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1980 RETRO REPORT

1980uRICK @ the RACES (RETRO 1980)

Episode 14

I979 had been quite an eventful year, I raced my BriSCA F1 a few times at Brafield ,  the Silver Jubilee meeting at Harringay, as well making three trips across the English Channel to watch racing in the Netherlands and Germany. By the end of the year the stock car had been sold to the Abraham Brothers, as I was planning on a relocation to live in the Netherlands .

The winter of 79/80 turned out to be one of the shortest closed season’s of all time for me.

There was enough racing going on right up to the end of 1979 to keep me happy and on January 26 , I attended my first event of the year.

I went along to the Wimbledon Stadium to get my first look at the new Formula 80 stock cars that Spedeworth had introduced to replace the FISCA/SCOTA F1’s . Like I said in the 1979 report, F80’s were similar to the northern Hot Stox, and a scaled down version of the ‘real thing’. I could never see the point of Hot Stox or F80’s and they didn’t impress me much.

1980aThere were far too many different formula’s in UK oval racing and this just confused the general public even more. There was already a good alternative in place for a smaller open wheel stock car division, with BriSCA F2, Spedeworth Superstox, or PRI F3’s

A few of the original FISCA/SCOTA drivers had built cars to conform, but others moved over to BriSCA F1.

On February 10 , I set off on another of my trips across the English Channel to the Baarlo AutoSpeedway in the Netherlands. Once again I went by my preferred crossing of Dover to Ostende in Belgium where it was only about a three hour drive to the track , via Gent, Antwerp and Eindhoven.

Sealink , the ferry operators did a special 60 hour return fare which worked out well for most of my trips. It was easy to leave home on a Friday , see two days of racing , then catch a Sunday night ferry back to the UK.

On my previous trip in December  1979 , I’d applied for a truck driving job at RAF Bruggen, close to Roermond,  but nothing came of it. I’m pretty sure that when position’s became available, they were offered to locals, in preference to someone like myself , who wasn’t even living in the area. So I didn’t pursue it any further.

By now word had got around my circle, that I did the ‘Baarlo’ trips quite often and it wasn’t difficult to fill my car with friends, who wanted to sample the Dutch style of racing.

Of course this made the traveling costs cheaper for me. I was joined by Maureen, Trish Wilson, Brian Yates and his friend ( sorry his name escapes me)

February was still not the ideal time of year to be camping , so for the first time we stayed in small Bed & Breakfast hotel in Roermond.1979-6

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I remember it well, because this was the occasion, where I picked up my first ,and only parking ticket. bf7

There was very little parking available at the Hotel and I woke up too late in the morning to feed the meter. Rather than making a run for it back to the UK with out paying , I figured I ought to pay up, after all I was hoping to move to the vicinity. The very same day, I paid up at the relevant office and my conscience was clear.

One surprise in the Baarlo pits was the former Bert Finnikin (55 ), Alan Young (393) built car, still with the distinctive BMC Mini body and the long bonnet. It was now in the hands of Dutchman, Willy Neiling (48) .1980b

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Alan Young was not related to me , but he lived nearby in Bedfordshire , and was a former ‘red top’ BriSCA F2 driver. He had a brief spell in F1 before he became a noted car builder.

I got to know him quite well when he was one of the key members of the Glyn Pursey (175) crew. Later in the early 90’s I got to see him quite regularly when he worked next to where I did in, Wolverton,  Milton Keynes.

The winner of the Baarlo Final was Friedhelm Welters (8) in a 455 cu in Buick powered UK style car. He was always one of the best NACO drivers but this was the first time I’d seen him get a big win.

img035 (3)This was the last cross-channel trip that  I made with my Austin 3 Litre.

It was sold for a good price and I bought a 2 litre V4 Ford Capri. This turned out to be the biggest piece of junk I ever owned.1980h

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Before the BriSCA F1 season got under way in March,  I went along to see the Spedeworth Superstox in action at Wimbledon, Ipswich and Aldershot.

Once, the BriSCA F1 season did get underway I made many long distance trips to the North of England attending such places as Bradford, BelleVue, Long Eaton, Hartlepool and Sheffield. These were in addition to my local tracks of Brafield, Coventry and Leicester.

