Let’s take a break from Formula One (Mercedes is being hauled onto the carpet at FIA headquarters in Paris on Thursday over Tiregate, but that’s a few days away), NASCAR (Carl Edwards is angry with race winner and teammate Greg Biffle for not being polite when he passed him in Michigan on Sunday) and IndyCar (think Honda Indy Toronto) in order to enjoy a change of pace: a couple of videos and some South American racing photos.
Next weekend is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1955, British driver Mike Hawthorn won the iconic race (with co-driver Ivor Bueb) but was also largely responsible for the dreadful accident that killed 83 spectators and another racer.
Hawthorn reportedly braked suddenly while approaching the pits and this caused the driver of the car following to swerve to avoid a collision. In so doing, the driver following, Lance Macklin, placed his car directly in the path of one being driven by Pierre Levegh, causing Levegh’s car to go out of control and literally fly into the crowd.
Here is a link to a fascinating video made the following year, a few days in advance of the 1956 Le Mans. Hawthorn drives a D-type Jaguar equipped with cameras and a microphone and describes a lap of the circuit (which is on public roads, not yet closed, and he has to keep a close eye out for other cars, motorcycles and people on bicycles while he bombs along and talks).
It is mildly chilling, as he approaches the scene of the carnage, to hear him say, in a somewhat dispassionate voice: "Just up ahead a bit was where they had a terrible accident last year . . ."
Hawthorn won the Formula One World Championship of Drivers in 1958 and promptly retired from the sport, only to die in a road crash a few months later at age 29.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is under contract to Mobil 1 motor oil. Their advertising people like to present him as a cheerful, positive, somewhat-cherubic teddy bear out to have some fun. Of course, anybody who knows Stewart is very aware that he can be the polar opposite. But that’s the world of advertising for you.
Click here to watch a video of Tony and F1 driver Jenson Button (who’s also supported by Mobil 1) demonstrating what the sponsor’s product can do to improve flexibility.
Finally, a friend of mine who was a helluva Ontario Formula Ford driver in the 1960s who went on to turn heads in England and Europe while driving various racing cars overseas is riding his motorcycle throughout South America these days.
Clive Rayman is in Bolivia at the moment, in the city of Sucre, to be exact. It turns out that the country’s most famous motor race, the Oscar Crespo, is being held in and around the city while Clive is there, so he sent the following photographs. Note that the cars are quite close to the spectators in some instances.
"There are no motorbikes racing this year because of deaths and injuries in previous years. Man, they are taking the fun out of everything! Guess I better get to the Isle of Man before they stop that race!
"So today was qualifying for the 142 cars; yeah 142! A two-minute run...for a few kms...cars leave about 30 seconds apart...different classes...a lot of fast machines...the last group were the wanker cars...some real wankers, too!
"However for the poorest country in South America it was impressive. Driver and co-drivers...Nomex, helmets, roll cages, seat belts, some with no gloves though. Yes they do have tech inspection...that was yesterday.
"Tomorrow is the race. Two laps of 50 kms each on pavement and gravel. They go into a small town, Yotola, and circle back. They stagger them two minutes apart in the same class so there is little overtaking.
"On the map of the race, I counted around 151 +/- turns, kinks, hairpins...the only straights are coming into the Plaza...start/finish line and exiting for about 2 kms. The first corner after the start/finish line is full bore...apparently that is where a lot of guys bury it ...check the pic of the sand bags.
"There are 45 dangerous spots marked off for spectators not to be...but this is Bolivia so I doubt anybody will pay attention. There are safety barriers and cops right in the town but most probably not once the cars leave and are outside."
Exiting the first corner.
The second straight from Corner 1.
So you know where you're at.
Sand bags and gravel...this is where cars bury it...
What would a race be without lovelies?
Note the girls on the road, at left.