Thursday, 14 July 2011

Midget Newsletter 02 - Summer 2011

Hello again – three months have passed so I thought it was about time to produce another couple of pages on the Midgets.  If you have news of anyone who was involved in the formula from days gone by I would be very pleased to hear from you.  My email address is

Thanks to Paul Daly and Graham Brown for getting in touch regarding the Jock McClure picture.  Both pointed out that the Jock McClure car pictured in the Spring newsletter was most likely a Formula Vee and this was subsequently confirmed by Chris Phillips… “The story goes that my dad (Barry) and Jock purchased the car from a man in Wembley, it was previously a Formula Vee car.  They converted it to Midget spec and Jock raced it three times.  Basically he didn't like it because there wasn't the pushing and shoving he was used to from the Stock Cars and he sold the car about two months after originally purchasing it.  Sadly my dad can’t remember either the name of the buyer or the seller so the trail goes a bit blank!”  Chris raced Midgets between 1999 and 2004. His mum (Joyce) and dad also made a big contribution to the club in the 90s – Joyce was secretary and Barry raced a Dastle.  Chris has made his career in motor racing and is number one mechanic for CRS Racing on their Intercontinental Le Mans cup car.

I have a few contacts in the circuit racing world so I thought I would try and find out a little more about the make of car.  I knew that fellow author Sam Collins knows a bit about Formula Vee so I asked him and he in turn referred me to Erle Minhinnick, a Vee racer and enthusiast, who was pleased to see the picture and advised as follows…  “Fantastic! I have never seen this car before. It was originally a Formula Vee APAL Mk 2. APAL (Application Polyester Arme Liege), was run by Edmond Pery and produced various GT Coupes, Speedsters and Dune Buggies based on VW components. In 1965 he started producing over 300 Formula Vees. The midget looks to have retained the Formula Vee (Beetle) engine.  There are 2 APALs racing today in their original form, one of which is mine - a Mk 1”

Continuing with the Vee I also should have checked my own records on the date of the picture – I said it was most likely 1971 whereas Jock only appears in Spedeworth programme listings and points during 1973.  Whilst talking about that error I must apologise for the typos in the first issue – I was a bit too keen to send it out.

Former circuit race cars continue to pop up in Midgets which helps make the class one of the few on the short ovals to have cars of differing designs.  Daniel Pooley has moved away from the family built Scorpian design to convert a neat looking contemporary Formula Ford (right).

I came across a great picture of Mick Miller on the internet recently. It looks like Cross in Hand raceway and the lack of a full roll cage dates the shot to 1969.  Mick’s daughter, Blue, is managing editor of Back Street Heroes magazine and I found the pic on his blog which referred to Mick with a quote from Rod Tanswell’s chapter in the 1972 Spedeworth book ‘Living With Spede’… “Another driver who made his mark with Midgets about the time was of course Mick Miller (M22). Of all drivers past and present Mick was quite a character. He wasn't afraid to mix it with the other drivers in or out of a race. As far as the spectators were concerned they either clapped or booed Mick and the more they did it, the more he loved every minute of it ... Unfortunately we were to see Mick retire from the sport eventually, a great shame as I consider he could have been one of the all time great drivers in the Midget formula”.  Sadly Blue tells us: “My Dad died very suddenly eight years ago this May. After giving up racing, he set up business on his own, concentrating on Lotus Elan restorations and became one of the top men in the world on the Elan.”

Former MARC racer Terry Baimbridge still has his car (!) and it is being re-fettled for a possible return to the tracks.  Terry tells us the machine is a Dastle with Fireball bodywork.  Great to have another potential classic on track.  We really will have to get a track day arranged.

Looking Back…
40 years ago… At the end of May 1971 Rod Tanswell topped the Spedeworth points chart with 94 points ahead of Frank Boyles (85) and Bob Elson (67).  Twenty three cars took part in the London Championship at White City Stadium with Tanswell taking the honours. The MARC cars were busy travelling with demonstration races at Mendips and a race meeting at Hednesford.

30 years ago… Geoff Hughes Junior won the 1981 British Championship at Northampton in torrential rain with Geoff Hughes Senior in second place.  Basil Craske won the second running of the Bill Boarer memorial trophy at Bovingdon. Alf Boarer made the presentation. Alf was one of the drivers who represented England at the European Championship which took place at Posterholt but he suffered a blown engine. Jan van Rengs won the title heading home five other overseas drivers.

20 years ago… The 1991 European Championship was held at Alwalton (Peterborough) with Klaus Kilianski heading home Willi Thissen.  Top British driver was John Calladine (Arrow) in third. The Midgets made a rare appearance at Arlington in July where Sayell retained the National Championship

10 years ago… Brian Gough took his first ever win in the Midgets during the Saturday night ‘Rolling Thunder Show’ at Arena Essex. Chris Phillips won the June Cochrane trophy at Alwalton whilst Rob Sayell was continuing to make his mark on the sport retaining the European title, again at Alwalton.

Current Scene

Jonathan Pooley is leading the 2011 Championship at the time of writing with Steve Dawson second and Cliff Bunn third.  Cliff is currently the top front engine driver – the Firehawk is an all new chassis based on his old front engine Mk3 Fireball type design.

I’ve been asked if anyone has plans for the Arrow design?  Please email me if you can help.

In closing, as ever, I apologise if I have missed anyone out of this newsletter – It’s not intentional!  Please let me have any news when you have it – I will try and maintain a balance between the various eras represented.  Please let me know if you have contact with anyone from the Midget scene who might not be getting a copy of this bulletin.

Richard –

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