Oval racing in the rain is very rare, though it does occur. The Pickup Truck Racing Championship in Britain, the only series that still used the oval at Rockingham between about 2008 and its closure in 2018, was willing to run the big oval in the rain, and the Tours Speedway, being a track built out of a parking lot with drainage systems, can hold rain races, as it did in 2014, and undoubtedly several short tracks have held races in a light drizzle.
In 1963, however, the most unexpected track held a rain race on its oval: Daytona.
The American Challenge Cup, also known as the NASCAR Challenge Cup, made its debut in 1963. Somewhat confusingly, there had already been a race called the American Challenge Cup, which had begun in 1961 and was a ten lap dash at Daytona for the prior season’s winners. In 1963, the last year this ten lap dash was held, it was renamed the Race of Champions.
The new race that usurped the moniker, however, was no quick dash. It was a 250 mile race for GT cars and sports cars alike. From Pontiacs to Ferraris, the race was open to all sorts provided their engine displacement was under 427.2 cubic inches. Its organizers are currently unknown. Several different cars entered the event, from a pair of Jaguars and a Maserati entered by sports car enthusiast Briggs Cunningham, Sr., grandfather of the former ARCA teamowner, to several self owned privateer teams such as a Ferrari 250 GTO entered by Britain’s David Piper and a Chevrolet Corvette owned and driven by American Tony Denman.
On February 14th, 1963, disaster struck. Marvin Panch had been tapped to run a Maserati Tipo 151 for the team owned by Briggs Cunningham, Sr. The Maserati had been previously used at Le Mans the year prior, and hadn’t done very well, but it was looking quick at Daytona. Control was lost, however, and Panch flipped the beautiful Maserati down the banking before landing on his lid. Several men rushed to Panch’s aid, saving him from the inferno. One of the men, Tiny Lund, would be asked by the Wood Brothers, for whom Panch was planning on running the Daytona 500, to take his place. Lund went on to famously score a Cinderella victory at the 500.
The Maserati, of course, was a total loss. Panch had been one of the quickest drivers in practice, and one less competitor put a large damper on the starting grid, as, while about 30 drivers attempted the race, only 16 ran laps surpassing the magical mark of 130mph to make the show.
1963 American Challenge Cup Starting Lineup
#3 Bill KRAUSE (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
#4 Rex WHITE/Mickey THOMPSON (Chevrolet Corvette)
#22 Fireball ROBERTS (Ferrari 250 GTO)
#50 Paul GOLDSMITH (Pontiac Tempest)
#26 David PIPER (Ferrari 250 GTO)
#17 A.J. FOYT (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
#19 Tony DENMAN (Chevrolet Corvette)
#28 Joe WEATHERLY (Ferrari 4.9)
#41 Bob BROWN (Chevrolet Corvette)
#14 Count Huschke VON HANSTEIN (Porsche 356B)
#1 Ed CANTRELL (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
#6 Jeff STEVENS (Chevrolet Corvette)
#15 Joachim BONNIER (Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL)
#7 Don CAMPBELL (Chevrolet Corvette)
#16 Bob HOLBERT (Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL)
#44 Bill BENCKER (Porsche 356B Carrera 2) Note: #15 may have started 10th and #14 13th. Exact car models beyond the manufacturer and basic model may be inaccurate.
Dick Lang* (Corvette SR), Johnny Allen* (Corvette), Bill Krause* (Corvette SR), Doug Hooper* (Corvette SR), Bill Storey (Lotus Elise), Mike Kurkjian (Porsche 356B Carrera), Delmo Johnson (Corvette), Pedro Rodriguez (Ferrari 250 GTO), Bob Grossman (Ferrari 250 GTO), Innes Ireland (Ferrari 250 GTO), Charlie Kolb (Porsche 356B Carrera), Paul Richards (Alfa Romeo Giuletta SZ)
WD: Junior Johnson (Corvette SR, car driven by Krause), Marvin Panch (Maserati Tipo, crash), Art Huttinger (Corvette SR, car driven by Cantrell)
DNA: Walt Hansgen (Jaguar), Augie Pabst (Jaguar)
* these drivers failed to qualify due to finishing outside the top 3 in a 7 car, 5 lap qualifying race, the others were too slow during time trials
Junior Johnson had easily been the fastest in practice, setting a 162.220mph lap and putting his car on pole. However, the crew which owned his Sting Ray was more of a drag racing team and couldn’t find a great handling setup, to the point where Johnson didn’t feel comfortable driving and pulled out. Bill Krause, who had finished outside the top 3 in a qualifying race, hopped in at the last minute. Art Huttinger also pulled out, and his place was taken by Ed Cantrell.
14 cars took the green on a very cold and wet Saturday, February 16th, as Stevens and Weatherly did not start. Paul Goldsmith quickly took the lead and had a decent gap by the end of the lap. Disappointingly, the cold and steady rain provided little excitement for the spectators, as while the sight of sports cars rounding the big oval in the rain was interesting, not much passing took place beyond cars being lapped. All 100 laps were led by Goldsmith, who brought home a dominant win. Virtually nothing that reporters found to be worth accounting for happened in the race, save for the interesting sight of sports cars slowly lapping the speedway.
1963 American Challenge Cup Results
#50 Paul GOLDSMITH
#17 A.J. FOYT (-2)
#3 Bill KRAUSE (-6)
#22 Fireball ROBERTS (-7)
#26 David PIPER (-8)
#19 Tony DENMAN (-13)
#14 Count Huschke VON HANSTEIN (-15)
#15 Joachim BONNIER (-15)
#44 Bill BENCKER (-15)
#16 Bob HOLBERT (-15)
#1 Ed CANTRELL (-16)
#41 Bob BROWN (-41, DNF)
#4 Rex WHITE/Mickey THOMPSON (-62, Visibility)
#7 Don CAMPBELL (-93, DNF)
#28 Joe WEATHERLY (DNS)
#6 Jeff STEVENS (DNS)
This would be the only running of the American Challenge Cup oval race. Another race of the same name was held the next year, won by A.J. Foyt, but it was a 250-mile road race. Goldsmith’s incredibly fast Pontiac was used again by Goldsmith in the Daytona Continental 3-hour road race the next day, a race which would soon develop into the 24h of Daytona, but the car’s fuel pump gave out a few minutes after the start. Mercedes quickly found an interest in the Pontiac and purchased for use in ‘competitive reconnaissance’, never to be seen again. Even still, this race remains an interesting footnote in Daytona’s long history, showing that racing on a large oval is possible…though usually ill advised.
