Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Midget Newsletter 03 – Autumn 2011


Hello again – another three months have passed so I thought it was about time to produce another couple of pages on the Midgets.  If you have news of anyone who was involved in the formula from days gone by I would be very pleased to hear from you.  My email address is gpmidget@gmail.com.

Spedeworth/MARC days
Nice to hear from Norbert Dietsch again and also Alan Fretten.  By the time this newsletter hits the spam / trash folders you may also have seen an orginal 1970s car, the Terry Baimbridge machine, on circuit with Antony Smith. The chassis is a Dastle which sports Fireball panels.  Whilst trawling the internet I came across some more old cine of short oval racing – this time from the west Country. It includes a couple of minutes action from an MARC meeting at St Austell back in 72/3. 

70s & 80s
I was pleased to find former Short Circuit photographer Jim Crucefix who is still taking pictures on the short ovals up at Yarmouth.  Jim’s first meeting was the inaugural Graham Hill Memorial at Bovingdon back in 1978.  I also managed to find a 1978 race date and result to add to the archive which was the Derek Kisby Trophy won that year by Mick Bonner. If anyone can add to the archive please get in touch.

Looking Back…
35 years ago… The end of the club’s second season. Malcolm Goodman led the points chart from Alf Boarer with Mick Bonner in third. Pete Loff had won the European Championship at Kaldenhirchen whilst Malcolm Goodman was National Champion.  Records are still a bit sketchy for 1976 so if anyone has old programmes or results it would be great to share them (I don’t need originals – photocopies could be just as good).

25 years ago… Brian Forrest won the 1986 British Championship at Northampton in October.  Promoter John Clark drove Dermott McGivern’s car that day. Basil Craske won the points championship with the best front engine cars being Ray Coulson in second place and John Lowe 3rd.

15 years ago…The key meetings were the 1996 European Championship, Gerald Smith Memorial and the Simon Pashley Trophy. Clinton Dorrell won the Gerald Smith Trophy with Harry Sayell winning the other two plus the points championship. The intervening ten years had seen the top front engine cars slip down the order – the best placed ‘front’ was Eddy Rickets in 9th.

10 years ago..  I know that the 10 years ago pattern does not fit in with the way I’ve included content in the newsletter but I cannot believe it is that long since we lost Steve Piggins and Anthony Brewer. I was working at Thruxton on an F3 meeting when the news came through – we’d just had a nasty moment there too – it was far from a good day.

Internet

Just a quick reminder that the club has its own website which is www.gpmidgets.co.uk.  From there you can also access the extensive history site which is www.ovaltrack.co.uk/gpmidgets/tome. 

Current Scene

Rob Sayell raised the topic of long races in a Facebook discussion. This year’s World Championship at Birmingham was the grand total of 25 laps. On a personal note I would think that anything worthy of that title on the short ovals should be 30-35 laps.  The main concern these days is getting as many races run in as short a timeframe as possible so we will never see the likes of the longer distance races again.  Most records don’t show the number of laps raced but the Midgets took part in two 100 lap races at Ipswich in 1972 and 1973.  There were the Spede Prix races which pitted the cars against both Hot Rods and Superstox.  15th September 1973 saw what was probably the longest Midget-only race, the rain sodden BP / Custom Car Supernational at Wimbledon won by Barry Martin.

Back in the day the MARC midgets ran on a couple of long circuit meetings organised by the BRSCC.  It was at of their recent events, at Rockingham, that had two former Midget drivers out on the circuit – Nic Grindrod was racing in the Pickup Trucks and Rob Sayell was competing in Formula Jedi.  I did not managed to get to that meeting but I did see Nic take two pole positions, two wins and two fastest laps at the previous weekend’s meeting and was pleased to hear the circuit commentator mention GP Midgets when he spoke about Nic’s background.

I was really pleased to make it along to the European Championship meeting at Arena Essex in July.  It was good to see Toni Scheepens over for the meeting but he suffered some mechanical problems that held him back somewhat.  The annual (?) trip to Scotland appears to have gone well although the famous Knockhill ‘horizontal rain’ main an appearance this year. Still no sign of the Scottish cars that are rumoured to be being built.

