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1981 RETRO REPORT

1981tRICK @ the RACES (RETRO 1981)

Episode 15

During the late 1970’s up until the end of 1980, I’d been leading a busy life chasing around Europe attending as many stock car races as I could. In 1981 the pace began to slow down.

I was engaged to Pat and our wedding was scheduled for March 7, just one week before the BriSCA season was about to begin. This year my track visits would be reduced dramatically.

During the winter I got rid of my Ford Capri and bought a modest 1966 Austin A60 Cambridge which had belonged to my sister Anne’s father in law. 1981aHe had owned it from new, it had very low mileage and still looked quite tidy.

I didn’t attend any of the January or February Spedeworth meetings like I had in the past but was still getting together with my buddies in the Five Bells at Eaton Bray on Monday nights.

It was in this pub, that I had my ‘stag night’ prior to the wedding. Pat had put Colin in charge of making sure I got home safely and escaped any of the silly stuff.

The wedding ceremony took place in Totternhoe which was followed by a reception in Dagnal.

img005 (2)We then took off from Luton Airport for a short honeymoon in Athens the capitol of Greece.

1981c 1981dWe visited the Acropolis,

img006 (3) img004 (3) toured the Greek Islands,

img007 (3)Watched the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace,  but saw no racing !

1981bA week or so before we arrived in Greece the area around Athens had suffered minor earthquakes and a few people were still living in tents. Tremors were still taking place while we were there and I remember one such occasion.

We were in a department store in the city, looking around the toy department with the intention of adding to my die cast model truck collection when one occurred. Were were on the first or second floor and the feeling is best described as being like on a boat . The building was rocking to and fro as if it was on water .

It didn’t last for long and I came away from the store with a Saviem rigid ( straight) truck to add to my collection.

We were in Greece for about five days and on the day of our return flight Pat became very sick. She was unwell at the Athens airport and also for the duration of the flight. The cabin crew were so concerned that on arrival at Luton Airport an ambulance was waiting for us on the tarmac.

She was then checked over and we were whisked through customs. Once back in Dunstable, her own doctor confirmed she’d contracted Hepatitis A . It was most likely passed on to her through bad hygiene in one of the places we’d eaten. It took her about three months before she was fully recovered.

One of the headline racing events to happen in 1981 was when former Superstox World Champion Gordon ‘Spotty’ McDougal (41) bid farewell to Spedeworth and became a BriSCA promoter at a new Scottish track at Newtongrange in Midlothian. ( near to Edinburgh). Racing was for BriSCA F2’s and the first ever race took place on March 15 . I missed this one !1981e

Once the racing season got under way there were no long distance trips around the country for me and my racing diet consisted of just my local tracks. These were Brafield, Coventry, Leicester and the occasional Long Eaton.

1981fColin and I were still helping Bill West (39) at the races and my old friend Mick Gale had started his own BriSCA F1 Team. 1981gHis driver was Pete Hamer (144) who worked with Mick at GPG in Dunstable. The same place that my Dad used to work. I also knew Pete quite well from the days we were both employed by Export & General Transport Services.

I’d been working on contract to the Cross Paperware company in Dunstable for many years and it was in 1981 that I decided to move on and try to earn a bit more cash.

Pat and I were living in her mobile home in Totternhoe and we had plans to buy our first house.

I went to work for Edwards Transport based in Leighton Buzzard.

The boss Sidney Edwards was the brother of one of my racing buddies , Spedeworth Superstox driver Ken Edwards (394) . They specialized in general haulage and had various contracts. 1981hMuch of it involved ‘hand bombing’ loads of building bricks or sacks of animal feed from flat bed trailers. This was an ordeal I soon began to hate.

Every now and then I’d get lucky and do one of their better contracts, which involved hauling high security loads where I’d be accompanied by a guard and an escort vehicle.

I remember one such trip I did , via the Felixstowe to Rotterdam ferry crossing with a load to the Amsterdam docks. I was driving a Fiat and another driver in a Berliet,   were delivering a couple of shipping containers, and were joined by two guards.

It was an overnight crossing and the following day once we’d delivered the containers to a waiting ship we had time to kill in Rotterdam until the evening ferry back home. uktruck-5Our trip coincided with the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, so we found a bar with a TV and watched the live broadcast.

