Pete Stowe ........
West Country Motor Sport History
Venues and Events
Pre World War 1
1000 mile Trial. 65 participants in the 1000 mile
The following years,
leading up to World War One, saw the formation of several motor clubs in the
Hillclimbs. There were timed hillclimbs - on
public roads - at Chew Hill, at Clapton in Gordano, at Wraxall near Shepton
Mallet, at Shipham near Axbridge, and also at Lansdown and Weston on the
Reliability trials covered testing routes in the Mendips hills to the south of the city (and some also included the 1 in 2.4 gradient of Vale Street hill in the Totterdown district), and the Cotswolds to the north, where the famed Nailsworth Ladder, near Stroud, provided a stiff challenge. More on the 1913 Bristol Trial
Weston Speed Trials. In 1913 and 1914 speed trials were held on a one-mile course on the beach at Weston-super Mare, successful marques included Arrol-Johnston, Sunbeam, Talbot, Morgan, Vauxhall and Willie Douglas' Douglas light car from the works in Kingswood, Bristol, more famous for its motorcycles.
Post World War 1
Speed events. Following WW1 speed trials were run
again on Weston-super-Mare beach (1919 and 1920) and in 1921 there was a
hillclimb at Kingdown,
In 1923 speed trials for
motor-cycles & light cars were held on a half mile course on the new "
During this period most of these events were for both cars and motorcycles, with 'bikes usually forming by far the larger part of the entry.
CAPA. In the 1930s the private CAPA Club
began cheap form of racing, using stripped down cars based on
Trials. During the 1930s trials using the
Roy Fedden Trophy Trial winners:
1935 (Mendips) - BHM Winslett (MG)
1936 (Cotswolds) - RA Macdermid (MG)
1937 (Cotswolds) - CD Buckley (
1938 (Cotswolds) - G Warburton (Allard)
Backwell Hillclimb. 1935 also saw the beginning of a series of hillclimbs on a 550 yard sealed surface course in the grounds of Backwell Hill House Estate, about 6 miles outside Bristol on the Weston-super-Mare road.
Fastest times of the day at these annual meetings were:
17 Aug 1935 - GR Hartwell (MG Magnette 1071cc s/c) 26.0sec
25 July 1936 - John Bolster (Bolster Special 1962cc) 27.2sec
3 July 1937 - John Bolster (Bolster Special 1962cc) 23.3 sec
3 Sept 1938 - John Bolster (Bolster Special 3924cc) 23.0sec
22 July 1939 - Sydney Allard (Allard 3622cc) 26.2 sec
The 1936 event was notable
for Pat Driscoll crashing the latest ohv racing
Hillclimbs. Other hillclimb venues, but with grass surfaces, used in the 1930's were at Naish Hill, near Clapton in Gordano, and Hay Hill near Shepton Mallet.
Trials. On 22
May 1937 a once-only Speed Trial was held over a 750 yard course on the
approach road to the new
Grand Prix. The
Mendip Grand Prix de Tourisme was intended to resemble a mock sports car race
and was held from 1936 on “the Permanent Circuit of the
Post World War 2
Speed Events. After WW2 ended in 1945 Bristol enthusiasts were quick off the mark in organising events, with a hillclimb at Naish in August, won by Walter Watkins (Watkins Nash), and a 1/2 mile sprint on the tarmac of Filton airfield in October, Bob Gerard (ERA) winning this one. The Filton Sprint is described in more detail in BACkfire - the History of the Bristol Aeroplane Club; for further details see the BAC MC page or www.bristolpegasus.com
1948 and 1949 speed trials were run on the Marine Parade at
1948 Ken McAlpine (Maserati) 21.10s
1949 Joe Fry (Freikaiserwagen) 21.13s
In 1949 and 50 race
meetings were held on the ex-wartime airfield at Lulsgate (now
In 1950 a new race track was opened on the former airfield at Castle Combe, 20 miles east of Bristol, and has been in continuous use ever since (although no car racing took place 1956-61). See also the Castle Combe page.
In 1959 a Formula 2 race, won by Henry Taylor (Cooper), was part of a meeting run at Whitchurch as part of the city's Goram Fair celebrations.
