• November 23 down the years

Crossing the line backwards

What happened on this day in Formula One history?
Antonio Ascari's car lies in a ditch during the 1919 Targa Florio © Getty Images
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Andre Boillot in a 2.5 litre Peugeot won the first major post-war race in Europe, the Targa Florio, over a gruelling, snow-hit and foggy 268-mile road course in Scicily. His finish was one of the most unusual in racing history. As he braked for the final corner he lost control and spun into the grandstand less than 30 yards from the line. Spectators helped push his car from the wreckage and, dazed and bloodied, he manoeuvred his damaged vehicle over the line in reverse. Aware he faced disqualification, Ernest Ballot, the owner of the car in second place, sportingly persuaded Boillot to drive back to the point of the accident and re-cross the line going forward. He did so, securing an undisputed win. Exhausted, he immediately collapsed. The race also featured a young Enzo Ferrari, driving a Lancia, and was notable for Antonio Ascari driving straight off the road into a ravine.

Nico Rosberg's unveiling as a Mercedes driver was, noted the Daily Mail, "like Hamlet without the prince". Despite strenuous denials, the thing the media all wanted to talk about was the rumoured return of Michael Schumacher, and a vague and off-message aside from team boss Norbert Haug only fuelled speculation. "When would you ever say anything categorically in Formula One? I have nothing to add." The off-stage noise was a regrettable distraction for Rosberg, who said he was "a little surprised" not to be partnering Jenson Button, whose move to McLaren had left a space for Schumacher.

Guildford-born Katherine Legge was one of several drivers who tested for Minardi in Italy, drawing praise from outing team boss Paul Stoddart even though she drove into a brick wall in her first outing.. "Katherine proved she's definitely got what it takes to be a F1 driver," he said. Legge added: "It's been a fantastic experience. I did my best and I'm very pleased with the result. I can't wait to get back into a F1 car. That, however, is for the longer term." Nothing came of the tests although she did subsequently take part in the A1 Grand Prix series.

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