Throwback Thursday: 1955 Castle Combe Race Meeting

1955 Combe Easter 1

On this day (actually it was Thursday, but it didn’t post for some reason) in 1955, we ran the Easter Monday race meeting at Castle Combe Circuit, which we had built 5 years previously.  Chris Bigwood wrote a report of the event, which the editor had to shorten to fit into the journal…

Easter Racing at Castle Combe

April 9th

When I agreed to undertake the task of writing a review of the day’s sport at Castle Combe I had tended to overlook the fact that job on the day would only provide me with opportunity to see an occasional race, therefore impressions are largely gained from the reports of other people. A trough of high pressure centred off the south-west coast would, we were told, provide a warm and sunny day over the small area in which we were rather selfishly interested and, in fairness, this was almost correct. Sleepy Yatton Keynall was not disturbed very early by arriving competitors as it seemed that practising at 9.30 did not call for any particularly early start, with the result that the first practice period started rather late. Gradually, the paddock began to witness the arrival of all sorts of car equipage in many colours, and in form ranging from dilapidated single-deckers to a unique caravan tender and many a well-bred motor car. The effect of the racing programme was clearly shown in the paddock by the number of sports cars and the lack of pukka racing machinery. The queue for scrutineering reached by 10.15 proportions exceeding those seen outside a famous London theatre, but methodically and efficiently the cars were absorbed and ejected by the scrutineers, from whence they made their way to the circuit for practice. As far as I can learn there were no incidents in practice except that a “Lotus” performed a “Why did the chicken cross the road” in front of another competitor. After practising and the indispensible drink served, meals were eaten in the paddock marquee and the opportunity taken to drool over a Frazer Nash (never raced) belonging to a proud lady member.

Returning to the Workhouse it was not long before the 500s were shattering the song of the skylark and forming up in the dummy grid for the first event, rolling forward almost in formation to hesitate on the grid proper until the drop of the Union Jack sent them hurrying to Quarry Corner. The first lap made it clear that battle was to be done between No. 12, Don Parker; 16, Russell; and 5, Taylor. Ten laps later this was confirmed when Parker crossed the line to receive the chequered flag almost 2 seconds ahead of No. 5 and 40 seconds ahead of Russell. By this time the public enclosures were showing more signs of life and a reasonable crowd was in attendance.

Event 2 for cars to Free Formulae provided a very mixed collection and rapidly developed into two battles, one between the Connaught of J. Riseley Prichard and G. Richardson’s E.R.A. and the second involved Kyffin’s Cooper-Bristol and Abecassi’s H.W.M. Jaguar. In this race Stavert in a Cooper-Bristol retired having “cooked his oil.” and Jarvis’s Cooper-J.A.P. did likewise in front of race control, having excluded a miniature smoke screen.

A Production Touring Class Race constituted event 3 and provided 10 starters in four classes. Angela Brown was in both senses in a class of her own as she had no other competitors. Mention must be made of the way Roy Spiers conducted his grey Standard in a most spectacular manner around Camp Corner and he evidently was enjoying every moment (almost), excepting when he ran wide at Camp Corner and gave his suspension a stringent test by running yards or so with his near side wheels on the grass. The stability of the D.K.W.s was most noticeable, and it was J. M. Burn in a car of that make who won the class at a speed of 61.31mph. Following an interval for refreshments a reduced number of 500s again took to the circuit to provide the most spectacular race of the afternoon, and as before it was Nos. 12, 16 and 5 who were responsible. Russell evidently had corrected any previous troubles with his Cooper and led away from the grid, but it was not long before Parker’s Keift had put No. 16 behind him, and so it went on with the lead changing sometime two or three times a lap and always with Taylor’s Cooper within striking distance. There was much hilarity in the crowd when Russell and Parker, neck and neck, passed another car on each side at the approach to Camp Corner, and at the chequered flag it was Parker who finished .6 sec. in front of the thwarted Russell.

Now came Event 5 for Sports Cars and the last race of the day. A Le Mans start was enjoyed for this event, and looked very imposing, if a little startling, with 27 assorted cars and even more assorted drivers ready to make the dash across to their cars. Who was first away I refuse to guess, but there was to my knowledge no shunting (cheers), and the race progressed to the 30th lap with D. Marquuer in an XK 120 successfully keeping ahead of J. M. Burn.

It did not take long to type and duplicate the results sheets, but on returning to the outside world in place of the glittering cars and crowds of spectators was the occasional hungry bird retracting the tit-bit from the remnants left behind. The ropes, stakes, notices, loudspeakers and all the paraphernalia necessary for the meeting had been collected and housed in preparation for the next meeting, and the heartening sound of money being counted could be heard in the treasurer’s hut. Peace once more reigned over Castle Combe circuit, but in the local hostelries stories were being exchanged and the pros and cons were discussed over a refreshing beverage. So it was as the sun sank low over the horizon, we said farewell once again to beautiful Castle Combe.

We are indebted to Mr. Chris. Bigwood for the report on the Race Meeting, and regret that shortage of space necessitated somewhat shortening, we hope without losing any of its interest.—Ed. Mr. Britton asks the “Journal” to specially thank Messrs. Drew, Shortman and Veals with their non-member friends for most valuable help in the car parking section.

1955 Combe Easter 1

1955 Combe Easter 2

1955 Combe Easter 3