The BARC North Western Centre

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The North Western Centre is one of the seven regional centres of the BARC, it currently has around 120 members made up of officials, marshals, drivers and enthusiasts, the Centre is always keen to welcome new members....if you are interested please get in touch.

The Centre organises many different activities in addition to the BARC (NW) Sports Saloon Car Championship, these include Marshals, the Rescue Unit and Our Annual 'Real Night Out' Awards Night. The Centre has existed since the end of the Second World War and has quite a history which you can read about further down the page

HISTORY OF THE NORTH WESTERN CENTRE

The North Western Centre has existed more or less since the end of World War 2. At that time the activities were various and diverse. In the fifties membership was 600-700 with many ‘badge members’. In this period people were looking for a social life which coincided with their interests after the war. They were not interested in competing but were enthusiasts who wished to be associated with the sport and have a social life which revolved around motor racing. In answer to this demand the social activities of the club were as extensive as the competition events.

After several occupants over the first decade, H.M. ‘Jock’ Sinclair took the chair in 1959 and began the real work which shaped the NW Centre into the Centre of the BARC which it still is today, a strong and active group which organises race meetings and a significant National racing championship. Previously, the chair had changed almost every year but Jock stayed for 24 years. At that time and to this day, the Chairman’s badge was that of the JCC, the Junior Car Club, as the BARC used to be known.

Jock persuaded Wilf Cockbain to join the committee in 1959 after he had been helping with driving tests on a car park at New Brighton. Wilf was on the committee for 29 years, as Competition Secretary, Treasurer, Secretary and ultimately Vice Chairman. Wilf spent a great deal of time with Jock to mould the Centre to what it is today, his legacy lives on throughout the Centre.

Jock Sinclair was a member of the BARC Council and was very effective in promoting the growth of the North Western centre. He insisted on the Centre running its own affairs and its own finances, a situation which was unknown and frowned upon by HQ at the time. He was also close to Rex Foster who was then the Managing Director of Oulton Park. This was crucial when Brands Hatch took over Oulton Park which was previously owned by Cheshire Car Circuits. Brands Hatch favoured the BRSCC and it became difficult to get meetings so Jock’s influence with Rex Foster helped a great deal. Ever since, the NW Centre has always run race meetings at Oulton Park and still has an excellent relationship with the circuit management.

With there being many non-competing members at this time it was possible to hold successful social evenings. There were regular hot pot suppers and film shows which were put on in several towns around the North West such as Preston, Liverpool, Southport and Chester for the benefit of the more widespread membership. Sadly over the years, especially the last 20, the social side of the Centre has been reduced down to simply the annual ‘Real Night Out’. This is our annual presentation Dinner Dance for the Championship and Marshals. This event has remained strong over the years and regularly is a sell out at over 150 guest. Over recent years we have attempted to revive some social events such as quizzes and the occasional trip to motor racing manufacturers. There was very little support for any of these events but the committee is for ever hopeful of reviving some in the future.

Back in the 1960’s before we ran race meetings, karts provided our racing interest. The first kart meeting was run in 1960 and was followed by many more. They were mainly held in the Southport area on impromptu tracks. Unfortunately this led to a divided committee as half were very keen and involved in karts and half preferred car events. A ’festive frolics’ meeting was always held near Christmas in a car park close to the swimming baths in New Brighton. One year a kart race was put on there and a TV company was invited, giving the club good publicity. The popularity of karting increased rapidly then and gradually took over the club’s activities. There were 14 kart meetings one year raising a significant amount of money for the club. However the BARC had its roots in traditional motor racing and although it ran kart meetings until they declined in popularity in the late sixties when the club realigned itself to car racing.

The NW Centre ran quite a few night rallies of its own and also ran the North Wales Rally which was quite a big event. Another major feature of club activities was that it organised an RAC rally stage for many years. At first this was at Dodd Wood by Bassenthwaite in the Lake District. This was lost in 1982 as local rally clubs in the area thought that they ought to have an opportunity to do the job. The Area Commander for the Lake District was Jack Duckworth from Bolton, Jim Porter was Clerk of the Course for the RAC Rally for many years. Both men retired from these posts at that time and ended a special relationship with the NW Centre. Once the hey-day of club rallying was over in the late sixties, when regulations for the running of road rallies were seriously tightened up, membership of the Centre started dropping.

In the early sixties the BARC NW Centre ran a lot of autocross meetings. One of the committee found a patch of gravel at Atherton near Wigan, owned by the local authority for development. Two or three meetings a year were run for 5 years including a John Players national event. Fields gradually became more and more difficult to find as farming became more intensive so this activity stopped.

Driving tests were popular and another televised event was once run at New Brighton which featured on ‘World of Sport’. This was a sprint meeting held on the sea front but the club had to pull out of this eventually as it cost so much to put on. The whole course had to be marked out with pillars and netting and cost a fortune to prepare. A smaller but popular sprint meeting was held in Southport which ran around Marine Drive and past Peter Pan’s Pool near the Pier.

