The cars and drivers that inspired models to add to my collection.
218 DEREK FAIRHURST
Bolton based Derek made his debut in 1979 using a car fitted with the rubber based Indespension system. The manufacturers were sponsors of 199 Mike Close. Although the suspension unit proved impractical on a stock car, Derek caught the racing bug.
His first win in a heat came at Sheffield in 1981 and his maiden Final victory was at Hartlepool in March 1982.
Derek had a close and long time racing association with 237 Bob Timperley. They were constantly updating the cars they shared in order to remain competitive and that included the costs involved. When Bob suffered a heart scare in the early 2000s, Derek did most of the driving. Around 2006 Bob emigrated to Australia with his family.
As the seasons passed, Derek seemed to mature as a racer and, much like fine wine, got better with age. His racing CV is summarised below:
5 Finals, the last one in 2006 at Skegness.
1982: 15th in the All Season Grading Points Championship and 12th in the World Final
1994: 7th in the World Final
1997: 4th in the World Final
1999: 4th in the World Final
2002: 19th in the All Season Grading Points Championship
2006: 9th in the British Championship
Always competitive, his cars are never less than immaculately presented and he can more than hold his own against the top drivers.
When son 217 Lee Fairhurst won the World Final at Skegness in 2012, ironically only making it on to the back of the grid as a reserve because Derek had to drop out with engine problems, I don't know who was more thrilled Derek or Lee. It certainly was a dream fulfilled for the family to see the Fairhurst name on that prestigious trophy alongside so many past legends of the sport.
The model below is of Derek's 1982 Mike Close built car:
It appears that Derek intends to concentrate on supporting son Lee's racing career for the immediate future and with Lee's dedicated shale car for 2013 as well as the tarmac special there will be plenty to keep him occupied.
Lee's performances on shale so far in 2013 have been superb and along with his proven ability on tarmac should lead to him becoming a real contender for the National Points Title.
But getting back to Derek. It's been a real pleasure watching him race over the years and hopefully his fans will get to see him out on track, keeping his hand in, from time to time in the future.
Pictured below are models of Derek's 1982 car alongside Lee's 2012 World Final winning car and below that Lee's 2013 shale car portrayed by an Ed Creation's diecast model complete with stickers and a shale aerofoil from Stox Signs:
131 PETE HODGSON
Brother of 272 Dave Hodgson, Pete's career spanned 1977 to 1981 and briefly as 171 in 1992. He hailed from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire.
He won 6 Finals in all.
In 1980 he finished 20th in the All Season Grading Points Championship.
Other notable moments in his racing career were 2nd in the Trust Fund Championship in 1978 and 4th in 1980 and 6th in the BriSCA Supreme Championship in 1978.
The model below is of Pete's 1980 car:
495 JOHN CAYZER
John Cayzer from Essex was a true budget racer during his F1 stock car career that spanned over 35 years. Never one to follow convention he would often baffle fellow drivers with innovative ideas that had been discarded by many and hadn't occurred to others. John was able to combine a natural driving ability with engineering skills that saw him construct race winning cars literally from scrap yard parts. He would discard nothing!
My favourite story about John occurred in 1987 when he introduced a 455 cubic inch Buick powered stock car when just about everyone else had elected for Chevy power. But it wasn't just the engine that was different. He rolled out on 13 inch wheels shod with Avon 7.3 tyres - a combination more associated with a F2 stock car. Fellow drivers were sceptical. How could that vast engine output be transmitted to the track through such small wheels? But he proved them all wrong as the car performed well albeit requiring sensitive use of the right foot! He had some drivers wondering if that was indeed the way to go but before a real trend was set, Hoosier tyres became the order of the day and immediately wiped out any advantage John had with his 7.3 Avons. He went into the Hot Stox formula in 1989 for a short break from the Big League.
Below is a model of John's 1988 car:
But back to the beginning..........
Born in 1951, John made his first F1 stock car appearance in 1967 as number 265 in one of his father's old cars. It had Cadillac power and a Standard Eight body. Both his father, Ron, and his brother, Alan, were already star grade drivers. Clearly this Essex farming family had a special affinity with the oval raceways and John recorded race wins at Coventry and King's Lynn in his first season and was a yellow grade driver by the end. Sadly his introduction to the Big League was short-lived. After a difference of opinion with the BriSCA Board of Control, Ron and his two sons sold their cars and went into Speedworth Superstox where they became a force to be reckoned with for almost 10 years and each driver was able to boast a cabinet full of trophies.
After nearly 12 years away from the BriSCA circuits John returned, on his own, at a snowy Christmas meeting in 1978 at Northampton in an ex 167 Rex Hart car with Buick power and a Ford Cortina based body. By 1980 he was up to star grade and apart from a year out after an injury at Long Eaton and time spent with the Hot Stox formula, John entertained his many fans for around 25 years.
