Two of the most prestigious motor races in the world will be run next weekend with the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 and the 76th Monaco Grand Prix.
The Indy 500 is billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and is considered as part of The Triple Crown of motorsport along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the famed Le Mans 24-hour sports car race.
Two-time world champion, the late Graham Hill, is still the only driver to win the triple crown having won the Monaco race five times in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969, the Indy race in 1966 and the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1972.
The only driver to win two of the three was Juan Pablo Montoya who won the Indy 500 in 2000 and 2015 and the Monaco GP in 2003.
The first 500 mile race was run in 1911 on the freshly-paved brick surface (hence the oft-used term “The Brickyard”) and was won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon-based 9.8 litre Wasp.
The 40 starters were vying for the $25,000 prize money and as the race progressed the elaborate timing system failed leaving officials and the large media contingent completely in the dark as to who was leading.
It finally got sorted out but there were many who disputed the outcome and the arguments raged for years.
On a sad note the inaugural event also saw the first driver fatality in the race and over the 101 races held, especially in the early years, a further 41 drivers have died.
The most wins by a driver is four and that record belongs to A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Snr and Rick Mears while the most winning team has been Team Penske with 16.
The race is conducted over 200 laps of the rectangular 2.5-mile circuit with its four, 90 degree corners and the fastest lap ever recorded was 37.895 seconds for an average speed of 382km/h or 237m/h by Arie Luyendyk in 1996.
Since then there have been significant changes to the engines and aerodynamics and the speeds have come down with Marco Andretti recording the fastest lap on Wednesday at 39.63 seconds at an average speed of 365km/h or 227m/h.
Two of the most prestigious motor races in the world will be run next weekend ...
The 33 starters will all be driving a control chassis and aerodynamic package designed by Dallara powered by either a Honda or Chevrolet engine which are a twin-turbocharged, 2.2 litre, V6 engines producing between 550 and 700 horsepower.
Australians Will Power (yet to win the race) and James Davison will line up with 2008 winner Scott Dixon from New Zealand.
On the other side of the world 20 cars will line up the only race on the grand prix calendar that does not comply with the FIA-mandated minimum distance of 305 kilometres being shortened to 260 kilometres.
The first Monaco GP was run in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams driving a works Bugatti type 35B.
When the current world championship commenced in 1950 the Monaco GP was included with Juan Manuel Fangio scoring his first championship victory. The great Argentine driver went on to win five world championships.
From 1951 till 1954 the circuit was not part of the championship but it returned in 1955 and has been part of the championship ever since.
Over the years the circuit layout has changed several times to accommodate development and safety issues and it is unique in that the course goes through a tunnel under a hotel.
In the decade from 1984 to 1993 two drivers reigned supreme with the late Ayrton Senna winning in 1987, 1989 ,1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 and Alain Prost in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher caused plenty of angst during qualifying for the 2006 event when he stopped his car at the Rascasse hairpin while holding provisional pole position in the dying minutes of the session.
With the track blocked no other driver was able to challenge his time and were stunned when he claimed that the car had an issue forcing him to stop.
The stewards thought otherwise and relegated the German driver to rear of the grid and it was just another occasion where he did not endear himself to race fans.
Next weekend’s race will have special significance for Daniel Ricciardo who will desperately want to avenge the heartbreak of losing an almost-certain win in 2016 when his pit crew was not ready for his pit stop.
Ricciardo came in as directed but due to a communication breakdown at management level, the pit crew were out of the garage and had to scramble to do the wheel change, costing Ricciardo 40 seconds and a comfortable lead.
He went onto finish second and followed up last year with a third place but it would be a sweet victory if he could receive the winning trophy from Prince Albert.
The only Australian to win the Monaco GP is Mark Webber who won in 2010 and 2012 also driving a Red Bull.