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In context

Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh (born 15 July 1914 in Bangkok, Thailand; died 23 December 1985 in Barons Court Station, London), better known as Prince Bira of Siam (now Thailand) or by his nom de course B. Bira, was the only Thai race car driver to race in Formula One. He raced in Formula One and Grand Prix races for the Maserati, Gordini, and Connaught teams, among others. He also was an Olympic sailor in the Melbourne Olympics, 1956 in the Star, Rome Olympics, 1960 in the Star, Tokyo Olympics, 1964 in the Dragon and the Munich Olympics, 1972 in the Tempest. In the 1960 Games he competed against another former Formula One driver, Roberto Mieres, who finished 17th and ahead of the prince in 19th. Birabongse was the only Southeast Asian driver in Formula One until Malaysia‘s Alex Yoong joined Minardi in 2001. Prince Bira was not only a racing driver, he was also an excellent pilot of gliders and powered aircraft. In 1952 he flew the remarkable distance from London to Bangkok with his own twin engine Miles Gemini aircraft.

Prince Bira accepting the trophy for winning the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace in 1937, having driven his ERA.

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Text from Wikipedia

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There Was A Time…..

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….. when Formula 1 racing was just men and cars.

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Legends cling to many famous cars, but perhaps the most fabled of them all
is the story of the “Blue Train” Bentley.

Once upon a time, March 12, 1930, to be exact, a wager was made amongst a group of early motoring enthusiasts at a dinner party at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France. A high-spirited discussion was prompted by the Rover motor car’s advertisement, claiming that its Light Six was faster than the famous express train Le Train Bleu. One person in the group was Captain Joel Woolf “Babe” Barnato, a well-known playboy millionaire, the heir to a South African diamond and gold mine, an international sportsman, and one of the original “Bentley Boys,” as well as the chairman of Bentley Motors and the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1928 and 1929. He boasted that he would have no difficulty outrunning Le Train Bleu in his Bentley Speed Six. He bet £100 on his claim.

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Captain Joel Woolf
“Babe” Barnato

The next day, at 5:45 p.m., Le Train Bleu steamed out of Cannes, heading to London’s Victoria Station, while Barnato and his relief driver left the Carlton Hotel in his Speed Six. Although they battled heavy rain and fog, delays from searching for fuel, a punctured tire and having to use their only spare, and a choppy ferry ride across the English Channel, they arrived at the St. James Street Conservative Club four minutes before Le Train Bleu had even reached the ferry at Calais, France. Captain Barnato won his bet; however, the French authorities promptly fined him a sum far exceeding his winnings for racing on public roads. Bentley Motors was also excluded from the 1930 Paris Salon for conducting an unauthorized race.

The next day, at 5:45 p.m., Le Train Bleu steamed out of Cannes, heading to London’s Victoria Station, while Barnato and his relief driver left the Carlton Hotel in his Speed Six. Although they battled heavy rain and fog, delays from searching for fuel, a punctured tire and having to use their only spare, and a choppy ferry ride across the English Channel, they arrived at the St. James Street Conservative Club four minutes before Le Train Bleu had even reached the ferry at Calais, France. Captain Barnato won his bet; however, the French authorities promptly fined him a sum far exceeding his winnings for racing on public roads. Bentley Motors was also excluded from the 1930 Paris Salon for conducting an unauthorized race.

Spare parts and accessories for Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars
As for the car that he actually raced that day, that story too is one of legend. Barnato happened to have owned ten 6½-Litre cars, with seven being standard chassis and three being Speed Six chassis. For decades, the car depicted as the “Blue Train Bentley” in countless newspapers and magazines, as well as in a commemorative painting of the race with Le Train Bleu by Terence Cuneo, was Barnato’s streamlined “fastback” coupe, which had been bodied by Gurney Nutting and wore chassis number HM2855. However, the Bentley he actually drove that day was a rather unassuming black, fabric-covered saloon that had been built by H.J. Mulliner on a 1929 Bentley Speed Six chassis, number BA2592. Captain Barnato had owned that car for a year before the event, while his Gurney Nutting Coupe was still being built.