He never travelled far from his Essex base so never really featured in the National Points Championship top 10 but his remarkable skills as a car constructor, fashioning low cost parts into cars capable of winning, always saw him in contention wherever he appeared.
In 1980 he was 10th in the Coventry World Final and improved to 5th place in the 1998 World Final also held at Coventry. One of the highlights of his career was winning the European Championship at Northampton in 1984.
He won 22 Finals between 1980 and 1998 and had three racing numbers during his racing career: 265 from 1967 to 1968; 17 from 1990 to 1994; 495 from 1979 to 1989 and 1995 to 2006 (his last year as a registered F1 driver).
In 2003 he moved into F2 stock cars where he has raced on and off until the present day.
His nephew 380 Steven Cayser continues to make the family name proud in the F1s, proving to be a very good driver with innovative skills, as demonstrated with his low profile tarmac specials, similar to his Uncle John
213 DEREK (DES) CHANDLER
Des Chandler was a crowd favourite on the ovals long before he made the move into the F1 Big League. He started racing in 1969 at Long Eaton and spent around ten years competing in bangers, bombers and saloon stox. Even then his personality and sense of humour shone through - loud and bright! Drivers took to oval race tracks so they could forget about the police cars on ordinary roads. But Des had other ideas. He drove a white banger complete with flourescent red stripes and a blue flashing light! No low profile for him.
After a successful time in these other formulas, he transferred to F1 stock cars in 1979 and his first car was an ex 261 Johnny Goodhall machine that he debuted at Northampton. It only lasted one season and for 1980 Des and his team built an all-new car in a garage measuring 16ft by 8ft in his rear garden. When it was finished there remained the problem of extracting it from the land-locked site. A 30 ton crane was employed to raise the completed stock car 70 feet above neighbouring properties to the street and the spectacle made the local news, providing stock car racing and Des and his sponsors with valuable publicity. Below are a couple of pictures courtesy of the Stock Car News publication of March 20th 1982 that give an idea of the work involved:
The car was powered with a Pontiac engine previously owned by 73 Rob Cowley. Des gained a heat win from white top with this car.
Another new car emerged in 1982 complete with a 454 Chevy engine and this package seemed to take Des to another level. His first Final win came in April 1983 at Long Eaton and, more often than not, he was consistently among the points whenever he raced but it was to be another six seasons before that elusive second Final win was achieved.
Like many fellow drivers Des struggled at times with the budget needed to compete in F1 stock car racing and there were occasional retirements in order to accumulate funds.
1988 was a significant season for him. He obtained a Frankie Wainman Snr - built chassis supplied by his main sponsor and employer Angus Lift Trucks and it proved a turning point. It was powered by a Brian Powles prepared 454 Chevy engine and I well remember his drive in the British Championship at Bradford that season when he came from the back of the grid to finish 6th. Below is a model of this car:
That second Final win came in 1989 and in the same season he finished 3rd in the Hednesford World Final. Over the following seasons he added to his racing cv with Final wins in 1990, 1992 and 1995 making five in all during his racing career. He was 9th in the National Points Championship in 1993 and in subsequent World Final appearances he finished 8th in 1991, 8th in 1994 and another podium finish of 3rd in 1995.
An indelible memory for me that involved Des was at the 1993 World Final at Coventry when, as part of the pre meeting entertainment, he along with 407 Craig Smith and photographer Paul Tully, did a 150 foot bungee jump from a crane. It was organised by The Oxford Stunt Factory and maybe it was a trick of the angle but Des seemed to come mighty close to the ground before catapulting back up! I'm not sure whether his wife Pat and daughters Zoe and Donna were there to witness it but if so I'll bet their hearts skipped a few beats!!
During his time in F1 stock cars Des was one of those drivers who form the backbone of the sport. He was a skilled driver who was more than capable of mixing it with the very best BriSCA drivers and combined that driving talent with an infectious personality and a great sense of humour. He always found time to talk to the fans.
His last active season was in 1996.
Some time later he appeared in a Legend race car and, not surprisingly, made quite an impact on that formula. However, in 2007 came the shattering news that he had suffered a high speed crash at Mallory Park. Des was on the critical list for some time but thankfully made a slow but positive recovery. It was reassuring to read about his progress in the stock car press but really uplifting to see him at Coventry stadium and hear him on the PA system thanking everybody for their support and good wishes on his long road to full health. It was great to see him looking and sounding so much better. He was surrounded by fans wanting to shake his hand and wish him well.
He may have been a long time away from the BriSCA ovals but he was never far from the thoughts of stock car racing fans.
