• Tony Bettenhausen and his sons

    Tony Bettenhausen and his sons

    Tony Bettenhausen was one of America’s greatest racers who twice won the IndyCar championship under the AAA in 1951 and USAC in 1958. Bettenhausen won 22 AAA/USAC races between 1946-’59 and spawned a renowned racing family.

    Tony was a legendary midget racer through the 1940s, winning hundreds of midget races as well as many stock car races. He was killed during practice at Indianapolis in 1961 but his sons Gary, Merle and Tony Jr kept the Bettenhausen name in the forefront of American racing through the ’90s.

    The Bettenhausen family were German immigrants who worked a small farm in Tinley Park, Illinois, and Tony started his racing career in 1938 when he was 21, driving a midget at the Chicago Armory. He soon became one of the Midwest’s top midget drivers, winning Chicago’s Raceway Park track championship in 1941, ‘42 and ‘47 and the Milwaukee’s Mile’s title in 1942, ‘46 and ‘47. Immediately before and after WWII Bettenhausen formed the “Chicago Gang” with fellow Illinois racers Emil Andres, Cowboy O’Rourke, Paul Russo, Jimmy Snyder and Wally Zale to barnstorm midget races throughout the Midwest and East coast.

    indycar  Tony Bettenhausen and his sons

    Bettenhausen made his rookie start at Indy in 1946, the first post-WWII running of the 500, and scored his first AAA Championship win at the end of the year at the Goshen, Indiana one-mile dirt track. Driving Murrell Belanger’s Kurtis-Offy dirt car, Bettenhausen dominated the 1951 AAA Championship winning a record eight races. Seven years later, aged 42, Bettenhausen again won what was then America’s unrivalled National Driving Championship, now sanctioned by USAC.

    In 1957 Bettenhausen made his mark in European racing circles when he set a world closed course record on the high-banked Monza oval. That year saw the first of two ‘Race of Two Worlds’ run there. Tony was among ten USAC drivers invited to compete in 1957 against the fastest cars the European F1 and sports car teams could scrape together.

    He drove one of the spectacular supercharged Novis at Monza and qualified on the pole at a startling 177.046 mph, establishing a new world closed course record. Tony led the opening laps of the race but Monza’s notoriously rough banking resulted in his car breaking first its throttle linkage, then its suspension and chassis. After the race Bettenhausen was invited to test a Maserati F1 car at the nearby Modena test track.

    Tony continued to race Indycars into his mid-40s and at Indianapolis in 1961 he was entered in Lindsey Hopkins’ new Epperly-Offy ‘laydown’ roadster. He set the pace through the opening week of practice, consistently turning laps at 149 mph, and there was talk of him becoming the first man to lap the Speedway at 150 mph. But the day before Pole Day, Bettenhausen stepped into his old friend Paul Russo’s car. Russo was struggling with his Watson-Offy, the car Rodger Ward had driven to win the ‘59 500, and Russo asked Bettenhausen if he would help him find more speed from the car.

    After a few warm-up laps Tony shot down the front stretch at full speed when a bolt fell out of the car’s suspension. The car snapped to the right and was launched into a series of barrel rolls along the wall, tearing out fence poles as it went. When the car finally came to a stop it was wrapped in fencing and burning furiously. Tony was dead, killed instantly from a basal skull fracture.

    But the Bettenhausen legacy carried on at Indianapolis. Tony’s wife Valerie bore him three sons, Gary, Merle and Tony Jr, and all three of them raced cars with some distinction. Gary started 21 Indy 500s between 1968-’93 and enjoyed his best race in 1972 leading 136 laps in one of Roger Penske’s McLarens and looking a likely winner until a late race electrical failure. Gary won six USAC Championship races over the years and also took USAC’s Sprint Car title in 1969 and ‘71 and Silver Crown championship in 1983.

    indycar  Tony Bettenhausen and his sons

    Merle was also successful in midget and sprint cars but lost his right arm in 1972 in a violent crash during his USAC Championship debut at the Michigan Speedway. Merle came back with a prosthetic arm to race midgets while younger brother Tony also raced Indycars. Tony Jr started eleven Indy 500s between 1981-’93 and formed his own CART team in 1986. Tony scored his best result as an IndyCar driver when he finished second in the 1981 Michigan 500. Tragically, he and his wife Shirley were killed with two of his business partners when his light plane crashed in Kentucky amid bad weather in February of 2000.