Neil Clarke and I went along to Oxford and Cherwell Valley College recently to meet the students and their tutor, Peter Reeves, The team are building a car completely from scratch.  The background to this is that ex Midget racer Dave Smith was a tutor there. The team have an old Stealth chassis which they started work on but have since decided to build their own car.  I am sure they would be willing to sell the Stealth chassis if someone wanted one to get started in Midgets and it would be some welcome funds for the college project.  We’ve offered to go along and talk to the new intake at the start of the new academic year to tell them more about GP Midget racing.

Wanted!  1) Still looking for a set of plans for the Arrow design if anyone has them.  2) We are always looking for old photos, programmes and results for the Midgets archive.  Photos don’t have to be official ones bought from the circuits.  Personal ones are just as, if not more, interesting.

Jason Fitch has been in touch to ask if anyone remembers his dad, Frank, racing Midgets.  He would have been #91. Unfortunately I cannot find him in the archives at all so you have any mention or even better photos/pictures, please let us know. Jason says that frank raced when Midgets were a Spedeworth formula.  In addition Kev Rowe is the son of David Rowe who raced in the 70s too – has anyone got any photos of David at all?

In closing, as ever, I apologise if I have missed anyone out of this newletter – It’s not intentional!  Please let me have any news when you have it – I will try and maintain a balance between the various eras represented.  Please let me know if you have contact with anyone from the Midget scene who might not be getting a copy of this bulletin.  Don’t forget to keep in touch.  Next one will be out after the end of the season.

Richard – gpmidget@gmail.com

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Midget Newsletter 02 - Summer 2011

Hello again – three months have passed so I thought it was about time to produce another couple of pages on the Midgets.  If you have news of anyone who was involved in the formula from days gone by I would be very pleased to hear from you.  My email address is gpmidget@gmail.com.

Thanks to Paul Daly and Graham Brown for getting in touch regarding the Jock McClure picture.  Both pointed out that the Jock McClure car pictured in the Spring newsletter was most likely a Formula Vee and this was subsequently confirmed by Chris Phillips… “The story goes that my dad (Barry) and Jock purchased the car from a man in Wembley, it was previously a Formula Vee car.  They converted it to Midget spec and Jock raced it three times.  Basically he didn't like it because there wasn't the pushing and shoving he was used to from the Stock Cars and he sold the car about two months after originally purchasing it.  Sadly my dad can’t remember either the name of the buyer or the seller so the trail goes a bit blank!”  Chris raced Midgets between 1999 and 2004. His mum (Joyce) and dad also made a big contribution to the club in the 90s – Joyce was secretary and Barry raced a Dastle.  Chris has made his career in motor racing and is number one mechanic for CRS Racing on their Intercontinental Le Mans cup car.

I have a few contacts in the circuit racing world so I thought I would try and find out a little more about the make of car.  I knew that fellow author Sam Collins knows a bit about Formula Vee so I asked him and he in turn referred me to Erle Minhinnick, a Vee racer and enthusiast, who was pleased to see the picture and advised as follows…  “Fantastic! I have never seen this car before. It was originally a Formula Vee APAL Mk 2. APAL (Application Polyester Arme Liege), was run by Edmond Pery and produced various GT Coupes, Speedsters and Dune Buggies based on VW components. In 1965 he started producing over 300 Formula Vees. The midget looks to have retained the Formula Vee (Beetle) engine.  There are 2 APALs racing today in their original form, one of which is mine - a Mk 1”

Continuing with the Vee I also should have checked my own records on the date of the picture – I said it was most likely 1971 whereas Jock only appears in Spedeworth programme listings and points during 1973.  Whilst talking about that error I must apologise for the typos in the first issue – I was a bit too keen to send it out.


Former circuit race cars continue to pop up in Midgets which helps make the class one of the few on the short ovals to have cars of differing designs.  Daniel Pooley has moved away from the family built Scorpian design to convert a neat looking contemporary Formula Ford (right).

I came across a great picture of Mick Miller on the internet recently. It looks like Cross in Hand raceway and the lack of a full roll cage dates the shot to 1969.  Mick’s daughter, Blue, is managing editor of Back Street Heroes magazine and I found the pic on his blog which referred to Mick with a quote from Rod Tanswell’s chapter in the 1972 Spedeworth book ‘Living With Spede’… “Another driver who made his mark with Midgets about the time was of course Mick Miller (M22). Of all drivers past and present Mick was quite a character. He wasn't afraid to mix it with the other drivers in or out of a race. As far as the spectators were concerned they either clapped or booed Mick and the more they did it, the more he loved every minute of it ... Unfortunately we were to see Mick retire from the sport eventually, a great shame as I consider he could have been one of the all time great drivers in the Midget formula”.  Sadly Blue tells us: “My Dad died very suddenly eight years ago this May. After giving up racing, he set up business on his own, concentrating on Lotus Elan restorations and became one of the top men in the world on the Elan.”

