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.