Stock Car Racing was featured at many venues around the UK during the 1950's. In 1954 over 130 meetings took place on more than 35 tracks. The V8 powered monsters made an impressive sight at small oval tracks of around a quarter of a mile in town and country. The tracks were often shared with motorcycle speedway teams or built within greyhound racing tracks. The cars were still based around American saloon cars which gave the cars more of a "banger" look than the "specials" which they were to develop into in later years. After the first couple of years, and sensing that the bubble may burst, promoters, drivers and advisors worked together to get the sport organised.
Through the 1950's, 60's and early '70's, the V8 powered stock cars continued to appear at venues around the country. In the south they were featured at tracks such as Harringay, West Ham, Walthamstow, New Cross, Crayford, Lydden, Swindon, Ringwood, Eastbourne, Brafield (Northampton), Brands Hatch, Bristol, Rayleigh, Oxford and Reading. During the period, some of the old "dirt" tracks were tarmaced. The first meeting on the Ringwood tarmac was 17th July 1955. Brafield and Harringay followed in the early 60's. Further north, Belle Vue, Coventry, Long Eaton, Nelson, Rochdale, Bradford and Leicester were some of the tracks on the fixture list, as well as Cadwell Park and Snetterton. In the main, during these first twenty years of the sport, drivers from the south dominated the grading lists.
With the costs involved in building these large gas guzzeling V8's, a smaller "junior" Stock Car was introduced in 1960. These cars were based around smaller engines and UK saloon cars, but still ironed up for contact. The original big cars adopted the "senior" tag.
In 1961, the fragile world of organised Stock Car Racing in the UK was blown apart. A disagreement between promoters about an "unlicensed" meeting at Arlington Stadium near Eastbourne in July split the Stock Car Racing establishment in two and would last for 35 years. Paramount Promotions, later to become Spedeworth International, were expelled from the British Stock Car Association of promoters, later to become BriSCA, for holding the meeting. Moreover, the BriSCA promoters banned drivers from appearing at Paramount venues. Letters were sent to Fred Mitchell, Jock Lloyd, Ted Pankhurst and other drivers saying that they would be fined and banned if they continued to race at "outlaw" tracks. Paramount in the South of England and, later, East Anglia went its own way, basing its operation on its own licensed Junior Stock Cars which it had started to promote in 1960. The other promoters took the drivers of the Senior Stock Cars with them. In time, the two divisions became known as Formula One, or F1, Stock Cars (the original big cars) and Formula Two, or F2, Stock Cars (the newer, smaller class).
The 1961 split meant that Stock Car fans in the South and South East of England lost out on seeing the impressive Formula One Stock Cars race on the Spedeworth promoted ovals. A meeting on 18th May 1961 was to be their last appearance at Aldershot the, by then, spiritual home of racing in the south. Seventeen drivers took part at that last meeting. After 1961, Formula One Stock Cars were to appear in London and Kent at non-Spedeworth tracks, and they were to be seen more in the Midlands and north of England, even though many of the top drivers were from London and the south. Fans of Stock Car racing in the south had to contend themselves, by and large, with the Spedeworth variety of action and entertainment. In fact, the quality was very good. Meetings were staged throughout the week. And the Spedeworth publicity machine was well managed, with adverts on pirate radio stations and various promotional stunts. Because the drivers were licensed directly with the promoter, Spedeworth, and not an intermediary body like the F1 cars were, and still are, a predictable programme could be offered. The first ever stock car meeting which I attended, in 1972 at the superb and widely loved Cross in Hand raceway in East Sussex, was a magical spectacle of colour, action, speed and excitement. Different from other forms of motor sport which I had seen, motorcycle speedway excepted, the emphasis was on putting on a show and entertaining the large crowd. That first meeting for me featured the classic combination of Superstox, the Spedeworth name since 1968 for F2 cars and the Saloon Stock Cars based mainly around the MG Magnet and introduced to the tracks in 1968 as New Formula Stock Cars. (Regretably, the great Cross in Hand track was lost to local protestors later in 1972.) Entertainment has always featured strongly with UK Stock Car Racing which has followed the spectator-led American tradition more that the less commercialised driver-oriented tradition of European motor sport. The great BriSCA promoter, Charles Ochiltree, said of Stock Car Racing in 1986, "Stock Car Racing is a unique blend of racing skills, spectacle and circus. There are some incredibly talented exhibitions of skill right in the midst of absolute mayhem!". He went on to add, "Promoters who have, over the years, put themselves first, drivers second and the public third are probably responsible for the number of disappearing venues. The correct procedure is, in fact, the other way round".
