In motorsport, there are three events that stand out above all others. In no particular order (none is possible, really), the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans are racing’s greatest stages. The first two take place today..
Formula One is in Monte Carlo for the 71st running of the Monaco Grand Prix. The first race in Monaco took place in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti. The race became part of the Formula One World Championship in1950 and has been featured in the Formula One calendar every year since, with the exception of 1951, 1953 and 1954. The track layout has undergone minor modifications over the years, but has retained most of the original course.
Ayrton Senna holds the record for most victories at Monaco with six, followed by Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher on five each. Schumacher will be hoping to equal Senna’s record today. Other past winners on the grid for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix are Fernando Alonso with two victories, and Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen with one win each.
The Indianapolis 500 is the major event on the North American racing calendar. 500 miles of the world’s most famous oval track decide who will be immortalised in racing history. The first Indy 500 was run in 1911, and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon Wasp. This year’s race is the 96th Indianapolis 500, with only 6 years having been missed out since the event started due to the first and second World Wars.
Three past winners are on the grid for today’s Indy 500: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Dario Franchitti (2007,2010) and Scott Dixon (2008). The record number of victories is four, which means Castroneves could become joint most successful Indy 500 driver in history if he triumphs today.
A few former Formula One drivers will be taking part in the Indy 500 today. Rubens Barrichello joined the Indycar series for 2012, and starts today’s race 10th after a strong qualifying performance. Takuma Sato joined the Indycar series in 2010, and starts 19th. Sebastian Bourdais starts 25th. Jean Alesi makes a popular comeback to single-seater racing at the age of 47 after retiring from Formula One at the end of 2001. He starts the race in 33rd position.
Only two drivers in history have won both the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in their careers. Most recently, Juan Pablo Montoya won at Indy in 2000, and at Monaco in 2003. Graham Hill won both events in the 1960s, but his achievements in motorsport’s most significant events are far more startling than that.
Hill is the only driver to have won what is known as the “Triple Crown of Motorsport”: The Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix. He is also the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Formula One World Championship. Known as “Mr. Monaco”, HIll won five Monaco Grands Prix, the 1966 Indianapolis 500, the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Formula One World Championship in 1964 and 1968.
The Monaco Grand Prix starts in just under an hour’s time. The Indy 500 is five hours away. The greatest day of the 2012 motorsport calendar is about to get underway.