Former MARC racer Terry Baimbridge still has his car (!) and it is being re-fettled for a possible return to the tracks.  Terry tells us the machine is a Dastle with Fireball bodywork.  Great to have another potential classic on track.  We really will have to get a track day arranged.

Looking Back…
40 years ago… At the end of May 1971 Rod Tanswell topped the Spedeworth points chart with 94 points ahead of Frank Boyles (85) and Bob Elson (67).  Twenty three cars took part in the London Championship at White City Stadium with Tanswell taking the honours. The MARC cars were busy travelling with demonstration races at Mendips and a race meeting at Hednesford.

30 years ago… Geoff Hughes Junior won the 1981 British Championship at Northampton in torrential rain with Geoff Hughes Senior in second place.  Basil Craske won the second running of the Bill Boarer memorial trophy at Bovingdon. Alf Boarer made the presentation. Alf was one of the drivers who represented England at the European Championship which took place at Posterholt but he suffered a blown engine. Jan van Rengs won the title heading home five other overseas drivers.

20 years ago… The 1991 European Championship was held at Alwalton (Peterborough) with Klaus Kilianski heading home Willi Thissen.  Top British driver was John Calladine (Arrow) in third. The Midgets made a rare appearance at Arlington in July where Sayell retained the National Championship

10 years ago… Brian Gough took his first ever win in the Midgets during the Saturday night ‘Rolling Thunder Show’ at Arena Essex. Chris Phillips won the June Cochrane trophy at Alwalton whilst Rob Sayell was continuing to make his mark on the sport retaining the European title, again at Alwalton.

Current Scene

Jonathan Pooley is leading the 2011 Championship at the time of writing with Steve Dawson second and Cliff Bunn third.  Cliff is currently the top front engine driver – the Firehawk is an all new chassis based on his old front engine Mk3 Fireball type design.

I’ve been asked if anyone has plans for the Arrow design?  Please email me if you can help.

In closing, as ever, I apologise if I have missed anyone out of this newsletter – It’s not intentional!  Please let me have any news when you have it – I will try and maintain a balance between the various eras represented.  Please let me know if you have contact with anyone from the Midget scene who might not be getting a copy of this bulletin.

Richard – gpmidget@gmail.com

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Midget Newsletter 01 - Spring 2011

I thought it would be a good idea to put a newsletter together for former Midget racers from varying eras. I cannot promise to publish with any regularity but just so long as there is some interest I will put a few notes together.

MARC / Spedeworth days

Sad news back in October last year concerned the passing away of multi champion Malcolm Goodman (ex 28). Malcolm had not been in the best of health since a motorcycle accident some years back. Malcolm is pictured right racing in his Mk4 Fireball at the BP Supernational race meeting at Wimbledon in 1973.

I have recently been contacted by Richard Knowlton. son of the late Arthur Knowlton (128) who was the secretary of the MARC. Ironically I had driven right past Richard's place of work on the day he called me. It was great to chat to Richard - he knows so much about the old days of the sport.

A while back I was also contacted by Ben Bostock and Rhodri Griffiths whose fathers both raced back in the day too. Thank you all for getting in touch - it is appreciated.

Those of you who know my efforts in relation to documenting the history of the sport will know that I am in touch with Paul Daly (ex 17) who now lives in the USA. Issue three of my classic magazine carried a feature on Paul whilst issue one had Dick Nadin's Mk3 Dastle restoration. I am hoping to talk to Martin Robertson (ex 16. pictured right) soon with regard to a feature in an upcoming issue of the magazine — Martin raced hot rods as well as Midgets in the 1970s. My magazine covers all forms of classic short circuit racing but my website, which is an extension of the Grand Prix Midget Club website, focuses on the history of Midgets since the Spedeworth revival in 1967. You can visit the site here: www.ovaltrack.co.uk/gpmidgets/tome

I would be delighted if anyone can fill in blanks on detail / results.

