An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

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An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby Hastingstownman » 02 Jan 2011, 15:29

Hi everyone, this is my first ever post on here. I do a bit of writing in an amateur capacity and recently wrote the article below regarding my childhood and early adult memories of Spedeworth Stock Car Racing. I miss the good old days of the 70's and 80's and feel it a real shame that too many rules, regulations and a MANIA for health and safety has killed off most of the excitement these days. Technology has played a big part in ruining the racing as well and so I rarely go anymore. In my opinion, only the Superstox are the force they once were for excitement.

Am I just being an old grouch?

Do you remember:

Cross-In-Hand?
The days when Bangers ALWAYS had a DD at the end of a meeting?
Ace flag waver Ted Weaver?
Ted Harris 216 (naughty boy!)?
Todd and Biffo Sweeney?
Those TREMENDOUS battles on track between Polley and Lee?

If so, read my article below and leave a comment. I really miss my Stock car Racing but I just cannot abide a red flag every time someone sneezes and the regular scenario of 'lining the cars up in lapsheet order' only for it all to happen in another 2 laps time. As the old signpost used to say as you went through the turnstyles at Arlington Stadium, MOTOR RACING IS DANGEROUS, I mean, why the hell do they think people race in the first place! HA HA


STOCK CAR MEMORIES

I have been thinking a lot recently about days gone by and in particular of my days as a boy going to the Stock Car Racing with my Dad. Not quite sure why my memories of dust, dirt, noise, revving engines, screaming tyres and crash bang wallop keep popping back into my consciousness but, as they do, I thought I’d write about them for HT.

If any of you have ever sampled the delights of the Arlington Raceway or spent many an hour as a small child on your Dad’s shoulders watching the Superstox and Stock Cars at Cross In Hand you will perhaps understand why the thrill and excitement of small oval motor racing is hard to forget. Dad took me to my first Stock Car meeting as a baby, I am told, so I suppose it was inevitable I was either going to love it or hate it. He was a really keen supporter and as I grew up he took the whole family all over the place following the action.

The most regular appointment on the racing calendar though was the Wednesday Night meeting at Arlington Raceway. Dad used to go every week if he could afford it and I used to hate it if we had to miss a week. Apart from the racing, I recall I used to get a real buzz of excitement about how late I was being allowed to stay up. In the packed car park after the meeting when everyone was jostling for position to try and get out I would look with growing excitement at my wristwatch the longer it took us to get out. ‘Wow, nearly 11’o clock!’ I would think while my poor Dad who often had to be up for work at 5am was just plain frustrated!

Race meetings were a vastly different kettle of fish from what you can still experience at Arlington Raceway today. Things were far less rushed and much more fan based than they are today and I used to love to see the ‘Grand Parade Of Cars’ and be able to wave or cheer at my favourite driver as he went past sat on the bonnet or roof of his car in his racing overalls. Drivers were much more like celebrities then too. With the cars lined up in graded positions before the start of each race a ‘callout of numbers’ gave everyone the chance to clap and cheer or blast a horn for their particular hero when his name and number was called.

Meetings would usually consist of two formulas competing in seven races. The main formula had three qualifying heats and a grand final while the supporting formula two heats and a grand final. Qualifying heats were run over 20 laps, finals 30. To make it through to the final drivers had to have finished in the top 8 in one or more of the heats. This system made for thrilling finals as the ‘star men’ (who had to start at the rear of the grid almost ¾ of a lap behind the novices) had more time to make it to the front of the race and battle it out for the win.

My favourite formula was Hot Rods closely followed by Superstox and then Saloon Stock Cars. A Hot Rod could be virtually any size or shape of car but engines were limited to no more than 1600cc. Competitors were allowed to highly tune their engines and alter the gear ratio. Most Hot Rod drivers used Ford Escort body shells but Ford Anglia’s and even Mini’s were not uncommon and the racing was thrilling because of the differences in machinery – some being faster round corners, others quicker down the straights.

Surprisingly, until the mid to late eighties when Keith Rummery came onto the scene I cannot recall a single Hot Rod driver who came from Hastings and considering how close we are to the Arlington Raceway (near Hailsham) it is difficult to understand why. Loads of people from Hastings went to the meetings - that was evident by the amount of people we would see ‘racing’ each other back home after the event but few took part in it. Maybe it has to do with ‘the Hastings lifestyle’ of sun, sand and the seaside? Racing a powerful car in hot sweaty conditions is perhaps all a bit too much like hard work compared to soaking up the sun, eh?

