Towards the end of 1971 , I became the owner of my first car, a BMC Mini Van which allowed me to visit a lot more tracks.
At the beginning of 1972 I had a big surprise in store when it was announced that Bagshawe & Co LTD , the company I was working for would be closing down.
After one and a half years served of an engineering apprenticeship I was forced to look for alternative employment.
Instead of continuing in fabrication and welding I chose to switch trades when U was offered an apprenticeship as a Motor Mechanic with the Watling Street Tool & Gauge Co in Markyate , Hertfordshire. They were an engineering firm, that had it’s own workshop to maintain their fleet of company vehicles.
Right next door to WST&G in Hicks Road, was Harts Motors, where Colin Hayward # 167 , another of our local BriSCA F1 drivers, kept his stock car.
To start the year , a few early season Spedeworth meetings were done in the Mini Van, including my first visit to their HQ at the Aldershot Stadium in Hampshire.
The Mini Van was OK for a ‘first car’ , but not the ideal vehicle for filling up with ‘fare paying’ ( sharing the cost of gas ! ) buddies to help cut the traveling expenses.
For many of the trips in 1972 , I was joined by my biker friends Chris Pickup and Nick Tallett. Nick was employed at a glass shop in Dunstable, and on Saturdays, we’d meet him straight from work and go to the races . As time went by, his co-worker at the shop, Brian Yates came along with us too.
During the Easter weekend I joined Phil ‘Bootsie’ Chance and Mick ‘the beard’ Lovett for a trip to remember . On the afternoon of Good Friday (31 March) , promotor/driver Chick Woodroffe was staging the first of three BriSCA F1 dates in 1972 at the Rayleigh Stadium in Essex ( Rayleigh normally ran BriSCA F2’s) .
We set off from the Luton / Dunstable area in Bootsie’s Austin A60 Camebridge in good time to arrive for a lunch time beer at The Weir, a pub across the road from the track.
It was an afternoon meeting and we decided to watch only a few races, before jumping back in the car and returning north. A few hours later, and after passing through our hometowns we were heading up the M1 motorway for the evening races at the Long Eaton Stadium in Derbyshire.
In April , I sold the Mini Van and it was replaced by a 1965 Series V Hillman Minx. I bought it from a nearby car dealer on finance for about 200 pounds.
One of the earliest trips in the Minx was to the Lydden Hill Circuit in Kent. Some stock car racing had taken place at this track during the 1950’s but in recent years it had been used for Clubmans racing and RallyCross.
Brafield promotor John Latrobe had secured two BriSCA F1 dates for 1972 and the first was on April 9 ( the second on May 21) .
Promotasport’s Chick Woodroffe would take over the running of the remaining dates that year.
Lydden Hill is located in the far south of England just a few miles away from the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ so almost all the fans and race teams had to travel down the M2 Motorway ( and A2) to get there.
It was a great atmosphere on the journey down with everyone ‘tooting’ and waving. It was easy to recognize the other race fans as their cars were adorned with stock car stickers, and my Minx was covered with them !
Rochdale, Lancashire’s Stuart Smith # 391 won on that memorable day.
The next week (April 16 ) the Minx was heading to the East Coast where I saw my first meeting at the Cadwell Park Circuit ( Lincolnshire). It was known as the ‘Mountain Circuit’, because of it’s location on the side of a steep hill.
Soon after Cadwell Park , another racing circuit ( road course to my American friends) was added to my portfolio when I visited the Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk on April 23, which operated under Chick Woodroffe’s Promotorsport banner.
The track was 1005 yards in length and utilized part of the ‘Esses’ from the ‘road course’ and joined by a link road. I was back there again on June 11 for the World Championship Qualifier. I don’t recall if it was on my first visit or the second, but while journeying there, I made a new friend !
As mentioned earlier, fellow stock car fans were easily recognized while traveling around, by their stickers.
That day I was accompanied by Nick Tallett and as we were coming through the small town of Six Mile Bottom close to Newmarket we spotted a broken down Ford Cortina with stock car stickers on the back window.
