Who Was Rolf Stommelen?

Who was Rolf Stommelen? He was a successful Formula One driver whose racing life was dogged by tragedy.He raced in the days when motorsport safety was absolutely non-existent to the standards we are used to seeing today. Those were the days when Jackie Stewart (and the phrase was later borrowed by Ron Howard) said that ‘sex was safe and motorsport was dangerous’. Sadly, he is probably best known today for being involved in...

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The Lives and Loves of Violette Morris

The curious life of Violette Morris   See this chap here? Well actually, this is Violette Morris; not a chap after all but a Frenchwoman who was born in 1893. She rose to fame as a sportswoman, excelling in those sports that require strength and power such as shot put and javelin. She was also keen on boxing, soccer  and, as you can see in the photograph here, motor racing. Violette wasn’t just a tomboy, she was a confirmed...

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Didier Peroni and Gilles Villeneuve

Team orders in Formula One. At time of writing (July 2016) there’s a lot of mayhem going on about imposing team orders at the Mercedes Formula One HQ.  Now team orders are a subject of a very long article, or even a book, but today I want to talk about motorsport history — and the team orders at the Grand Prix of Imola in 1982. In that year, Didier Pironi of France and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve were team-mates driving for...

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Murder in Miami: Christopher Wilder the Beauty Queen Killer

Murder in Miami: Christopher Wilder the Beauty Queen Killer. Christopher Wilder was rich. His friends described him as charming and gallant. He lived a playboy life in South Florida, living well and racing sports cars. He was particularly fond of beautiful young women. In the nineteen eighties he was still in his thirties and living in Boynton Beach in Florida. Murder at the 1984 Miami Grand Prix This was the second motor racing event...

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Graham Hill

Graham Hill On December 5th, 1975, racing driver Graham Hill was due to appear at a ceremony at which the British Racing Drivers Club was going to honor his achievements as a racing driver. Hill had won the  Grand Prix Championship, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours race during his racing career. But instead, over two thousand of his friends and colleagues attended his funeral. He had retired from racing just five months...

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Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Many race fans will be familiar with this circuit and in 2015, the Formula One series returned to Mexico. But what do you know about the brothers after which the circuit is named? Theirs is a story that shouldn’t be forgotten. Pedro Rodríguez was born in 1940 in Mexico City. He had three brothers and a sister. However, the other brother who is also commemorated in the name of this circuit was his...

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The Man in Black: The Legend of Dale Earnhardt

The Man in Black: The Legend of Dale Earnhardt. It was on the third lap of the 2002 Daytona 500 that the tribute began. Fans stood silently as the NASCAR field thundered on. Fittingly the leading cars, the silver 29 and the NAPA 15 were both owned by Dale Earnhardt Incorporated – and the fans held hands aloft with three fingers high. The intent was to remember friends and heroes but at that moment they had only one man in mind....

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Speed Records at Daytona Beach

Early speed trials at Daytona, Florida. The name of Barney Oldfield was making headlines on March 16th, 1907. They proclaimed that he was the ‘speed king of the world’. At that time, the public – and experts -pondered about that sort of speeds the human body could endure and Oldfield – seen on the right – had just become the fastest human being on earth. He had driven his Benz at over one hundred and...

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Bernie Ecclestone and the Great Train Robbery

Bernie Ecclestone and the Great Train Robbery: The Truth. For many years, a rumour has persisted that the Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, was somehow involved in the Great Train Robbery of 1963. It has often been thought that robber Bruce Reynolds was the mastermind behind this audacious robbery but nevertheless many people thought that it was exactly Bernie’s cup of tea. Most of the robbers were in their early thirties and...

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Jenson Button

 Jenson Button – early years Formula One driver Jenson Button might seem to have everything today but his early life was very different. Jenson makes no bones about it- he owes his success to his father, John. At first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking that the photograph on the left is Jenson – but no, it’s his dad taken in 1978. John too was a racing driver. When his son showed interest, it was John who...

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Sheila van Damm

Racy Ladies: Sheila van Damm. Sheila van Damm’s career was interesting to say the least. She was known in the nineteen fifties as Britain’s top woman rally driver and by the nineteen sixties she was running ‘naughty’ reviews on the London stage. Yet she arrived at both careers accidentally. You will most probably have heard of the famous Windmill Theatre in London. It shot to fame in the wartime years as it was...