“Cunningham To Have Three Cars In Daytona Speed Test”, January 27th, 1963 edition of The Bridgeport Post
“Racer Burned In Daytona Spill”, February 15th, 1963 edition of The Hillsdale (Michigan) Daily News
“Now It Can Be Told! The True Story of How Mickey Thompson Was the First to Race the Big-Block Chevy”, September 10th, 2015 article on Hot Rod Network
“1963 Pontiac LeMans Wins the 1963 NASCAR Challenge Cup”, October 4th, 2015 article on Hot Rod Network
Despite its high banks, Daytona Int’l Speedway is actually suitable for open wheel racing. Indycar tested at the track’s motorcycle course in 2006 and 2007, and the SCCA frequently holds regional events at the full road course, including the prestigious Runoffs in 2015. Even Formula One cars have run the road course at Daytona, as in 1984, a secret tire test was conducted at the circuit to little coverage or fanfare. However, open wheelers have shied away from the oval, and for good reason: their one attempt went terribly.
Daytona International Speedway was, in 1959, possibly the most modern racing facility in the world. Everyone wanted to race at the beautiful new 2.5 mile oval or one of its three road courses. USAC was one of these series, and in August talks began. USAC wanted to hold a 100 lap, 250 mile race on July 4th. However, in anticipation for such a long event, USAC scheduled a 40 lap, 100 mile event on April 4th, so drivers could acclimate to the new facility. This race would be held alongside a non-championship Formula Libre race, also 100 miles and on the oval, and a 1000km road race on the facility’s 3.81 mile primary road course. The Formula Libre race was open to Championship Cars, as the day’s Indycars were called, and select sports cars, while the road race counted for the USAC Road Racing Championship.
When USAC officials visited the speedway, they were impressed. Speeds were expected to be around 180mph during the event. For reference, the qualifying track record at Indianapolis at the time was 145 mph, set by Dick Rathmann in 1958, and the one lap record in an Indycar, then referred to as a Championship Car, was set at Monza’s high banked oval in 1957 during the Race of Two Worlds weekend, when Tony Bettenhausen, Sr. set a lap with an average speed of 177.045 mph.
Upon the speedway’s completion, Bill France asked USAC to run a full exhibition at the facility. USAC declined, but permitted teams that wanted to run unofficial familiarization tests to do so. One of these team owners was Chapman Root, who owned a Sumar Streamliner, a modified Championship Car roadster with a removable canopy (canopy not seen in the below photo).
Root’s driver was Marshall Teague, who ironically enough had once been a NASCAR star. On February 9th, Teague ran nine laps, his best being at 171.821 mph, the fastest lap ever set in the United States. His test session on February 10th ended early due to a cut tire, his best lap being a little slower than day one. Day three, February 11th, ended in tragedy when Teague’s car skidded in turn one while he was warming up for the day’s first flying lap. The car overturned, and Teague, still strapped in his seat, was ejected through the canopy, dying instantly of a skull fracture. Testing continued throughout the ensuing days, but no one set a better lap time than Teague.
Thirty entries were expected for the inaugural USAC Daytona 100, and 26 cars showed up at the speedway. Practice was to begin on March 25th and last throughout the ensuing days, with both the USAC and Formula Libre races planned for April 4th, the sports car race being the following day. All of the Formula Libre entries were also USAC Championship Car entries with the exception of Carroll Shelby in a Maserati, however Shelby withdrew from the Formula Libre race midweek, deciding to only run the sports car event.
Chief Steward Harlan Fengler imposed a speed limit during practice as a safety precaution. Drivers were to keep their speed to 150mph during their first ten laps. After that, their speed limit was 160mph, which would last for another ten laps. At the start of their 21st lap, they could run as fast as they pleased. Jim Rathmann quickly shattered Teague’s best time, but it was 1958 Indy 500 Rookie Of The Year George Amick atop the final leaderboard with a 176.887 mph lap, which would remain the fastest at Daytona for eight years. He set the time during the second day of time trials, however, so he only lined up ninth.
Mother Nature was a frequent nuisance during the race week, frequently cancelling practice and qualifying sessions to the point where officials, despite not having any additional Formula Libre entries to hold sessions for, called off sports car qualifying, deciding to line the 28 entries up by engine size.
Practice, however, was marred by a huge crash on the 29th. Bob Veith, who ironically was one of the region’s top highway safety experts, lost control due to a gust of wind and struck the outside wall on the backstretch. His car flipped over and slid on its lid down before eventually rolling back onto its wheels. Veith was injured, but not critically, and he was released after a night in the hospital. Veith credited his survival on his car’s roll bar, a new requirement as of the 1959 season. The car was a write off and had to be withdrawn. No other massive incidents occurred during pre-race sessions, though two crashes on April 3rd sent both Jerry Unser and Al Keller’s cars airborne. Neither driver was hurt, but both cars were damaged, and Unser had to withdraw.
Out of the 26 entries, only 20 cars ended up qualifying for the USAC Daytona 100. Two drivers failed to qualify, and the others withdrew.
1959 USAC Daytona 100 Starting Grid:
#41 Dick RATHMANN
#16 Jim RATHMANN
#5 Rodger WARD
#24 Dempsey WILSON
#21 Elmer GEORGE
#65 Bob CHRISTIE
#9 Don BRANSON
#44 Eddie SACHS
#2 George AMICK
#75 Tony BETTENHAUSEN, SR.
#8 Len SUTTON
#25 Bill CHEESBOURG
#4 Jud LARSON
#10 A.J. FOYT
#3 Johnny THOMSON
#82 Al KELLER
#84 Pat FLAHERTY
#22 Jim PACKARD
#95 Bill RANDALL
#53 Jimmy DAVIES
DNQ: #77 Mike Magill, #71 Chuck Arnold
WD: Jerry Unser (practice crash), Bob Veith (practice crash), Bob Said (car driven by Randall), Paul Russo (car driven by Bettenhausen, Sr.)
The field took the green around 2:00 p.m. on April 4th, a Saturday. Winds were fairly substantial, at about 20mph, but otherwise it was a warm and sunny day. Only about 10,000 spectators filled the stands, a huge drop from the 47,000 that had attended the inaugural Daytona 500. Jim Rathmann’s Watson took the lead early, and held it for six laps before Rodger Ward, in the field’s other Watson, passed him. On lap 12, Jim Rathmann, using Ward’s slipstream, shot by Ward and took the lead back. Rathmann and Ward would run 1-2 the rest of the race, which went by quickly and without major incident – or so they thought.
As Rathmann and Ward crossed the line to finish the race, the battle was still fierce for third place. Bob Christie in the Kurtis chassis and George Amick were neck and neck in turn two, a half lap behind the leaders. As Amick dropped in behind Christie, his car made a sudden swerve, possibly due to dirty air combined with Amick’s quick turn to get behind Christie. The sleek Epperly chassis hooked up the track and into the wall at the exit of turn two at full speed. It flew into the air, landed, and bounced once down the track before doing a dozen violent rolls.
Dick Rathmann and Jim Packard swerved hard and missed the accident, and Bill Cheesbourg spun his Kurtis out in avoidance. He ran over to Amick’s car, which had come to rest upright, before realizing that there was no chance of reviving him. Amick, 34, had died instantly of catastrophic back and head injuries, the entire front and left side of his car sheared away.