Of course, we stopped to offer our help. What ever the problem was ( I can’t remember) it couldn’t be fixed by the road side, so we offered the two guys a ride to the races. One of them was Jonny Hewer, who happened to be secretary of the Alan England # 24 / Roy Wilson # 111 Fan Club, and also the southern ‘rep’ of the British Racing Stock Car Supporters Association.
From that day on we became good friends and he managed to persuade me to join the BSCRSA.
On Saturday 17 June , I traveled to the north of England with Pete Wattingham in his car, (an Austin 1100) , along with Mick ‘the Beard’ and Nick Tallett , for my first ever visit to the legendary Nelson Stadium in Lancashire.
There are very few tracks in the UK where the term legendary can be justified, but there’s no doubt about it, with Nelson.
Sadly it was lost to the developer many years ago. The 350 yard shale track was located in Carr Lane in the center of the town. It was on the site of the Nelson Football Club and the cars raced around the edge of the pitch, so , instead of it being oval, it was square shaped.
It was also very rough and bumpy, and a place where many of the hard northern drivers cut their teeth. There were three other unusual features that added to it’s charisma. Viewing was only possible from one side of the stadium ( like many North American Speedways).
On the back straight and behind the safety fence was a brick wall and beyond that was the Nelson Cricket Ground, ( anyone for cheese and cucumber sandwiches ? ), ….. Oh yawn ! Cricket is not one of my favorite sports, I would rather sit and watch paint dry !
On the third bend there was a row of old ‘Coronation Street’ style terraced houses, that got caked in mud during race night. The pits and the spectator parking were on a piece of grassy parkland on the opposite side of Carr Lane. The local police had to be on duty in between races to stop the traffic so the stock cars could cross back and forth. It was an unforgettable sight !
Like I said, the racing was rough and tough and it took a special breed of driver to win at Nelson.
On the night of my first visit the BSCRSA were staging the annual FAN CLUB DERBY. The BriSCA F1 fraternity has always been noted for it’s social scene and Nelson had one of the best.
When the racing was over we joined a large entourage of race teams and fans that moved up town to ‘The Junction’ , which was the favored pub. It turned out to be a late night, and it wasn’t until the early hours of the morning before we got home.
That didn’t deter me from going to Brafield on Sunday afternoon.
I was making good use of the ‘Minx’ and on Friday 23 June my friend Lynn Chandler and I drove down to the Crayford Stadium in Kent. Lynn also joined me for some of the Brafield meetings.
Her friend Carol was dating Ray Dyer, another friend of mine, so the four of us often traveled to Coventry together. Ray’s mum and dad lived in the nearby Binley Woods area of Coventry which was in walking distance of the track.
We would park at his parents place, watch a bit of TV ( I think it was the Dukes of Hazzard ! ) before wandering over to the races. Ray was also a supporter of Coventry’s ‘Brandon Bees’ the local Motor Cycle Speedway team so we went up there for the bikes too.
On June 25, I made my first trip to the Mendips Raceway (Bristol) in Somerset.
Although the track is located at Shipham, quite a few miles away from the city, and close to the Cheddar Gorge, Bristol was the name it went under.
The 380 yard paved oval was, and still is today, a BriSCA F2 stronghold but on occasions the bigger BriSCA F1’s topped the bill. It was the Southern Drivers Championship for BriSCA F1’s that I saw that day.
During the first two weeks of July I visited Coventry, Long Eaton, Harringay and Brafield before heading off on a road trip with Nick Tallett and Mick ‘the Beard’ for a return visit to Nelson and a first time visit to the Aycliffe Stadium (22/23 July) .
My friend and local BriSCA F1 driver Tony Allen # 348 had built an all new, Hillman Imp bodied car for 1972 powered by a Buick ‘Wildcat’ engine and was doing quite well with it.
By the time we traveled to Nelson he’d reached star grade and was a red-top.
