MAR 07th 2016

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

March 7

1970: Jack Brabham took his 14th and final Grand Prix win – in South Africa. The triple World champion, who was just a few weeks from his 44th birthday qualified his Brabham BT33 third behind the March-Fords of Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon at Kyalami, eventually beating the McLaren of former team-mate Denny Hulme by 8.1s.

1947: World Rally legend Walter Röhrl was born. The lanky German won 14 WRC events between 1975 and ’85, for Opel, Fiat, Lancia and Audi, and took the drivers’ title in 1980 for Fiat and ’82 for Opel. He also claimed Monte Carlo Rally victory on four occasions for four different manufacturers.

1981: Fiat scored its 21st and last WRC win thanks to long-time favourite son Markku Alén who took the 131 Abarth to victory in Portugal – his ninth for the Italian firm. He beat the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus of fellow Finn Henri Toivonen by more than nine minutes.  

1999: Eddie Irvine secured his maiden Formula 1 win at the start of his fourth season with Ferrari. The Irishman won the Australian GP in Melbourne from the Jordan of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher’s Williams.

March 8

1953: The very first qualifying round of the World Sportscar Championship took place at the Florida airfield circuit of Sebring. The race was won by the Briggs Cunningham-entered Chrysler V8-engined Cunningham C4-R of Americans John Fitch and Phil Walters. They beat the Aston Martin DB3 of period Goodwood regulars George Abecassis and Reg Parnell by a lap to record an historic victory – one that would remains Cunningham’s only win at WSCC level.

1998: Mika Hakkinen carried on where he left off at Jerez at the end of 1997 with victory for McLaren in the Australian GP, ahead of team-mate David Coulthard who controversially let the Finn past under team orders following pitstop-instruction confusion. The silver cars finished a lap ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Williams. The race also marked the first appearance of the newly mandated narrow-track cars and grooved slick tyres.

March 9

1937: One of racing’s greatest all-rounders, Brian Redman, was born. The ‘Flying Lancastrian’ won all the big endurance events, for Ford, Porsche and Ferrari, including the Daytona 24 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, the Spa 1000kms (four times in four different cars) and the Targa Florio. He also excelled in single-seaters, winning three US Formula 5000 titles.

1950: Former Grand Prix driver, IndyCar Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan was born. The American is also a three-time race winner at the Revival, winning the Sussex Trophy in a Lotus 15 and the RAC TT Celebration race in Shelby Cobra Daytona in 2000, as well as taking Glover Trophy F1 honours in a Lola Mk4 in 1998’s inaugural meeting.

March 10

1967: British industrialist Tony Vandervell, the brains behind the Vanwall Grand Prix team, died, aged 68. Vandervell made his fortune in thin-wall bearings and, after a brief and unspectacular career in the driving seat, created the first Vanwall from a Cooper chassis for 1954. The team evolved into a frontrunner and would win nine GPs across 1957 and ’58, as well as securing the inaugural Constructors’ Championship in the latter season, thanks to the efforts of top British stars Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks.

1991: The third and final Grand Prix on the streets of Phoenix was won by Ayrton Senna’s McLaren, the Brazilian becoming the first driver to score 10 points for a win after the rule change came into force for that season. The weekend also marked the debut of the Jordan team. Only one of the two stunning, 7-Up-sponsored 191s made it into the race, Belgian Bertrand Gachot finishing 10th. The sister car of Italian veteran Andrea de Cesaris didn’t make it through pre-qualifying on Friday morning. The Arizona street race would be the last race in America until Indianapolis stepped in to host the event in 2000.

1996: Damon Hill won the Australian GP for Williams to kickstart his title challenge, but only after new team-mate Jacques Villeneuve was denied a debut win thanks to having to slow for an oil leak. Villeneuve, who’d joined Williams as IndyCar Champion, took a stunning pole on his first visit to Melbourne’s Albert Park and led Hill until five laps from home.

2003: Motorcycling fans across the world mourned the death, aged just 52, of Barry Sheene from cancer. The two-time 500cc World Champion and 1970s pin-up won 19 top-level GPs – 18 for Suzuki and one for Yamaha. After retiring from bikes, having survived several terrifying accidents, he dabbled in touring car racing and took up commentary and punditry in his adopted Australia. He became one of the stars of the Revival, winning the Lennox Cup bike race on five occasions on a Manx Norton, including 2002, just a few months before his death. The race was renamed the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy in his honour in September 2003. The 40th anniversary of Sheene’s first title will be celebrated at the Festival of Speed in June.

March 11

1943: Italian F1 and sportscar veteran Arturo Merzario was born. ‘Little Art’ contested 57 GPs, between 1972 and ’79, for Ferrari, Iso Marlboro, Williams, March, Wolf-Williams, Shadow and Merzario, with a best result of fourth, on three occasions. He also won 11 rounds of the World Sportscar Championship for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, including the Spa 1,000km, Targa Florio and Monza 1,000km. Still donning his trademark Stetson-style hat, he is a regular at the Festival of Speed and Revival meetings.

1958: Four-time 500cc World Champion Eddie Lawson was born. The Californian won the title for Yamaha in 1984, ’86 and ’88 and took a fourth crown for Honda in 1989. After retiring from two-wheeled action at the end of 1992, a season in which he took his 31st win, for Cagiva, he moved to single-seaters in America. He won an Indy Lights race at Cleveland in 1994 to finish fourth in the points. A single season in IndyCar in 1996, in which he took two sixth-place finishes, marked the end of his career.

March 12

1938: Indianapolis 500 legend Johnny Rutherford was born. He won the great race three times, in 1974 and ’76 for McLaren and 1980 for Chaparral. He also took 27 USAC and CART IndyCar race wins between 1965 and ’86, marking him out as one of the true greats of American racing.

2000: Jenson Button made his Formula 1 debut, aged just 20, for Williams when he lined up 21st on the grid for the season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne. He retired on lap 46 of 58 after his BMW engine failed. Sixteen years later, the Somerset-born Brit has now racked up 284 starts (the third-highest in F1 history), led 42 races (winning 15 of them), and won the 2009 World Championship for Brawn.

March 13

1983: Nelson Piquet won the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro, the home hero taking his Brabham BT52-BMW to a 20-second win over the Williams-Ford of World Champion Keke Rosberg. The Finn was later disqualified for a push-start in the pits, although third-place Niki Lauda (McLaren) was not moved up a place. The 1983 Brazilian GP was therefore a race in which no-one officially finished second. So if that ever comes up in a pub quiz, you’ll know the answer!

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