Images thanks to Peter Schell
25 years ago, Paul Samuels and John Carter opened Wakefield Park Raceway for motor sport. That November, the HSRCA ran the first race meeting at the circuit, attracting 240 entries across nine grids to compete in races and regularity events that were watched by a crowd of spectators that stretched along most of the main straight.
Peter Schell was one of the photographers at that inaugural event, and his images illustrate this story.
Peter’s photographs bring back fond memories of the many notable characters who competed in that period, and demonstrate the wide variety of cars that ran. While many of the cars that participated in that inaugural event are still competing today, along with equivalents of the production cars, the photographs do highlight some which we wish were still around. For example, the oldest group included one of the legendary ERAs once driven by a Thai prince in Europe, who also drove in Formula 1.
Group S production sports cars are still very popular, but we have not seen an Iso Rivolta for a very long time. Michael Byrne, then in the yellow Lotus Europa, is now driving a very fast Lotus Super Seven.
John Evans returned to motor racing in recent years and owns a Lotus 23B and Elfin Streamliner. Here he is in an Austin Healey Sprite under pressure from Dick Everett in a fast MGA.
In the 1960s touring cars were less common than they became in the ‘80s and onwards. The car that probably did the most to promote touring car racing was the Mini. Here is Allan Barrow chasing Lynn Cowan in one of three green and white Morris Mini Coopers entered for that meeting. Phil Barrow still campaigns a Holden under the same number and colours.
The quartet of David Rowe piloting an MG TC, Rob Jamieson in the Holden, Rebecca Caldersmith in the Wolseley 1500 and Hugh Oldham in the Rizzo Riley illustrate the variety of cars in regularity.
Another example of this variety can be seen in the dummy grid line-up, which features ‘Sam’ Johnson’s replica Ferrari, Guy ‘Pogo’ Thompson in the red MGB, Darren Hodgson in the next MGB, then Rex Williamson, Brett Morse Sunbeam Alpine, an unknown driver and Louis Brittain in the Lancia.
Several of these drivers, or close relatives, are still active. Rex Robinson, like John Evans, returned to racing in recent years. The gifted Sam Johnson will be a guest at the 25th anniversary meeting. He crafted the replica Ferrari at the head of the grid.
The most modern of the cars competing in that first meeting were built in the 1970s and are still common in historic motor racing today. Here Group QR is represented by Dick Willis in the Brabham Dolphin. Colin Nankervis ran a Wren Formula Ford, a popular category spanning the 1970s and 1980s.
Group O, for slightly older race cars, was then combined with Group Q and R. Here the category is represented by Paul Hamilton driving an Elfin 600 and still active today. Jim McConville pilots the Brabham BT29, whilst Jeremy Braithwaite is driving the Lotus 61MX Formula Ford.
Going further back in time is the grid for Group M sports and racing, with Mike Ryve’s number 77 Brabham BT11a, John Dawson-Damer’s Lotus 39, Robert Lesslie in the Nota Sportsman in the back row and Michael Ellis in the Golford Special. John Dawson-Damer tragically lost his life in England a while back, but Robert Lesslie is now driving Bruce Richardson’s Nota Minx, and the Golford is still competing.
Earlier still are the Group L sports and racing cars, with Ross Hodgson supercharged MG TC special (both still participating), Peter Mohr (then club president) behind in the Nedloh, David Gleen in the Anderson Holden (still competing in the same car) and John Scott (now retired) in the bright green Milano.
Oldies in the paddock include a Morgan Aero JAP, an Amilcar Willys campaigned by the Snape family and the Nota Major. The Amilcar Willys was damaged in an accident but is under repair and, in the hands of Dick Willis, the Nota Major has proved a very competitive car in its class.
The Wakefield Park 25th Anniversary Race Meeting will be held at Wakefield Park over the 16th & 17th of November, 2019. Entry is open now through the Wakefield Park website, where you’ll also be able to find more details about the event.