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Keep Fighting Michael

 Michael Schumacher #KeepFightingMichael Safety in the world of motorsport has made huge strides in the last few decades. And yet Michael Schumacher, the most successful racing driver of the modern era, is fighting for his life. But not due to an accident on the track. On 29 December 2013, having retired from racing, Schumacher was enjoyed one of his favourite sports and was skiing in the French Alps. He fell and received a serious...

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Who Was Helle Nice?

The strange story of Helle Nice. Helle Nice: The forgotten story. By 1984 Helle Nice was an old lady. She lived in a rather squalid room in Paris. She knew that she hadn’t got long to live. She’d been born in at the same time as the century. She had her memories and not much more. She kept her mementoes in an old tin trunk under her shabby bed. Nowadays, she survived thanks to charity. But it didn’t seem too long ago...

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Formula One: Fathers and Sons

Formula One Trivia. As far as I’m aware, and at time of writing, there have been fifteen Formula One drivers whose sons have driven in Grand Prix races. If you know of more, please let me know in the comment section below. (And see below for the list – before you look though, can you name them all?) Personally, I would love to live long enough to see the daughter of a Grand Prix racer (preferably of a female driver) lining...

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Who Was Eugenio Castellotti?

Racing driver Eugenio Castellotti. Eugenio started racing in 1952, an era in which racing drivers didn’t have a long life expectancy. Indeed it was only three years later that his friend, driving legend Alberto Ascari was killed in an accident on track – in Eugenio’s car and wearing Eugenio’s helmet. Although the lack of safety in motorsport in those days seems horrifying to us now, the drivers and teams were...

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Rockers & Rollers: Brian Johnson

From Brian Johnson of AC/DC: An autobiography with a twist. This is really such an excellent book. It was tailor-made for me and it might be the same for you. At the very least, it’s a wonderful autobiography of a boy growing up in northern England and making the big time in a rock band. But it’s so much more. Even if you’ve never heard of Brian Johnson (really?) – even if you hate rock music (really??)...

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Woolf Barnato

Who was Woolf Barnato? When Woolf was just two years old, he became the heir to a vast fortune. His father had been a Jewish shopkeeper made good – he made a fortune from South African diamonds and gold. Unfortunately Barnato Senior did not enjoy his wealth for long as in 1897, he was lost overboard off the coast of Madeira at the age of forty six. Just what happened will never be known but foul play was suspected, as was...

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The Racing Driver and the Titanic

Washington Augustus Roebling II. Washington Roebling was named after his well-known uncle who had played a part in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and as a boy, like others in his family, he had a huge interest in engineering. But for Washington, that had nothing to do with civil engineering but with cars and racing. He co-created the Roebling-Planche car which he drove successfully in several races in the USA. But late in 1911 he...

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The Great Train Robbery: Roy James

Roy James: Racing driver & train robber. In the early nineteen sixties, Roy James was a promising young racing driver. He was also a criminal*. In 1963 he was the getaway driver for what was referred to as ‘the crime of the century’- the Great Train Robbery that took place on August 8th, 1963. He was a good racing driver and therefore an excellent getaway driver. When he took part in the Great Train Robbery, his...

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Formula One: Brothers

Formula One Trivia. How many pairs of brothers have raced in Formula One? Have you read the JAQUO article about fathers and sons who have taken part in F1? Did that make you wonder about brothers who have done the same? At time of writing, there have been six sets of brothers — well, seven, sort of — well, seven and a half, kind of….. But before we get into the details, see how many you can name before scrolling...

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The Dutch Grand Prix: 1973

Roger Williamson and David Purley. Motorsport is still very dangerous but in times gone by, racing drivers faced situations that thankfully couldn’t happen today. In the early post-war era, it was almost accepted that half the drivers in Formula One wouldn’t survive the season. But one of the most horrific accidents happened in 1973 at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Roger Williamson’s crash was the seventh fatal...

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Who Was Luigi Musso?