The race was red flagged, and all racers who had not already crossed the line (i.e. everyone but the two leaders) was waved off the track. For third place on back, their results were taken from how they had been running the last time they had crossed the line.
Guardrail repairs took about two hours, and sunset was approaching. Despite the ever-increasing winds and the fact that drivers were both heavily fatigued and in mourning, the Formula Libre race was squeezed into the schedule, though it was shortened to 20 laps. Six drivers did not take the start. Dempsey Wilson, his car wrecked, hopped into Tony Bettenhausen, Sr.’s car. Though Bettenhausen, Sr.’s Kuzma was repairable, Tony himself refused to race at Daytona ever again.
Formula Libre Race Starting Grid:
#41 Dick RATHMANN
#16 Jim RATHMANN
#5 Rodger WARD
#21 Elmer GEORGE
#65 Bob CHRISTIE
#9 Don BRANSON
#75 Dempsey WILSON
#25 Bill CHEESBOURG
#3 Johnny THOMSON
#22 Jim PACKARD
#82 Al KELLER
#84 Pat FLAHERTY
#95 Bill RANDALL
#53 Jimmy DAVIES
WD: George Amick (deceased), Tony Bettenhausen, Sr. (driver choice, car driven by Wilson), Jud Larson (driver choice), A.J. Foyt (driver choice), Len Sutton (mechanical), Eddie Sachs (mechanical)
Right out of the gate, Jim Rathmann got the jump and he led lap one. Rodger Ward led lap two through four, but spun out on lap five while dueling Jim Rathmann. Ward was unhurt. The caution flag came out for this, and the race only restarted on lap 10.
With Ward having fallen by the wayside, Jim Rathmann and his brother Dick were home free. The pair dueled one another fiercely, with Jim Rathmann prevailing in the end. Very little occurred in the Libre race, possibly due to Jim’s main competitor for the lead spinning out and everyone else simply pacing their cars.
Formula Libre Race Results:
#16 Jim RATHMANN
#41 Dick RATHMANN
#65 Bob CHRISTIE
#3 Johnny THOMSON (-1, Flagged)
#22 Jim PACKARD (-1, Flagged)
#21 Elmer GEORGE (-1, Flagged)
#25 Bill CHEESBOURG (-1, Flagged)
#9 Don BRANSON (-3, Flagged)
#75 Dempsey WILSON (-3, Flagged)
#53 Jimmy DAVIES (-4, Flagged)
#82 Al KELLER (-10, Piston Failure)
#95 Bill RANDALL (-10, Oil Leak)
#5 Rodger WARD (-16, Spun, Turn 2)
#84 Pat FLAHERTY (-16, Out)
Lead Changes: 3
Leaders: 2 (#5, #16)
Race Speed: 160.694mph Relief Drivers: Mike Magill (Magill relieved #75 Dempsey Wilson from lap 11 to the finish)
With that, one of the most bizarre and yet tragic race weekends in American open wheel history was over for most drivers. However, there was still the sports car race, which counted for the USAC Road Racing Championship. Only about 6,000 spectators were there to watch the sports car race, however. The race was scheduled for 164 laps for 1000km, but was shortened to a six hour race due to darkness. It ended up lasting 147 laps. No major incidents were reported.
Carroll Shelby led the race early, but a bad pit stop ruined his day, which was eventually ended by a driveshaft failure. From there, the Porsche 718 RSK of Roberto Mieres and Count Antonio Von Döry dominated the show. They won handily despite being penalized a lap for running out of fuel.
1959 Daytona 1000km Results (Car, Laps Off, Reason Out if any)
#86 Roberto MIERES/Count Antonio VON DÖRY (Porsche)
#68 Jim RATHMANN/Chuck DAIGH (Maserati, -136, Piston)
#88 Chuck DAIGH (Ferrari, -140, Differential)
#3 Paul GOLDSMITH (Kurtis Corvette, -140, Engine)
#49 George CONSTANTINE (Aston Martin, -146, Piston)
The response by USAC was maybe even swifter than the speeds they had been running. Daytona was too fast, the banking was too steep, the local winds were too fast, attendance levels were too low, and driver fatigue levels were through the roof. By April 8th, USAC had cancelled the planned July 4th race, which was quickly snatched up by NASCAR Grand National. The Firecracker 250, now known as the Coke Zero Sugar 400, would become one of NASCAR’s most successful races. USAC gave sports cars at Daytona another try despite low attendance, and the 1000km of Daytona eventually turned into a successful event, being lengthened to 24 hours a few years later.
In 1971, USAC ran a much larger oval than even Indianapolis or Daytona. That year, the speedsters travelled down to the 2.874 mile oval in Rafaela, Argentina. The twin 150 milers on the standard back-and-forth oval’s low banks, though successful and held without tragedy, were never repeated. USAC also had Talladega, of all tracks, on its calendar after merging with CART in 1980, but when the merger fell through halfway through the season and CART split off, the race was cancelled.
Even today, all sorts of vehicles continue to lap the high banks of the famous tri-oval and its road course, including SCCA open wheelers on its road course. However, open wheelers at Daytona’s oval has been something no series has been willing to try again – except for a few parade laps of vintage USAC Championship Cars in 2009.
“Testing!!”, April 12th, 2006 article on Daytona’s website
“Duane Carter”, August 13th, 1958 edition of the Indianapolis Star
“Speeds Of 175-180 MPH Predicted For Daytona”, February 6th, 1959 edition of the Indianapolis Star
“Experts Divided On Wreck Cause”, February 12th, 1959 edition of the Daytona Beach Morning Journal
“Pit Chatter – Death Strikes Early”, February 12th, 1959 edition of The Spartanburg Herald
“Ferrari Factory Enters Car In Sunday’s Race”, April 1st, 1959 edition of the Daytona Beach Morning Journal
“Indy Cars Made One Tragic Attempt At Daytona Oval”, February 2nd, 2010 article on Speedsport
“Stocks Replace Speedway Cars July 4th At Daytona”, April 8th, 1959 edition of The Palm Beach Journal
This is the final part. Beforehand, I’m going to go over the list so far.