Text from RM Auctions

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Image found on SpaceQuest

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The Monte Carlo rally has ended in uproar over the disqualification of the British cars expected to fill the first four places. The first four to cross the finishing line were Timo Makinen (Finland) driving a British Motor Corporation Mini-Cooper, followed by Roger Clark (Ford Lotus Cortina), and Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, both also driving BMC Minis.

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But they were all ruled out of the prizes – with six other British cars for alleged infringements of complex regulations about the way their headlights dipped. The official winner was announced as Pauli Toivonen, a Finn who lives in Paris, driving a Citroen.

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BMC and Ford have lodged protests but even if they are upheld, the reputation of the rally has been severely dented. After the race, a British official said: "This will be the end of the Monte Carlo rally. Britain is certain to withdraw."

Timo Makinen said: "None of us dreamed that the stewards would turn the results upside down – and for such a stupid reason."

This will be the end of the Monte Carlo rally

British team spokesman

The British cars were disqualified because they used non-dipping single filament quartz iodine bulbs in their headlamps, in place of the standard double filament dipping glass bulbs, which are fitted to the series production version of each model sold to the public.

According to new rules introduced at the end of last year, any car entering the rally must come off a standard production line, with at least 5,000 cars being built to a similar specification. The British cars were equipped with standard headlamps – but the only way of dipping them was to switch to non-standard fog lamps.

Richard Shepherd, from the BMC, said: "There is nothing new about the lights at all. They have been used in our rallies, on rally cars, including the Monte for two years now and we’ve had no trouble at all in the past."

The confusion arose because the rally organisers initially said the race would be run under the old rules – and only announced the switch after entries had been accepted. The BMC says it spent £10,000 on preparing for the Monte Carlo rally – and is now considering withdrawing from next year’s race.

In Context
The British teams’ protest to the race organisers was rejected. They boycotted the official farewell dinner held at the International Sporting Club. Prince Rainier of Monaco showed his anger at the disqualifications by leaving the rally before attending the prize-giving which he had always done in previous years.

On 13 October 1966, the supreme motor racing and rally tribunal upheld the disqualifications. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in Paris said the iodine quartz headlights fitted on the British cars were not standard.

The Citroen declared the official winner, which had similar lamps, was approved because the bulbs were fitted as standard on some models.

Pauli Toivonen never drove for Citroen again. In 1986, his son Henri won the Monte Carlo rally.

Text from BBCs OnThisDay

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A step up from racing with lawnmower at least, but then again, if it has got an engine, you can race it 😉

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Aunt Mabel boasting about all the prizes she has won competing in beer relays.

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And here’s a picture of Mabel in training for the next competition.

In Context

Beer raleys are arranged like this. There are three persons in each team and the teams stand on each side of a table. In front of each competitor is an open bottle of beer. No 1 on each team grab the bottle as the start signal sounds, empty it and smashes the empty bottle in the table. The moment the bottle hits the table, No 2 grabs his, empty it and so on. The team that finishes first wins of course.These competition is run in cup system, so the winning team may have downed copious bottles of beer before the competition is over. I should know, during my design studies this was the most popular game we had and I was good at it – Ted

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There has been some interest for this article that I posted the first year I ran this blog and for people particularly interested in early Austin and Morris Minis it’s a good idea to take a look at the messages on the article as well  as checking the article itself –Ted

The article is HERE

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Don’t wait, order to day. Get your Cockroach racing set now! Direct from Europe – First time in America! Get your track and 10 special racing roaches!