For the benefit of those that don’t know, BriSCA stock cars are graded and handicapped by the points acquired. The roof of the car is painted according to the grade. The highest are Red, followed by Blue, Yellow then White’s with fewest points. The World Champion paints his gold.
The Nelson meeting was one of the World Championship Semi Finals and Tony was in the support program. He was drawn to race in the second ‘Semi’ that was to be held at Coventry on Aug 5.
There were two southerners in the Nelson ‘Semi’, and they were, Colin Hayward # 167 from Markyate, where I worked, and Pete Shepherd # 144 from Welwyn Garden City.
Like most of the long distance travelers we arrived early and erected our tent in the parkland opposite the track.
The racing that night was electrifying and the stadium was packed. Tony picked up a second place in his heat, Rochdale’s Doug Cronshaw # 396 took the ‘Semi’ and Mick ‘Noddy’ Noden # 306 of Rugby, Warks, won the Final. Of course the night was rounded off by a session up the Junction.
The next day we were heading even further up-country to the Aycliffe Stadium, which was BriSCA’s most northerly outpost in County Durham. Tony no longer towed the stock car behind his car and had acquired a converted coach (bus) as a transporter, where he, his wife Muriel and the children slept over night in the pits. The next morning we followed them some of the way to our next destination.
The route to Aycliffe took us over the Yorkshire Dales and it was while climbing a steep hill near Grassington that the Minx started over heating. We had to stop half way up to top up the radiator with water from a mountain stream. When we eventually reached the top, Tony was waiting for us where he diagnosed several leaks from the Minx’s aging and rusty rad. From the back of the transporter he found a Barrs Leak Pellet ( commonly known as a ‘dog turd’) that we used to cure the problem.
Tony and and his family were meeting up with other friends en-route to Aycliffe so once we’d crossed the Dales, we went our separate ways. This was when we joined the A1, and our first stop was for ‘eats’ at The Clock Cafe just a few miles south of Scotch Corner. This was quite a famous ‘eatery’ as far as the racing fraternity was concerned as it was owned by 1968 BriSCA F1 World Champion , Tony Neal # 100 . (He’d also been racing at Nelson the night before)
Coincidentally , Both Tony’s, Neal and Allen ended up emigrating to New Zealand , following a racing tour to that country in 1974.
After our usual meal of ‘burger, beans and chips’ (which was the cheapest thing on most menu’s) we were on our way again.
Next stop was the Ancient Britton , a pub located just down the road from the Aycliffe track. This was a popular meeting place for a lunch time beer, before the races. The Aycliffe Stadium which was located on the Newton Aycliffe trading estate was lost to development in the late 1980’s.
It was paved , 380 yards in length and once again it was the BriSCA F1’s that topped the bill.
Even though it was a long drive home following the Sunday night races, we still found time to stop at The Fox , on the A1 at Wetherby in North Yorkshire.
It was a large pub where most of the stock car fraternity stopped. There was live music and dancing, and most of the ‘who’s who’ of racing would be there. Oh yes, in those days, the social side of the sport was as much fun as the racing itself !
The next few weeks saw me at Rayleigh and Brafield before attending Coventry’s BriSCA F1 World Final Semi on Aug 5.
This was won by ‘Noddy’ # 306 with Tony Allen as the runner up. 1972 was ‘Noddy’s’ year and he was strongly tipped to take the ‘gold’ at the Belle Vue staged World Final .
During August , Mum and Dad were away on a camping holiday in Europe, and my Hillman Minx was off the road temporarily for some repairs. Mum told me I could use her car, a 1948 Morris Minor while mine was out of action.
It was the same old car , previously owned by my grandfather that I’d learned to drive in.
On Aug 12/13, me and three other buddies set off in it on a classic road trip to Long Eaton and Cadwell Park.
I was joined by Nick Tallett and Chris Pickup, the name of the other friend escapes me.
On Saturday (Aug 12) we left Dunstable and traveled north up the M1 Motorway to the Long Eaton Stadium for a night of BriSCA F1 stock cars. After the racing, instead of going home we visited a late night bowling alley in Nottingham before heading off towards Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire.