Throughout the 1960's and 70's, the BriSCA Formula One Cars were seen less in the South West too. To such an extent that BriSCA promoters in this region had to feature the Junior variety. These meetings were good fun, although the presentation didn't match the high standards of slick showmanship set by Spedeworth. I can remember attending a BriSCA F2 meeting on Tuesday evening, the 10th July 1973 at St Austell in Cornwall where the race winners were Roy Goodman (heat and final), Bill Battern (heat) and Colin Higman (consolation and handicap). It was, and remains to this day, a great pity that the Spedeworth F2 (Superstox) and BriSCA F2 cars have never raced together... crazy!
During the early 1970's, as the Spedeworth empire grew ever larger in the south, the big Formula One Stock Cars drifted further northwards. The last meeting at the sport's birthplace, New Cross, had already passed. On 17th May 1968, the last final was won by George Ansell and the very last race, the Heltaskelter, was taken by Darkie Wright. There was some good news in 1972 with the return of pioneer venue Lydden to the F1 fixture list. The "travelling circus" made for a spectacular convoy on the M2 motorway! The first meeting on Sunday 9th April was won by Stu Smith. However, in 1974, just 16 BriSCA F1 meetings took place south of Northampton. This in a year of more meetings than any other since 1956, and reportedly the best season since the early days of 1954 and 1955. The 16 southern meetings were: 3 at Brands Hatch, 4 at Bristol, 2 at Harringay, 3 at Lydden, 2 at Crayford and, sensationally, 2 at Wembley Stadium, on Saturday 29th June and Sunday 18th August, around the "hallowed turf". For drivers, who lived in the midlands and north the lack of racing in London and the south was of little concern. However, for others it was time for action.
Before the 1975 season, and somewhat typically, the promoters (BriSCA) and drivers (BSCDA) were unable to agree terms for the new season. The promoters were reluctant to stage more meetings in the south and in many cases it was hard for southern based drivers to get a booking. So the BSCDA chairman, supported by quite a few drivers, arranged a deal for Formula One cars to race on the, by now many, Spedeworth tracks in London and the South East. The original idea was that Spedeworth would hold some joint meetings using BriSCA drivers. BriSCA and other members of the BSCDA objected to this which caused a split between the southern based drivers, who were for the move, and the northern based drivers who were against. The BSCDA chairman resigned and formed SCOTA (Stock Car Oval Track Association). About 30 southern based drivers moved to SCOTA. They included Pat and Dennis Driscoll, Gordon Perrin, Ian Ireland and Peter Guinchard. And so a new era of Formula One Stock Car Racing began under the Spedeworth banner. After the 1975 split, Harringay in London hosted just four BriSCA F1 meetings, one on 25th June 1978 featuring 48 cars, won by Stuart Smith, and three in 1979.
It is perhaps true to say that the Spedeworth based SCOTA Formula One Stock Cars would never be able to emulate the spectacle of their northern based BriSCA cousins. The hard-track surface favoured by Spedeworth didn't suit drivers who raced the shale surface of many northern tracks. It is said that Spedeworth's strict enforcement of rules scared some drivers off. And the mixed format meetings didn't encourage many new fans' interest. Some said that SCOTA were not "the real thing", even though they had enjoyed watching the same cars and drivers in previous years. They said that there were too few cars on track. "Division Two" is how Long Eaton BriSCA promoter Keith Barber described SCOTA. But if, like me, you've never seen anything like this before then the spectacle of SCOTA was magic. For those of us who had read about these monster cars in Auto Enthusiast, Hot Car and Custom Car Magazine in the early 1970's, the opportunity to see these motorised marvels was well received. I can vividly recall the first time I saw SCOTA (renamed F1SCA from 1978) Formula One Stock Cars. Wednesday, the 26th July 1978 at 8:00 p.m. Arlington Stadium. The first chance that I had been able to get transport to one of my local tracks on a weekday evening.