Just admit it visitor, you have always wanted to breed racing roaches – Ted 😉

Image from Weird-vintage

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From “Motoring – The Golden Years” compiled by Rupert Prior

CURIOSITIES OF MOTOR RACING
By R. King-Farlow

037_jack_dunffee_at_brooklandsFrom 1914 to 1918 Europe was a trifle too preoccupied with other matters to pay much attention to motor racing. However, the sport continued to flourish in America, occasionally with startling results. For example, in a race at San Diego, California, in January, 1915, Huntley Gordon had three tyres burst simultaneously. The car turned round a record number of times, finishing in a ditch, but the driver was unhurt.

Then in June of the same year came a 500 miles event at Maywood Speedway, Chicago. The winner was Harry Grant, with a Sunbeam, covering the course without a single stop, a performance that was unequalled until Hindmarsh’s run with a Talbot in the 1930 B.R.D.C. event. Grant, however, came perilously near to missing his win. Two hundred yards short of the finishing line his 35-gallon fuel tank ran bone dry. Fortunately, nobody was close on his tail, and he was able to coast across the line to victory. It is interesting to compare Marcel Lehoux’s luck in the final of this year’s Grand Prix du Comminges. His Maserati also ran out of fuel 200 yards from the finish, when lying second. But in this case the road ran uphill just before the pits, and poor Marcel was done completely.

036_targa_florioA third American excitement came in the Fort Snelling race in September, 1915. After a terrific duel Earl Cooper and Gil Anderson, both on Stutz cars, appeared to cross the line absolutely simultaneously. Luckily electrical timing was used, which gave the verdict in favour of Cooper, with a margin of five one-hundredths of a second, the closest finish ever recorded.

The first important post-War event was the 1919 Targa Florio. This race was won in sensational fashion by the French ace, Andre Boillot, with a Peugeot. Boillot’s car was greatly handicapped by its small size, but its driver more than made up for this by driving with an abandon that shot him clean off the road no less than six times. Each time the car was hastily rescued and set going again, undamaged. Finally, he arrived at the finish at top speed, to find the entire road blocked by spectators. Boillot braked madly, spun round three times, and shot into the grandstand, ten yards or so short of the line, the driver and mechanic being flung out. Willing assistants dragged the Peugeot back on to the road and thrust its dazed crew back into it, the car then crossing the line triumphantly in reverse. Loud cheers, and then panic … would the car be disqualified for finishing backwards? Boillot and his mechanic, by now almost in a state of collapse, were again thrust back into the car, which then retired about twenty yards down the road, turned round and recrossed the finishing line in the orthodox manner. During the race Boillot carried out a distinctly novel refill. The car did not actually stop 035_john_r_cobbat its depot, but a can of fuel was thrown to the mechanic as he cruised by. The mechanic then waited till the car was descending a hill, opened the filler cap, poured in the contents of the can and had the pressure back to normal before the bottom of the hill was reached.

The year 1923 saw Brooklands stage its most original speed trial. The September Meeting was completely washed out by rain, making all racing impossible. However, to pass the time while waiting for it to clear, a bet was made between two members that it was possible to run up and down the Test Hill in a minute. "Alec", one of the Clubhouse waiters, a noted sprinter, was requisitioned, and accomplished the trip in 44 seconds, the applause being considerably louder than for any mere motor race. The only other Brooklands event that can compare with this novel hill climb was the golfing performance of John Cobb, who bet that he could drive a golf ball round the outer circuit in a certain number of strokes … I forget the exact number. Before a large and notable gallery, Cobb accomplished his task, the incident laying further claim to history as being the only competition that has ever taken place at Brooklands on a Sunday. There is no record as to whether Cobb was fitted with an adequate silencer and fishtail to deal with language when balls darted into the sewage farm.

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The Monte Carlo rally has ended in uproar over the disqualification of the British cars expected to fill the first four places. The first four to cross the finishing line were Timo Makinen (Finland) driving a British Motor Corporation Mini-Cooper, followed by Roger Clark (Ford Lotus Cortina), and Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, both also driving BMC Minis. But they were all ruled out of the prizes – with six other British cars for alleged infringements of complex regulations about the way their headlights dipped.

