In 1949 the West Hants and
Dorset Car Club set out to emulate their two-wheeled cousins.
This club had been formed in 1932 by George Hartwell, Joe
Huxham, Dudley Ship and Barry Peters and had run many local
events and speed trials before and after the war (see Wessex
Wheels spring 2000), but 1949 was their first real race
meeting. It proved to be a very eventful one indeed, with
some exciting racing and, unfortunately, several nasty accidents,
one of which was fatal. The Motor report in the August
31st issue of that year wrote: 'It can truly be said that
neither the club or the Blandford circuit was to blame in
either case and that when our drivers have greater experience
of racing on the road as opposed to airfield courses, such
things will seldom occur'.
Strong words indeed.
But this meeting was also important for several other reasons.
It was the first appearance of the Connaught sports car,
financed and driven by local developer Kenneth McAlpine.
Connaught, of course, became famous for winning the 1955
whose family ran the Folland Aircraft Company, entered one
of the first Ferraris ever built and certainly the first
to appear in this country, albeit this time unsuccessfully.
Similarly, Frank Kennington drove the first Cisitalia to
appear in this country and Anthony Baring caused something
of a sensation driving a very rare German Veritas with its
beautiful and advanced streamlined body. Anthony Crook,
who went on to establish himself as a top flight driver
and now owns the prestigious Bristol Car Company, drove
this car in one race.
Ferrari (one of the first ever built by the Italian
manufacturer) was forced to retire after overheating
due to a engine oil leak.
This was probably the first Ferrari to race in mainland
This was also
the era of the tiny rear-engined Coopers, one of which was
driven by John Cooper himself. It was one of those diminutive
cars which made motor racing history at the meeting. A bus
shelter had earlier been demolished in the fatal accident
at Engineers corner, but then Major P. K. Braid lost control
of his Cooper at the same spot, hit a bank on the left-hand
side of the road, shot back across to the other side before
hitting the ruins of the bus shelter, mounting a fir tree
and neatly catapulting onto the roof of Battalion HQ and
stepping out virtually unscathed.
car was neatly parked the correct way up and facing
the right direction.
It remained there
for the duration of the race; what the CO had to say
is not recorded!
The dust had hardly
settled when the F2 cars came out for their 25 lap final.
It was a fiercely fought race between the little V-twin
Coopers of Bill Aston, George Hartwell and Bill Whitehouse
against the Rileys of George Shillito and Jack Fairman.
By lap 19, Shillito was leading with Fairman in hot pursuit.
The latter attempted to lap two cars at Engineers corner,
lost control and was hit by Bobby Baird in his RBL. The
Riley overturned and the road was covered in oil and debris,
so the race was stopped and placing were awarded on the
18th lap positions.
Some years later,
when he was an established works driver, Fairman wrote about
this incident. He said, that Tony Rolt (of ERA and Jaguar
fame) who was running the pit had told him in his best 'Rifle
Brigade' manner to 'stop being a b..... fool and wear a
helmet', something which was still considered to be a bit
'cissy' at the time. 'I was awarded second place' he said,
'with the result that I am the only member of the BRDC who
has been placed and drawn prize money after sliding along
the road on his ear'. The fastest lap at this meeting was
made jointly by Bill Aston and Eric Brandon in their Coopers
which is slightly slower than the aforementioned two-wheelers
at 82.76 mph although racing through the camp caused many
spills, not least due to side winds between the buildings
which resulted in one or two spills.
After Cuckoo Corner
the course swept downhill to Valley Bend. In the photograph
above Riley No 11 driven by G Shillito is leading with Frank
Kennington in second place in a Cisitalia.
So an eventful
programme was brought to a premature end. By and large 1949
had seen the successful introduction of circuit racing at
Blandford. But whereas motor bikes would continue to race
there for another decade or so with many stars gracing the
track, cars would only run for one more season and then
move to the old Ibsley airfield.
But that's for another day.
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