By Eric Ritchie
As those of you who attended Englishtown Autocross will have noticed, there was a distinct lack of grass and mud. As you will appreciate, the original intention was to hold a Grass Autocross but the weather on the previous two weeks put paid to this idea. However, Jim Taylor being the good fellow that he is kindly loaned his farmyard to stage one of the most unusual events we have had for a long time. Actually the real reason was that Jim didn’t want to take the Opel into the field!
Farms being what they are, it did make for some interesting spectating. First to come to grief being Jim Vevers in the Escort when he attacked the slurry pit! Amazing how quickly you can lose friends when you smell like a slurry pit!” On home ground, Jim Taylor set the ball rolling with 1.20 in the “Massey Ferguson” prepared Opel. From the outset it was obvious that the event was to be fast, Bob Harrison managing to get the Toyota to sound like a swarm of pregnant bees as screamed down cowshed straight. My apologies to John Walker, who I have been trying to convince to enter an S.M.C. Autocross for months. Knobblies and concrete are no the best combination! However, who worries about tyres when you corner on the door handles. Certainly not Geoff Steel. Spectators, cats, dogs, cows, all fled as the Peugeot powered Mr. Steel hurled about like a man possessed. Pity you went the wrong way Geoff! Chairman Brian and Michael Coward both Escort powered were separated by only 8/10ths of a second after the first round. Colin Rowntree in the Avenger took almost 13 seconds off his firts round time to turn 1.19.8 and finish 9th overall. Japanese ingenuity and the strength of John Johnston’s arms kept the Mazda estate on the track, sometimes he even managed to keep it straight. Not an easy car to turn in a time of 1.16 with.
By this time is was becoming obvious that the tightness of the course was favouring the handbrake manoeuvres of the F.W.D. class. This didn’t really help Alan Blake and Peter Ruddick in the Mini, with a distinct lack of anything happening when the handbrake was pulled on! Mr Ruddick did, however, manage to demolish the pile of tyres much to the amusement of all in sight. Not to worry Peter, according (………..) do a lot to improve the back end looks. However, Alan carried on undaunted, bumper hanging about at the back like a huge windscreen wiper.
Graham Crabtree and Terry Creer sharing the Escort put in a 1.24 and 1.34 respectively,. Alan Thompson in the Cortina and David Ridley, normally his navigator, in the Viva both knocked 6 seconds off their first run time.
At this point things really began to hot up with a 1.15 from the very quick Mini of Lindsay Oliver. Not to be outdone the same time came from George Douglas in Audrey’s shopping Mini. David Johnston under threat of his marriage prospects being ruined, sedately threw about my wife’s shopping car. How can you throw something sedately?! HArold Dickinson in the Firenza, winner of the previous Silvertop event, didn’t have enough room to get the power of the Firenza working for him but still managed a very fast 1.18, followed by a second run of 1.17. Harold was another caught out by the garages inside the barn. Gilbert not to be cheated out of fastest time of the day by my run of 1.12, threw the Mini round in two remarkably consistent runs of 1.10.8. George spent the second run at the back of the barn with his fingers in his ears so he couldn’t hear the engine screaming! (or was it Audrey)! Hardly comparable but at least they were both Renaults, the 5 of John Ross and the 12 of Brian Davidson. John did remarkably well to bring the roller coaster home in 12th position. With the exception of clouting a tyre somewhat to the detriment of the paintwork, Brian put in one of the tidiest performances of the day to finish 4th.
For an event that was originally planned as an Autocross, Englishtown Autotests turned out very well. Again we must thank Jim Taylor for the use of his farm. Hopefully the milk yield has not gone down! Our thanks also to all Marshalls, spectators and competitors who made this such an enjoyable afternoon.
Originally published in “Tyred Topics” June 1977