UPDATE FROM DES CHANDLER NOVEMBER 2011
Des contacted my website having read this feature to give me an update on his situation. After being airlifted to Coventry hospital, Des was on life support for approx 1 month and 3 months in a neurology ward. His injuries were so severe that his brain was damaged to the point he had no memory recall plus he was unable to read, write, spell or count for a considerable time. After lengthy occupational therapy his long term memory has drifted back almost to where it was in 2008 but his short term memory remains sketchy. However it is getting better month by month and he is now able to use his laptop again to surf the web and help considerably with everyday tasks.
He still has difficulty with that part of the brain that deals with problem solving and is no longer a director of Angus Lift Trucks. But he still works for the company in a much more reduced role in the workshop.
He says he will never race again as another hard hit could prove fatal.
I was so pleased to hear that Des continues to make such positive progress and I have thanked him for getting in touch with this update.
77 IAN PLATTS
Doncaster based Ian had a relatively short career in F1 stock car racing spanning just nine years from 1988 to 1997 but he will always be remembered for the immediate impact he made.
He cut his oval racing teeth as a grass track racer at Brampton near Sheffield for four years, becoming points champion before moving to the Big League in 1988. He debuted in a self built car at Skegness in April and at his very next meeting at Mildenhall won a heat. The points kept coming and by July he was up to yellow grade and in August achieved blue grade. He qualified for his first World Final at Hednesford finishing 10th and by the end of that first season he had won six heats and finished 23rd in the National Points Championship - almost but not quite among the star grade drivers.
Ian started the 1989 season with a bang winning his first ever Final at Skegness at the opening meeting of the year. After the first grading period he was up to red top and he was to remain a star grade driver for the rest of his racing career. A new car was unveiled midway through 1989 and a second Final came his way, again at Skegness, towards the end of the season. He finished 13th in the National Points Championship.
In 1990 he won two further Finals at Long Eaton and Boston and it was at Boston that he came so close to achieving the elusive maximum points tally. Having won heat and final he finished 3rd from a handicap in the Grand National just losing grip in the drag to the line. He finished 6th in the National Points Championship.
Below is a model of Ian's 1990 car complete with superstar lights:
During 1991 he made few appearances and did not appear at all in 1992. He returned in 1993 finishing 3rd in the British Championship.
Family and work commitments restricted his racing during 1994 and 1995 but in what was to be his last full season in 1996 he appeared in a new car winning the first Final of the season at Long Eaton. He went on to win his World semi final at Long Eaton and started on the front row at Coventry alongside 53 John Lund. However, after running in second place for around 8 laps he slid wide into parked cars and his World Final was over. In the National Points Championship he was placed 10th.
In 1997 he raced on a handful of occasions before leaving the racing scene for good. In all Ian won 11 Finals in his career. He also won many fans for his skill, aggression and consistency on track and the professionalism he and his team brought to car preparation and presentation.
The early promise that Ian Platts showed in 1988 never faded and he continued to get better and better as he rose to become a superstar of BriSCA F1 stock car racing.
51 MO SMITH
Mo was an Essex-based driver who travelled far and wide during a racing career in F1 stock cars that spanned 18 years from 1972 to 1990. He was generally acknowledged as one of the true stars of the South at a time when most of the drivers came from the North and Midlands.
His first venture on to the ovals was in a F2 in 1970 and it turned out to be an eventful debut. Contact with a marker barrel caused the car to roll and his seat belt release jammed, bringing the race to a halt so he could be freed. During two seasons with the F2s he rose to yellow grade, retiring at the end of the 1971 season as the immediate future for the formula appeared problematical.
Mo turned to F1s and ventured out at Cadwell Park in 1972 in a 348 cubic inch Chevy powered ex-226 Brian Maynard car. It was ideal while he gained valuable experience but a blown engine during the season prompted the purchase of a car with a pedigree. It had previously been driven by 7 Darkie Wright, 1 Chick Woodroffe and 252 Dave Chisholm and took Mo to yellow grade.
Over subsequent years Mo drove a variety of cars that were always immaculately prepared despite the fact he was a budget racer. Restricted finances and long journeys to stadia hindered him competing on equal terms with the top drivers. If my research is correct he achieved blue grade in 1974 and red grade in 1979. For the majority of his racing career he was always near the top of the blue grade or at the bottom end of the red grade. But his skill and determination behind the wheel often led to him upsetting the form book and made him a firm terrace favourite. Clearly he raced to compete and that was his enjoyment. If success came his way, that was a bonus.
Mo won 10 Finals during his career - 2 in 1977, 2 in 1979, 1 in 1981, 2 in 1982, 1 in 1984, 1 in 1985 and 1 in 1987. His best finishes in World Finals were 10th in 1985 at Bradford and he went one better in 1986 at Coventry finishing 9th.