I can well remember at that meeting in July 1978 the cackle of the unsilenced V8 engines cutting through the still air of a warm summer evening. Seeing the cars on track, spitting and spluttering flames and fire. Tyres tearing against the concrete track, screeching and wrenched by the unlimited power plants. And maybe there were not too many cars, I can't remember. But I do remember sparks flying as Gordon Perrin buried Pete Bashford into a far straight fence post, poor Pete's car spinning around scattering bits of front axle down the track. And then Les Mitchell, son of pioneer driver Fred and uncle to Jason Holden, crashing through the Hailsham bend fence, snapping the post like it was match wood. The unfortunate Les then being ordered off the track so that racing could continue around his stricken car! And getting home after one o'clock in the morning! This was the Stock Car Racing that I had read about! Before catch fencing, engine silencers, men with clipboards, developers and the ban everything brigade. And for the rest of 1978 and 1979 I got to as many F1SCA meetings as possible. Times were hard and programmes not bought but two memorable meetings came in 1979 at Arlington on Sunday, the 20th May on a wet and slippery track, and Thursday, the 18th October at a cold and dark Aldershot. This meeting was to be the last time that unlimited capacity Stock Cars were seen on the Hampshire track.
But back to 1975. The first ever SCOTA meeting on a Spedeworth track took place at Ringwood Raceway in Hampshire on Easter Monday, 31st March. Those taking part were: Ray Pearce, Brian Phillips, Rod Smith, Pete Webb, Mel Bassey, Alan England, Miss D Jounas, Ian Ireland, Bob Cotterell, Pat Driscoll, Jim Wilde, Geoff Weston, G Higginson, Roy Wilson, Alan Casserley, Ken Saunders, Les Suckling, Ken Longmore, Bob Boddington, Dave Saunders, Pat O'Sullivan, Dennis Driscoll, Pete Guinchard and Ernie Smith. Unfortunatly, Frank Handyside attended but was a a non-starter. Although programmed, some drivers failed to attend: Les Mitchell, A Holmes, P Martin, J Thompson, B Trigger, K Clark, D Scarrott and P Peet. Winner of the final was Pete Webb. Racing carried on through the season at Ringwood and the other Spedeworth tracks. On 1st May the cars had their first meeting at Aldershot Stadium. Alan England won the first two heats and Pete Guinchard won the third. First over the line in the final was Pete, but he was to be docked a place for corner cutting which meant that Les Suckling got the trophy.
By Saturday evening, 8th November 1975 it was time for the "World Final for Formula One Senior Stock Cars" at London's plush Wimbledon Stadium. The event was truly international with drivers from England, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, South Africa and West Germany. SCOTA drivers programmed to drive included Ian Ireland, Denis Driscoll, Pat Driscoll, Les Suckling, Rod Smith, Alan England, Pete Webb, Alan Casserley, Gordon Perrin, Roy Wilson, Dave Saunders, Ken Saunders, Jim Wilde, Frank Handyside, Melvyn Bassey, Barry Bye, Ernie Smith, Ken Longmore, Freddie Hoyle, Ray Pearce, Bob Boddington, Martin Stone, Nev Hopkin and Les Mitchell. In support came George Ansell, Marty Page, Paul Conde, Pete Shepherd, Dennis Harris, Terry Harris, Brian Phillips, Tex Butler, John Taylor, Johnny Hewer, Bob Smith, Jack Wilson, Gerry Higginson, Dave Christopher, Diane Jonas, Dave Speechley, Pat O'Sullivan and Pete Bashford. The meeting started with the Band of Her Majesty's Welsh Guards playing from six o'clock with racing commencing at seven o'clock. The 35 lap feature event featured 33 cars, including nine from overseas. The race was won by Pat Driscoll who became the first SCOTA Formula One World Champion. Pat was driving a car built by Darkie Wright, formally owned by Pete Webb. Following Pat home in the World Final race came Bob Boddington, Ernie Smith, Les Suckling, Freddie Hoyle and Jim Wilde. A great meeting with plenty of cars and action. The meeting on New Years Day 1976 was reportedly a cracker too. Denis Driscoll took the first SCOTA Points Championship in 1975.
