Throwback: The stories of the inaugural motor racing winners
Last weekend, Lucas di Grassi made history by becoming the inaugural race winner for Formula E at the 2014 Beijing ePrix.
Whatever happens to the series in the future, di Grassi will always retain that record, much like winners of other inaugural races have done in the past:
In NASCAR: The first ever NASCAR race was a modified race in what has now became the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The race took place on February 21, 1948 where Red Byron beat Marshall Teague at Daytona Beach en route to winning the 1948 national championship.
In NASCAR’s Strictly Stock Series: Jim Roper won the first official NASCAR Cup race on June 19, 1949 at Charlotte Speedway after Glenn Dunaway was disqualified. Roper only completed 197 of the 200 laps in a 1949 Lincoln but was gifted the victory when it was discovered that Dunaway’s car had illegally modified rear springs.
In Formula One: Giuseppe Farina scored pole, fastest lap and the win at the 1950 British Grand Prix en route to winning the inaugural Formula 1 championship in the dominant Alfa Romeo. 200,000 fans, including the Royal Family, were in attendance for the 70-lap race, which saw Farina lead home an Alfa Romeo 1-2-3 finish, while teammate Juan Manuel Fangio’s car had broke down.
In IndyCar: IndyCar’s roots can be traced back as far back to the 1905 AAA Championship Season, where Louis Chevrolet won on Morris Park 5, a dirt oval circuit in Morris Park, New York. Gordon Johncock, meanwhile, won the inaugural CART race at Phoenix on March 11, 1979 (what is now the IndyCar series). However, what has held the AAA Championship, USAC Championship, CART and IndyCar together through the years has been the Indianapolis 500.
40 drivers showed up for the inaugural running on May 30, 1911 and Ray Harroun took the win in the only car in the field that didn’t have a riding mechanic for a spotter. Instead, he used this bizarre new invention called a ‘rear-view mirror’ to help him en route to victory after the 6 hour 45 minute race, which was ran at an average speed of 74.6 mph.
In MotoGP: The 1949 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season began on June 17 at the 1949 Isle of Man TT, marking the first official MotoGP race. Harold Daniell won in the 500cc division.
The Isle of Man TT itself had been ran since 1907, where Charlie Collier won the inaugural Isle of Man TT race with an average speed of 38.21 mph on May 28. The race was ran amongst 25 competitors on the 15-mile St. John’s Short Course and lasted just over 4 hours, with Collier taking the win on a 3.5 horsepower Matchless-JAP single-cylinder motorcycle. He was awarded 25 British pounds, which would equate to around $1,000 USD in today’s money, after being adjusted for inflation.
In auto racing: on July 23, 1894, Pierre Gifard of the Le Petit Journal newspaper held the first multi-car race. It was a 79-mile race from Paris to Rouen. The winner would be whoever’s car made it across the line first, but there were also criteria for handling, safety and cost. Count Jules-Albert de Dion crossed the line first after 6 hours and 48 minutes. However, it was driver Rene Panhard and manufacturer Peugeot who were accredited with the wins, as de Dion’s steam car was disqualified for use of a ‘stoker.’