RICK @ the RACES (RETRO REPORT 1958 to 1966)
In the words of Julie Andrews, in that famous song from the ‘Sound of Music’ , ‘Lets start at the very beginning , it’s a very good place to start’
If we turned the clock back to the late 1950’s, and were to look high up on the back straight at the Foxhall Stadium in Ipswich, you would have found a young married couple, with their small child and a few close friends enjoying a night at the races.
They were all Suffolk people in their early twenties, born or raised in Ipswich (England) .
They were followers of the ‘Town’ football club who played at Portman Road and the ‘Witches’ Motor Cycle Speedway team who raced on Foxhall Heath.
When the new sport of stock car racing arrived in the UK during the mid 1950’s , those young parents and their pals went along to see them too.
That three year old toddler never realized at the time, that this was his christening of a passion that would last a life time.
That young boy was me, and even now after all those years I still have feint memories of those noisy and scary old cars that crashed and banged that night, oh so long ago.
In 1959 my dad was offered a better job in Witney, (Oxfordshire) so our family relocated . At this time the family car was a Morris 8, but dad replaced it in Witney for a Vauxhall 14
The Vauxhall 14 was later replaced by a Standard 14.
We were not in Witney for long , and following another change in my fathers employment, in 1963, we settled in the Dunstable area of Bedfordshire. The family car changed once again and we now had a Humber Hawk
Around Easter time, of 1965 , Mum and Dad took the family ( by then , I’d got a brother and sister) along to the nearby Brafield Stadium in Northamptonshire to see the stock car racing. By then the family car was a Vauxhall Velox.
Much to their surprise, two of the top drivers in action that day were the Ipswich father and son duo of Doug # 5 and Alan # 245 Wardropper.
Dad remembered Doug from the Foxhall Heath days and in fact, bought his first car, (a 1929 Standard Little 9) , from him. The Wardropper’s ran the Drift Garage just off the Spring Rd in the town.
That Sunday afternoon visit to Brafield rekindled the families interest, and we became regular race goers .
As an 11 year old boy , I became hooked.
On our trips back to Suffolk to visit relatives I would be dropped off at Foxhall Heath to watch the racing.
At that time, I knew nothing about stock car racing politics and had no idea why the Wardroppers weren’t racing at their home track. I later found out why.
A split within the promotors back in 1961 had resulted in two separate organizing bodies, the original Board of Control ( BriSCA ) and the independent ‘break-away’ Spedeworth organization. The Wardroppers raced for the Board of Control and were forbidden to drive on the so called ‘pirate’ tracks.
The Foxhall Stadium which has remained in Spedeworth hands to this very day, only ran Formula 2 stock cars at that time , which were basically the same as the Board of Control Junior stock cars. Over the course of time the Spedeworth Formula 2’s became known as Superstox and the Board of Control Juniors were renamed BriSCA F2.
I enjoyed those early trips back to Ipswich and remember spending my school holidays at my grand parents house in Parliament Rd , (just off Foxhall Rd) . The stadium was in walking distance of their house and on my visits , you’d find me at the races.
Skid Parish, ‘Boo Boo’ Chris Studd and Stan Ingle were names I recall from those early visits.
My home in Bedfordshire was a lot closer to the more plentiful Board of Control (BriSCA) tracks, so that’s where my interest was focused.
In 1966 Brafield hosted the BriSCA F2 World Final and our family were there to see Steve Bateman # 676 take the win. Presenting the Trophy that day, was Top of the Pops TV personality Samantha Just.
I was a school kid infatuated with the sport and I really appreciate the kindness of my parents for taking me along. My brother and sister came along too, and everyone knows how expensive a family outing can be.
My early hero was Chick Woodroffe, # 1 who raced both Senior (F1) and Junior (F2) stock cars.
During my school holidays I helped out on a farm at Milton Bryan in Bedfordshire , and as I cycled there each day I passed through the small town of Toddington. One day I noticed a stock car parked in a barn and as I stood there awestruck and staring , the owner turned up.
We got chatting and he asked if I wanted to sit in it. Of course I said yes, and as a result , Alan Russell # 621 became my new race track hero.
This was the the first Stock Car I sat behind the wheel
Alan had a new car for 1966.
The new one saw Alan go to red top.
From that first trip in 1965 , until I was able to go racing alone, I joined my family for regular visits to Brafield.
The Senior (F1) World Champions were, Ellis Ford # 3 from Birmingham in 1965 and Freddie Mitchell # 38 from Oxford in 1966.
The Junior (F2) World Champions were Johnny Marquand # 189 from Saltash in 1965 and Steve Bateman # 676 from Banbury
As well, as programs from the race meetings I attended, I also started collecting any of the various magazines for the sport.
Over the years I built up a collection , with my main priority being World Final Programs. It meant searching through collectors ‘doubles’ to get the ones from before I began attending.
FORMULA 2 World Finals began in 1963
I’m missing the program from 1965, It took place at Swindon and was won by Johnny Marquand. If anyone has a copy , please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
My adventures in 1967 and 1968 to be continued in the next report.