The official winner was announced as Pauli Toivonen, a Finn who lives in Paris, driving a Citroen. BMC and Ford have lodged protests but even if they are upheld, the reputation of the rally has been severely dented. After the race, a British official said: "This will be the end of the Monte Carlo rally. Britain is certain to withdraw." Timo Makinen said: "None of us dreamed that the stewards would turn the results upside down – and for such a stupid reason."

This will be the end of the Monte Carlo rally   
British team spokesman

The British cars were disqualified because they used non-dipping single filament quartz iodine bulbs in their headlamps, in place of the standard double filament dipping glass bulbs, which are fitted to the series production version of each model sold to the public. According to new rules introduced at the end of last year, any car entering the rally must come off a standard production line, with at least 5,000 cars being built to a similar specification.

The British cars were equipped with standard headlamps – but the only way of dipping them was to switch to non-standard fog lamps. Richard Shepherd, from the BMC, said: "There is nothing new about the lights at all. They have been used in our rallies, on rally cars, including the Monte for two years now and we’ve had no trouble at all in the past."

The confusion arose because the rally organisers initially said the race would be run under the old rules – and only announced the switch after entries had been accepted. The BMC says it spent £10,000 on preparing for the Monte Carlo rally – and is now considering withdrawing from next year’s race.

In Context
The British teams’ protest to the race organisers was rejected. They boycotted the official farewell dinner held at the International Sporting Club. Prince Rainier of Monaco showed his anger at the disqualifications by leaving the rally before attending the prize-giving which he had always done in previous years.

On 13 October 1966, the supreme motor racing and rally tribunal upheld the disqualifications. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in Paris said the iodine quartz headlights fitted on the British cars were not standard.

The Citroen declared the official winner, which had similar lamps, was approved because the bulbs were fitted as standard on some models. Pauli Toivonen never drove for Citroen again. In 1986, his son Henri won the Monte Carlo rally.

Text from BBC’s On This Day

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Donald Campbell has been killed a split second before breaking his own water speed record in his jet-powered boat, the Bluebird K7. He was travelling at more than 300mph (483 km/h) on Coniston Water when the boat was catapulted 50ft (15m) into the air after its nose lifted.

Forty-six-year-old Mr Campbell was killed instantly as the boat hit the water and immediately disintegrated.

        
 Donald was going into the unknown and he was well aware of the risks  Norman Buckley

He was just 200 yards (183m) from the end of the second leg of his attempt when the accident happened. On the first leg he had reached speeds of 297mph (478km/h), which meant he had to top 308mph (496km/h) on the return journey. Initial reports suggest he had actually reached speeds of up to 320mph (515km/h).

This means the water speed record of 276.33mph (444.61km/h), which Campbell himself set in Australia in 1964, remains unbroken as both legs of the attempt were not completed. Had he broken this barrier it would have been his eighth world water speed record.

Divers have attempted to recover Mr Campbell’s body which is submerged in more than 120ft (37m) of water, but as yet have been unable to locate him.

Norman Buckley, chief observer for the attempt and holder of five water speed records, said: "Donald wanted to put the record so high that it would be unassailable by any foreign competitor.

"I think conditions were as perfect as I have seen them on Coniston, but Donald was going into the unknown and he was well aware of the risks."

In Context
Donald Campbell’s body was not recovered until 2001 – 34 years after his death. On hearing the news that her father’s body had been found, his daughter Gina said she was "totally relieved".

The boat and Mr Campbell’s remains were recovered from the water and Mr Campbell was buried near Coniston water following a funeral service. Two months later his daughter, herself a water speed champion, vowed to restore Bluebird in her father’s memory.

Donald Campbell is still the only person to hold both land and water speed records at the same time. And, although he is the last British man to break the world record, in 1978 it passed to Australia when Ken Warby reached a speed of 317.6mph (511.1km/h).

