackling four GPs in four different cars – a De Tomaso, a Porsche, a Lotus and a Ferrari. 

1936: Jim Clark, for many the greatest-ever racing driver, was born. In just 72 starts, all for Lotus (in 18, 21, 25, 33, 43 and 49 variants) between 1960 and ’68, he won 25 races and lifted two drivers’ titles – in 1963 and ’65. He also won the Indy 500 for Colin Chapman’s Lotus squad, in 1965, becoming the first man to break the rear-engined monopoly of the legendary US race. He was killed, aged just 32, in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim on April 7, 1968 – a very dark date for motorsport the world over. The softly-spoken, super-talented Scot would’ve been 80 this year. Can you imagine what it would’ve been like to see him demonstrating all manner of Lotus machinery at the Festival of Speed and Revival down the years. Bet he’d still have three-wheeled a St Mary’s Trophy Lotus Cortina around the Motor Circuit with inch-perfect precision…

March 5

1977: Niki Lauda won the tragic South African GP at Kyalami. Welsh ace Tom Pryce had been killed on lap 23 after his Shadow DN8 had struck a young volunteer marshal crossing the track with a fire extinguisher to attend to a stricken car opposite the pits – ironically, the Shadow of Pryce’s team-mate Renzo Zorzi. Pryce was very much a star of the future, having dragged various Shadows to good results since 1974. His best finish was a pair of thirds – in Austria in ’75 and Brazil the following year – and he famously took pole for the British GP at Silverstone in ’75.

The ill-fated Kyalami race also marked the final appearance at the top level of the BRM team. The legendary Lincolnshire outfit won 17 races during its 25 years in F1, as well as the 1962 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships with Graham Hill and the 1.5-litre V8 ‘stackpipe’ P57. 

March 6

1971: Mario Andretti took his maiden Grand Prix win, with victory for Ferrari in the South African GP. The American defeated the pole-sitting Tyrrell of Jackie Stewart by 21 seconds and secured his first career fastest lap in the process. It would be more than five years before one of motorsport’s greatest all-rounders won again, with the JPS Lotus team for which he’d go on to win the 1978 title.

1988: The Sauber-Mercedes C9 of Mauro Baldi, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Goodwood favourite Jochen Mass won the opening round of the World Sportscar Championship, the Jerez 800km. They beat the TWR Jaguar XJR-9 of John Nielsen, Andy Wallace and John Watson and the Joest Porsche 962C of Klaus Ludwig and Bob Wollek to steal an early march in the title battle.

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