Pat was also in the transport business and when we met, she was the co-owner of a small trucking company that specialized in loads from the UK to Italy. After closing it down she started working in Milton Keynes for a refrigerated transport company. img003 (3)The use of a Jaguar XJ6 came with the job , so her Fiat X19 was sold.

House prices in the Dunstable area were quite high so we started looking for something north of Milton Keynes. We found a small bungalow about a 25 minute drive north of the city in the small village Maidford, Northants. Maidford is very close to Silverstone, home of the world famous motor racing circuit.

On race days we could hear the roar of the cars from our back yard. It was also quite near to Brafield and only a 30 minute drive from Coventry.

Our new house needed a bit of work done to it so my stock car buddies came to the rescue.

BriSCA F2 driver Mick Coady (653) and Superstox driver Kev Shambrook (33) did the re-wiring while Brian Bedford (209) , did the plumbing. ( Kev sadly passed away in 2006) . Brian who used to live in Hemel Hempstead , Herts had since moved north to the nearby village of Weedon.

Soon after relocating to Maidford, I changed jobs again and started working for Darby’s Transport who had a contract with Bejam , the countries leading freezer food chain store at the time.

Darby’s were based in Sutton, Cambridgeshire, but worked out of Bejam’s large cold store in Wolverton , Milton Keynes. The job involved delivering to the companies stores around the UK and picking up from the various suppliers.

The F1 Long Track World Final was at Baarlo on Aug 8-9, and of course we still found time to make the traditional trip to the Netherlands. 1981iWe used the Austin Cambridge and stayed at ‘Willem’s , a small Bed and Breakfast Café in Roermond. 1981j 1981kThe 1981 Championship went to Dutchman , Willy Neiling (48) of Schinveld.

At the end of the month on August 30 the PRI F3 World Final took place at Arena Essex and was won by Dick Strudwick (69) from Billericay, Essex.

I wasn’t there but I was at the Matchams Park , Ringwood track the next day for what I believe was the last BriSCA F1 meeting to be held there.

1981l 1981mOut on the track that day was my old friend Tim Warwick (478) from Bedford who was renting a Frankie Wainman (212)car.

Wainman had started providing a rental service where budding racers could hire a BriSCA F1 stock car for the day. Many newcomers started the sport this way. It was a great way for prospective racers to see if they liked it before making the commitment of investing in a car of their own. As for Tim, he is still racing a BriSCA F1 today and I’ve met up with him several times in recent years.

1981uThe 1981 BriSCA F1 World Final was held at the Odsal Stadium in Bradford, West Yorkshire on September 12 and a group of us traveled up in a rented Ford Transit mini-bus.

Although the Beds & Herts club had been wound up, former committee man Malcolm Burton organized the trip. 1981n 1981oThe names I recall, who made the trip, were Nigel Harradine, Mick ‘the Beard’ Lovett, Kev Shambrook, Brian Yates, Colin and Kim, Malc and three of his friends, plus Pat and me .

I remember that a lot of beer was consumed that day , on the journey up in the mini bus and in the Rugby Club bar afterwards.

1981sFor the first time in the BriSCA F1 World Final there was a New Zealand representative, Warren McIntyre (NZ1) driving a Wainman rental car. 1981rAlso in a Wainman car was Jim McClure (USA 3) from Saco , Maine making his second UK appearance .

1981p 1981qThe NACO visitors were Rien Rutjens (15) Lambert Keulen (104), Jos Hochstenbach (29), Wim Vondenhoff (19) Broer Wetzels (45) Peter Kempen (42) and Piet Van Eickbos (28). Not all of them were in the big race, as they had to compete among themselves for the three spots on the grid. 1981tThe 1981 ‘Gold top’ went to Len Wolfenden (190) from Nelson, Lancs.

The Superstox World Final was held at the Kaldenkirchen track in Germany and was won by England’s Neil Bee (482) of Downham Market, Norfolk.

I missed that one, but was at my local Brafield track on September 20 for the 1981 BriSCA F2 World Final which was won by Cornwall’s Bill Batten (667).

Colin Herridge and me in the Brafield pits on F2 World Final day
Colin Herridge and me in the Brafield pits on F2 World Final day

1981x

Even with all the big changes in my life, I still managed to attend about 40 race meetings in 1981.