Text from BBC’s On This Day

In context 2:
Donald Campbell’s daughter claims Bluebird pilot plundered her trust fund to finance his lavish lifestyle

353_campbellsShe grew up in the shadow of greatness.But for the daughter of legendary speed icon Donald Campbell her upbringing was anything but great.

In an autobiography due to be published next week 63-year-old Gina Campbell lays bare a tormented childhood and chronicles three failed marriages and a suicide attempt. She reveals how her father mysteriously emptied her trust fund before he tragically died in January 1967 on Coniston Water and how the debonair dare-devil sacrificed her and his family in the pursuit of glory.

Yet, she does not blame him.Nor does she resent Bluebird K7, the speedboat that cart-wheeled so spectacularly across the water during that ill-fated world speed record attempt 45 years ago.‘To a large degree it was a very hard childhood,’ she told the Mail yesterday. ‘I didn’t see it back then. I had nothing to compare it to.

‘The family life, the love and care of a mother and father just wasn’t there. ‘My mother didn’t even like me most of the time, let alone love me.‘And my father never displayed any affection towards me, never put his arm around me, never sat me on his knee, never praised me.

‘Bluebird was always paramount in his thoughts, feelings and actions. It had to be. It was his tour de force, his raison d’etre. I was there and Bluebird was there and he chose Bluebird.

‘That’s not to say my father was a bad father.‘I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and amongst the low lows there were massive highs. But yes, some things were strange, different, unorthodox.’

Context 2 text and image: MailOnline

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010_racing_speed_01The automobile was hardly invented before man’s hunger for competing created the first automobile races. For a car, the speed was the deciding factor and as early as 1903 daring drivers started to race on the French country roads.

I have posted 13 of V. Hancke’s illustrations of races and speed record attempts from the Danish book “Berømte Biler” (Famous Cars) with a short description of each on a page HERE

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117481_as1The Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna has been killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, near Bologna in Italy. He was just 34-years-old. His Williams FW16 Formula One car was travelling at a speed of 192 mph (309 km/h) when it ran wide at a curve and crashed into a concrete wall. Winner of 41 Grands Prix, Senna was considered the finest motor racing driver of his generation and will be mourned by fans the world over.
       

This is the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember Murray Walker, veteran BBC sports correspondent

Only yesterday, the Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed at nearly the same spot, known as the Tamburello curve. The two tragedies have rocked the racing world – and the people of Brazil who regarded Senna as a demi-god. "This is the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember in the many, many years I have been covering the sport," said veteran BBC sports commentator Murray Walker.

"For there to be two casualties on successive days is quite appalling – and that arguably one of them should be that of the greatest driver that has ever lived in the history of Grand Prix racing makes it doubly so." Senna was well-known for his aggressive driving style. In 1989 he collided with French driver Alain Prost in the Japanese Grand Prix. He was disqualified and lost his title.

The following year, the same thing happened and this time, Senna went on to win as Prost dropped out. Afterwards he told reporters: "Winning is like a drug. I cannot justify in any circumstances coming second or third." The cause of the accident remains a mystery but already many are blaming new regulations designed to make races more exciting. The sport itself is now set for a critical period of self-examination.

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In Context
Ayrton Senna’s body was flown home, and on 5 May about half a million people watched the coffin pass by in a state funeral in Sao Paolo.

In 1997, Williams-Renault team principal Frank Williams, Adrian Newey, the team designer and Patrick Head, the technical chief were put on trial for manslaughter under Italian law. They were accused of being responsible for what the prosecutor said was a faulty steering column weld on Senna’s car.

The FIA, the sport’s governing body, threatened to boycott Italy if any of the defendants were found guilty. But all three were acquitted and the verdict upheld after an appeal in 1999.

Then in January 2003 the Italian courts said Patrick Head and Adrian Newey would have to be tried for a third time because of "material errors" in the 1999 hearing. The move threatens the future of Italian and San Marino grands prix.