1980, was also the year that a few of my race fan buddies made their debut on the track, in F1 stock car racing. These included Pete Mayhew (94) from Barking , Essex ,1980i Stan Cole (432) from Flitton, Beds ,1980m Stu Ralls (379) from Southampton,1980j Hants, Bob Hall (380) 1980kand Ian Hall (381) 1980lfrom Billericay Essex.

Pete had an ex John Cayzer (495) car, Stan’s was an ex Bryan Warner (90) while Stu, Bob and Ian used loaned cars from Ray Scriven (110) .

The latter trio, were known around the raceways as ‘Halls & Ralls’. All five of the guys mentioned above are still good friends of mine today and we regularly keep in touch.

In later years, Pete and his family moved to the USA to Hamburg, New Jersey ( close to the Orange County Fair Speedway NY ) but has since returned to live in Cheshire (UK).

Stan is in Northamptonshire, Bob and Ian are now living in Middlesex , West London, while Stu still remains in Southampton.

The Abraham brothers were also out on the track with the Ford Thunderbird powered car I sold to them in late 1979. 1980cThey took it in turns to drive , Dave was issued with (93) and Paul had (393).

My old buddy Chris Pickup (50) was missing for the first part of 1980 as he was building something special and it wasn’t yet finished. More about this later.

One new track I visited at around this time was a Grass Track course at Bleak Hall in Milton Keynes . It was a small temporary circuit for grass-racers located just outside of Bletchley in the new city , a short distance from my home in Totternhoe.1980d

The Daily Mirror Grand Series that was set up in 1979 to honor the sports Silver Jubilee was running again in 1980. I mentioned in my 1979 report about the bad decision to change the starting line ups for this series ( not in grade order) which had resulted in some poor quality racing.

Because of this, I chose to miss the Sheffield Daily Mirror Grand Prix round that was scheduled for Monday May 19. This was a decision that would change my whole life.

I was still truck driving for a living on the same Cross Paperware contract in Dunstable for Field Transport.

As well as driving Leyland’s , I also drove an AEC , a DAF and a GUY. 1980e

On my drives through Dunstable I would often see a good looking blonde behind the wheel of a green Fiat X19 two seater. (The Fiat X19 had similar styling to the Pontiac Fierro) . 1980gWhen ever we saw each other we’d always smile and wave . It reminded me of a YORKIE chocolate bar TV commercial that was popular at the time which showed a trucker getting a smile and wave from a chick in a sports car. I was 26 years old and still single !

One of my old buddies from the days when I was an engineering apprenticeship ,  had changed careers and he was now a local police officer. Quite often when I wasn’t at the races we’d get together and go to the local pubs and night spots to check out the ‘talent’.

On the night of that Sheffield Grand Prix round which I chose to miss, my buddy , Brian, phoned to see if I fancied going out for a beer.

We were standing at the bar in the ‘Rule & Square’ pub in Eddlesborough having a pint, when the girl in the green Fiat X19 walked in .

To cut a long story short, her name was Pat, we got along very well and within the space of about four weeks , we were seriously dating.

She later become my wife and we were married for sixteen years.

Luton’s Bill West (39) was now a regular racer so Colin Herridge and I started helping him out at the meetings. At about the same time, Colin started dating Kim, who he later married.

I’ve known Colin since the mid 1970’s from the Plume of Feathers days in Markyate,  and he joined me on May 24/25 for my second Baarlo trip of the year.

This was another one of the quick 60 hour ferry returns, via Dover to Ostende. m5 m14

Unfortunately, this two day event ended prematurely when our friend, Pete Doran (428) , one of the UK driver’s competing got involved in a serious accident. 1980f

His car rolled over several times and went over the safety fence into the spectator area. Pete luckily escaped injury, but sadly there was a fatality in the crowd . The meeting was brought to a close as investigations took place.

It was a bleak and sad ending to this trip, which meant a return to England earlier than expected.

It was around this time that I became know as ‘Rick’ for the first time. I was christened with the name of Richard but during my school days it got shortened to ‘Dick’. Pat preferred to call me ‘Rick’ , so from then on wards that became the name I answered to.

