Friday, 18 December 2015

Midget Heritage Newsletter 12 - Winter 2015


Sorry to report that Gary Jones has passed in November. Gary raced with the club from 1999 to 2003 and won the Southern Championship in his first season In addition to that he steered his Westfield to 10th in the points table and was also the top newcomer to the club during that season. Our thoughts are with his son Paul, his grandson Ryan and all his friends and family.

The last newsletter raised the question about the identity of MARC driver #71 from 1971. Thanks to Graham Brown, who once again very kindly dug out his records, we now know that was Martin Robertson who changed to #16 from the following season.

Further digging on my own archives shows #71 programmed as Norbert Dietsch... Both Martin and Norbert are on the mailing list so will hopefully be able to comment further! Graham meanwhile also supplied results from a couple of the MARC meetings from late in the year – one of which saw the cars on a Speedway bill at Wembley.

Thanks so much to Ben Bostock for bequeathing a mammoth amount of magazines to assist with the archives.

Since raising questions via these newsletters has generated some answers in the past, I’ll fire off an 80s one… The 1989 points table refers to #4, M Parin. Can anyone provide a first name? Also, and perhaps more of a long shot, the 1970 programmes refer to #15, A Barter (from Winnersh). Anyone remember? Thanks.

Nice to hear from Rosemary Weston recently, one of all too few ladies to have competed in the formula. Spedeworth used to run Ladies Nights back in the early seventies when wives or girlfriends used to pedal the regular drivers’ cars. To my knowledge there have only been three ladies who have taken part in the regular championship races. Rosemary (in 1995-97), Nicky Rickett (2002) and the original lady racer Linda Retchless (1989). Rosemary is the top points scorer of the three although the system used varies across the years.

Recently I have taken the time to look at the career statistics – sadly there are some gaps in the 1970s and 1980s – particularly in terms of final points tables. Harry Sayell is still the top points scorer of all time with Neil Clarke closing in.

I was pleased to get and email from Wayne Doidge who would like to obtain a ‘proper’ photo of the image which is reproduced in this edition – it’s his rollover from a 1984 Northampton meeting. The picture was originally in Short Circuit magazine so I am guessing that the photographer was either Jim Crucefix or Francis Blay. Then again it could have been Steve Dawkins? I would be interested in getting in touch with those gentlemen if anyone has contact details.

The European and World Championship races took place within a week of each other in August. The European saw a return to Holland, the event taking place at Posterholt. Jonathan Pooley won the European title. A week later the ‘World’ race was contested at Ipswich and was won by Daniel Pooley (racing his side-engine car). Lovely to see that both events had an overseas representation. Toni and Richie Scheepens racing in the Euro whilst Richie also raced at Ipswich. Clearly a lot of effort has been made to have Midgets racing in Holland once again – well done to all involved in getting the meeting together and also those who have travelled to either event to race or even support the meetings. Finally, congratulations to Jonathan and Daniel on their wins.

Wimbledon Stadium
I was just about to issue this newsletter when I noticed that the planning meeting which would decide the fate of Wimbledon stadium was due. Sadly the decision has been made to sell the site and replace it with a considerable amount of homes and a football stadium. Urban based racing stadia do not really have a place in this day and age but the demolition of the building which is now in a sad state will see the end of nearly 90 years of service. This is particularly poignant for the Midget formula as Wimbledon hosted not only the first demonstrations for the class back in 1967 but also the first competitive meeting on 30th March 1968. When the club became independent in 1975 it meant that Wimbledon meetings became few and far between and the last time the Midgets raced there was back in March 1993. The Weston name goes into the history books once again as the last Midget race winner at Plough Lane was John Weston who won the London Championship from Dick Loseby, Steve Piggins, Alf Oldfield, Rod Pashley and Keith Swift. The pictures in this newsletter show Barry Martin winning the 1973 BP Custom Car Supernational at
Wimbledon. The colour photo on this pages shows Rod Pashley and Alf Oldfield at the 1993 meeting.

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. Don’t forget to keep in touch. Richard gpmidget@gmail.com

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Midget Heritage Newsletter 11 - Spring 2015

Many thanks to everyone who acknowledged the last issue which came out just before Christmas! Much appreciated.

