The action started early for me in 1969 , with the help of a family outing to visit relatives in Ipswich, I was able to attend the Foxhall Stadium for races on January 26.
I was back there again on March 30 but not before attending the Brafield (Mar 9) and Harringay openers (Mar 22) .
I couldn’t expect Mum and Dad to ‘taxi’ me around to the races, so in 1968 I started using public transport. The Harringay Stadium , in North London became my second ‘local track’.
The Brafield Stadium being slightly closer to home .
At this time Harringay was running twice a month, and when the 1969 season got under way on March 22 , I rarely missed meeting.
My regular place on the terraces was on the pits bend where the cars came on to the track.
I could just afford to get there on my pocket money, given to me by parents and the extra cash that I earned delivering newspapers. Luckily , I was still young enough to get child prices on the fares and admission.
Everything started to change for me, that year.
While traveling on the ‘Bed Pan Line’ I got chatting to another young race fan, who like me, was without his own transport and attended races the same way.
His name was Mick Lovett, and he lived in Luton. The two of us would travel by train together every two weeks during the season and as time went by, he introduced me to a few of his racing friends who had cars.
It wasn’t long before I was offered rides to other tracks with them.
Those guy’s were Pete Wattingham who had an Austin 1100 , Phil ‘Bootsie’ Chance who had a diesel engined Austin A60 Camebridge and Mick Gale # 567 a local BriSCA F2 driver from Luton .
I’m still in contact with ‘Bootsie’, as he’s the chairman of the VSCA (Veteran Stock Car Association) which I’ve been a long time member.
I often meet up with him on my trips back to the UK, where he now takes care of the Victory Lane presentations at the Coventry Stadium.
In June ( 7/8) I joined ‘Bootsie’ and Mick Lovett ( in later years he was given the tag of ‘Mick the beard’ bcause there were so many ‘Micks’ in our clan) for the Coventry Stadium on Saturday and Brands Hatch on Sunday.
It was my first visit to both tracks and I was very impressed. Even up to this present day , the shale of the “Brandon Bowl’ near Coventry has been ‘the’ place to see BriSCA F1’s where the atmosphere has always been electric. I can still smell the aroma of freshly cooked donuts that used to greet you as you entered the front straight terraces !
Howard Davis # 327 of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire won that night.
Brands Hatch however was totally different, being a paved racing circuit ( or road course as my North American friends would call it) .
In the past it had been the host of the F1 British Grand Prix.
Stock car racing was introduced to Brands Hatch in 1966 and for that year and all the other years except 1969, the Clearways Oval was used. For some reason in 1969 they decided to race on the Paddock Hill Circuit.
My memory of that day was of Barry Brew # 9 coming down Paddock Hill, losing it at the bottom, then hitting the banking and rolling over.
Ray Pearce # 234 of South London won the Final.
The week after (June 14) I gained another ‘new track’ when I visited the Long Eaton Stadium for the first time.
That was another great track from the past, that just like Harringay Stadium, is now defunct to racing. Long Eaton was rough and bumpy but provided plenty of action.
My memories of that place will always be of the lively and friendly old bar on the front straight, that was complete with a coal burning stove located in the middle. On cold nights you could go in there and warm yourself up.
I must not forget to mention the Fish and Chip shop in the street opposite the pit entrance that was very popular with race goers.
Charlie Finnikin # 55 of Leek, Staffordshire won that night.
One of the first long haul trips I made, was in Pete’s Wattinghams Austin 1100, and it was to the famous Belle Vue Speedway Manchester on July 12.
The track was located , in the heart of a typical northern England ‘Coronation Street’ area on Hyde Rd . This, the original track is now long gone, and a replacement track, just down the road has been running since the early 1990’s.
Back in 1969 the M1 and M6 Motorways were yet to be joined, and the journey up north , linking both motorways involved a cross country trek via the old Roman Road of Watling Street ( A5) via Lichfield and Tamworth.
It was a long drive, but it was worth it.
I got to see all the top northern drivers drivers that I’d been reading about, like the great Willie Harrison # 2, Doug Cronshaw # 396, and Stuart Smith # 391.
At this time Belle Vue was a huge entertainment complex with an amusement park, zoo and dance halls.
I remember on our journey back that night, we made room for two ‘damsels in distress’ that needed a ride back to Stoke on Trent, which happened to be on our way home !
I’d also started going to the Brafield Stadium by public transport.
It would involve getting up early on Sunday morning and catching a bus from Dunstable to Luton. From Luton I would get another one to the Bedford Bus Station, where I’d catch a third one towards Northampton. When it got to the small village of Brafield on the Green, I would get off and walk the two miles to the track.
Like Harringay, I often got rides home from the races from the new friends I began to make.
One of these was a mechanic and his girl friend from the Andy Abel # 101 team ( their names escape me) who were from Gravenhurst Bedfordshire.
The girl friends father was a keen race fan and had organized a coach trip to the BriSCA F1 World Final that was being held at Belle Vue that year on Sept 13
So within weeks of visiting Belle Vue for the first time, I was traveling north once more.
On the journey up the M6 the coach passed an unfamiliar race car on tow. It was # D18 Aad Reyerkerk the sole overseas representative from the Netherlands that year.
At the start of the year Stuart Smith # 391 had debuted a brand new self built car, in favor of his infamous Tiger Griffin built car .
The new car had been winning races all year and with the World Final being held on home ground Smith was in a league of his own.
The next day I was at Brafield for the BriSCA F2 World Final.
This was won by Hatfield, Hertfordshire’s Ron Innocent # 712.
At the end of 1967 , Alan, along with his father Doug # 55 had switched over from BriSCA to race nearer to home on the Spedeworth tracks. I’d seen them both on my early season trips to Ipswich.
I went on one more organized coach trip before the year was out, and that was to the Wimbledon Stadium in Plough Lane, South London on Nov 22.
Every year the Spedeworth organization finished their season with a spectacular ‘Carnival Night’. There was a giant firework display and the cars were all decorated up as floats for a pre-race parade similar to the Fan Club Derby held on the BriSCA tracks. It was a show that wasn’t to be missed.
That’s how my year ended.