We arrived at the track at about 3-00 am in the morning with every intention of getting some sleep.
As you can imagine, four guys trying to sleep in a little Morris Minor after a night of ‘track food’ hamburgers and onions didn’t work out to well, and very little sleep was had.
At around 5-00am in the morning we decided to give up trying to sleep, and took off in the direction of the coastal resort of Mablethorpe looking for somewhere for breakfast. Just as we were coming into Mablethorpe we heard a clanking noise from under the bonnet .
The water pump bearing had given up and there was a small leak of water trickling out . A ‘dog turd’ was acquired from a local garage which we stuffed in the radiator and kept our fingers crossed.
Following breakfast we carefully drove back to the race track . The pellet seamed to stop the leak if not the clanking so after the races we decide to take it easy and nurse it home to Dunstable.
Once I was back home , the first thing on my agenda was to replace the water pump before mum and dad returned from their holiday.
Since starting work in Markyate, I’d got to know some of the local race fans, and most nights during the week our crowd ( Chris Pickup, Nick Tallett, Brian Yates and Geoff Dunsby) would be socializing with them at the Plume of Feathers, a pub in the towns main street.
Our new found friends included, brothers Mick and Steve Bird, Tony Abel and Duncan Graham.
At this time Mick and Duncan’s brother Dave, were racing Bangers , the budget racing division.
The 1972 BriSCA F1 World Final was held at the Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester on the August Bank Holiday Monday ( 28 Aug) and was won by Stuart Smith # 391.
This was ‘Smithy’s’ second World Final win. I traveled on an organized coach trip from the Bedford area for this one.
Many of the people on board were rooting for our local driver, Tony Allen who started on row two of the grid following his second place in the Coventry ‘Semi’.
Another of our locals, on row three , was former BriSCA F2 World Champion , Dave Chisholm # 252 from Wheathampstead , Herts.
Overseas content in the big race consisted of EVACO drivers Henk and Jack Straver from Voorschoeten in the Netherlands.
The 1972 BriSCA F2 World Final was held at the St Austell Stadium in Cornwall on Sept 10 and was won by Irishman , Jimmy Murray # NI 410
Geoff Goddard # 294 retained his SUPERSTOX Gold Roof by winning their World Final at Wimbledon on Sept 30.
Since helping out Jonny Hewer on the way to Snetterton at the beginning of the year, we had become good friends and he’d often drive up to Dunstable to join us on the northern trips. He was from Loughton in Essex and his father, also named Jonny Hewer was quite a famous TV personality at the time.
Jonny Hewer Snr was the actor that played the part of ‘Captain Birdseye’ in the long running frozen food commercial. He was not only well known in the UK but also hosted a song and dance show on Canadian TV called the ‘Pig and Whistle’.
1972 was definately a classic year for visiting new tracks and making new friends. While shopping in the center of Dunstable , I found myself parked next to a Ford Capri with stock car stickers on it.
The owner happened to turn up and we struck out a conversation. He mentioned he was going to the Rochdale Stadium , (which was a track I had not yet visited) that coming Friday so we exchanged phone numbers and I arranged to join him.
His name was Mick Black and that was the start of a friendship that has lasted to this day.
Mike Parker, the Nelson and Crayford promotor added a new track to his empire in 1972, with the White City Stadium in Manchester.
It was located in Trafford Park and was close to the Manchester United Football Club. My first visit there was on November 4 for a special event that was always a favorite with the fans.
It was the annual Jaguar Derby organized by the BSCRSA. From the Late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s a large proportion of BriSCA F1 stock cars had Jaguar engines and this race was specially for them. Roger Spencer # 315 from Stoke on Trent was the winner that night.
With the BriSCA season now over, it was now time to take in Spedeworth’s end of the year Wimbledon meetings.
During the winter, I also joined Jonny Hewer and a few other southerners at the BSCSRA annual dinner& dance (banquet) held in Sutton Coldfield, north of Birmingham, but most nights during the closed season were spent at the Plume Of Feathers in Markyate.