50. TIRE CHANGER JIMMY WATTS BRINGS OUT CAUTION AT ATLANTA, 2009
49. RON BURCHETTE PROVES THAT ARCA BRAKES EXIST AT DAYTONA, 1995
48. WTCC CARS PILE UP UNDER RED FLAG CONDITIONS AT MACAU, 2013
47. JEAN ALESI GETS MASSIVE JUMP START AT BAHRAIN, 2009
46. JARED CARLYLE JUMPS STEEPLECHASE HURDLE AT PUKEKOHE, 2007
45. NICOLAS MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS AT PIT-IN AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, 2011
44. PACE CAR GETS STOLEN BY DRUNKARD AT TALLADEGA, 1986
43. MASSIVE RAINSTORM HITS DURING ETCC RACE AT SILVERSTONE, 1984
42. RUBEN GARCIA ALMOST ENTERS CROWD AT RIVERSIDE, 1988
41. MASS DSQ CONDUCTED DURING ITALIAN F3 FINALE AT MONZA, 2012
40. ARCA ACTUALLY COMPLETES RAIN RACE AT PALM BEACH, 2010
39. DRIVER GETS TASED DURING FIGURE EIGHT RACE AT ANDERSON, 2017
38. RENAULT MEGANES PILE INTO SAFETY TRUCKS AT ZANDVOORT, 1998
37. JOHN PRIOR FLIPS AFTER CHECKERS DURING ARCA RACE AT DUQUOIN, 1985
36. RON FELLOWS MAKES STUPID MOVE UNDER YELLOW AT ROAD AMERICA, 2011
35. CRAIG JARVIS ROLLS FERRARI DURING QUALIFYING AT KYALAMI, 2017
34. DRIVER’S SPONSOR STEALS HIS RACE CAR FOR STUNT AT ALTAMONT, 2006
33. HANS HEYER ILLEGALLY STARTS GERMAN GRAND PRIX, 1977
32. BERND MAYLANDER HITS MANHOLE IN THE STREETS OF SHANGHAI, 2004
31. FIRE LORRY FLIPS DURING SAFETY CAR PERIOD AT BRANDS HATCH, 2011
30. UTV CROSSES TRACK DURING INDOOR MIDGET RACE AT TRENTON, 2017
29. FORMULA THREE CAR DRAGGED OVER BY TOW ROPE AT SNETTERTON, 2003
28. DRIVER FLIPS ON SIDE, ROLLS OWN CAR BACK, CONTINUES AT PORTLAND, 1994
27. INFLATABLE ORANGE GETS BLOWN ONTO TRACK AT CHICAGOLAND, 2004
26. MARCOS AMBROSE’S INFAMOUS TIRE ROLL AT CANBERRA, 2001
25. IDIOT DRIVES CIVILIAN CAR ON TRACK DURING RACE AT BRANDS HATCH, 2014
24. FIERY INCIDENT INVOLVING MANHOLE ENDS RACE AT MONTREAL, 1990
23. EXPANDED GRID SIZE MADE MOOT BY START CRASH AT INDIANAPOLIS, 1997
22. PETER BRAID RAMPS ONTO SHELTER ROOF AT BLANDFORD, 1949
21. MASSIVE START PILEUP DURING BIG RIG RACE AT CAMPO GRANDE, 2005
20. MERCEDES CLR PROJECT EPIC FAILS AT LE MANS, 1999
19. SEVERAL CARS SPLIT AFTER HITTING FAN GATES AT BRISTOL, 1990/2002
18. R. KORDECKI STUPIDLY WRITES OFF FERRARI AT SLOVAKIARING, 2010
17. TEAM FINDS BLOWUP DOLL IN STALLED PORSCHE AT SEBRING, 1983
16. INCREDIBLE WEATHER DURING ENDURANCE RACE AT NURBURGRING, 2016
15. J.M. TRAVERSO WINS DESPITE CAR BEING ON FIRE AT GENERAL ROCA, 1988
14. DRIVER THROWS AWAY WIN AND TITLE AT MAR DEL PLATA, 2000
13. BUDDY BAKER’S INFAMOUS GURNEY FLIP AT SMOKY MOUNTAIN, 1968?
12. PORSCHE DRIVER CLIMBS ATOP ANOTHER’S ROOF AT NAVARRA, 2015
11. ALL CARS RUN OUT OF FUEL AT FORMULA FOUR RACE AT SEPANG, 2017
Now then, let’s get it all started.
10. A SCHOOL BUS ENTERS THE TRACK (2017, USF4, AUSTIN)
NEW TO LIST
I…have no idea what to say about this one.
School buses are often used at the Circuit of the Americas when it comes time to pick up marshals at day’s end, and are also used to give tours. One day in September 2017, the school bus driver was told to head out and fetch the marshals from their posts at 19:00 local time, when the racing would be either done or almost done. However, the day’s events ran very long, and at 19:00 there was still a United States Formula Four race going on, the last race of the day. The driver, having never been told not to set out at 19:00, did so. One wrong turn later, he found himself pulling onto the race track at turn six, leading to the 30 seat bus briefly driving backwards on the circuit.
Thankfully, the red flag was waved, and the field of about 30 to 35 was able to avoid the bus. Once it was assisted off the circuit, officials decided that they had the time to finish the event, and it was run to completion.
09. TWISTER DURING A RACE IN ARGENTINA (2016, TC MOURAS, CONCEPCION DEL URUGUAY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 32ND
We aren’t done with weather…
On November 27th, 2016, the TC Mouras series, a lower tier series feeding into the Turismo Carretera, a stock car series which serves as the highest level series in Argentina, was running a race at the Concepcion Del Uruguay circuit when a storm struck. The storm quickly grew worse, with heavy rain and lightning every which way. To make things even worse, a tornado touched down.
With the safety car out, the drivers pulled to the side of the track and sought cover. The tornado’s gusts measured to about 65mph, more than enough to damage the track’s facilities. In the nearby town, the tornado damaged the water facilities and power stations, knocking out those utilities for the next couple hours. During the storm, a rainfall of about two inches in two hours was recorded. Thankfully, despite the twister and extremely heavy rain, no one was badly injured in the storm. The race eventually resumed a few days later.
08. BAS SCHOUTEN’S SABOTAGE (2016, TCR GERMANY, ZANDVOORT)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 9TH
Okay, that’s just really selfish.
During a TCR Germany touring car race at Zandvoort in 2016, Dutchman Bas Schouten’s SEAT collided with a fellow competitor’s Volkswagen right out of the gate, damaging the suspension of the car and taking him out of the race. Schouten appears to have believed his car could continue after repairs, and was not pleased with Zandvoort’s officials dragging the car on its damaged suspension from the starting area, where he had crashed, to pit exit, which, admittedly, certainly made things worse. Apparently, officials also told him that he’d have to either have his car wheeled back or get a flatbed himself. Out of anger, Schouten told his team to put the car on a jack and leave it at pit exit, which is exactly what they did. With the medical car unable to access the circuit due to Schouten’s car being in the way, the red flag was flown. Schouten was ejected from the circuit, and the race was eventually resumed, though due to the lack of time to run many more laps, it only gave half points. Schouten would be excluded from race one and did not start race two.
I have never seen that sort of sabotage and bitterness during a race…
07. TAKI INOUE (1995, F1, MONACO/HUNGARY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 5TH
Formula One driver Taki Inoue really didn’t have a very good 1995.