Even so, to save any confusion around the race tracks, I still used the name ‘Dick Young (67)’ on my race cars.

On June 21 my new girlfriend Pat accompanied me to the races for the first time, when we visited the Leicester Stadium for a regular night of BriSCA F1’s .

It didn’t take much to persuade her,  as she’d been a fan of stock-car racing and motor-cycle speedway in the past . She was originally from Dorset and had been a regular fan at her local Poole and Ringwood tracks . In her youth, she used to travel with one of the Spedeworth Superstox teams that raced locally at Ringwood.

We could not have chosen a better night for her to get her first taste of up-country BriSCA F1 racing.

Leicester was always noted as one of the best action tracks in the country and this particular night was probably one the most memorable of all time.

The great Richie Ahern (18) was involved in a spectacular crash with Steve Bateman (427) where both cars rolled-over. Richie’s car flew so high in to the air, it cleared the safety fence and landed on the greyhound track.

Richy Ahern (not my pic, photographer unknown)
Richy Ahern (not my pic, photographer unknown)

Unfortunately, Leicester was to become another race track that was lost to the developer. There is now a housing estate on the former site in Blackbird Road.

The following weekend on June 28/29 Pat and I made a road trip to the North of England in her Fiat X19 , where we attended BriSCA F1 races at Belle Vue, and the Rochdale.1980o

We then made plans for a mainland Europe vacation in July .

We borrowed my Mum and Dads caravan to tow behind my Capri. The Capri’s engine had been smoking a bit, so in preparation for the trip I decided to put in a new set of piston rings. It was no big deal and a job I’d done on plenty of engines in the past.

On the Friday night of July 18 we set off from Dunstable heading for the port of Dover. We had just past the exit for the Lydden Hill Circuit on the M2 when there was a big bang and the Capri came to a halt. After a quick inspection it was obvious a serious engine failure had occurred, with a hole in the engine block and a con-rod poking through the side.

After walking across the fields to a nearby farm house I asked to use their phone ( we had no cel phones in those days) to get help.

Luckily I had taken out AA (Automobile Association) Five Star Travel Insurance which covered eventualities like this. The car and caravan were towed to a local garage while a taxi took us to a hotel in Dover.

The next day, while arrangements were being made for the return of the car and caravan to Dunstable we boarded the ferry as foot passengers to Calais in France.

Once in Calais we rented a red Talbot Horizon to continue with our vacation.img005 (3)

Without a caravan, it meant we had the extra expence of staying in hotels, so decided to make it a one week holiday instead of two.

We spent a few days touring the Rhine Valley of Germany and taking in the sights . img006 (4)We stopped by to see the Loreley, that is part of local folklore. img003 (4)

It’s a beautiful part of the world , as well as being a famous wine making area.  I recall , us staying overnight at a small wine keller, and sampling plenty of what they had on offer, with a group of Belgian guys that we befriended. img004 (4)

After that we headed up to the Netherlands. img007 (4)We visited the tourist resort of Valkenburg , NL , before heading for the Gannita Circuit, at Gendt.

The track was another in the Jac Van Claes ,  NACO organization and located between Nijmegan and Arnhem. All the NACO divisions were there, although there were only a few F1 Stock Cars present. Hot Rods were the headline division that day.1980p 1980q

For those readers around the world not familiar with ‘Hot Rods’, let me explain . They are a stock bodied, 4 cylinder non-contact division that started in the UK in the mid-sixties. I have witnessed them in action many times over the years from 1965 on wards but they’ve never really grabbed my attention the way that open wheeled stock cars have.

The name given to them of ‘Hot Rods’  was an unfortunate choice as most people think of a Hot Rod as a customized street machine.

My fondest memories of them were in the late 1970’s when they raced on the shale at Wimbledon. The duels between George Polley (306) in his 105E Anglia and Barry Lee (351) in his Escort were awesome to watch !

On our return to Calais we returned our rental car and got the ferry back to England. Once in Dover , we rented a Ford Fiesta to get us back home to Totternhoe. img008 (2)

I then had my Ford Capri to get back on the road, so  bought another engine from a wreckers yard, and installed it.

