The month in MOTOR SPORT

Dec 11: Speculation that Sauber may continue to run in the SWC is heightened when both a C11 and a C291 are seen testing at Paul Ricard.

Dec 12: The latest round of F1 testing concludes in Barcelona. Riccardo Patrese emerges quickest after three rain-blighted days. Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill also go well for the Didcot team, while Martin Brundle shows well for Benetton. Aguri Suzuki has his first run in a Footwork, Williams personnel have a lucky escape after a small pit fire, the worst injury being a pair of singed eyebrows.

Dec 13: Lotus confirms that it will use Ford HB engines in 1992. It will also retain the services of its two talented young drivers, Johnny Herbert and Mika Hakkinen.

Dec 15: Colin McRae (Subaru) wins the Attilio Bettega Memorial Rally in Bologna, beating the likes of Juha Kankkunen and Miki Biasion.

Dec 16: It becomes known that Footwork F1 refugee Alex Caffi has signed for Andrea Moda Formula (né Coloni). The optimistic Italian team plans to race a modified version of the unsuccessful Coloni C4 initially, albeit with Judd V10 power rather than the previous Cosworth. A new S291 will be ready for the European season.

Dec 16: Confusion at Leyton House. Director Mike Smith resigns as other key staff pursue a management buyout.

Dec 16: Stefano Modena has his first run in a Jordan-Yamaha, running the team’s interim chassis at Silverstone.

Dec 16: After 27 years as president of the BRDC, the Hon Gerald Lascelles steps down and retires to France. He is replaced by former British saloon car champion Jack Sears.

Dec 16: Ford announces that Peter Ashcroft is to step down as director of Ford Motorsport, to be replaced by Colin Dobinson. Ashcroft will stay on in a consultative capacity for a couple of years.

Dec 17: Ferrari announces that Harvey Postlethwaite is to rejoin its design team. Postlethwaite had been out of the F1 limelight since May, when he left Tyrrell to work on the stillborn Mercedes Grand Prix project.

Dec 18: Lancia drops a rallying bombshell by withdrawing its factory team from the World Championship, although factory-blessed Delta integrales will still be present, entered by The Jolly Club.

Dec 18: British F3 runner-up David Coulthard tests a Paul Stewart Racing Lola at Donington Park. The young Scot hopes to graduate with the team to the European F3000 Championship.

Dec 18: Japanese F3000 champion Ukyo Katayama tests with the Larrousse F1 team for the first time, at the helm of a 1990 Lola with Lamborghini V12 power.

Dec 18: The Jordan F1 team suffers a crushing blow when popular factory manager Bosco Quinn is killed in a road accident on his way home from the team’s new Silverstone base.

Dec 18: George Abecassis dies, aged 78. A successful racer both pre- and post-war, he was co-founder of the HWM marque.

Dec 18: FISA announces that turbocharged cars will be allowed to run in the 1992 Le Mans 24 Hours, opening the way for the Porsche 962 to compete yet again.

Dec 20: European F3000 champion Christian Fittipaldi signs for Minardi.

Dec 20: Tyrrell secures a supply of Ilmor V10 engines for the new F1 season.

Dec 20: The new Lola T92/10 Group C challenger proves quick in testing at Donington Park, in the hands of Dutchman Cor Euser.

Dec 20: The Reynard 92D F3000 chassis is shaken down at Donington Park by Phil Andrews, prior to its shipment to Japan.

Dec 24: The Paris-Cape Town Rally starts in Rouen. Former winner of the motorbike section Hubert Auriol quickly takes command in his Mitsubishi Pajero.

Dec 25: Two of Jean-Louis Schlesser’s support crew are killed when their Range Rover overturns on the Paris-Cape Town.

Dec 26: French sportscar racer/constructor Louis Descartes, of ALD, is killed in a road accident.

Dec 30: CART runner-up Bobby Rahal goes into partnership with Carl Hogan to buy the assets of Patrick Racing. Rahal will drive for his own team in the ’92 CART series.

Dec 30: Nelson Piquet sets up Piquet Racing, which will run in the 1992 European F3000 Championship. Piquet’s protégé Olivier Beretta will handle a Raft RT24.

Dec 31: Italian F3000 star Antonio Tamburini slips during a party at home, breaking his left elbow. He is ruled out of the cockpit for 30 days.

Jan 1: The New Year’s Honours List includes Louise Aitken-Walker MBE.

Jan 2: The radical Allard J2X Group C car is unveiled in Birmingham.

Jan 2: Former champion Robb Gravett is tipped to drive for Peugeot in the 1992 BTCC.

Jan 2: Experienced F1 engineer Harry Mendel announces plans to run a two-car team in European F3000.