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Hot-rodders build their own homely, half-pint cars that race on the sand

Article from LIFE magazine, July 19, 1954

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The blazing sands of the Imperial Valley near Yuma, Arizona are rolled by the wind into steep-sided piles 200 feel high. 0n this substitute Sahara, platoons of Hollywood Foreign Legion occasionally pursue movie Arabs. When some Yuma hot-rodders tired of racing on crowded roads, they spliced together scraps or junk cars and took to the rolling dunes. Their awkward-looking half-pint car proved so spry on the sand that other hot-rodders rushed to copy it.

Where the long belly of a stock car would catch going over peaks of sand, leaving it’s wheels dangling fore and aft, the desert hot rod’s short six-foot wheel base lets it roll safely over. The driver sits over the rear axle. The tires are flabby and completely innocent of tread. But the ungainly dune bug is agile enough to scramble up Soft slopes as steep as a ski jump at 40 mph. On weekends the roar of dune bugs shatters the desert silence as they play tag over the sands, combining the thrills of racing with the stomach-turning dips and turns of a roller coaster.

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Motor racing world champion Jim Clark has been killed in a car crash during a Formula Two race at Hockenheim. Clark, 32, was at the wheel of his Lotus-Cosworth which left the track at 170mph (274km/h), somersaulted through the air and collided with a tree on a remote part of the German track.

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The twice Formula One champion, who sustained a broken neck and a fractured skull, was dead before he reached hospital. The cause of the accident is not yet known although experts have suggested it could have been a fault in the steering mechanism or rear-axle suspension. Although it had been raining prior to the race, this is not thought to have caused Clark’s car to skid.

The car seemed to be in a thousand pieces   

Eye-witness

117389_jc2The 80,000 spectators, who were informed of the accident via loudspeaker some two hours later, were stunned by the news. They spontaneously rose to their feet in silent tribute. The only witness to the accident was a track marshal who said: "I was horror-struck. Everything happened so fast. The car skidded off to the left and seemed to dive through the fence only 10 yards (9.14m) from me.

"It went skidding and somersaulting across the grass and hit a tree with a tremendous thump.

Hell of a gap
The 32-year-old farmer from Scotland, who was not married, had been involved in several spectacular accidents during his 15-year career but had never suffered serious injury. Tributes poured in from around the world as the news of Jim Clark’s death was spread. Fellow racing driver Graham Hill, who was in the same race, said Jim Clark’s death "leaves a hell of a gap in the racing scene". He added: "For me as well as for thousands of others, it means the loss of a friend."

Jackie Stewart, also a racing driver, said: "Jimmy’s death is probably the most tragic thing in my experience of motor-racing – probably in the history of motor-racing. "Jimmy was not only a famous driver, he was an international personality, loved by all his fiercest rivals." Clark’s body is due to be flown back to Scotland later today. His funeral is expected to take place Wednesday in Chirnside, near his home.

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In Context
Jim Clark was one of more than 100 international racing drivers killed ‘in action’ between 1958 and 1968. Clark, who is still considered by some as the most natural racing driver of all time, won the World Championship twice – first in 1963 and then in 1965.

He won 25 Grand Prix races and was the first Briton to win the gruelling Indianapolis race in America. He was made an OBE for his services to motor racing in 1964.

Article from BBC home’s “On This Day

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Oxford has won the 100th Boat Race in rough conditions on the River Thames. The victorious Dark Blues beat Cambridge – also known as the Light Blues – by four-and-a-half lengths despite windy conditions and rough waters along the four-and-a-quarter mile (6.84km) course from Putney to Mortlake.

The Dark Blues, who have won the race just 11 times in the last 38 races, must now be hoping today’s victory in a winning time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds, will turn the tide. The Oxford team began the race in the lead despite a lighter average weight than their rivals (12st 4lbs vs 12st 11lbs).

