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Racing at Ibsley

In the concluding part of this feature, we return to the old RAF Ibsley site near Ringwood to bring readers up to date with the final years of racing from this once popular New Forest venue. Mike Hawthorn and Roy Salvadori were among the personalities who raced on the redundant airfield before the site closed for good in the early Fifties.

The following year, 1952, was the great Mike Hawthorn's year. The programme editor, not having a crystal ball, wrote, 'The fourth new car in this group (Formula B, or II Racing cars) is the Cooper-Bristol, to be driven by Mike Hawthorn'. This car is so new that at the time of writing it is not even finished, but it is hoped that it will be ready to compete in this its first race .... although not as powerful as the others, it is exceptionally light'. Hawthorn, of course, went on to dominate the meeting.

   This meeting also marked the first appearance in this part of the country of the famous Ecuria Ecosse team from Scotland. Unfortunately, they only managed third place behind Sydney Allard and Oscar Moore in the sports car race.

               Part of the official programme 30th April, 1955

   All the remaining motor cycle meetings were national events with entries rising from 130 in 1951 to 199 in 1955. A young John Surtees made his debut here in 1952, finishing third in his 350cc heat and fourth in the final race. Other significant names were Ken James (who sadly lost his life competing on the Isle of Man),
Geoff Tanner, Derek Powell, who later rode for Bob Foster and was very unlucky not to become a works rider for A.M.C. Now a sprightly senior citizen, Derek is still a keen rider and appears regularly in historic events. Other notable participants at Ibsley were Reg Marsh and Frank Fry (of 'Marsh & Fry' fame), Geoff Monty and Sid Lawton.

    In 1952, sidecars and three-wheelers ('passenger machine' races) up to 1200cc were introduced and over the next four years Bill Boddice and 'Pip' Harris has some great scraps. Maurice Cann was the most successful 250cc rider, although John Surtees won the final race in 1955 and, of course, a good many of the 350 and 500cc events in between.

  Coronation year for the car boys saw the Ecurie Ecosse to the fore with their beautifully prepared dark blue cars driven by Ian and Jim Stewart (Sir Jackie's elder brothers), Ninian Sanderson and Sir James Scott-Douglas. The 'C' type Jaguars with their white 'army type' stripes on the nose were often to be seen.

   Another important car with strong local connection also competed. A Hartwell Sunbeam-Talbot Alpine (see Hartwell Story in Gear Wheels archives) was entered in a handicap race and finished third. As the programme editor said: 'As no one seems to have given due credit to the origin of this well publicised model, let justice now be done'.


   The following season, 1954, was the year of the B.R.M. As a mellowed local racing enthusiast recently said: 'having already been spurred into riding the 15-odd miles to see my school boy hero, Mike Hawthorn, in 1952, the latest 3-speed version of my trusty newspaper-round steed was pressed into service.'The sight and sound of the V16 B.R.M. is still with me to this day and was not to be missed under any circumstance as, ever since it burst into prominence on the cover of Picture Post, I have been hooked following its ups and downs (mostly downs, sadly) and here it was, on my doorstep'. 'It didn't disappoint on this occasion, however, and ran away from the opposition moving the Bournemouth Echo to say that it could be heard five miles away sounding like a choir boy in agony'. 'I've since found out it was garaged overnight at Whites Garage (now Somerfield's supermarket) in Ringwood. Oh how I wish I'd known that at the time'.

   1955 was the final year of racing at Ibsley and Roy Salvadori's was the main draw. Already a consistent performer throughout the country, he won both the main races in the Gilby Engineering Maserati 250F after a thrilling battle with the late Archie Scott-Brown in a Lister-Bristol. He also set a new lap record of one minute 21.4 seconds, equating to approximately 88 mph. This meeting also marked the appearance of the rear-engined bob-tailed Coopers with their Coventry-Climax power units and driven by Ivor Bueb and Tommy Sopwith; this car was the fore-runner of the rear engine F1 Coopers.

                    Manx Nortons head to head in July 1953

   Finally a couple of interesting facts about racing at Ibsley. The means of charging entry was quiet novel as in the first programme for the meeting in 1951 officials apologised for charging 10/- (50p) for car parking and 2/- (10p) for a programme. But they pointed out that entrance to the track was free, mainly due to the near impossibility of fencing the entire perimeter and, of course, the need to provide turnstiles, etc. The 40% entertainment tax imposed by the government of the day might well have had a bearing on the above charging arrangements!

   Secondly, the great Geoff Duke was invited by Harry Shutler and the Ringwood Club to vet the circuit prior to the first meeting. In the morning the party arrived at the track, Duke mounted his bike and set off in a clockwise direction. Nothing had been said, but apparently they had been thinking of running anticlockwise. You will note, however, from the circuit map that all races were run in a clockwise direction!  

Part one of this feature detailing the background to
the old RAF Ibsley airfield and the early days of car
and motor-cycle racing at the venue can be seen by
selecting Archives in the left-hand column above,
then 'clicking on' Archive 30.


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