On this day in motor sport: November 30-December 6by Peter Higham on 30th November 2018
1966 Finnish Formula 1 driver Mika Salo is born in Helsinki. Salo battled Mika Häkkinen for the 1990 British Formula 3 title before spending almost four years racing in Japan. His F1 breakthrough finally came in 1994 with the final two races of the original Team Lotus. He raced for Tyrrell from 1995-97 and Arrows in 1998 with fourth in the 1998 Monaco Grand Prix his best result. That was not enough to earn a drive at the start of 1999 but he replaced the injured Ricardo Zonta at BAR for three races before Michael Schumacher then broke his leg at Silverstone. Salo deputised once more and would have won the 1999 German GP but for team orders. Second that day and third at Monza helped re-establish Salo’s reputation and he raced for Sauber before joining the well-funded but disappointing Toyota team for its F1 graduation. That 2002 campaign was Salo’s last in F1 but he fashioned a successful career in GT racing – winning the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2007.
1975 Italian racing driver and car constructor Ernesto Maserati dies. Having founded Maserati with three older brothers, Ernesto began racing in 1924 and drove a straight-eight Maserati in the 1926 Italian Grand Prix. He was named Italian champion in 1927 and finished sixth in the 1928 Italian GP. Italian champion for a second time in 1930, he won the 1931 Premio Reale di Roma driving a Maserati V4. The brothers sold their company to the Orsi family in 1937 and left to form OSCA after World War II.
1899 Land speed record holder John Cobb is born. A former riding mechanic, Cobb was a Brooklands regular during the 1920s. He won the inaugural British Empire Trophy in 1932 and starred with a 23-litre Napier-Railton from 1933. He finally established a record lap of 143.451mph for Brooklands’ banked Outer Circuit on 7 October 1935. Cobb turned his attention to the land speed record and averaged 369.74mph on 23 August 1939 – the fastest speed recorded before World War II. He raised that mark to 393.82mph in 1947 but was killed during a water speed record attempt on Loch Ness in 1952.
1930 Leading sports car privateer David Piper is born in London. He raced from 1953 and turned professional five years later. A Lotus 16 was acquired and he raced the car in the British Grand Prix in 1959 and 1960. It was in sports car racing that he enjoyed success during the 1960s. Sixth on his debut at Le Mans in 1963, he finished second at Daytona and in the Tourist Trophy during 1964. Piper did not win a world sports car race, finishing second at Spa in 1965 and 1969, but won the non-championship Rand 9 Hours on six occasions. He was injured during filming for Steve McQueen’s film Le Mans in 1970 but continued to compete in historic racing despite having his lower right leg amputated.
1951 Three-time CART champion and Indianapolis star Rick Mears is born. He made his debut in the USAC Championship in 1976 and joined Penske Racing in 1978 to deputise for Mario Andretti when that year’s world champion had clashing Grand Prix commitments. Mears took the opportunity with relish – qualifying on the front row at Indianapolis and winning at Milwaukee, Atlanta and Brands Hatch. He dominated the following year’s CART-sanctioned series with Indy among three victories that delivered championship success. He scored back-to-back titles in 1981 and 1982 but lost the latter year’s Indy 500 by a scant 0.16sec. He won the race in 1984 but broke his ankles when he crashed while practicing at Sanair. He returned at Indianapolis in 1985 and won the race for a third time in 1988. He then matched A.J. Foyt and Al Unser’s record four victories at the Brickyard in 1991 before announcing his retirement at the 1992 Penske Christmas party.
1957 Brazilian Formula 1 driver and 1987 World Sportscar Champion Raul Boesel is born in Curitiba. He graduated to F1 in 1982 after just a couple of seasons racing in Europe and struggled with March, switching to Ligier for the following season. Having failed to score a point during his two seasons as a GP driver, Boesel re-established himself in Champ Cars with Dick Simon Racing before joining Tom Walkinshaw’s Jaguar squad for the 1987 World Sports-Prototype Championship. Boesel won five times when sharing with the likes of Eddie Cheever and John Nielsen as he clinched the title. He won the 1988 Daytona 24 Hours but returned to Champ Cars and finished third at Indianapolis in 1989. Second at Le Mans for Jaguar in 1991, he scored five second-place finishes in Champ Cars before finishing his career in the Indy Racing League in 2002.
2011 Former McLaren and BRM driver Peter Gethin passes away. European Formula 5000 Champion in 1970 and 1971, Gethin started 30 Grands Prix with victory at Monza in 1971 the highlight. His BRM P160 just edged a slipstreaming classic that day with 0.61sec covering the top five finishers: Gethin, Ronnie Peterson, François Cevert, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley. He won the 1974 Tasman title (also for F5000) but was beaten to the European title by Bob Evans. Gethin retired from racing in 1977 and continued to work in the sport as a team manager.
1948 Finnish legend Keke Rosberg is born in Stockholm. The father of Nico Rosberg, he graduated to Formula 1 in 1978 and was the surprise winner of that year’s non-championship International Trophy at a very wet Silverstone. Partial or full campaigns with the likes of Theodore, ATS, Wolf and Fittipaldi had delivered little (a third-place finish in the 1980 Argentine Grand Prix apart) when Rosberg was chosen by Williams for 1982. Rosberg emerged as the most consistent of the normally-aspirated brigade and scored his breakthrough victory in the Swiss GP at Dijon-Prenois. He then finished fifth in the season finale in Las Vegas to seal an unlikely World Championship success. Winner of the 1983 Monaco, 1984 Dallas and 1985 Detroit and Australian GPs, Rosberg left Williams for a final F1 season with McLaren in 1986. He enjoyed further success in sports cars and DTM before concentrating on running the touring car and F3 team he had established and managing young talent.