Racing carried on in much the same vain during 1976, 77, 78 and 79. In 1976 there were SCOTA meetings every month except for December. This was contrasted by just eight, out of a 135 total, poorly attended BriSCA meetings south of Northampton; three at Bristol, four at Oxford and one at Brands Hatch. Interestingly, a BriSCA Formula Two meeting was staged at the "southern outpost" Smallmead Track in Reading in November 1976, followed by a few more meetings the following year, along with a BriSCA F1 meeting won by Alan Barker. Alan Casserley won a memorable 1976 SCOTA World Final at Wimbledon. The grid lineup for the big race saw (something like) Allen Briggs and Pete Sullivan on the front row, followed by Martin Stone, Ken Longmore, Roy Wilson, Johnny Aldridge, Ray Pearce, Mick Morris, Ken Saunders, Marty Page, Jim Bashford, Alfred Koenen (D), Alan Casserley, Pete Bashford, Bob Boddington, Dave Saunders, Pete Webb, Jim Wilde, Pete Shepherd, Mel Bassey, Ian Ireland, Ernie Smith, Charlie Hodges, Barry Bye, Rod Smith, Willy Neiling (NL), Gordon Perrin, Mo Smith, Alan England and Les Mitchell. Other overseas drivers included three NACO stars from the same race-team: number 61 Theo (Thij) Derksen (NL) the Netherlands Champion in 1969, 70, 71 and 74, number 62 Henk Gieling (B) and number 87 Piet Klaasen (NL). Dutch driver Rien Rutjens, a regular BriSCA visitor in later years, and Lambert Keulen were probably also in attendence, along with Bobby Burns who managed to power his car through the safety fence onto the greyhound track! Driver Glyn Pursey joined his BriSCA counterpart John Aldridge, and no doubt they both got their knuckles wrapped by the BriSCA administrators. Following Alan home in the World Final came Dave Saunders and Pete Shepherd.
Les Mitchell took the 1976 SCOTA Points Championship. In 1977 Ian Ireland took the World Crown in Holland. Drivers came and went with many switching between SCOTA and BriSCA. 1976 saw Mo Smith and Jim Bashford on the SCOTA circuits. In 1977 Dave Chisholm, the 1973, 74 and 75 BriSCA World Champion joined the SCOTA ranks. However, on 15th September 1978 he turned up at the BriSCA staged meeting at Bradford and won the final before selling his car! Bobby Burns switched to BriSCA in 1978, as did Ernie Smith and Alan Casserley. The Bashford brothers, Pete and Jim, and Richie Ahearn returned to BriSCA in 1979, and Bob Boddington returned to F1SCA. It was also not uncommon to see BriSCA cars on the SCOTA/F1SCA tracks driven by the "main man's" mechanic. Rusty Hart drove Hoss Fernihough's car to a good finish at Wimbledon and the mechanic of Bert Finnikin, Nigel Partridge, won a race at a Buxton staged SCOTA meeting. Indeed during this period, the majority of Formula One drivers, SCOTA and BriSCA, retained a camaraderie which transcended the political differences of their respective promoters. The SCOTA drivers even invited their BriSCA colleagues to a challenge match at the nationally televised 1977 Ipswich Speed Weekend. Unfortunately, for the sport, for the spectators and for the drivers, this never happened. It seems that the BriSCA promoters still carried old grudges.
