Valentine’s Day has always been an interesting one in motorsport. And motoring, mind you!
Al Capone’s goombahs disguised a Cadillac as a Chicago Police cruiser to enable Ray Nitty and his accomplices to approach and mow down seven men in the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre at Bugs Moran’s garage. Just to be sure Moran was dead.
Back to motor racing on Valentine’s Day, Gigi Villoresi raced his Maserati 4CL to victory in Argentina’s Eva Duarte Perón Grand Prix on the Palermo Park road circuit in 1948, ten years before Dick Gibson powered his Cooper Climax to van Riebeeck Trophy honours in Cape Town, South Africa. Back in Argentina in 1960, Maurice Trintignant took his Cooper Climax to victory in the Buenos Aires Grand Prix at Cordoba
Shifting down under in 1965, Jim Clark won the Warwick Farm International 100 in a Lotus Climax (above), which 1971 race Frank Gardner won in a Lola T192 Chevrolet.
Cupid’s celebration has left a significant 14 February mark on the Daytona 500 too. Junior Johnson was the first driver to exploit ‘bump drafting’ to win the second 500 in 1960 (above), while Fred Lorenzen won the first rain-shortened race in ’65 and Richard Petty beat teammate Buddy Baker to win in 1971.
There was drama when Bobby Allison won the Valentine’s Day 1982 Daytona 500 after his rear bumper fell off to cause a crash that took three cars out. Allegations that Allison’s team had discovered that his Buick Regal drove faster and handled better without a rear bumper were perhaps vindicated when bumperless Bobby led 147 laps as he romped to a 22 second victory, denying the complaints all the way to Victory Lane!
New restrictor plates could not stop old Bobby Allison beating son Davey to second in ‘88, while the ’93 race was notable for Dale Jarrett stealing the win from Dale Earnhardt to make it four times that the luckless Earnhardt had led the 500 with less than ten laps to go, but failed to win. Rookie Jeff Gordon raced to fifth, but went on to win in ’99, while Jamie wom in 2010McMurray
Also at Daytona, Mark Donohue announced his retirement from racing after winning the inaugural 1974International Race of Champions in a Porsche. Donohue’ was tempted to return to race mentor Roger Penske’s Formula 1 car, in which he tragically in a practice accident at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix.
Today is also a big in Rally Sweden history starting with Stig Blomqvist winning the 1982 rally in an Audi quattro (above). Timo Salonen surprised the regulars by winning in a Mazda 323 4WD in 1987 and Mats Jonsson won the ’93 rally in a Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD. Tommi Makinen’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI won in ’99, Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Focus RS in 2010 Sweden WRC and Sebastien Ogier won in a Volkswagen Polo R WRC in 2016.
On the day that grand prix heroes Richard Seaman, Ricardo Rodriguez and Ronnie Peterson, it seems the silly season has proven a touch more extraordinary over the years on Valentine’s Day. McLaren, for example unveiled its 1997 challenger to the dulcet tones of the Spice Girls and Jamiroquai in among the most extravagant F1 launches of all time at Alexandra Palace in London.
Also in 1997, Alain Prost and Peugeot’s Jacques Calvet confirmed that Prost Grand Prix would race with Peugeot V10 engines for next three years. And in 2001, Nigel Mansell confirmed yet another F1 return to drive a two-seater Minardi. That soon sparked fanciful rumours that the former world champion was preparing for a full race return with the team alongside Fernando Alonso, all of which of course proved, well, fanciful!
Environmentalists embarked on mass action against Michael Schumacher’s 2002 plans to build mansion complete with heliports and multiple garages in a small German-speaking Swiss village near Altenrhein in his effort to allow his children an education in their mother tongue. The Schumachers eventually settled on a $10 million farm in the hills of Lac Leman near Geneva.
In 2003, FIA boss Max Mosley confirmed an F1 ban on refuelling between the end of qualifying and the start of the race, meaning drivers had to qualify with race fuel. The system was scrapped in 2010 when refuelling was banned during a race.
And 1950s privateer Italian sports car driver, 12 Hour of Casablanca winner and occasional F1 racer, Piero Scotti passed aged 66 in 1966.