Although the remit of the newsletter is principally the version of the formula that started with Spedeworth in 1967, it would not have been inappropriate to have mentioned the passing of Jack Brabham last year. Brabham started his career in Midgets, or Speedcars as they were known in Australia. His name has a connection with Midget racing in this country through his ties with the Cooper Car Company where Frank Boyles worked. Brabham and Boyles are the two names that spring to mind when thinking about those rare characters who have very successfully built and raced their own cars.

Thank you to Rob van Rengs for filling a gap in the results – the race in question being the 1983 World Championship which took place at Kaldenkirchen. We knew that Wilfred Hofer won the race and that Alf Boarer was third but second place? Thanks to Rob we now know that it was his dad, Jan van Rengs. The race is available to watch on youtube. On the sublect of European contacts, the Autospeedway Retro group on Facebook has been a big help in trying to track down information on the 1985 World Championship – I now have some footage of that race so thanks to all concerned.

We’re delighted to welcome some new drivers to the formula this year and there are several new cars as well. Although news items do not seem to get written about the club these days, there was potentially a great story recently when the new Tony Smith car broke cover through Barry Weatherhead’s photos which were posted in the internet. Tony goes from being the driver of the oldest car on the grid to the newest. The Dastle he has raced until now would most likely date back to the early 1970s…

Dave Bonser has sold his Scorpian and will be racing his Van Diemen conversion again to defend his title. Dave is also taking the number 1 for the season, the first driver I believe to do so on the back of winning a championship. The other drivers to have raced number 1 over the years were also champions but sported the number before winning the points title - The original number 1 was Rod Tanswell, the first driver in the class. Paul Emery raced with that number in the MARC days and then Harry Sayell took up the number in 1979.

The first three meetings of the year have seen Jonathan Pooley in good form and he is top of the points from Marc de Land and Neil Clarke. Great to see drivers returning to the formula – we welcome back Alan Buckland (4th in the points) along with Tom Keep and Geoff Bunn this season.

I have recently made some cosmetic changes to the main club and history websites which meant taking a look at some of the data that is (or isn’t) in the archives. One of the most glaringly bare areas is results data from the first season of the MARC – 1971. There are lots of dates listed but not too much in the way of results unfortunately. Also, where we do have results, there are frustrating things like race numbers in hand written programme results with no names – ie #71 who pops up in the records a couple of times and is recorded as having won at St Austell in October…

A couple of ex drivers I have seen around the long circuits recently - David Jenkins is leading the British Truck Racing Association Championship and Nic Grindrod has sold his Pickup Trucks and is about to help his young sons into Ninja Kart racing on the ovals.

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 ovaltrack@btinternet.com - Thanks to Rick Moss for spreading the word we now have contact with Jack Pollard, son of Garry Pollard and grandson of Cliff Davis.

Looking Back…

40 years ago… Early season reports from 1975 are very sketchy. It was first year of the Midget Grand Prix Club and there was no regular reporting in any one place. In previous years the major championships had been picked up through Spedeworth’s publications and periodicals and programmes. However it seems it snowed at St Austell for the Good Friday meeting where Dennis Hooper won race one (which I think was the first of the season), David Underhill took the second race with the Handicap being won by John Graham. From the info we have available this was the start of an Easter tour of the West Country circuits.

30 years ago… The 1985 season opened on shale at Wimbledon with Nigel Brake (Fireball) winning the Eric Fretten Shield which was at that time the traditional award for the first race of the year. Wonder what happened to the shield? Alf Boarer (Arrow) was runner up. The Wimbledon meetings were filmed by Doral Video back then and thanks to Martin Hunt, who films today and retains the Doral archive, you can still get hold of a copy.

20 years ago… The first event of the 1995 season was the Autosport Show in January where the Midgets took part in the indoor arena at the NEC. Simon Hiles, Neil Clarke, Harry Sayell, Steve Piggins, Nic Grindrod and Eddy Ricketts were the Club's representatives with John Salter acting as co-ordinator over the four days.

10 years ago... Rob Sayell won the Casa Trophy in the 2005 season opener at the Mendips raceway – one of the rare forays to the West Country – just 10 cars making the trip and only six surviving to grid for the trophy
race.

As Ipswich is the venue for this year's World Championship I thought I would include a picture from there back in 1973. Nearest camera are Glenn Baker and Mick Bonner with Frank Boyles and Derek Johnson behind.  Thanks for Trevor Hill for the use of this picture.

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.
Wanted! Photos, results and programmes from any era – I don’t have to have your originals as scans which you can email to me are just as useful.

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.