Up to 1977, the SCOTA organisation had formed an alliance with the Dutch NACO stock car organisation. In 1977 the very first SCOTA / NACO World Final for Formula One Stock Cars took place at the Baarlo track in Holland. No UK staged "world final" took place in 1977, the SCOTA drivers were not afraid to hold their big meetings outside the UK. Baarlo, a former horse race trotting track, had been surfaced with tarmac earlier in the year. The memorable main event was won by Ian Ireland in what has been reported as a hard hitting and destructive race. The Dutch cars were quicker than those of their UK visitors and so the only way that a SCOTA win was possible was by brute force. Subsequent years would see BriSCA take over as the UK representative at NACO tracks. Maybe the SCOTA drivers were just too tough!
For 1978, SCOTA became F1SCA and programmes before 1984 show F1SCA, not SCOTA, affiliated to Spedeworth. More tracks, away from the Spedeworth empire, were added to the F1SCA fixture list for 1978. Arena Essex joined just before the start of the season. Originally the promoter planned to run the BriSCA variety but reluctantly changed his plans after realising that the northern based cars would be thin on the ground and too costly to run. On Sunday 2nd July 1978, twenty F1SCA cars raced at the High Edge track near Buxton. There would have been more cars, but both Ian Ireland and Alan England broke down en route. The quality of racing was reported as "excellent" with heat wins for Dave Chisholm and Rob Critchlow and final victory for Dave, followed by Bobby Burns, Jim Bashford and Gordon Perrin. Just three days later, on Wednesday evening, the 5th July the cars were racing way down south at Arlington. Fourteen cars put on a good show for the F1SCA fans. Jim Bashford took the first heat ahead of Dave Chisholm and Bobby Burns. Heat two saw Gordon Perrin take the win ahead of Jim Bashford, Dave Chisholm and Les Mitchell. The final, which was for the Southern Championship title, was won by Dave ahead of Gordon Perrin, Jim Bashford and Les Mitchell. The car of Peter Scott made an impressive sight after it caught fire on the pit bend! On 23rd July the F1SCA boys put on a good show at the Brands Hatch Festival of Speed. Dave Chisholm announced his retirement but not before doing well in his races. The two races were won by Jim Bashford. The 30th of September 1978 saw the F1SCA cars on the programme at Crewe. Reports for 1978 explain that "although F1SCA are low on numbers, they make up for it in good looking cars, there is plenty of action, which is what the crowd like". The "Man on the Terrace" however, was moved to write "Formula One racing, flourishing as it is in the Midlands and North is nearly dead in London. The brave F1SCA experiment failed because of BriSCA's long-standing fear, hatred and jealousy of Spedeworth. As a result, Les Eaton [Spedeworth promoter] has dropped them because of the small number of cars. With some co-operation, Les Suckling's original dreams of the BSCDA drivers racing on all circuits could have come to fruition to the benefit of all". However, the F1SCA cars were included on the 1979 Spedeworth fixture list after all, thank goodness!
As an interesting aside to the squabbles between BriSCA and F1SCA, on 23rd June 1978 at Bradford, the Spedeworth Hot Rod Superstar, Barry Lee, took part in a BriSCA promoted meeting! Barry did some demo laps in his Hot Rod and then took part in a "world champions" match race with Stuart Smith (BriSCA F1), Bill Batten (BriSCA F2) and Dave Chisholm (F1SCA)! There is little doubt that the BriSCA brand of racing was still the most popular in the north, however, with a reported 30,000 crowd paying to watch the 1978 World Final at Belle Vue. The meeting saw Dutch driver Frans Meuwissen drive the F1SCA car of Ian Ireland. Hot Rods would never catch on "up north".
As already mentioned, the great Dave Chisholm retired from the sport in 1978. On 15th September, Dave, driving his lightweight F1SCA car, made a surprise appearance in the BriSCA F1 meeting at Bradford's Odsal Stadium. He won the consolation heat, final and Grand National (with a one lap handicap)! After that display of outstanding driving, Dave sold his car to Manchester BriSCA F1 driver Rob Bradsell.