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Surged ahead
They had won the toss and chose to start the race from the Surrey station with Cambridge setting off from the Middlesex station. It was a close contest until about half way through the race when Oxford surged ahead. The increasingly rough weather conditions did nothing to dampen the Oxford crew’s quest for victory.

By the time the Dark Blues reached the Chiswick steps they were 11 seconds ahead and the result of the race already seemed in little doubt. For a fleeting moment, off Duke’s Meadows, it looked as if Cambridge might make a last dash for victory but Oxford kept them at bay. Oxford crossed the finish line at 34 strokes per minute after averaging an impressive 30 throughout the race.

In Context
The first Oxford and Cambridge boat race took place on 10 June 1829 – Oxford won. Originally held at Henley, it was briefly moved to a route between Westminster Bridge and Putney. It has taken place along its current route, between Putney and Mortlake, since 1836.

The Boat Race did not become an annual event until 1856 since which time Oxford has won 70 out of a total 148 races staged. The record time on the current course was set by Cambridge in 1998 at 16mins 19secs. The only dead heat in the history of the race came in 1877 when both teams completed the race in exactly 24mins 8secs.

Article from BBChome’s “On This Day

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Born in 1951, this French rally star is perhaps the best known of all female racing drivers, and with little doubt the most successful. She has always shrugged off questions about what it is like to be a top female driver, stating that she just wants to be known as a top driver, full stop.

Read her whole story here

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Hellé Nice (born Mariette Hélène Delangle 15 December 1900 in Aunay-sous-Auneau, Eure-et-Loir, France; died 1 October 1984 in Nice, France) was a model, dancer, and a Grand Prix motor racing driver.

11043_hn1Racing career
At the time, the Paris area was one of the principal centres of the French car industry and there were numerous competitions for auto enthusiasts. Nice loved the thrill of driving fast cars and so snatched the chance to perform in the racing event at the annual fair organized by fellow performers from the Paris entertainment world. An athletic woman, she was also an avid downhill skier but an accident on the slopes damaged her knee and ended her dancing career. Perhaps inspired by Charlotte Versigny who had competed in a Talbot racer in the 1927 Grand Prix de la Baule, Hellé Nice decided to try her hand at professional auto racing. In 1929, driving an Omega-Six, she won an all-female Grand Prix race at Autodrome de Montlhéry in the process setting a new world land speed record for women. Capitalizing on her fame, the following year she toured the United States, racing at a variety of tracks in an American-made Miller racing car.

Philippe de Rothschild introduced himself to her shortly after her return from America. For a time, the two shared a bed and the love of automobile racing. Rothschild had been racing his Bugatti and he introduced her to Ettore Bugatti. The owner of the very successful car company thought Nice would be an ideal person to add to the male drivers of his line of racing vehicles. Having been outspoken in her desire to compete with the men, she achieved her goal and in 1931 and drove a Bugatti Type 35C in five major Grands Prix in France. A master of showmanship, Hellé Nice was easily recognizable in her bright-blue race car. She loved every minute of her life and exploited her femininity, portraying herself as a fearless competitor up against hard-driving men. She wowed the crowds wherever she raced while adding to her income with a string of product endorsements. Although she did not win a Grand Prix race, she was a legitimate competitor, and frequently finished ahead of some of the top male drivers .

11043_hn5Over the next several years, as the only female on the Grand Prix circuit, Nice continued to race Bugattis and Alfa Romeos against the greatest drivers of the day including Tazio Nuvolari, Robert Benoist, Rudolf Caracciola, Louis Chiron, Bernd Rosemeyer, Luigi Fagioli, and Jean-Pierre Wimille, among others. Like most race drivers, she competed not only in Grand Prix races but also hillclimbs and rallies all over Europe, including the famous Monte Carlo Rally. On 10 September 1933, she was a competitor in one of the most tragic races in history. During the 1933 Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Giuseppe Campari, Baconin "Mario Umberto" Borzacchini, and the Polish count Stanislas Czaikowski, three of the leading race drivers of the day, were killed.

