It’s October first and the final round of BARC’s SBD Speed Championship is only a few hours away. The year is just three quarters through, but nearly every hotel and restaurant I pass calls out at me to ‘Book Now for Christmas!’ It doesn’t seem long since we kicked off the season on a glorious spring day at Rockingham. But autumn has already taken hold, with the circuit-racing season almost behind us for another year.
I pull into Curborough at first light. The long grass is thick with early morning dew and russet leaves tumble on the breeze. Heavy rain, forecast the previous day, is nowhere to be seen and blades of bright sunlight are cutting through the mist. I tell myself ‘this is going to be a glorious day’.
The paddock is already a hive of activity, growing in intensity with each competitor that arrives. Those hardier soles who’ve camped overnight are up and most have prepared their cars. The tarmac running north-west from the office rapidly fills with an eclectic mix of vehicles. The familiar sight of Chris Berrisford’s Subaru and Clive Wooster’s Radical are joined by a collection of Jedis and Porsches. Paul Cammerer’s Bond Equipe catches my eye, as do a brace of Lotus Elans. The strip of grass that runs alongside the track from paddock gate to the office has become the traditional home for an unrivalled collection of Austin 7’s. One by one these champions of a bygone era take up their regular positions, accompanied by a wealth of good-humoured banter.
Almost all of the Midlands Centre’s committee are on site too: Penny and John meticulously arrange paperwork; Fred taps away on his laptop, preparing the first of today’s bulletins; TSL fastidiously set their timing beams and David Pattison, Curborough’s long serving Circuit Manager, can be seen hard at work in the distance, ensuring everything is in place for another excellent day of grass roots motorsport. Our regular scrutineers, Sue and Andy, weave diligently from car to car, whilst medical and rescue crews carry out their final checks. The aroma of frying bacon begins to carry on the air, triggering the most basic of instincts. And, as if summoned by an invisible master, the hungry are drawn to wait in line for their helping of traditional British breakfast.
Then, as suddenly as it all began, the frenzy of activity subsides. Sign on is complete and the drivers gather for their briefing. Like clockwork, a line of cars forms on the slipway and the first practice runs are underway. Curborough resounds to a chorus of growling engines and squealing tyres once more.
As the morning progresses, it’s a pleasure to see Alan and Noreen Ward arrive. Their presence generates a flurry of visitors from the paddock, all keen to share a warm welcome and to learn of Alan’s progress.
Unfortunately, they’re followed by a far less welcome guest. The sky darkens and heavy rain begins to fall. Puddles quickly turn to pools and pools into lakes. The paddock rapidly becomes a tented village of gazebos and EazyUps, racesuits are concealed by rainwear and spectators take to the shelter of their cars. The difficult decision to suspend track activity is made and an early lunch beckons marshals, officials and competitors to huddle under umbrellas, plates in hand.
The rain continues to beat down, but spirits don’t seen to be dampened. So, I start looking beyond the cars and for the first time a bigger story begins to unfold.
Like karting, sprinting provides a way into competitive motorsport, building skills that can lead to greater things. However, after several years of attending BARC Midlands Centre’s Sprints, there are now so many familiar faces that I know most by name. Even with two practice runs and two timed runs, each competitor gets less than fifteen minutes on track per day, the faster ones considerably less. So, what makes them drive hundreds of miles to stand around for ten or more hours? The answer didn’t need the deductive skills of Holmes, Marlow or even Clouseau. Put the wrenches, jacks, oil cans and spare batteries to one side and this group of seasoned competitors becomes a collection of husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, sons, daughters and friends, together making one far bigger family that’s delighted to socialise year-on-year at events across the UK. Every meeting they attend is far more than just a competitive event. It’s a time to share stories, swap ideas and to have a whole heap of fun. In fairer weather, days extend into the long warm nights. The paddock swaps its scent of petrol for smoking charcoal and glasses are refreshed into the early hours. This is a truly special time, open to all those who are passionate about our sport. A love of cars and competitive spirit provide the catalysts that draw these individuals together. But, it’s the friendship and camaraderie that makes this whole thing work, and keeps it working time and time again.
The final round of any championship is always a celebration, but the arrival of a new lady competitor makes this day truly unique. At just 16 years of age, Sioned Jones is also our youngest driver, emphatic proof that sprinting is open to everyone. If you’ve been thinking about starting out in motorsport, these are the people you need to meet – whether it’s at one of the Midlands Centre Sprints, or as a competitor in the BARC SBD Speed Championship. So, make 2017 the year you get behind the wheel and join a fantastic group of friends who really know how to make good times great!
What’s more, BARC Midlands Centre is committed to ensuring the BARC SBD Speed Championship becomes even bigger, better and brighter than ever before, raising its profile nationwide through enhanced interaction both on and offline. This includes our 2017 Sprints, which are already confirmed at the following venues:
The 2017 BARC SBD Speed Championship Calendar is also close to completion and will be available soon. So, if you’d like to be part of something truly special, simply call Noreen Ward on 01455 824 494 (10:30 to 21:00) or email email@example.com And remember, discount entry fees are always available for BARC members.
After nineteen hard fought rounds, including Rockingham, Gurston Down, Wiscombe Park, Goodwood, Pembrey, Abingdon, Blyton Park and Curborough, the final results for the 2016 BARC SBD Speed Championship are as follows:
Everyone at BARC Midlands Centre is delighted to extend their warmest congratulations to this year’s winners. We’d also like to say a very big ‘Thank You!’ to every competitor. Together, you’ve made the 2016 season another massive success and we look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.
With the 2016 circuit racing season rapidly drawing to a close, we’re already making preparations for 2017. Once again, BARC will be running a national programme of marshals training days, including events at Croft, Pembrey and Thruxton. These are open to marshals from every club and every motorsport discipline. Midland marshals, plus those from other locations who’d like to attend, are invited to join us on Saturday 11th February at The Chateau Impney in Droitwich Spa, just off Junction 5 of the M5.
Details will be included in BARC’s 2017 volunteering packs and I’m sure you’ll be able to volunteer online too. Please remember, you don’t need to be a BARC member to use our online volunteering service, but we’ll be delighted if you decide to join us! Just click on Officials Login in the upper right hand corner of the BARC homepage. If you don’t have an account, then simply click on Register and follow the instructions provided.
Nine-year-old Harvey Cottrill from Whitnash near Leamington Spa is the latest winner of our Kids Camera Competition. Equipped with only a disposable camera and his imagination, Harvey captured the winning image on a bright summer’s day during The John Clarke Sprint at Curborough.
Well-done Harvey! We hope you’re enjoying your prize.
In addition to caring for Alan, booking the 2017 Midlands Centre Sprints and organising next season’s BARC SBD Speed Championship, Noreen has also made time to arrange our annual awards dinner. This will see a return to the Royal Arms Hotel in Sutton Cheney on Saturday 4th February 2017. For those who haven’t attended before, this traditional country hotel on the border of Leicestershire and Warwickshire has an enviable reputation for delicious homemade food, crafted from fresh local ingredients and served in a relaxed atmosphere. The meal will culminate in our awards ceremony, followed by an opportunity to enjoy a well stocked bar and good conversation with friends old and new.
For further details and a booking form, please call Noreen Ward on 01455 824 494 (10:30 to 21:00) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
BARC Midlands Centre would like to thank John Sheppard Photography for supplying the images that support this article. You can see more of John’s excellent work simply by visiting johnster.co.uk