During the season, he was struck by the course car not once, but twice. First up was at Monaco during practice. The Footwork suffered a failure, and a flatbed lorry started taking him back to the pits, with a towrope towing the car behind it and its nose just atop the flatbed itself. Out of nowhere, the safety car, a Renault Clio who according to autosport was driven by Jean Ragnotti, a rallyman, with current FIA President Jean Todt in the passenger seat, rounded the corner and struck the Footwork in the back. The crash lifted the footwork up and sent it onto its lid. Taki had undone his belts and his helmet, though he still kept his helmet on. The crash ended up dumping him partially out of the car, dealing him a concussion and several other injuries. The FIA reviewed the incident and blamed neither Ragnotti or Inoue, and said that they would negotiate damages with Footwork. Inoue was allowed to use his second car in qualifying, but he chose to skip qualifying and only run the race itself, which didn’t last very long as the Footwork blew up early on.
Things only got worse for Inoue at the Hungaroring later that year. The car caught fire during the race and he pulled to the side of the road, looking to fetch a fire extinguisher. Once he found one, he ran back, failing to notice the presence of an approaching course car. Oops.
Inoue is retired now, and he’s more than willing to make fun of himself on social media.
06. TREE FALLS OVER (2010, BATHURST 12H, BATHURST)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 3RD
Bathurst is one of the most exciting circuits in the world. Between long straights leading into sharp turns and sweeping esses with heavy elevation changes and little runoff, navigating the Mount Panorama Circuit is one of the biggest accomplishments by any drivers.
Rain marred the 2010 Bathurst 12 Hour, the last edition of the race before they switched from production cars to sports cars. About 40% of the race was spent behind the safety car either due to crashes or heavy rain.
Around hour seven of the race, a red flag was suddenly warranted. Drivers scrambled to find out what was wrong, and soon found the issue: a tree had come down at the coincidentially named Forrest’s Elbow, a turn named many years prior when motorcycle racer J. Forrest scraped his elbow away in the 1940s. Thankfully no one was injured, and the only damage was to a spectator’s vehicle according to drive.com.au. The tree was removed with a chainsaw, which delayed the race by an hour.
The 2009 edition of the Bathurst 12h completed 239 laps at the end. The 2010 edition, through all its delays, only finished 202.
05. MONTOYA HITS THE JET DRYER (2012, NASCAR CUP, DAYTONA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 8TH
The 2012 Daytona 500 was bizarre. A race that had never been delayed by rain was pushed off until Monday night at 19:00, and then things only got stranger from there.
Around lap 160, David Stremme’s car blew up, spilling fluids everywhere. A pit stop cycle was conducted, and Dave Blaney decided to stay out. Little did he know that he’d soon be trying to persuade the officials to award him the win in the most important race in his life.
Juan Pablo Montoya was in the pit lane believing that he had a severe vibration. According to a later Yahoo! article, the team briefly looked around the car and could not find an issue, and he was sent back out. It turned out that his concern was warranted, and entering turn three, an axle snapped on the car, sending it straight up the circuit and into the back of a jet dryer, which had been lapping the outside of the circuit in an attempt to clean the fluids spilled. The jet engine in the back was jarred into the air, and it swiftly exploded. The jet fuel was spread down the backing, found a spark in the passing car of Terry Labonte, and began to burn. Juan quickly bailed from the car, and officials quickly helped the jet dryer’s driver, identified as 52-year-old Duane Barnes of Michigan, from his vehicle. Nobody was injured.
NASCAR looked upon the scene and briefly weighed whether they should bother continuing on with the race, but eventually decided that they could complete the show. After a two hour cleanup, the race resumed, and Matt Kenseth swiftly got a jump and never looked back. By the time Kenseth took the checkers, it was 02:00 on Tuesday morning. Blaney finished 15th.
Apparently, Montoya, who has moved to sports cars, is frequently reminded of the incident, with even his sponsors unable to help themselves. Duane Barnes passed away in July 2015 at the age of 55. His cause of death was not given, though it was considered unexpected.
04. WHEEL FALLS OFF CAR AND REMOUNTS ITSELF (BEFORE 2000, HOBBY STOCKS, BAKERSFIELD)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 4TH
Featured on an episode of RealTV was an incredible incident at the Bakersfield Speedway, which saw a hobby stock driver by the last name of Nolan or Noland or something like that spin in turn three and strike a stalled car. The #5 hobby stock suffered a loose wheel in the incident. As he rounded turn four, the wheel came off the frame and rolled alongside his car for a bit, then rolled back into the car, somehow remounting itself. Of course, the tire was deflated, and the #5 was headed to this pits anyway, but it was still an unforgetable sight.
I was never able to find very much on the incident, so it was time to go searching.
First source was the track owner, who said he took over in 2003, and it did not occur during his ownership. RealTV ended after 2001, so it wasn’t 2002. Due to the show getting a new host in the middle of 2000, and not the end of the year, I can fully eliminate 2001, and can all but eliminate 2000, though it’s possible that it was in early 2000 and the incident was shown on RealTV in the summer.
I found a driver name in some results dating back to 2000, running a #5 car and possessing a very similar name to what was audibly heard in the clip, that being Raymond Noland, Sr. The Noland family has raced at Bakersfield for years, with Karl, Sr. and Raymond Noland, Sr. both finding a lot of success in the Hobby Stock division. Their sons, Karl, Jr. and Raymond, Jr., respectively, have picked up the torches.
So while the driver is almost certainly Raymond Noland, Sr. and the division is almost certainly Hobby Stocks, I don’t have a year. If you have any further information, let me know.
03. ROLLING INTO THE SAFETY CAR (2008, DUTCH SUPERCAR, SPA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 2ND
Supercar Challenge, also known as Dutch Supercar Challenge, is one of the most unique series in the world. In it, touring cars, sports cars, and prototypes alike race alongside one another, sometimes in the same class. This can lead to some bizarre, yet exciting, photographs, though this one might be taking it too far.
Shortly after the start of the first race of two during the Spa Euro Races weekend at Spa in 2008, the safety car was warranted when a Porsche spun off course. The safety car, however, ended up picking up the second place ex-DTM Audi #103 of Arjan Van Der Zwaan instead of the leading #109 Marcos Marcorelly of Cor Euser. Euser took off, with the safety car in hot pursuit. After a minute or two of pure confusion, officials eventually instructed the safety car to pull off to the side of the road and let the field pass it by so it could pick up the leader. It did so at Blanchimont.
As the Seat safety car slowed to a crawl, the #138 of Paul Hogarth in a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 slammed on the brakes to avoid him. #416 Joost Den Ouden, running a BMW E36, reacted in the same way, but could not avoid plowing into the back of Hogarth, his car’s brakes being far inferior to that of Hogarth’s. The BMW ramped the Lamborghini, flipped onto its side, slammed into the Seat, sending it off course and into the tire wall, and did several rolls before coming to rest on its door. After a few seconds, the #333 Marcos Mantis of José Bermudez De Castro spun around in avoidance, only for the #323 BMW Z3 V8 of Willy Angenent to pile into the Mantis, soon followed by another, unidentified BMW. A third BMW, the #308 BMW Compact driven by Laurens Gooshouwer, then plowed headlong into the back of the Mantis with incredible violence. Amazingly, no one was injured, and the driver of the Seat quickly scrambled over the barriers. The race was abandoned shortly thereafter, with Euser being awarded the win.