Being someone who is always on the lookout for unusual pictures I thought I would include the one at the foot of the page which comes from Ringwood back in 1971. It was taken by Spedeworth photographer Eric Setchell and shows a very strong white grade line up. Grades in those days were denoted by the colour of the driver's crash helmet. Looks like Dick Waldock in car 11 has been down-graded!



John Hyam will be a familiar name to many as one who has, as a respected journalist, tirelessly written about and promoted the sport through the years. He has set up an inspiring internet resource called the Midget Panorama – this goes way beyond the scope of my own archives and charts the story of the original pre-war Midget cars. The Panorama has been found by a few names from the past including Norbert Dietsch (ex 77) who still has his Dastle Mk7. Another name which came up was Biota – a car originally built and raced by John Houghton. The car. which is being restored, is owned by a guy called Doug Wright from Essex. I've tried to track down John Houghton but to no avail. You can visit the Panorama at:
midgetcarpanorama.proboards.com

There are now some third generation drivers entering the fray although not in Midgets as yet! Ray Perry's (ex 47) grandson, Jake, is grass track racing for SEGTO, the organisation based in the south east of England. Neil & Shirley Thomas's grandson, Bradley, takes part in Bambino karting .

More Recent Days

Former driver Andy Collins has sold his Mk1 Ford Escort Classic Hot Rod and has had an immaculate 2-litre Hot Rod built (pictured right) – this means he will have a few more race dates to attend as the classic class only do a handful of meetings each season. Young Rob Sayell is emulating other great Midgets racers such as Alf Boarer by moving onto the circuits and winning races. Rob competes in the single seater. slicks and wings Formula Jedi.

General

The new season fixture list shows a swing towards the Midlands which also mirrors the driver demographic somewhat. There is still a chance for south easterners to watch the class down at Aldershot in May and September plus Arena Essex in July.

Sunday    27-Mar-11    Grimley
Saturday    02-Apr-11    Birmingham
Saturday    23-Apr-11    Birmingham
Sunday    01-May-11    Yarmouth
Sunday    22-May-11    Aldershot
Saturday    04-Jun-11    Birmingham
Sunday    25-Jun-11    Northampton
Saturday    02-Jul-11    Arena
Sunday    03-Jul-11    Arena
Sunday    17-Jul-11    Yarmouth
Saturday    06-Aug-11    Knockhill
Sunday    07-Aug-11    Cowdenbeath
Sunday    14-Aug-I1    Buxton
Saturday    03-Sep-11    Birmingham
Sunday    18-Sep-11    Aldershot
Saturday    01-Oct-11    Birmingham
Sunday    16-Oct-11    Northampton
Saturday    05-Nov-11    Birmingham

35 years ago... The Midget Grand Prix Club's second year of existence started with the sad news that Derek Kisby had passed away. The early season meeting at Wimbledon on 271h March saw Frank Boyles win two races with Roland Parker taking the other. The 1975 points champion. Malcolm Goodman. headed the entry which also included Paul Emery.

25 years ago... Alf Boarer had bowed out of Midget racing having won his third points championship in 1985. Four drivers. Richard Byrne. Marcus Retchless. Eddie Ricketts and Graham Sinclair had their Midget debuts at the opening meeting which took place at opening Northampton. There was another double race winner at this meeting, namely Basil Craske, whilst John Lowe took the Eric Fretten Shield for winning the opening race of the season.

15 years ago... Harry Sayell commenced the campaign where he would be looking for a sixth consecutive title. Championship rival Stuart Haynes won the 10th running of the Cliff Davis Memorial at Birmingham Wheels.

5 years ago... The season opened with a hat trick of wins for a front engine car – the Gazelle of Martin Lamb winning the June Cochrane Trophy at Swaffham on  8t11 April.

Final Thoughts
With a few classic cars kicking around. a group of enthusiasts are thinking of putting a classic `track day' together so that the cars can have a safe run. It would be great to be able to invite as many people along as possible. I went to a similar event last year for the Heritage Stock Cars and it was one of the best days out of the year.

Another recent photographic find was the one at the bottom of the page which shows Jock McClure's Midget at Wimbledon in what would probably have been 1971. Anyone know anything about the car? Possibly a Formula Ford'?



In closing, I apologise if I have missed anyone out of this newsletter — It's not intentional! Please let me have any news when you have it — I will try and maintain a balance between the various eras represented. Please let me know if you have contact with anyone from the Midget scene who might not begetting a copy of this bulletin.

Richard - gpmidget@gmail.com