1979 was a big year for the BriSCA F1 cars as the Silver Jubilee of racing was celebrated with a "Daily Mirror" sponsored Grand Prix series on the northern tracks. The first round took place at Harringay where Bert Finnikin and Brian Powles shared maximum points. The final round at Bradford, however, turned out to be a sad day for the sport as veteran driver Willie Harrison was injured in a pits accident and then a spectator was killed by a piece of flying metal from a damaged car. The year saw the launch of a Veterans' Stock Car Association. Meanwhile, in the south, the F1SCA cars could be seen at the Spedeworth tracks, Buxton and Arena Essex. The newly surfaced Arena Essex staged its first F1SCA meeting of 1979 on Sunday 15th April. Heat one saw Sugar Shergold lead Dave Barker over the line. The second race was won by John Plant from Peter Scott. Dave Barker went on to win the final ahead of Les Mitchell and Peter Scott. The next day at Ringwood wins went to Bob Boddington, Alan England and Les Mitchell. Gordon Perrin got a BriSCA licence for 1979, but had it withdrawn for racing in a F1SCA event at Ringwood early in the year. Winners at Great Yarmouth on 22nd July were Peter Scott and John Plant with a heat and final double, while at Wimbledon on 11th August, Peter Sullivan won the two heats, with the final going the way of Les Mitchell from Dave Saunders and Peter Scott. The final F1SCA meeting at the northern outpost track at Buxton on 2nd September saw victories for Neil Partridge (heat and final) and Sugar Shergold. Fifteen cars raced at Buxton, better than most modern day BriSCA appearances at the track!
In 1980 the F1SCA cars were renamed Formula 80. The cars were scaled down in size and a maximum engine capacity of five litres was introduced. A sad development for the southern based "big league" fan. In 1980, Spedeworth stopped promoting at Ringwood. This saw the return of the unlimited BriSCA F1's to the venue under the promotion of Gerry Dommett. The single meeting in 1980 was won by Danny Clarke. In 1981, the cars had four meetings at Ringwood. Victors were Nigel Whorton, Bert Finniken, Danny Clarke and Stu Smith. Sadly, the BriSCA F1 cars haven't been seen at the New Forest venue since. The years 1982 to 1995 were totally devoid of unlimited F1 action south of Northampton.
The 1981 F1SCA season was dominated by Alan Cayzer with good performances from Peter Scott and Les Mitchell. British Champion was Alan England and Gordon Perrin took the Southern Championship.
In 1984, with the demise of F1SCA, the cars became known as Spedeworth Formula One Stock Cars. They retained their engine size limit of five litres unlike the BriSCA cars which have always allowed unlimited engine capacity. This name similarity led to some confusion and conflict! Meanwhile in the midlands and north (BriSCA territory) 1984 saw a new Hot Stox formula introduced. The Hot Stox ran to a similar specification to the Spedeworth F1 except that the engine capacity was limited to 3.5 litres. During the mid to late 1980's, on a few occasions, the Spedeworth Formula One Stock Cars and Hot Stox raced together at some meetings. Good close racing resulted, with the slight differences in specification not accounting for much. However, the joint meetings did not last long, and by the late 1980's the cars were racing separately again.
