• April 26 down the years

Biggs, Ecclestone and the Great Train Robbery

What happened on April 26 in Formula One history?
Ronnie Biggs, the legendary train robber, at the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix © Getty Images
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2005
Bernie Ecclestone put an end to outlandish rumours linking him to the Great Train Robbery by coming clean about his association with the get-a-way driver Roy James. Ecclestone had long been linked to the hold-up and the appearance of Ronnie Biggs at a number of Brazilian Grands Prix did nothing to dampen the rumours. However, when asked about the incident in an interview in The Independent Ecclestone said: "There wasn't enough money on that train; I could have done something better than that. No, I'll tell you where that [rumour] came from. Roy James, the guy who drove the getaway car, had been a racing driver. That's why they wanted him in the getaway car. Anyway, Roy was very friendly with Graham Hill, and when he came out of prison, he asked me for a job. I owned Brabham at the time, but I wasn't going to let him drive for me. Instead, I gave him a trophy to make; he'd also been a silversmith and goldsmith. That's still the trophy we give to the promoters every year. He made it. The recipients don't realise that."

2009
Jenson Button made it three victories from four at the start of the season by taking a win in Bahrain for Brawn GP. He went on to win six of the first seven races, all but securing him the championship. Bahrain was one of his more challenging victories and saw him pull a brave overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton in order to create a gap between himself and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. Toyota had locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying but their challenge for victory fizzled out after the first round of pit stops.

1998
David Coulthard took his one and only race win of the 1998 season, beating Michael Schumacher to victory at Imola. His McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen recorded eight wins in the same year, to secure his first championship victory and the San Marino Grand Prix was one of the few occasions where Coulthard had the upper-hand. He qualified on pole, and after Hakkinen retired with gearbox failure, romped easily to the victory.

1937
One-time grand prix winner Jean-Pierre Beltoise was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. He started 84 grands prix between 1967 and 1974 after a career in motorbike racing in the early 1960s. His one race victory came at Monaco in 1972 driving for BRM. A brilliant start from fourth on the grid allowed him to pull away in the lead as his competitors floundered in his considerable spray. It was a faultless performance, but one he struggled to repeat again at any point in his F1 career. He later won two French touring car titles for BMW as well as taking part in rallycross and ice racing.

1958
Johnathan Colum Crichton-Stuart the 7th Marquess of Bute and Earl of Dumfries (better known as Johnny Dumfries) was born in Rothesay, Scotland. The heir to a vast fortune, as well as being a distant cousin to Queen Elizabeth, he packed-in his private education to pursue a career in motor racing. After spells as a painter, decorator and driver of the Williams' team bus, his perseverance paid off and he began to get some drives in karting in 1980. From there he graduated to Formula Three, winning the British Championship in 1984, which gained him a season test driving for Ferrari while struggling in Formula 3000. To the paddock's surprise he was signed as a Lotus driver in 1986. Derek Warwick had been expected to gain the No. 2 seat alongside Ayrton Senna, but it was Senna who persuaded the team to go for the relatively unknown Dumfries, as he did not feel Lotus could run two competitive cars. Dumfries raced for them the entire season with two points-scoring finishes from 16 starts, his best was a fifth place in Hungry. He lost his drive in 1987 when Lotus did an engine deal with Honda, which was conditional on them signing Satoru Nakajima. Dumfries continued to race, winning the Le Mans 24 Hour in 1988. He retired from motor racing in 1991 to run his family estate.

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