306 George Polley and 351 Barry Lee were the two superstars of the Hot Rod class and their battles on track are still the subject of folklore even today. Lee had bigger sponsors and two or three cars to choose from. He drove Ford Escorts and was a real showman (at the time of the glam thing he even wore silver and gold race overalls). Polley meanwhile drove a Ford Anglia and had to do his racing on a tighter budget. He was quiet and unassuming but a fabulous driver and was particularly quick in wet conditions – a surprising fact when you take into account that George had very poor eyesight and needed thick glasses!

On track battles between Lee and Polley were simply breath-taking and invariably consisted of Barry hugging the inside and keeping a tight line while George tried to take him on the outside. It has to be said that Lee came out on top more often than not but lap after lap of nip and tuck racing regularly whipped the crowds up into a frenzy. You always had to get to the track early if you wanted to see the first race whenever the Hot Rods were on the programme.

Hastings did have its stalwart in the Superstox class however in the shape of the ever-trying 341 Maurice Booth. Purpose built racing machines, Superstox are powered by 2.0 litre engines and are very fast indeed. To add to the excitement, unlike the Hot Rods, Superstox racing is a contact sport and they are allowed to push competitors out of the way in order to make a pass. As you can imagine therefore, to perfect the perfect Superstox and find the ideal set-up takes a lot of money and most of the top drivers are helped considerably by sponsorship.

I always used to cheer for our Maurice, bless him! With a lot more passion than sponsors, somehow our man could never quite seem to compete with the big boys. While pretty quick down the straights, Mo’s home built car just never seemed to get around the bends that well and in all the years I remember seeing him race, I don’t ever recall him graduating past the yellow grade (the second tier of seven grades). ‘Mo’ was always sure to be out there battling it out each meeting though and invariably put on a good show taking the early lead before being swallowed up by the star men. If you are reading this now Mo, thanks for so many happy memories!

My favourite Superstox driver was (unsurprisingly) 364 Tony May. No, not me, but my namesake! Tony was European Champion in 1974 and I met him a few times in the pits at Arlington and have his autograph somewhere. Even in those days I was a bit of a ‘yarn spinner’ and I managed to convince one of my schoolmates that I was driving at Arlington by showing him my name in the programme!

A lot of top drivers come out of the Superstox class and Derek Warwick who was around at the same time as Tony went on to be a Formula 1 racing driver. They used to sell toy Superstox in the track shop at the stadium and I had a couple. So wish I had kept hold of them now…

Saloon Stock Cars were basically the equivalent of ironed up Bangers. Most were built out of old M.G Magnets, Wolseley’s or Hillman Minx’s and were heavily ironed up all around to be able to take one hell of a beating. This was just as well as Saloon Stock Car racing was not for the squeamish and there were frequent pile-ups (especially when 226 Eddie George, 70 Aubrey ‘Foxy’ Dance or 665 Dave ‘Pusher’ Willis were about!). The worst thing with this formula was that, as a spectator, you had to keep your eyes on what was going on in front of you as wheels had a habit of coming off these old warhorses and on occasion could get catapulted over the safety fence into the crowd!

The funniest instance I ever witnessed of this was when one came over near to where I was standing. Everyone ducked or ran out of the way quickly except one bloke, behind us to the left, who had one arm in a sling and another leg in plaster. Unable to shift himself, he just had to stand and pray! Ironically, the wheel hit the step a couple down from him and bounced up and hit him on his good leg! Thankfully, the impact was only slight and after people helped him up again he was able to have a laugh at the irony of it all with us.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s promoters, Spedeworth International Limited, also used to hire ‘Star Commentators’ and Noel Edmunds of ‘Deal Or No Deal’ fame is one of today’s established television and radio stars to have provided commentaries on the small oval circuit scene. If I remember correctly, Noel was used more around London and Ipswich way but I have a vague recollection of him commentating a few times at Cross In Hand (could be a false memory).