Speed events. Speed trials began again on the
Marine Parade at Weston-Super-Mare in 1959, and from 1961 to 1966 the Bristol
MC&LCC used a new hillclimb course at
David Franklin from
Rallies. From the 1950's to the 1980's rallies made frequent use of the roads in the Mendip and the Cotswolds areas. One local competitor was Bristolian Henry Liddon who later was to win many International rallies as part of the works BMC Mini-Cooper and Ford teams.
In 1976, 1980, 1983 and
1986 the RAC Rally of Great Britain started and finished in
British Rally Champion of 1986 was Mark Lovell from Weston-super Mare.
Freikaiserwagen. The 1936
Backwell hillclimb was also notable for the first appearance of the
rear-engined Freikaiserwagen special driven by Hugh Dunsterville, co-builder of
the car with David Fry. Further developed by Fry, over the following two years
Freikaiserwagen enjoyed considerable hillclimb and sprint success in the hands
of David and his cousin Joe Fry. Post-war the car was twice reconstructed with
new chassis, and in 1949 Joe famously set a new hill record at Shelsley Walsh.
The full story of Freikaiserwagen is told in “Freik – The Private
Life of the Freikaiserwagen” by Hugh &
500cc Formula 3. In 1945-46 it was racing enthusiasts at meetings of the Bristol Aeroplane Company Motor Sports Club in Filton who devised the 500cc racing car formula that was to become International Formula 3 of the 1950s. This is described in more detail in BACkfire - the History of the Bristol Aeroplane Club; for further details see the BAC MC page or www.bristolpegasus.com
This also led to a number of 500cc racing cars being constructed locally, such as the Arengo, of which several examples were built. However, most were one-off specials such as Jeremy Fry's Parsenn.
The Parsenn 500 chassis in 2004
The Iota was the only one that was produced in limited quantity. In 1947 a
batch of 12 chassis and special components, such as the rear axle assembly,
wheel hubs and front springs were produced. Individual builders could then add
second-hand Morgan front suspension, an engine, and construct their own
bodywork. These Iota's were usually given individual names, such as
1949 the chassis was redesigned and complete cars were produced by Iota Racing
Cars of Alma Vale Road, Clifton,
Gordano. In the late 'forties a new sporting road car, the Gordano, was planned by some of those behind the Iota, but unfortunately was not destined to reach production. Chassis design was by Dick Caesar, the engine was intended to be a 4cylinder 1.5 litre design with Cross rotary valves. It was to be financed by Joe Fry. Two prototypes were built, an open sports version with 1548cc MG engine, & a saloon with 1767cc Lea Francis engine. However in 1950 the project folded after Fry and engine-designer Rodney Gordon-Jones died.
Fry-Climax F2. Another locally produced racing car was the monocoque-chassied Formula 2 Fry-Climax, built by David Fry at Frenchay and raced in 1958-59 by Michael Parkes. More on the Fry-Climax
JW4. In the 1960's Johnny Walker Formula4 racing cars were produced in a small factory at Charfield, near Wotton-under-Edge.
Specials. Numerous ‘specials’ have been locally built for motorsport use - see the local Specials and Special Builders page
Ivor Bueb. Cheltenham based Ivor Bueb was one of
Dick Caesar. A prominent
motorsport figure in the
Joe Fry. In addition to the Freikaiserwagen, Joe Fry hillclimbed and raced various other cars including a 4 1/2 litre sports Bentley and Type 55 Bugatti the 1930s. Post-WW2 he also raced locally built 500cc Iotas (on occasion confusingly also named "Freikaiserwagen") and Arengos, and shared a Maserati with Brian Shawe-Taylor in the 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, finishing 10th. He was later killed in an accident in the Freikaiserwagen at Blandford hillclimb in 1950.
Horace Gould. During the 1950's
Sir James Scott Douglas. Generally
associated with the 1950s Scottish privateer race team Ecurie Ecosse, Sir James
Scott Douglas was actually only one quarter Scots, and had been born in
Further West Country related motorsport will be added to the above, in the fullness of time.
If you have any pre-1970 Bristol & West Country motorsport related information, memories, programmes, motor club magazines, or photos - please e-mail petestowe @ talktalk.net with details.
Copyright © 2003-2016 Pete Stowe. All rights reserved.