New season countdown : 3

3

Stuart Bamforth’s first taste of stock car racing came in 1963. He raced in fits and starts as and when he had the time and a car in race worthy condition. It was a Wednesday night in 1970 when Stuart finally finished a race in the places for the first time, having acquired a half decent car from Jim Potter.

But after blowing up the engine, and its replacement, Stu had a couple of years off. He returned in 1974 and immediately won a final at Rochdale. Good results for the remainder of the year were enough to convince Stu that he ought to invest in a better car, and a brand new machine was ordered from Brian Powles.

He smashed it up at Hednesford early in 1975 and Allan Barker replaced the chassis, after which Stu began a gradual rise up the rankings.

The 1976 season was the year that Stu really found his edge, and by August he had raced to 8 finals, and crucially, fourth place in the World Semi Final at Nelson.

The World Final was held at White City Stadium in Manchester and Stu was on the fourth row. Willie Harrison and John Goodhall were on the front row. Second row starter Mike Close barged ahead at the start, and these three battled for a couple of laps before a massive hit from Willie put all three of them into the fence. This left Stu Bamforth in the lead, and he just drove away from the rest of the field to take the World Championship.

Stu did not have the same level of success in 1977, his year as world champion. Not on the track, anyway. Aside from being a driver, Stu was also a promoter and in the winter of 1976 he took over the ailing Odsal Stadium in Bradford.

Stu replaced the rough shale surface and wire fence with a smooth tarmac track and a solid plate fence, which greatly improved the racing spectacle. He also put a lot of thought into areas like pre-meeting entertainment and publicity, even at one stage putting adverts on TV.

These were very much halcyon days of stock car racing in the north of England, and to cap it all Stu then bought the iconic Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester. With Stu at the helm, Belle Vue flourished until the end of 1987.

A serious fire at Valley Parade football ground in 1985 had led to a review of all sporting venues, and the almost entirely wooden stands of Belle Vue, that had stood firm since the 1920s, were condemned as unsafe and Belle Vue was demolished.

Stu Bamforth died in 2002, and the Stu Bamforth Memorial Trophy has been contested in his memory at the new Belle Vue ever since.

More number threes…

Darren Clark at Birmingham in 2005.

Darren Clark at Birmingham in 2005.

Eddie Roberts at Bradford in 1993.

Eddie Roberts at Bradford in 1993.

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