Racing driver Luigi Musso. Luigi was born in 1924 in Rome and by the time he was thirty years old he had joined the team that was every Italian male’s dream – Scuderia Ferrari. He was following in the footsteps of two Italian drivers who had also driven for the team – Alberto Ascari and Eugenio Castellotti. Neither Ascari or Castellotti had survived the dangerous world of Formula One racing; Ascari was thirty six...

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The Yorkshireman and the Sahara

Eric Jackson: Petrol in My Blood If you’re looking for a great read, full of adventure, humour and history, then I definitely recommend Petrol in My Blood by Eric Jackson. This is the autobiography of a Yorkshireman, born in a gipsy caravan in 1924, who started life with humble origins. Written when the author was in his eighties, the book spans generations and it’s a miracle that, because of his adventures, that he...

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Giovanna Amati

The kidnapping of Giovanna Amati. If you were a Formula One fan in the early nineteen nineties then you’ll remember Giovanna as a driver for the doomed Brabham team. The team, which started in the nineteen sixties, had been successful but by the time Giovanna (only the fifth female driver in Formula One) was recruited Brabham was in trouble. It’s thought that Giovanna was signed up by the team not only because she was...

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Alberto Ascari

Ascari’s lucky racing helmet. Alberto Ascari was born in Italy in 1918. By the time he started motor racing as a young man, it was one of the most dangerous occupations in Europe. He knew this because his own father – also a racing driver – had been killed when Alberto was only seven years old. By the mid nineteen fifties, Alberto had twice won the Formula One World Championship and was looking forward to continuing...

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Who is Helmut Marko?

 Who is Helmut Marko? In recent years, Formula One fans grew accustomed to the sight of Austrian Helmut Marko looking proudly on as his protege, Sebastian Vettel, was on the podium when he drove for Red Bull Racing. But who is he? What’s his background? He qualified as a lawyer but did you know that he was once a Formula One driver himself? His record comes nowhere close to that of ‘his boy’ Vettel- he scored no...

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The 2005 US Grand Prix

USA Grand Prix 2005 – Formula One chaos? Many journalists condemned this race as a shambles, a fiasco. They said that it would cause the end of the popularity of the sport in the United States. There are still fans today who, thanks to the media, don’t understand what happened that year at Indianapolis. I’ll refresh your memory. In those days, the sport had two tyre suppliers. After qualifying for the race, an...

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The Le Mans Disaster 1955

Le Mans, 1955. The prestigious and exciting Twenty Four Hours of Le Mans race, or Les 24 Heures du Mans, is the oldest sportscar race in the world, having been run since 1923. It is also one of the most dangerous. Twenty two drivers have died there in total but this figure doesn’t include serious injury or other personnel such as marshalls, track employees and spectators. The worst of these events was the 1955 Le Mans race when...

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William Grover Williams: Racing Driver and Spy

The curious life and death of Grand Prix driver, William Grover Williams. Yes, William Grover was a racing driver and some motorsport historians will probably know his name because he was the winner of the inaugural Monte Carlo Grand Prix in 1929. But his life was much more fascinating than that last sentences implies.   He was British, having had an English father and a British mother. It was evident that he had a huge interest...

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Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna: Early years. For many of us, Ayrton Senna was the greatest racing driver ever. Even those who aren’t race enthusiasts know that the World Champion Brazilian was tragically killed racing at Imola in 1994. But what about his early life?  Ayrton Senna: Ten things you might not know It’s often said that Ayrton was from a wealthy background but that’s relative. It’s true that for many people in his...

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Eric Jackson: The Chieftain Rally 1973

Eric Jackson: Chieftain Rally 1973 Rally driver Eric Jackson was strictly a Ford man. The only recorded competition car he drove that wasn’t a Ford was a Vauxhall in the 1959 Monte Carlo Rally. So it’s not surprising that when Jacko had ‘the big one’ – the rally accident that nearly finished him off – he was driving a Ford Escort. Here’s a photograph of how he managed to rearrange the car:...

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Cars on Film – Charlie Croker’s Aston Martin DB4

Andy Royston follows the fate of one of England’s most famous cars. Garage Manager: You must have shot an awful lot of tigers, sir. Charlie Croker: Yes, I used a machine gun. Charlie had just done time in the slammer but wasn’t about to let the valet parking company know. He’d left his silver Aston Martin DB4 in the giant underground parking lot underneath Hyde Park in London. He didn’t go there directly....

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Looking for Accommodation for the Monte Carlo or Monza Grand Prix?

Going to the Monte Carlo or Monza Grand Prix? Where to stay. Monte Carlo and Monza are words guaranteed to rev up every petrolhead’s heartbeat. They are places inextricably linked to the roar of the engine, and the thrill of the competition. Sure, Monte Carlo is also a playground for the rich and famous, and Monza is a beautiful, historic town perfect for the cultured tourist, but it’s motor racing that makes them special. From all...

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Formula One Books You May Not Have Read

Now you may be an F1 fan yourself or perhaps you’re looking for a gift for someone you know who regularly talks about the ‘F1 season’, ‘winter testing’ or ‘this year’s championship’ and I bet it’s getting harder and harder to find something different. Well maybe I can help you out. I’ve been following formula one since I was little – and I mean little. At the age Lewis Hamilton started karting I’d been following the sport for at least...

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Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti: The third generation Marco is an Indycar driver and the latest in the line of the famous Andretti family. Marco, his father Michael and his grandfather Mario, despite their legendary name, are all modest, quite shy and truly delightful people. Their passion is racing. The family originates from Croatia, which at the time of Mario’s birth was part of Italy. Today, the entire family see themselves as American...

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Formula 1 – A Beginner’s Guide

Top 5 things you should know about F1 With Lewis Hamilton defending his third drivers’ championship win from 2015 and a few new rule changes, there’s a lot of interest in Formula One in 2016 and I thought perhaps for those of you who don’t know the sport, a bit of background might be useful. I’ve been watching Formula One for as long as I can remember, certainly from an early age, as I recall who won the 1976 drivers’ championship...

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Peter Procter

Peter Procter: Motorsport safety. Peter is the chap in the photograph you see on the right. He’s the one wearing glasses. This was taken at some time in the nineteen nineties and to the casual observer, there is nothing remarkable about these two men. He and Eric Jackson – on the right in the photograph – are friends from way back when and both have fascinating stories to tell. Both men are from Yorkshire and in...

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Forza! Ferrari gifts

 Ferrari gifts We know that Ferrari produces the most fabulous cars but did you know about the other luxury Ferrari items you can buy? The backgammon set on the left is a lovely example. Fans of Scuderia Ferrari – the motorsport division – are often to be seen wearing the marque’s merchandise and yes, the t-shirts, hats, jackets and children’s clothing produced by the company are wonderful. But there’s so...

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Top books for Formula One fans

Formula One books for every fan or enthusiast Are you looking for a gift for someone who loves Formula One motor racing? Or are you – like me – a fan yourself? There are so many books available about the sport today that it’s difficult to know where to start, especially if you’re looking for gifts. You see,part of the problem is that many fans have an affinity to particular drivers or teams. If you don’t...

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Mercedes fan?

Mercedes fan? Dress the part Sport isn’t generally known for being stylish but Formula One is the exception. This is only to be expected for the series that travels to some of the most wonderful, glamorous places in the world. Motorsport is no longer associated with greasy, dirty overalls and smelly fumes – today, racing has style. Even the mechanics are impeccably turned out and have you seen those garages? They are more...

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Fernando Alonso: Testing accident 2015

Fernando Alonso: Testing accident 2015 If you know me at all,then you are aware that all Formula One drivers -past, present and more than likely future – are heroes in my eyes. Although like most F1 aficionados, I will secretly admit to having particular favourites, one of which is Fernando Alonso. That’s why I’m very puzzled by the testing accident he had in February 2015. With the season starting in just a few...

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Boy soldiers in the Congo

Boy soldiers: The Congo, 1967 Children have been used for military services for almost as long as mankind has existed. In 1967, two men were driving through the Congo where they had the most frightening encounter with a couple of boy soldiers who held them at gunpoint. Read on. The two men were rally drivers, Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers, and they were racing – of all things – an ocean liner from Cape Town to Southampton....

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