If I had to hold onto just one memory from those days it would be the feeling of excitement and anticipation I got listening to each formulas theme tune blaring through the echoey track speakers as the control car gradually picked up speed taking the cars around at the start of the race. Each formula had its own theme tune all of which were perfect for the kind of racing the formula provided.
There was ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ for the Bangers, ‘The Formula 2 March’ for the Superstox, ‘A Swingin’ Safari’ for The Saloon Stock Cars and ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’ for the Hot Rods, amongst others. If any of you know how those songs go you will be able to fully imagine the excitement of a young boy as he stood on the terraces hearing the engine revs gradually rising and that roar of acceleration the second the Control Car ducked off the race track at the starting line and the green flag was waved. Magical moments…

Another facet of the more family orientated meetings of those days was the perpetual habit that Spedeworth had of sending marshals around the track in the interval between races with buckets full of sweets and chews. Every few steps a handful would be tossed over the safety fence for the Mum’s and Dad’s to try and catch for their little ones. The ridiculousness of the modern world, I expect that kind of thing would be banned these days because of ‘health & safety’.

Finally, there was the Production Car Lap Trials when members of the crowd got a chance to race around the track in their own cars to see who could record the fastest time. Quite a few ‘lost it’ and pranged the safety fence to loud cheers from the crowd – rotten lot aren’t we, the human race…

The quality of the racing has most certainly suffered from modern rules and regulations. While there may be a lot more races to enjoy for your money these days at a typical meeting the quality of the product has diminished dramatically. Nowadays the slightest spin or scuff of the safety fence and the red flags will come out, the race will be stopped and the cars lined up again in ‘lap sheet order’ for the re-start. The result of this being that most races end up being re-started a number of times and the excitement of seeing a driver make a determined ‘charge from the back’ just never materializes. Races are run over less laps these days as well and this makes it virtually impossible for any of the ‘star men’ to win. Add to all of this the fact that racecars themselves are more sophisticated and aerodynamic (so there is hardly any passing and they go around the track on rails!) and you will understand why I don’t see there’s much to get excited about anymore!

Oh well, I guess today is today and yesteryear was yesteryear…
Hastingstownman
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby Tristam Barden » 02 Jan 2011, 22:20

You should contact Short Circuit magazine they are always after write ups etc.
win it or bin it
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 04 Jan 2011, 18:34

Bouncing wheels: I'd like to hear other people's stories, but here's mine:

Brafield in about 1964 ('scuse me, "Northampton International Raceway") in a Senior F1 race, a hefty rear wheel came off, managed to get an extra bounce from the steel hawser fence, landed on the grass bank at turn three (luckily everyone jumped aside), bounced again miles in the air and into the car park behind -- I lost sight of it, but when I went to look it had landed on a car roof and then rolled onto another car's bonnet and woke up a frantic barking dog inside. I still feel sorry for the car owners, but it was quite a laugh at the time.
Thanks for your memory lane visit. David K.
http://www.oldstox.com
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby MAXIDOG1 » 30 Jan 2011, 02:40

YOUR MEMORIES SURE BRING BACK SOME NOSTALGIA FOR ME...I WAS A WIMBLEDON LOCAL BUT SOMETIMES USED TO GO TO ARLINGTON AND OF COURSE CROSS IN HAND..MY LOCAL HERO WAS SUPERSTOX NBR 419 ROY FREEMANTLE..A HAMPTON,MIDDX DRIVER,,FOR YEARS A WHITE TOP UNTIL HE BUILT A DECENT CAR IN LATE 1960,S ,,WON A FEW RACES AND PROGRESSED TO REDS FOR A MONTH..DID ALL THE ROUNDS ESPECIALLY WIMBLES AND THURS NITES AT ALDERSHOT..I REMEMBER THE FIRST ''OLD BANGER RACING AT ALDERSHOT IN 1968 WHEN AUSTIN A40/S AND V8 PILOTS WERE USED..AND HAD WINDOW AND HEADLIGHT GLASS STILL INTACT AND TOOK PASSENGERS...'ELF N SAFETY ???? NAH...i'M 61 YRS OLD NOW AND REALLY MISS THEM GOOD OLD DAYS OF STOX AND HOT RODS...MY FAVE WAS BARRY LEE SO THEREFORE THOUGHT POLLEY WAS CRAP..BUT NOW REALISE THAT HE WAS IN FACT A SUPERB DRIVER ,,ALSO WE USED TO SEE SOME GREAT HEDENESFORD HOT ROD STARS IN MARTIN MORRIS '00' AND STAN LLOYD 102..LAST YEAR WENT BACK TO WIMBLEDON FOR A SUNDAY AFTERNOON MEETG..WHAT A LET DOWN...TIRED OLD STADIUM THAT'S SEEN BETTER DAYS ...MEDIOCRE DRIVING BY DRIVERS THAT DIDN'T SEEM TO CARE WHETHER OR NOT THE PUBLIC WERE PAYING TO WATCH THEM....FELT LIKE CRYING FOR THOSE GOOD OLD DAYS..MY FIRST EVER VISIT TO STOCK CAR RACING WAS AT WIMBLEDON IN 1965 FOR WORLD FINAL..I HAVE SOME FOND MEMORIES ON 35MM COLOUR SLIDES OF OTHER MEETINGS SOMEWHERE..NOT MANY BUT I THINK I'LL JUST TREASURE MY MEMORIES..BY THE WAY I ALSO THOUGHT TONY MAY SS 364 WAS CRAP TILL HE BROKE HIS LEG AT WIMBLEDON WHEN ,,I BELIEVE,,HIS THROTTLE JAMMED OPEN ON A BEND AND SMACKED FULL BORE INTO A STANCHION..OUCH!!!..IS HE STILL ALIVE I WONDER ????
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 30 Jan 2011, 18:46