We also bought an old Hillman Minx Series V  ( like I’d owned before) to get around while the Capri was fixed.img030 (4)

I later found out from a mechanic at my local Ford dealership why the original engine ‘let go’ . Like I said , I’d done plenty of piston-ring jobs in the past and had never had the need to replace the con-rod bolts.

Apparently with this type of engine new ones should always be used once they’ve been removed. …Well, you live and learn !

The Superstox World Final was held at the Cowdenbeath Raceway in Scotland on Sunday Aug 17 and was won by Dave Pierce (320) of Dorking in Surrey.1980r I missed this one, but did attend the F3 Stock Car World Final at Crayford in Kent on Aug 22. My old friend Brian Holmes was competing in this , which was won by Simon Peters (60) from Leyton , North London.

The BriSCA F2 World Final was held later in the year at the Hartlepool Stadium on Sept 28 and won by David Bunt (595) of Plymouth, Devon,  but I didn’t attend this one .

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So in 1980 there were three events labeled as ‘World Finals’ for basically the similar type of stock car.

On August 25 the BriSCA F1’s returned to the Matchams Park Stadium at Ringwood after being absent for more than a decade. A crowd of us traveled down on Bill West’s coach transporter to help him out. It was another of my friends , Danny Clarke (203) from Kettering, Northants who got the big win.

The 1980 BriSCA F1 World Final was held at the Coventry Stadium on Sept 6 and where Stuart Smith (391) of Rochdale, Lancs won his second title.

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There were three representatives from the Netherlands, Rien Rutjens (15 ), Lambert Keulen (104) and Peter Kempen (42) plus three from the USA in loaned cars . They were Jamie Pfeifer (USA 99) a Late Model driver from California, and New England Modified pilots, Phil Libby (USA 81) and Jim Mclure (USA 3) from the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine. 1980s 1980tThe Beech Ridge connection was a new affiliation with BriSCA which would continue for the next couple of years.

Another visitor to Coventry was race fan Rieks Delicaat who had befriended my buddy Colin and I, on our previous Baarlo trip in May. It was his first taste of UK racing and he was staying at Colin’s place in Dunstable . He had offered to return the favor the following weekend.

The weekend after the Coventry World Final , the BriSCA entourage were back in mainland Europe for the Long Track World Final at Baarlo (13 /14 Sept) .

Although I’d stuck another engine in the Capri, I still had little faith in it, so Pat and I joined Colin and his girlfriend Kim in their Toyota Corolla for the trip.

This was just a quick ‘whistle stop’ tour and we all stayed at Rieks place in nearby Heerlen. While we were there we had the opportunity to take a look at the Heerlen Speedway, a track that I never got to visit for racing.

Popular winner at Baarlo was Friedhelm Welters (8) who I’d seen in victory lane earlier in the year during my February visit.1980v

s14 s18I visited all my regular tracks until the end of the year which included Coventry, Leicester, Brafield and Long Eaton as well as a late season excursion to Skegness on the east coast.1980n

Making a late start to the season was my old friend Chris Pickup (50) . He’d been busy building a new car with an Austin Allegro body. In the history of UK stock car racing I can’t remember anyone else ever using a body from this particular model. It had a 425 Buick engine covered by long bonnet and a Mercedes radiator grille.1980w

On December 28 , I attended a Rally Cross at my local Brafield track. They utilized part of the center green with a link to a dirt track made up in the spectator parking field. A section of the perimeter fence had been removed to join the two sections.1980x

The winner was Trevor Hopkins (2 ) in a 1840cc Ford Fiesta.

For the benefit of my North America readers, please don’t confuse this type of Rally Cross with the events which are common in the USA and Canada where cars race one at a time against the clock. A European Rally Cross involves real wheel to wheel racing, usually with four cars in four lap races. In later years I became involved in ( what is believed to be) the first ever ‘Euro Style’ Rally Cross in the USA which took place at the Glad Rag Speedway near Saratoga Springs NY in 2006 .

Towards the end of 1980,  Pat and I become engaged, my plans to move to the Netherlands were forgotten, and with the winter months ahead, we had our wedding planned for March 1981.1980z 1980y