    So the Bettenhausen family spanned six decades of racing from WWII through the turn of the century. Tony Sr would have been proud of his legacy.

    indycar  Tony Bettenhausen and his sons

    Motor Sport Magazine – The original motor racing magazine

    Source: Motor Sport Mag

  • Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    The traditional Goodwood media day took place outside the house and on the estate’s famous hillclimb on Wednesday morning, as the Earl of March set out what we should expect at the two events that dominate the British motoring summer.

    events  Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    The Festival of Speed takes place on July 12-14 this year, and being a special anniversary year for the event, the main theme will be ‘best of the first 20 years’. Expect some of the most spectacular and noisy highlights of festivals past.

    “I really can’t believe that we’ve been staging the Festival of Speed for 20 years already, the time has simply flown by!” said Lord March. “I wasn’t too certain if anyone would be interested in coming along to our very first event back in 1993. We expected around 5000 people, and over 25,000 turned up!

    “Today the Festival attracts over 185,000 enthusiastic and knowledgeable spectators, which I just could not have imagined way back in 1993.”

    As usual, a raft of anniversaries will be marked. Porsche’s 911 will provide the inspiration this year for the giant sculpture in front of Goodwood House, as the 50th birthday of the world’s most familiar sports car is celebrated.

    events  Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    McLaren’s golden anniversary is another theme, along with 90 years of Le Mans, 60 years of the sports car world championship (even if it’s hardly been a continuous history) and 40 years of the World Rally Championship. The place to revel in the latter will be on the tight and twisty forest stage at the top of the hill.

    Already, many great names from racing’s past and present have said yes to Lord March’s invitation, including Alain Prost who only made his Festival debut last year. He must have enjoyed it if he’s agreed to return.

    No current F1 drivers have yet confirmed their attendance, but seven of the 11 teams have pledged to be there. McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus, Caterham and Marussia will all send cars to run on the hill.

    The day before the Festival, the Moving Motor Show will once again showcase the world’s car marques and their latest models. This event has essentially become the British Motor Show and it’s clear that most manufacturers have bought into the unique concept that allows potential customers to experience the cars in motion rather than just on a static stand in a hall. Skoda, Lexus, Peugeot and Porsche are all planning world debuts for new models on July 11, which says much for the event’s worth to the car giants of the world.

    events  Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    At the Revival on September 13-15, the Whitsun Trophy will be run as 45-minute two-driver one-make Ford GT40 race, to celebrate another golden anniversary. Following the AC Cobra thrash last year, it’s a concept that has clearly caught on.

    Ferrari’s 250LM has also hit the half-century this year, and for the first time in 13 years a number of these great cars will line up on the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration race. Can they challenge the Jaguar E-type hordes? On period performance, most certainly they should.

    The 50th anniversary of Jim Clark’s first F1 World Championship will be the theme for this year’s circuit parade, while the 100th birthday of the Tour de France (the car event, obviously!) will also be marked.

    events  Goodwood sets out plans for 2013

    To get us in the mood for another year at Goodwood, an incredible selection of racing cars, motorcycles and supercars were wheeled out for the media day. Highlights included an 1894 Peugeot, Brooklands’ grand Napier Railton, Jochen Mass in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR ‘Uhlenhaut coupé’, a Ferrari 512S and Gulf Porsche 917, a couple of glorious BMW CSL ‘Batmobiles’ and racing Jaguars of the 1980s in the form of the TWR XJS and XJR-8.

    Just a taste of what’s to come at the 20th anniversary Festival of Speed.

    Motor Sport Magazine – The original motor racing magazine

    Source: Motor Sport Mag

dd