02. CRASHING THE PACE CAR (1971, USAC, INDIANAPOLIS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 1ST
In 1971, muscle cars were selling poorly, and no one wanted to provide a pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Enter Eldon Palmer, an Indianapolis dealer who headed a local effort to provide the track with several vehicles to choose from. They chose an open top Dodge Challenger out of the lot, and Eldon was given the position as its driver in return.
Eldon practiced his pace car run the day before, and he decided to set down a marker to indicate when to brake. No one knows what the marker was or if there even was one, but come race day a marker wasn’t there. Not helping the fact was that, apparently, Eldon believed that he would have to beat the field to the line. What he thought would happen if he failed to do so is unknown.
On race day, Eldon, Tony Hulman, ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and special ride-along guest John Glenn all hopped into the pace car and led the field around. As poleman Peter Revson held the inside of the front row and waited for the green, Eldon accelerated down the pit lane, reaching 125mph. He noticed that his marker was not where he thought it was, and mashed the brakes. The Dodge slid sideways and plowed over a photographer’s stand, in an incident that didn’t even warrant a yellow. Many of the photographers on the stand were injured, but amazingly, no one was killed. Schenkel was badly shaken and sat out the broadcast, but did not suffer any broken bones or sprains. Hulman twisted an ankle. Palmer and Glenn were unhurt.
After this, officials decided to solely use professional drivers. Eldon eventually sold off the Challenger, which was restored and as of 2014 is in good condition. Eldon Palmer passed away in 2016, at the age of 87.
01. THE GIMLI GLIDER (1983, WINNIPEG SPORTS CAR CLUB, GIMLI)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 6TH
On July 23rd, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 took off from Montreal for Edmonton, with a stopover in Ottawa, with 69 aboard.
Canada had recently begun to switch from Imperial to Metric, and Air Canada had just purchased a few Boeing 767s, which used Metric instead of Imperial. According to the National Post, the computer that calculated how much fuel was needed was out of commission, so the ground crew had to calculate by hand.
Jet fuel’s volume depends on the temperature, so it was impossible to know them by heart. The ground crew checked their papers and saw that the conversion factor to kilograms at current temperature was 1.77, so they multiplied the factor by the amount of liters aboard for the current fuel load, subtracted the result from how much fuel in kilograms was needed for how much fuel to add, and divided that result by 1.77 to get the amount of fuel they needed to add. These equations led the ground crew to believe that they only needed to add 5000 liters to the about 8000 already in the tanks.
However, 1.77 was actually the conversion factor for liters into pounds. The actual conversion factor for liters into kilograms was 0.803, and they actually needed 20000 liters, meaning they only had fuel for half the flight. The pilots doublechecked and found the conversions to be sound, again using the incorrect factor.
Over western Ontario, the inevitable happened. The plane ran out of fuel in mid-flight, forcing the pilot to glide. By a stroke of luck, he had been trained as a glider, and his co-pilot, upon recognizing that they couldn’t get to Winnipeg, suggested the base where he’d been trained, Gimli, Manitoba. He was unaware that it had since been decommissioned, and had become a race track.
While the crowds lined up to watch the start of an open wheel race, the hulking behemoth came in for an emergency landing. The pilot had not only gotten to Gimli, something Air Canada’s finest were unable to duplicate in a simulator, but he had put the plane on the ground without injury, just a few hundred feet from the race track’s guardrail.
Gimli Motorsports Park’s still open, and hasn’t changed very much over the years. The Glider plane itself has been disassembled, though if you’d like you can purchase a little piece of the plane in the form of a trinket online.
Well, that’s the end of that. Nothing beats a plane coming in during a race, eh? Thank you for being so patient with me, and it’s great to finally have this list over and done with. If you are curious as to why something was not included, let me know and I’ll tell you if I considered it and why it wasn’t included, or if I completely forgot about it, because with a list this big there’s bound to be something for me to forget.
Now before I end this, here’s a bonus entry. Due to the circumstances surrounding it I could not include it (the subject of the incident was killed and it occurred after the race’s completion), but it’s just too strange to not mention. So, I decided I’d talk about it at the end. If I could include it, it probably would have slotted in in around 9th or so. Well, thanks for reading through this monstrosity, and I’ll leave you with this bonus entry. See you later!
00. CRAZED MAN ENTERS THE SPEEDWAY (1991, CART, INDIANAPOLIS)
NEW TO ‘LIST’
Early in the morning on Wednesday, May 29th, 1991, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had just held the 75th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and permanent and civilian employees alike had gathered to clean the track up. However, they had an unexpected guest.
Stephen C. White, a 31-year-old self employed carpenter, entered the speedway through a gate, presumably by a track worker who believed that White, driving a ’79 GMC C/K, was a temporary worker who was there to help out, of which there were apparently a few hundred. Instead, White began to do several hot laps of the speedway in the old truck, waving and smiling along the way according to The Indianapolis Star. He completed about four laps before Luther Wray, a speedway foreman, drove a Dodge Caravan onto the circuit and began waving White down. White instead veered towards the Caravan and collided with it at about 100mph. Wray avoided injury by darting towards and climbing the catchfence, but White died on impact.
Though toxicology reports appear to have not been made public, White was stated to be a manic depressive on medication who had last been accounted for the night prior. Police theorized that this was a suicide attempt on the part of White.
With high-level racing becoming more and more demanding and expensive, it’s becoming more and more rare to see journeymen who worked low paying jobs during the week spending their weekends racing in the top leagues, with ARCA usually serving as the upper limit nowadays. But there was a day in which America’s workers and laborers could race in the Cup Series and in Indycar, maybe even both, on the weekend. One of these journeymen was Bruce Jacobi.
Born on June 23rd, 1935 in Salem, Indiana as the first of two children of Fred and Helen Jacobi, Harold Bruce Jacobi got his start on the short tracks of Indiana before eventually moving to the USAC Champ Cars. Jacobi was a privateer, going to smaller teams and bringing their cars home. He was never quick, but he could finish. Jacobi attempted 74 races between 1960 and 1970, qualifying for 38 of them. His best finish was at Springfield in 1970, where he finished fourth, and out of the 38 races he made, never ran more than five for the same team.
Jacobi, however, never qualified for the Indianapolis 500, despite six attempts. He failed to qualify in 1962, 1963, and 1966, did not make an attempt in 1967, failed to qualify in 1970, and withdrew in 1973. In the meantime, Jacobi traveled the country, finding rides and running whatever races he could find. From Pennsylvania to California, Jacobi left his mark every which way. In the meantime, Jacobi kept busy with employment as a carpenter.
It was off to NASCAR in 1975, where Jacobi would remain for the next couple of years. Out of 20 races, Jacobi took three top tens, all in 1975, where he ran part time for Opal Voight. This would be Jacobi’s only part time season in NASCAR.