maxidog1: I liked your Wimble memories. I think what older fans miss is that the cars 40-45 years ago were often pigs to drive ---- when I returned to Brandon after a 40 year gap, I was impressed by the stock cars in a technical sense ---- so smooth and balanced and perfect -- but where's the fun? We used to roar with laughter and cheer just to see a guy wrestling to keep it in a straight line, or bully it round the bend on three wheels and a prayer and a manky tyre; they worked for their living! Today's Hot Rods, for example, are wonderful machines, and the racing is close, but they look a bit like Scalextric.
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby MAXIDOG1 » 30 Jan 2011, 23:28

REF YOUR MEMORIES OF STOCK CARS OF 40 + YEARS AGO..U'RE RIGHT ABOUT THE OLD " HEAVIES " THE MG MAGNETTES WERE THE MAINSTAY OF THE RE-INTRODUCED STOCK SALOONS IN THE LATE 60'S..BEING A SPEDEWORTH FREAK I ADMIRED LES EATON FOR ALWAYS STAYING ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE GAME TO PUT ON A GOOD SHOW...THE SHEER SPECTACLE OF THE GRAND PARADE AT WIMBLEDON WAS INDEED PART OF THE EVENING , AS THE OPENING CEREMONY GAVE EVERYONE A GLIMPSE OF THE SHINY AND PERHAPS NOT SO SHINY LIVERIES OF THE CARS BEFORE THE EVENING RACING..I BELIEVE IN ORDER TO RACE U HAD TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SAID GRAND PARADE...A BIT RUSTY ON THAT...ON MY RECENT RE-VISIT TO WIMBLEDON I DON'T REMEMBER SEEING A GRAND PARADE...THE DRIVERS WERE CHARACTERS IN THEMSELVES AND MOST LOVABLE AND SOME U HATED BUT THEY ALL GAVE YOU YOUR MONEYS-WORTH..YES I'M A RAMBLING OL'FOOL BUT CROSS IN HAND ROLLOVERS AND WHITE CITY HOT RODS AND SATURDAY NIGHTS AT WIMBLEDON WILL LIVE WITH ME FOR EVER...I GAVE UP GOING IN 1973 AS MY INTERESTS WENT ELSEWHERE AND COUPLED WITH A JOB SWITCH MEANT I HAD TO WORK UN-EARTHLY SHIFTS AT HEATHROW AIRPORT SO MISSED OUT ON TOO MANY MEETINGS....STUPIDLY I THREW OUT MY STOCK CAR PROGRAMMES FROM 1965-73 BUT KEPT MY STOCK CAR JOURNALS SO STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO READ
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 31 Jan 2011, 01:14

maxidog1, if you only knew how many people are saying "Oh no, I CAN'T BELIEVE I threw away / lost those old mags / programmes / photos --- "

Although I followed BriSCA, not Spedeworth, the feeling of those memories is exactly the same. Have a peek at my nostalgia photo website, http://www.oldstox.com

As for 'good old days' memories, I read about a London printer/journalist in about 1750, who was always complaining that the beer wasn't nearly as strong as it had been when he was a young man ----.
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby MAXIDOG1 » 01 Feb 2011, 01:24

Great peek at the nostalgia website..somewhere lurking in there were reminiscences of tunes played at Spedeworth and other meetings...One I loved was the tune played by Jason Sound at Cross in Hand,,always wondered what it was until I bought it accidentally in mid 1980-s..it was Holiday by Andre Brasseu...just some useless info for u..and my nostalgia for old stuff was always mixed with the sounds of the music ,,the hits of the time and of course the smell of Castrol R...perhaps I should get back to supporting again...forget the nostalgia and see what todays drivers are capable of... ?
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 01 Feb 2011, 04:24