Crash
In 1936, Nice traveled to Brazil to compete in two Grand Prix races. During the São Paulo Grand Prix, she was in second place behind Brazilian champion Manuel de Teffé when a freak accident resulted in her nearly being killed. Reports on the matter vary, but a bale of straw ended up on the track and she slammed into it at more than 100mph causing her to lose control. Her Alfa Romeo somersaulted through the air and crashed into the grandstand, killing four race fans and injuring more than thirty others. Nice was thrown from the car and landed on a soldier who absorbed the full impact of her body, saving her life. The force of the impact killed the soldier and because she lay unconscious, she too was thought to be dead. However, taken to hospital, she awoke from a coma three days later and after two months convalescing was discharged from the hospital. The tragedy turned her into a national hero amongst the Brazilian population. A large number of families even began naming their children Helenice or Elenice after her. Although Nice never spoke about it publicly, the Brazilian race accident had a profound impact and the memory of the events haunted her for the rest of her life.
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Comeback
In 1937, Nice attempted a racing comeback, hoping to compete in the Mille Miglia and at the Tripoli Grand Prix, which offered a very substantial cash prize. However, she was unable to get the necessary backing and instead participated in the "Yacco" endurance trials for female drivers at the Montlhéry racetrack in France. There, alternating with four other women, Nice drove for ten days and ten nights breaking ten records that still stand to this day. For the next two years, she competed in rally racing while hoping to re-join the Bugatti team. However, in August 1939, her friend Jean Bugatti was killed while testing a company vehicle and a month later, racing in Europe came to a halt with the onset of World War II.

In 1943, in the middle of the German occupation of France, she moved to the warm climate of the French Riviera and acquired a home in the city of Nice where she lived with one of her lovers for the remainder of the war.
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Accusations
In 1949, the first Monte Carlo Rally after the war took place in nearby Monaco and Nice was there to take part. At a large party organized to celebrate the return to racing, Louis Chiron, a multiple Grand Prix champion and Monaco’s favorite son, suddenly strode across the room and in a loud voice laced into Hellé Nice, accusing her of being a Gestapo agent during the war. At the time, such an accusation could be a serious setback for anyone’s career, but coming from someone as powerful as Chiron, even though he provided no proof, it spelled the end of Nice’s racing career.

Dropped by her sponsors, she never raced again and because of the accusation, her name and great accomplishments were virtually obliterated from the annals of racing history. Ostracized by friends and acquaintances, her lover soon abandoned her. With him went a great deal of her money and quickly the meager funds she had left deteriorated to the point where she was forced to accept charity from a Paris organization that had been established to give a bit of help to former theatre performers who had fallen on hard times.
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Further
No facts on Chiron’s accusation ever came to light and recent research by Miranda Seymour, author of Nice’s biography published in 2004, could find nothing to substantiate such a charge. A respected biographer, Seymour went so far as to check the official records in Berlin and was advised by the German authorities Nice had never been an agent. Ironically, Chiron himself, led by the lure of a superior car, had driven for the Mercedes-Benz team, which the Nazis were using as an object of propaganda for their philosophy of racial superiority, at a time when his Jewish colleague and rival René Dreyfus could not.

Final years
One of the 20th Century’s most colourful and illustrious pioneering women who had successfully competed in more than seventy events at the highest echelon of automobile racing, spent her final years in a sordid rat-infested apartment in the back alleys of the city of Nice, living under a fictitious name to hide her shame. Estranged from her family for years, she died penniless, friendless, and completely forgotten by the rich and glamorous crowd involved in Grand Prix motor racing. Her cremation was paid for by the Parisian charity organization that had helped her, and the ashes were sent back to her sister in the village of Sainte-Mesme near her birthplace and where her parents were buried. Nevertheless, Nice is not mentioned on the family’s cemetery memorial. Text from Wikipedia 

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