After that, Jacobi hopped between teams and raced in NASCAR every once in awhile while continuing to race back home and all over. In one of these rides, Bruce suffered one of the most violent NASCAR crashes of the 1970s.
During last-chance qualifying for the 1977 World 600, Rick Newsom lost control of his car off of turn four and was blindsided by Jacobi, running the #78 Chevrolet for Tom Goff. Jacobi’s car went airborne and rolled violently end over end down the chute. Despite an impact so hard that it ripped Newsom’s engine out of his car and sent it spinning down the track, Jacobi escaped with minor injuries. Newsom was treated for a foot injury.
This crash, in fact, summarizes Jacobi’s career. He was never a very lucky driver. Wife YaDa Jacobi, whom Bruce married in 1969 in a ceremony held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself, recalled an instance where Jacobi was struck by a flywheel at the Brickyard and had to be replaced for the main event, with a young man named Mario Andretti taking over. In fact, according to YaDa, with whom Bruce had three children, there was an instance where Bruce was pronounced dead after a crash at a race track in Pennsylvania, only to give a worker a little kick while being wheeled to the morgue. Yet Jacobi loved racing so much that he would race on a carpenter’s wage. The risks of racing never seemed to faze Jacobi.
Bruce entered Speedweeks 1983 rideless, and decided to head to the speedway to try his luck on picking up a ride. There he came across Bill Meazell, who owned a #05 Colonial Motors/All American Homes Pontiac Grand Prix. Bill needed a driver, as he wasn’t confident in piloting a Pontiac, and the Wednesday before the 500, and only one day before the qualifying races, the two agreed that Bruce would drive the car. On lap 5 of the 50 lap first duel, Bruce was running towards the back on his own when the car broke loose. The exact cause of the crash is unknown, though many drivers reported that it had been extremely windy that day, and that they actually were having their cars lifted off the ground a little. In any case, the #05 spun into the infield off of turn two and went airborne before proceeding to viciously cartwheel through the grass.
The car rolled front over back, back over front, several times through the infield before eventually coming to rest on its wheels near the earth embankment. Jacobi was removed from the car unconscious and was swiftly transported to the hospital with critical brain injuries, likely caused by a partial failure of the roll cage.
Jacobi spent some time in Halifax Hospital before eventually being transported to a nursing home in Indianapolis. He regained partial consciousness sometime thereafter, and would be in this state for four years, his mobility having been severely compromised, though not lost entirely. YaDa Jacobi, who had run a few endurance races herself in the 1960s, was frequently at his bedside, and while Bruce never fully regained consciousness, his condition deteriorated when YaDa wasn’t at his side. “I think we have a much deeper, more understanding relationship now, although it’s hard to describe.”, she told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Bruce Jacobi passed away on February 4th, 1987 in the Methodist Hospital at Indianapolis, aged 51. Some of Bruce’s racing memorabilia is stored at the Stevens Museum in Salem, Indiana, serving as a reminder of the days when a laborer’s dream to one day race in the top American series could come true.
“Jacobi Escapes Fire in Charlotte Crash”, May 28th, 1977 issue of The Tennessean
“The wife of gravely injured Bruce Jacobi says her…”, February 23rd, 1983 issue of UPI
“Dying driver was excited about Daytona, wife says”, February 24th, 1983 issue of the Arizona Republic
“A racer’s wife copes with tragedy”, February 22nd, 1983 issue of The Orlando Sentinel
“Jacobi Draws Strength From His Wife, YaDa”, July 4th, 1984 issue of the Daytona Beach News-Journal
“Bruce Jacobi Nearly Dies Of Pneumonia”, February 16th, 1984 issue of the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Well, we’re back. I decided to redo this list and see what new incidents and bouts of stupidity I could add. Fifty strange, bizarre and wild moments across the racing spectrum. I will not be including drag racing, motorcycles, or rallies simply to ease up on my selections. Maybe I’ll do separate lists for those another day, but for now…let’s get started.
50. JIMMY WATTS TIRE INCIDENT (2009, NASCAR CUP, ATLANTA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 43RD
On lap 69 of the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a tire was spotted rolling out into the quadoval grass by several crewmen during the pit stop cycle. NASCAR’s policy is for crewmen to stay put if this happens, but evidently someone was not listening.
By trade a fireman in his late thirties, Jimmy Watts, the gasman for the #47 JTG-Daugherty car of Marcos Ambrose and a NASCAR crewman since at least 1998 according to the LA Times, rushed out to gather the tire and rolled it back to waiting officials. The pit stop cycle was under way, so had he not done this, NASCAR likely would have waited until the tire rolled further towards the track surface to throw the caution. However, with a crew member in the infield, NASCAR was forced to put the race under yellow during the pit stop cycle, trapping several cars a lap down. Watts would be banned for four races, with last updates noting the possibility of further penalties. He was also put on probation for the rest of the year. Watts publicly apologized, and even Marcos Ambrose himself noted that Watts’ decision to fetch the tire was not very smart.
Interestingly, according to motorsport.com, Watts was a fire captain in the city of Charlotte in 2002, and was mourning the loss of a fireman under his watch at the time of the interview. Watts knew tragedy, making this decision to cross the track even less understandable. Watts still works as a firefighter in the Charlotte area, and he still works as a gasman for Front Row Motorsports according to NASCAR’s website.
49. ARCA BRAKES DURING PRACTICE (1995, ARCA, DAYTONA)
NEW TO LIST
During practice for the 1995 ARCA Daytona 200, 1990 ARCA Series champion Bob Brevak, a grizzled veteran making one of his last couple starts in the series, spun his car and backed it into the wall in turn four. The veteran was uninjured, and the red flag was waved on the session as a safety truck arrived on scene.
ARCA is famous for the term ‘ARCA Brakes’, meaning drivers refuse to slow down in a crash. Though mostly falsely attributed to the ARCA Series, there have indeed been many instances of them in the series itself, with the following being a fairly unknown one.
Ron Burchette, an owner driver from North Carolina who mostly ran the big tracks, refused to slow down as he entered the accident scene and shot in between the stalled #34 and the safety truck. Burchette eventually slowed to a stop on the trioval apron, where he was promptly yelled at by the usually level-headed track workers. Brevak would fail to finish the 200, while Burchette, who retired from ARCA after a spectacular crash in the infamous Atlanta race the next year, finished tenth.
48. CRASH UNDER RED (2013, WTCC, MACAU)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 30TH
The World Touring Car Championship fell during its last couple years, but it made a few attempts to get the crowd back before its merger with TCR in 2018 such as the reintroduction of the famous Guia Race of Macau and some new gimmicks such as rallycross-style Joker Laps. But back to Macau, it’s a twisty hillside circuit with a few full speed highway sectors. Over the top of one of these hills was where the field would epic fail in 2013.
