SINCE the invention of the internal combustion engine, mankind’s desire to pit himself and machinery against his counterparts has evolved into British motorsport boasting a rich and successful history which continues to this day.

The North-East and Yorkshire has played a pivotal part in that development with world champions from the region including Easingwold’s Steve Webster, who was world sidecar champion ten times. Middleham’s Andy Hetherington, along with driver Darren Dixon, were world sidecar champions in 1995/1996 whilst Yarm’s Gary Havelock sensationally won the world speedway championship in 1992.

Trials legend Dougie Lampkin is a 12-times world champion whilst his dad Martin and Malcom Rathmell were other Yorkshiremen to rule the trials world. There are others who have attained richly-deserved accolades thanks to plying their skills, bravery and a little derring-do, including at local venues in the region.

The Northern Echo:

Dougie Lampkin

Sadly, many of these bastions of power are no longer, due to the march of progress over the generations but for many, the memories live on whilst for those a little younger, some of these places where motorsport took place, may come as a surprise.

Post-war airfields were popular when it came to circuit racing and as well as Croft in its various guises over the years, racing took place at RAF Thornaby and RAF Catterick. Darlington & District Motor Club were instrumental in the organisation and between them and Middlesbrough & DMC, hosted just four events at Thornaby, which comprised just 34 acres, between 1959 and 1960. Ormesby Hall in Middlesbrough once hosted racing in 1936 and so too did Albemarle Barracks (AKA Ouston) near Newcastle sporadically from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Catterick meanwhile, now part of Marne Barracks, was a venue from 1958 to 1963 until, it is alleged, a car spun off and ended up on the southbound carriageway of the A1 to end proceedings. Darlington driver Jimmy Blumer, who went on to race in Formula One, was a leading light at both Thornaby and Catterick during that time. Topcliffe, along with Full Sutton, Linton-on-Ouse and Rufforth, all near York, are now defunct racetracks.

That opening meeting at Catterick in 1958 saw 7,000 fans in attendance courtesy of the Air Ministry’s Station Commander, Group Captain A.B Riall who facilitated many of the military’s resources to help run the meeting.

The Northern Echo:

Famous sports car driver Tony Lanfranchi started his racing career here whilst other well-known drivers from the Darlington area included Iestyn ‘Doc’ Williams and Campbell Dawson. Motorcycles also raced on the 1.6-mile triangular track including future world champion Dave Simmonds.

There was another venue at Catterick Camp which saw motorcycle racing in 1962/3 with crowds of up to 10,000, and which was also part of the hill climb venue on the military roads of the Garrison near to Waithwith Bank. D&DMC hosted the first one in 1954 whilst the Christmas Stages Rally used those roads up until the turn of the Millennium too. Middlesbrough & DMC still occasionally use it as they do with organising the popular Saltburn Gathering which incorporates runs up the famous Bank from Cat Nab car park.

Talking of hill climbs, many local village sport’s days used to incorporate a motorised aspect including the recently resurrected event at Bainbridge which has attracted a massive crowd in recent years. Kilburn, as part of the ‘Feast’ along with Coxwold and Brompton were other places to host hill climbs or grass tracks.

Public roads were closed to allow competitors to tackle the hills at Sutton Bank, Swainby, Wass, Blue Bank near Whitby, Birk Brow, Rosedale Abbey (Chimney), Punchard Hill in Arkengarthdale and even Kirby Sigston whilst private roads at Scarth Nick near Osmotherley and Castle Howard were also used.

The Northern Echo:

Chimney Bank, Rosedale

Indeed, motorcycle grass tracks were in abundance and we have featured places like Broomfield (Showground) in Northallerton in this column over recent weeks but long-lost places such as Patrick Brompton, Faceby Lane Ends and Portrack Lane in Stockton saw regular action. Sand racing at Coatham, Saltburn and Filey was popular with world record attempts often being made on the local coastlines too. The Dales villages of Ovington and Newsham used to host archaic post-harvest stubble field banger racing every autumn, with the ‘Demolition Derby’ often ending in the dark!

Abandoned motocross courses at places like Boltby, Howe Hills, Nether Silton, Bullamoor, Carlton Bank and Great Ayton were highlighted a few weeks ago and as far as rallying is concerned, the amount of forests in which it is permitted nowadays are few and far between. I doubt you will never see (Special Stage) rally cars in forests such as The Stang, Wykeham, Guisborough, Silton, Ingleby or Kilburn ever again.

Autograss tracks at Tunstall and Kiplin are no more, Stock Car ovals at Aycliffe, Barford and Hartlepool are gone too. Even local Speedway was lost at the historic Cleveland Park track in Middlesbrough back in the 1990s. There are dozens of others too numerous to mention of course, but as time marches on relentlessly, in its wake it leaves the glorious past which formed the foundations for an area still smitten by the motorsport bug. Long may it continue.

  • As the demand for local sports coverage increases, and hopefully we can start to get back to some semblance of normality, this is the last of the motorsport archive features. As their motorsport correspondent since 1994, the plan was to do an odd feature free-gratis to help the D&S team out during these difficult times but some 18 weeks later here we are. Thanks for the support and kind words along the way. I do hope you have enjoyed these little retrospective look-backs as much as I have enjoyed writing them. My special thanks to Terry and Yvonne Wright of Darlington & DMC, Tony Todd and Steve Harland for their help and also to Hannah Chapman and her team for publishing them. And who knows, because there is so much more to tell, we may be back at some point, hopefully in much better times. Thanks for reading them and stay safe. Larry Carter.