Flashback Friday: A weekly article brought to you from the vaults of top BriSCA photographer Colin Casserley
After a few weeks showcasing the drivers from the North of England, we move down south to the birthplace of Stock car racing, London.
0. New Cross stadium hosted the first ever stock car race in the UK back on Good Friday 1954. Located just off the Old Kent Road in South East London, The track can be seen here on the left next to Millwall Football Club ground “The Den” Both were knocked down many years ago with the site of the stock car track remaining a park. New Cross was a small track and racing quickly moved to the larger Harringay Stadium in North London. West Ham Stadium at Custom House, East London had a massive capacity and hosted racing until the mid 1960s when redevelopment halted racing. Photograph from Millwall History Files.
1. Les Suckling (132) lived a stones throw from West Ham Stadium in Plaistow. Les always had an immaculately prepared car and whiter than white overalls. He was one of the last drivers to hold a red grade using a Jaguar engine. A chance meeting at Coventry led to Les obtaining some “trick” engine parts from the nearby Jaguar factory.
2. Terry Coell (133) was also from Plaistow and another who used the Jag engine. He began racing in 1957 and won 10 finals until he retired from racing in the early 1970s. His mini bodied car was a familiar sight at the Southern tracks but he was no stranger to tracks like Coventry and Hednesford.
3. Canning Town’s Dennis Driscoll (274) was always a threat to win on tarmac, he won seven at Harringay but also chalked up wins at Brands Hatch, Northampton, Ringwood and Hednesford. For a time Driscoll was one of the drivers who experimented with racing tyres when they were allowed by rule in the late 1960s. Dennis moved to East Anglia to run a pub in the mid 1970s and retired from racing. His son, Danny (174), raced for a short while circa 2001.
4. Harringay’s Alan England (24) had many different cars during his racing career, he is seen here in the Ex Stuart Smith (391) car at Coventry. Alan can still be seen watching at several meetings. Alan’s son Alan Jr (146) also raced with some success in the 2000s.
5. Roy Wilson (111) was another driver who raced many different cars. This one pictured at Lydden Hill, found its way over to Holland in 1977. Roy’s son Lee (111), raced for several seasons but sadly passed away 10 years ago.
6. Chick Woodroffe (1) did just about everything in Stock car racing. He was not only a driver in both F1 and F2, he was also BSCDA Chairman and promoter. He promoted several tracks including at “Traditional” circuits – Snetterton, Lydden Hill, Mallory Park and Brands Hatch. He also promoted at Rayleigh Stadium in Essex. And when that track closed suddenly in 1973 Chick realized that the closing of tracks in the south like West Ham, Staines, New Cross, Walthamstow and eventually Harringay would leave the south devoid of venues. To keep the sport going he purchased some land near Dartford which he built into Arena Essex.
7. Chick challenged Dave Chisholm (252) to a match race, Dave in Chick’s F1 and Chick in Dave’s f2. After Dave lapped Chick, Woodroffe turned to Chisholm and said “You better drive it from now!” This is Dave in the Darkie Wright built, ex Woodroffe car at Coventry.
8. London Black Cab Driver Melvyn Bassey (17) drove a Darkie Wright (7) built car, hardly surprising though as he was Darkie’s son in law! Unfortunately Mel was involved in a nasty incident at Lydden Hill where this photo was taken. The car flipped onto a barrel and came through the roof. Mel suffered a broken neck, although he did make a full recovery and returned to racing a few years later. The incident led to all cars having a steel plate welded in the roll cage above the driver’s head.
9. Mo Smith (51) spins into the stationary car of Brixton’s Rod Smith (6). Rod’s car was another built in the South London “Under the Arches” garage of Darkie Wright. Rod can be seen in the background chatting to Dave Chisholm. The photo is from Snetterton.
10. The Home Counties was the base for many drivers in the 60s and early 70s. One of the most successful was George Ansell (375). The Knebworth, Herts based driver is seen here at Northampton passing Les Suckling during one of the 2-lap match races that used to open the meetings in the early 1970s
11. George at Speed battling with Welwyn’s Gordon Perrin (266). Gordon spannered for several year for Baldock’s Willie Wanklyn (304). Willie moved to Northern Ireland in the late 1960s where he began promoting F2s under the name Willie Covington.
12. Sugar Shergold (304) was from Welwyn Garden City, a town that was also home to the Wilde Brothers, Jim (90) and Ray (91). Here Sugar goes wide into the dirt at Snetterton. the car later passed onto Alan Casserley (104) who blew the Pontiac engine that powered this machine at Snetterton. Although a chance meeting on the way home from that meeting at a Mildenhall petrol station secured an replacement Pontiac GTO engine from an American Serviceman from the nearby USAF base.
13. Dave Peters (231) of Hatfield in his familiar orange coloured car. Dave’s son, Mark (231), is rumored to be making a return to racing in 2012.
14. Essex driver Brian Maynard (134) seen at Brafield in the early 1970s, his sons Andy (152) and Gary (151) have both raced F1s and are still involved in racing today.
15. Walkern’s Dick Sworder (150) in action at Coventry in the ex Dennis Irving car. Dick won seven finals, his first was on the tar at Snetterton but his other six were on shale including the first ever Stoke meeting and the last ever Rayleigh. Dick’s son Mick (150) made his debut in F1s in 2011, winning the European final at Northampton. In 2012 Mick will also be venturing on to shale.
16. In many people’s eyes Dave Chisholm is the greatest driver to come from the South. He is seen here having a blast around Northampton in the Allan Young chassis car before selling the car. Dave would build one more car, the lightweight special that carried him to a memorable final win at Bradford before it was sold on to Rob Bradell.