During the race, Tom Chilton suffered an exhaust failure on his Chevrolet Cruze and stalled the car at Maternity. Local driver Eurico de Jesus, in a Honda Accord, rounded the blind turn and, unsighted, plowed into the back of Chilton. Franz Engstler stopped his BMW 320 on the track’s outside, and so did Yvan Muller in his Cruze. Macanese driver Felipe de Souza in a Cruze, Hong Konger Charles Ng in a BMW, and Macanese Henry Ho in another BMW all piled in to Muller and Engstler, and the red flag was waved.
Even with the red flag having flown, several drivers seemingly did not care. Yukinori Taniguchi zoomed up the hill and smashed on the brakes, having noticed that the flagmen were putting their yellow flags down. Taniguchi did not hit anyone. Michael Soong and Jo Merszei (#70), on the other hand, were too busy battling to bother slowing down. Soong, a Hong Konger in a Seat Leon, and Merszei, a Macau native in a BMW, crashed into the back at Taniguchi despite the fact that the race had already been red flagged. Despite a second red flag, the race was resumed, with de Jesus, Chilton, Ng, Soong, Merszei, and Taniguchi out of the race.
47. JEAN ALESI JUMP START (2009, SPEEDCAR, BAHRAIN)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 50TH
Speedcars were an intriguing experiment.
In short, the Speedcar Series was a stock car series that ran in Asia for two seasons, 2008 and 2008-09. It was a neat idea, having F1 legends such as Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Alesi, and Ukyo Katayama race stock cars across the Middle East, but due to finances the series did not last long.
At the series’ final race at Bahrain, the lights seemingly were delayed for whatever reason, and the drivers, performing a rolling start, were forced to stay in line until the race began. Jean Alesi, however, was unwilling to wait and, despite starting in the back, he was leading by turn one, having achieved one of the most blatant jump starts in all of motorsports by zipping by the entire grid before the lights had triggered.
Alesi would not finish the race, which was won by Vitantonio Liuzzi, very well. The series, organized out of the British Virgin Islands of all places, ran out of money shortly thereafter when its backer pulled out, and that was the end of that.
46. JARED CARLYLE HORSE JUMP (2007, NZV8, PUKEKOHE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 29TH
Being part of a team owned by, according to tentenths, one of the members of AC/DC, isn’t a guaranteed pass for a driver to be very lucky.
Pukekohe Park in New Zealand is really weird. It’s a circuit full of swerves which, with the exception of a hairpin, are all high speed. It also used to be pretty low quality in terms of the circuit itself, possibly stemming from the fact that there’s a steeplechase layout for horses. But all in all, it just wasn’t a high quality circuit. A V8 Supercar famously took out a pole on which a PA transmitter was situated in 2005, warranting a red flag. In 2008, a pileup during the NZV8 race saw one car break one of the gates and four cars get on top of the guardrail, which folded, allowing two of them to go over the wall.
But youngster Jared Carlyle, part of a team apparently owned by one of the AC/DC members, showed just how ridiculous this track once was. He got turned around on the back chute in 2007 and took a wild ride over a horse jump.
After 2008, Pukekohe dropped off the V8 schedule, but returned in 2013 as a new and improved facility with proper tire walls, runoff, barriers where needed, and a new chicane at the end of the back chute. It’s stayed on ever since.
45. MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS IN THE PIT LANE (2011, FIA GT, SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 36TH
Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof, a sports car racer out of Austria, Eugenio Amos, the gentleman racer from Italy who is also the husband of model Margherita Missoni, and HSH Prince Albert Von Thurn Und Taxis, a billionaire leader of one of Germany’s Houses, came together for the 2011 24h of Spa in a Lamborghini Gallardo. Unfortunately, their effort ended just past the second hour.
Spa has two pit lanes, the F1 pit lane, where cars enter off the chicane and exit off of La Source, and the regular pit lane, which is entered off of La Source and exited off of Eau Rouge, with an access area lasting through Radillon. If the event has a large field size, such as the Spa 24h, the pit lanes are combined.
Entering the pit lane too quickly, Mayr-Melnhof slid his car on the wet access road. The car shot across the grass and struck a barrier right in front of the marshals and turning the car onto its door. Mayr-Melnhof was unhurt, but his day was over, and a safety car was warranted.
Mayr-Melnhof ran in the Blancpain Sprint Series in 2017, while Amos and Von Thurn Und Taxis spent the year racing where they pleased. I suppose when you have money…
44. D.C. CROWDER STEALS THE PACE CAR (1986, NASCAR CUP, TALLADEGA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 47TH
This one’s famous.
When the command to start engines at the 1986 Winston 500 was given, not everyone had stepped into their cars. Specifically, the pace car driver was out talking to a few officials still.
Enter Darren Charles Crowder, a 20 year old from Birmingham who’d had too much to drink and was standing in the pit lane. Seeing his opportunity, he hopped in and started up the red Pontiac Trans Am to take it for a 100mph joyride. Seemingly not every official had been told who the pace car driver was, so it took a bit for the officials to know it was stolen. Reportedly, the first words acknowledging the situation from an official who did know were: “Who’s that f–ker in the pace car?” (The Drive)
When the situation was identified however, the response was quick. Crowder was greeted by a roadblock of Alabama’s best when he came around to finish lap two, and he decided to slow, only to decide against giving up and lock the car’s doors according to The Drive. Someone had found a spare set of keys, and he unlocked the car’s doors, then Crowder locked them again before the doors could be opened. This pattern continued for a bit until Crowder was too slow in locking the door and was removed from the car. He was arrested, the race was started, and Bobby Allison would bring it home.
Interestingly, there appears to be no further documentation on Darren Charles Crowder. He’s disappeared off the Earth a la D.B. Cooper. Shall we call him D.C. Crowder?
The days when the European Touring Car Championship was relevant…
As the field rolled in to Silverstone, the Jaguars were coming off of an excellent run at Spa, which they’d dominated similarly to how they’d destroyed the field so far that year. Mother Nature seemingly wasn’t on the side of the Jaguars, however, and she showed it in an incredible downpour.
A bit past halfway in the 107 lap race, the skies suddenly darkened while most of the cavalry was out on slicks. Rallyman Marc Duez was first off in a Rover, and from there cars just kept piling in. BMW driver Barrie Williams was in for a scare when he had to jump on the roof of Chuck Nicholson’s Jaguar to avoid the spinning Alfa Romeo of Terry Drury. Interestingly, most of the lapped cars were stuck in the pit lane still due to reduced priority in pit stops, so they were mostly spared. The Rover of Duez-Allam, the Jaguar of Percy-Nicholson, the Alfa Romeo of Drury-Wilds, the BMW of Williams-Sytner were out of the race, with the BMW of Felder-Hamelmann suffering heavy damage but eventually continuing after the restart. The race’s eventual winner were the pairing of Kelleners-Brancatelli in the BMW, though Jaguar easily brought it all home at season’s end.