The model below is of Mo's 1987 car:
Mo Smith was one of those entertaining drivers who form the true backbone of the sport. For reasons already stated, he could not hope to compete week in week out with the top drivers but on his day he made sure they knew he was in the race and he made them work to maintain their reputations. Always great to watch!
His son, Nick clearly inherited his father's passion and skill for the sport and took over the number 51 in 2001. During a brief period of three years he won 6 Finals.
175 & 281 ROB PEARCE
One of the most popular drivers to emerge from the Midlands, Rob commenced his racing career in 1980 with the number 281 in an ex 261 Johnny Goodhall car powered by a Buick engine that had seen better days. In fact it was the car that the late 'Gimpy' Goodhall drove during his famous 'Gimpy for Gold' campaign in the late 70s and the chassis had been built by 396 Doug Cronshaw.
Rob quickly endeared himself to race fans with his no nonsense approach to racing. There were mixed results in those early days but Rob persevered and always gave value for money.
It was 1983 when he finally achieved star grade, albeit briefly. By now the Buick engine was powering a new chassis, somewhat straighter than the old one!
Rob and his team built a new car for the 1984 season complete with a big block Chevy engine. At the opening meeting at Crewe, driving from blue grade, the car experienced clutch problems and the gremlins were still in evidence at Coventry at the beginning of April. Rob needed a place in the Consolation heat to qualify for the Final but then it all came together and he won his maiden Final ahead of 53 John Lund, who did all he could to catch the 281 machine. Rob was soon back to star grade and never really looked back.
In 1985 he changed his racing number to 175 to match the number plate 175 FLY on the transporter purchased from ex driver and superstar, Glyndwr Pursey.
Between 1984 and 1997, Rob recorded 20 Final victories. He was a real entertainer - aggressive, feisty and no respecter of reputations. He raced to win or exit a race while trying his hardest to do so, often taking somebody else to the fence in the process!
The model below is Rob's 1987 car sponsored by Westport Steel and signwritten in old English font:
According to my research, Rob finally made it to the Superstar grade for one month in July 1998 behind 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr, 53 John Lund and 391 Andy Smith. He recorded numerous race wins that season but no Finals and subsequently faded from the racing scene.
But older fans will never forget the contribution Rob made to so many races. I for one was always delighted to see his name on the programme and know that action was guaranteed!
324 & 12 NIGEL MELLOR
It is fair to say that Wakefield based Nigel Mellor never really made a big impression as a driver. He raced under number 324 from 1970 to 1975 and as number 12 from 1978 to 1980. His highest grading was blue achieved in 1978.
However, his lasting contribution to the sport of F1 stock car racing was through his trade as a motor body repairer and paint sprayer. He is a craftsman par excellence and his skill in panel beating aluminium into superb aerodynamically shaped bodywork for a stock car is lengendary in stock car circles. Many a driver has been proud to race a car with bodywork crafted by Nigel - 229 John Hillam, 272 Dave Hodgson and 154 Brian Powles to name but some.
The model below is Nigel's own car from season 1979:
In an era when the rules changed and fans were bemoaning the demise of stock bodied cars and the appearance of some so-called sheds on wheels, Nigel Mellor showed what could be achieved by a skilled craftsman. He raised the standards of car presentation and gave visual pleasure to stock car fans. Long may his invaluable contribution to F1 stock car racing be remembered.
351 'TRAVELLIN' SAM OSTLE
Sam's racing career spanned the years between 1969 and 1983. His first meeting was in November 1969 at Aycliffe, County Durham in a Chrysler powered car purchased from another driver and he qualified for the Final.
He made steady progress and was upgraded to yellow in 1970 and blue in 1971 by which time he was using a Pontiac engine.
In 1973 he was driving a car purchased from 250 Gerald Taylor that was Ford powered and in it he qualified for the World Semi Final at Long Eaton. Unfortunately the semi race was run in very wet conditions and it ruined Sam's race.
1975 was the year he purchased a proven winning car from 318 Dave Fox and the power unit was a 454 cubic inch Chevroklet. It all came together at Oxford Stadium in August of that year when he won his one and only Final finishing ahead of 229 John Hillam, 2 Willie Harrison, 154 Brian Powles and 252 Dave Chisholm He went on to gain a coveted red roof as a star grade driver.
Race fans up and down the country took Sam to their hearts for his willingness to talk to them in the pits and his persistent efforts out on track week in week out. His readiness to travel the length and breadth of the country to race from his home in Cumbria gained him the nickname 'Travellin' Sam and it was also a reference to his business as a haulage contractor because he made many of the long distance haulage trips himself.
The model below was Sam's 1979 car notable for the metallic blue paintwork: