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Archive 27
Good Old Days part 2
Way back in 1948 the first 'real road' racing circuit was
established at Blandford Army Camp in Dorset.
Today, much of that track is unrecognisable, but sections remain to fascinate devotees of the sport.
In the last issue we looked back to the era concentrating
on motorcycles, now we turn our attention to cars.

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 Syracuse GP.

   Dudley Folland, 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.

Dudley Folland's
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 Britain.

   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.

  The 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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