Jan 3: The F1 rumour-mill goes into overdrive after Luciano Benetton is quoted in a South American newspaper as saying that his team has signed Alain Prost. It is said he will replace Michael Schumacher, who will be sold to Ferrari to replace Jean Alesi, who will go to Jordan. Denials all round.

Jan 5: Mark Dismore, the American driver who was badly injured during practice for the 1991 Indianapolis 500 continues on the comeback trail at Willow Springs, completing a successful test in one of Dan Gurney’s IMSA GTP Toyotas.

Jan 5: The New Zealand International Series for Formula Atlantic cars kicks off at Teretonga. Craig Baird wins both races in his Reynard-Toyota. Welshman Julian Westwood takes two podium finishes in his similarly-engined Swift, whilst teammate, Englishman Harry Nuttall, collects one fifth and one fourth.

Jan 5: Despite rolling, Hubert Auriol retains a healthy lead on the Paris-Cape Town Rally.

Jan 6: British rallying dealt a blow, with the cancellation of the De Lacy International Rally, proposed opening round of the British Rally Championship. Absence of sufficient backing is cited for the decision.

Jan 6: Colin McRae’s participation in the British Rally Championship is confirmed. The Scot will stay with Subaru to defend his 1991 crown.

Jan 6: Avon retains its contract to supply control tyres to the European F3000 Championship. The deal is renewed for three years.

Jan 7: The Paris-Cape Town Rally suffers another blow. Motorcyclist Gilles Lalay, a former winner of the two-wheeled class on the event in its Pans-Dakar days, dies when he collides with an ambulance in the Congo. Another ‘biker, Jean Christophe Wagner, ruptures a kidney in a separate incident the same day.

Jan 8: Gerard Larrousse’s F1 future is secured. Specialist sports car manufacturer Venturi is confirmed as the French team’s financial saviour. Venturi-Larrousse will use Fomet-built chassis powered by Lamborghini’s V12. Ukyo Katayama’s future team-mate has yet to be decided.

Jan 8: Raft’s new RT24 F3000 chassis is taken to Nogaro to be shaken down. Allan McNish and Jean-Marc Gounon are thwarted by the weather. Rain restricts them to a total of 70 laps in three days. The adverse conditions dissuade Nelson Piquet from attending. The triple world champion, who has ordered two of the new cars for his own F3000 team, was slated to complete a stint at the wheel himself.

Jan 8: Emanuele Naspetti abandons hopes of an F1 drive in 1992. The Italian, four times a victor in the 1991 European F3000 Championship, will continue to pursue that crown with Forti Corse. His new team-mate will be Italian F3 graduate Alessandro Zampedri.

Jan 9: Another piece of the F1 jigsaw falls into place, when Gianni Morbidelli is confirmed as Christian Fittipaldi’s partner at Minardi. It will be the Italian’s second full season with the team.

Jan 10: Martin Donnelly, still out of the cockpit following his horrific accident at Jerez in 1990, sets up his own racing team. He will run two cars in the British Formula Vauxhall-Lotus Championship, one to be driven by his fellow Ulsterman Dino Morelli.

Jan 10: Middlebridge Racing is the first European F3000 outfit to confirm an order for the Lola T92/50 (though 20 cars have by this stage been sold to Japan). For the third consecutive season, Damon Hill will lead the team.

Jan 12: Craig Baird’s domination of the NZ Formula Atlantic series continues, with another double success at Timaru. Julian Westwood is his main challenger, another brace of podium finishes establishing him in second place in the points standings, albeit 29 points adrift of the runaway Baird. Baird is tipped to be running in the 1992 British F3 Championship, incidentally.

Jan 13: Claiming that he is no longer in a position to challenge for the World Championship, Nelson Piquet announces his retirement from motor racing. The 39 year-old Brazilian graduated directly to F1 from F3 in 1978, firstly in an Ensign and subsequently in a BS Fabrications McLaren. He joined the works Brabham team at the Canadian GP, and stayed there until the end of the 1985 season, having taken world titles in 1981 and 1983. A third title, for Williams, followed in 1987, but the next two seasons at Lotus proved fruitless. For the past two seasons he drove for Benetton, taking three victories, the most recent being in Montreal last June. In all he started 204 Grands Prix, winning 23 of them.

Jan 13: More controversy on the Paris-Cape Town. The cancellation of two stages in Namibia provokes a tantrum from Citroën, which claims it has been denied a chance to make up time lost earlier in the event. The French manufacturer’s future participation is called into question. Unperturbed, Hubert Auriols Mitsubishi still leads with just three days to go.

Jan 14: Nelson Piquet says that his remarks the previous day have been widely misinterpreted. If he is offered a competitive car for the season, he’ll take it . .