• March 20 down the years

The racing driver and war hero

What happened on March 20 in Formula One history?
Robert Benoist; racing driver and war hero © Getty Images

Robert Benoist, born on this day, was a racing driver and a war hero. In World War One he was a fighter pilot, and in World War Two he was a leading member in the French Resistance before he was captured by the Gestapo. While being transported for interrogation he jumped from a car, escaped and made his way to England. He returned to France but was again captured and this time he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp where he was executed three months later. He finished third in the European Grand Prix in 1924 and in 1925 he shared a win with Albert Divo in the French GP, and his success continued in 1926 and in 1927, when, driving a Delage 15-S-8, he won the French, Spanish, Italian and British grand prix.

The second round of the championship took place in Malaysia. Fernando Alonso started from pole and went on to win the race from Toyota's Jarno Trulli by a massive 23.4 seconds. Trulli's second place marked Toyata's first podium finish and Alonso's win made him the first Spaniard to lead the F1 World Championship. But the headlines were shared with Ferrari after Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello finished way down the field in what was described as a "second-hand" car. "There can be no excuses after a race like this,' said team manager Jean Todt. 'We were beaten by opponents who were stronger than us."

Portuguese driver Pedro Lamy was born in Aldeia Galega. The son of a second-hand car dealer, he progressed to F1 through karting, Formula Ford, Formula Three and then Formula 3000, almost taking the title in his first season. At 21 he was set for what many believed was a promising F1 career but at Lotus he struggled and suffered a brace of crashes, at Silverstone surviving a bad crash where his car ended up on fire in a pedestrian track under the circuit. His injuries kept him out of racing until the middle of 1995 when he joined Minardi, and although he kept his seat in 1996 he achieved little and left F1 at the end of the year. He went on to have a successful career in sports car racing.

American race driver Larry Crockett died, at the age of 28, in a crash at the Langhorne speedway. He raced in just one F1 race, the 1954 Indy 500.