As before, drivers came and went between BriSCA and Spedeworth. In 1981 Len Wolfenden won the BriSCA World Final at Bradford. In 1987 Len, driving a Hot Stox, added the Spedeworth Formula One British Championship to his collection at Wimbledon Stadium. The British Champion in 1989 and 1990 was Terry O'Connor, and Lee Wilson won the title in 1991. The 1990 season saw the Spedeworth F1 cars racing once again at Aldershot. Since the mid 1980's the cars were not seen due to the music of the unsilenced engines not going unnoticed by the men from the noise police. For 1990, silencers were required on all cars making them acceptable for racing at the track. Ex-Superstox driver Terry O'Connor went on to become one of the finest drivers in the formula during the 90's, along with Peter Scott, racing in the famous Ahern livery, and Marty Page. Other dedicated drivers, such as Ian Skinner, Terry and Dennis Harris, Roy Jones and Charlie Hodges, have given the crowd value for money over many years. The Spedeworth Formula One name was keep until the mid 1990's when they, along with the Hot Stox formula, once again joined forces and became V8 Stock Cars. For a short period in the mid-1990's the Hot Stox joined the Spedeworth cars on track. This was a great period for the formula and I was glad to see some fine racing, with lots of cars, at Wimbledon and Northampton. The 1996 V8 World Final at Northampton was an excellent meeting (apart from the large swarm of flies buzzing around my sandwiches in the summer heat!). The large field of cars on display put on a magnificent display. Andy Turner took the World Title with Peter Scott in second and David Atkinson in third. Spedeworth driver Lee Wilson did well to win two heats and a final, with fellow Spedeworth runner Peter Scott winning another heat and Andy Turner taking the all-comers race. BriSCA top man Ray Witts (Hot Stox) took the British Final at Wimbledon in the mid-1990's and Jason Holden and Andy Turner (Hot Stox) were regular winners at Aldershot, Wimbledon, Arlington and the other Spedeworth tracks. Jason Holden, grandson of pioneer driver Fred Mitchell, deserves special mention for his all conquering reign during the mid 1990's in a Spedeworth car before switching to BriSCA F1. Jason's last Spedeworth F1 car was a fine piece of machinery built by Frankie Wainman Junior. And Andy Turner from Leeds, who took up BriSCA Formula One Racing in 1997, must be the longest travelled V8 driver to race at Arlington when he appeared for the bank holiday meeting on Monday, 29th May 1995, the last V8 meeting at the south coast track until August 1999.
For the southern based fan of V8 action, the Spedeworth V8 Stock Cars have continued to provide some good racing over the years. A small group of enthusiastic drivers are still to be seen around the Spedeworth tracks, with the occasional outing to Ringwood and Northampton. But the biggest news for the F1 fan was the sensational visit of the BriSCA cars to Wimbledon Stadium on Easter Sunday 1996. Since then, the cars have been seen at the South London venue every year. Every meeting was a major event for the local F1 fan. You can read the full story on another page.
For 2000, Arena Essex was added to the BriSCA Formula One fixture list. The promoters, PRI, staged their very first BriSCA F1 meeting, a world championship qualifying round, at the tarmac venue on Sunday 21st May. Just over thirty cars raced in the two-heat format meeting. Danny Driscoll won the first heat, in the dry, from Frankie Wainman Junior and Andrew Smith. The second heat, by now on a wet track, was taken by Rob Speak followed by Gary Castell and Rob Perry. Stuart Finnikin, in only his second ever F1 meeting, took the consolation heat from Sean Tilley and Geoff Nickolls. The final went the way of Paul Harrison, followed home by Frankie Wainman Junior and Peter Falding. In the last race of the day, the Grand National, Gary Castell got the win from Frankie and Peter, and the track was now dry again! A treat for the locals was the appearence of Lightning Rod driver Darren Ahearn at the wheel of a BriSCA F1. Darren, son of the legendary Richy, took coaching from another Essex supestar, Bobby Burns, and raced Bobby's number (471) on an Ian Higgens hire car. Darren drove with spirit in only his second F1 meeting and was unlucky to be out of the results.
So what does the southern based Formula One fan have to look forward to? Well, the Spedeworth V8 Stock Cars are still worth watching although a few more competitors would be welcome. The V8 "Hot Stox" have receded north once again, although it is good to see them supporting the BriSCA Formula One Cars at Coventry. I was glad to see their impresive debut on 3rd July 1999 at this superb venue. They have become a regular support formula at Coventry. As for the BriSCA Formula One Cars, they continue to be seen on the Wimbledon and Arena Essex tarmac. An annual visit to each of these venues now seems to be the norm. The shale Swindon track, not too far away, made a brief comeback with the first meetings in many years taking place in 2000. To see the cars away from the south it's worth the time and effort to get to Coventry on a Saturday night. The midlands track has loads of cars, good presentation and the combination of shale, floodlights, a good crowd and enthusiastic drivers make it an evening to remember.
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