Thanks, I will find and link that tune to my site. Castrol "R" --- happy memories. I have read that you can still buy it on special order in small amounts. Racers say it worked but really gummed up your engine. They made it from "castor" oil, from a bean that also contains a deadly natural poison: ricin, the nerve agent. My gran swore by castor oil for all her family's contipation -----, but I don't think it was the engine kind!
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby MAXIDOG1 » 07 Feb 2011, 00:28

I suppose the response about Holiday by Andre Brasseur would appeal to Hastingstownman after his musical reminisences about Spedeworth meetings..this was the signature tune of Jason Sound who,if i remember,did commentaries at Cross in Hand meetings and afterwards did a DJ spot at the Heathfield Country Club ????..Anyway,..most of you wouldn.t remember the heyday of Spedeworth,which,to my biased opinion, were best remembered for the sheer professionalism of the Great Les " Mr Stock Car " Eaton,,,The re-introduction of Stock Saloons in it's purest form in the late 1960's was overdue in order to give the paying public it's quota of thrills and spills..even my late father and my mother used to come along with me and agreed it was a great evening out at Wimbledon on a Saturday night.. Also the introduction of Hot Rods in the late 1960's pitting the driving prowess of "our lads " against " the Hednesford drivers made for some real good rodding action..Am I only remembering the best bits due to age or what ????...Midgets were just about OK but Autospedeway Team racing was totally ...not worth writing about,,,but give Les Eaton his due..he wasn't afraid to try something new..
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 07 Feb 2011, 00:55

Here's a nice local "online newspaper" article about Cross In Hand:

http://wealden.theflea.co.uk/magazine/3 ... ast_sussex
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby Hastingstownman » 24 Aug 2011, 14:02

Great to read all of your comments! Me and Maxidog certainly sing from the same hymn sheet but I can understand some of the comments about how technically superior the cars are today as well. For me though, Stock Car Racing was never meant to be about the pursuit of excellence. It was a working mans sport for those whom liked thrills and spills and the odd bit of rough and tumble. As far as the Hot Rods and Nationals go today, can anyone really tell me that they find such 'Scalextric' racing exciting? The last few times I have been to my local track (Arlington) the white top driver who has gotten away off the line first has won every time unless there has been a pile up or he's had an engine failure. The only race that there could be any other result in is the final heat where there are usually a) less cars b) more laps otherwise the guy with a clear track just breezes off into the sunset and the star men just hold each other up because they can't pass each other - BORING!

Someone I spoke to on the terraces at Arlington years ago predicted the future for me when he told me that " the quickest way to ruin a sport is to throw loads of money at it" and to be honest I think now he was dead right. What with the evenness of the cars and awful problems with overtaking we also these days have to put up with health & safety maniacs, red flags every ten laps, re- starts and a plethora of other excitement killing things. Instead of a family evening of entertainment and fun we now get 10 races crammed into a meeting, no parade of cars, no competitions, no free sweets chucked from buckets for the kids, no production car lap trials, no guest star commentators etc, etc...

The whole mood of a stock car meeting at Arlington these days has changed and I bet you aren't even allowed into the pits to gain autographs either like you were in between races when I was a kid. Drivers were personalities in my day and everyone loved or hated a few. The call over of numbers before each race used to see euphoric clapping, shouting and horn blowing and winning drivers would get a rapturous applause (or otherwise!) on their lap of honour. Today? Sure, the kids still have the horns but there is no sense of occasion from the commentary box, no attempt to engage the crowd with the event just a desire to 'hurry up' because of the curfew time.

No, sorry, for me Stock Car Racing has evolved into something it was never intended to be and the racing and whole experience is all the worst for it. :roll:
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Re: An Article I Wrote To Bring Back Memories

Postby David Kipling » 24 Aug 2011, 16:16

Agreed! Here's a really good editorial piece from the South Devon Herald Express last year, remembering the "good old days". It's great when someone in a newspaper does that. I did a copy-and-paste into a pdf file:
http://www.oldstox.com/images/Herald%20 ... 0Abbot.pdf


In running my website, I can't count how many times ex-racers have told me they loved racing but had to give it up when the money came in.
While I'm at it, has anyone ever compiled a list of BriSCAJunior F2 racing numbers? I have the Mike Greenwood book of BriSCA Senior F1 numbers, but rely on a few old programmes and other people's memories to identify F 2 cars in old snapshots.
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