In the sixties handicap racing was very popular and some people were very good at handicapping and there were some extremely close finishes. Meetings also often contained Formula Libre races as ‘catch alls’. Competitors got an extra race and the club more entry fees. Looking through programmes from the last thirty years is fascinating and illustrates the variety of classes of circuit races which the NW Centre has run, including events such as The British Open Trophy Races for unlimited single seater racing cars, Formula 5000 and The Gold Cup, which has been awarded for several classes of racing car from single seaters, Thundersports, British Touring cars and saloons. Sponsors’ names conjure up all sorts of memories to anyone who was around at the time: Forward Trust, Britax, British Air Ferries, Ocean Air Freight. During the 1980’s and 90’s the main meeting was the Good Friday F5000 or Thundersports event that would alternate between us and BRSCC. Often this meeting also ran for the Gold Cup and regularly had the BTCC on the bill.

Some well-known Centre trophies date back to this early post war period. The Phillips Trophy (for Marshal of the Year) was in memory of a jeweller from Lime Street in Liverpool who was a member of the NW Centre Committee and supplied all the trophies to the club. There was also the Dermott Lehane Trophy named after the pioneering doctor who attended races, this being presented to the Doctor of the Year. We also have, of course, the Jock Sinclair Trophy for Off Circuit duties and the Ladies Critchley-Cockbain trophy.

Ken Mitchell followed Jock Sinclair in the Chair. An electrical engineer, he was originally involved with the Centre through helping with the setting up of telephone communications for rally stages. The Centre did not run its own Championship until Ken Mitchell came along and realised that there were a lot of cars looking for a championship series following major reshuffling of the national sports, saloon and GT championships. More information on the history of this championship can be found in the CNC Heads section of the website.

The Centre Doctor, Dermott Lehane, used the opportunities presented by his role to study the heart condition of drivers on the starting grid. The RAC and BARC Headquarters were very interested in some research which he carried out. He believed that some drivers were barely conscious at the time the flag dropped because of their high heart rate. He attributed many of the first corner pile ups to this and was one of the first people to attach instruments to drivers to measure their pulse at this crucial time. Away from racing, he was also in charge of the Blood Banks and was the first person to successfully carry out a complete blood change on a child.

Another person who used to appear on the scene at the beginning of a race weekend was a schoolboy by the name of Robert Fearnall. He would approach Jock Sinclair and ask him for a couple of programmes and never miss a meeting. Eventually he became a timekeeper for the NW Centre and was known for his extremely good memory. He moved on to greater things as the manager of Donington Park circuit.

During the mid ‘80’s there was a significant change in the organisation of the Centre with Jock handing over the committee reigns to Ken Mitchell and the instigation of two Centre Championships, one for Sports and Saloon cars and the other for Formula Ford 2000 cars. By now the Centre had stopped all organisation of anything but car racing. Over the next couple of years the FF2000 championship struggled to get entries and was soon dropped. On the other hand the Sports/Saloon championship went from strength to strength and by the end of the decade entries meant that grids were full at each meeting. By this time the key officials for each race meeting were Centre members, many joining the Centre to take a more active role in race meeting organisation. Over the years we have had our own Clerks and other key officials and have been able to fully staff race meetings using centre members.

A further arm of the Centre was the procurement of a Race Rescue unit which is used for all our race meetings and additionally it is used at many meetings organised by other clubs and our HQ section. In the last few years the unit has been invited to the Grand Prix. The unit’s claim to fame at the Grand Prix is that it was the unit that extricated Michael Schumacher when he went straight on at Stowe and broke his leg. As we entered the new millennium the Centre was entering its 50th year of operation and was running three or four meetings at Oulton Park and a couple at the new circuit on Anglesey. The Chair of the Centre passed from Ken to Dave Blundell and then to the present incumbent Ray Sumner who has led the Centre for the last 20 years. The Sports/Saloon championship became 30 years old in 2014 and is famous for its friendliness and camaraderie together with full grids at most meetings. In 2014 and 2015 the average grid was over 30. In the last few years the centre has organised a Junior Photographic competition for under 16s and many of their winning photographs can be seen elsewhere in the website.

As to the future the Centre is well positioned in terms of personnel trained in the various skills required to run a race meeting and also is financially strong so that it can provide the equipment required to support the racing activities. If you are interested in getting involved with motor sport in any capacity then contact any of the officials in the contact list and we will invite you along to one of the meetings and discuss how you can help.

John Leck

Starting Out In Motorsport

A Basic Guide to getting started in Motor Racing.

Preliminaries

The controlling body for Motor Sport in the UK is the Motor Sports Association (MSA) who derive their authority from the FIA in Geneve. The FIA is the highest international body involved in the administration of Motor Sport.

All competitors need to obtain a Competition Licence from the MSA. Request a “Starter” pack which will include an application form and details of ARDS courses offered by racing schools in the UK. It is necessary to attend and pass an ARDS course before the MSA will issue a national B race licence.

Those wishing to go karting or into speed events need a slightly different licence before they start competing.

The BARC’s own Thruxton Motorsport Centre and Croft Circuit offer ARDS courses. The instructors are all very knowledgeable and professional racing drivers. They will assess your capabilities, and advise you as to whether you are best suited to racing a saloon, sportscar or single-seater. However, we recognise that you may have already made up your mind!

All applications to the MSA for a racing license have to be accompanied by a medical report completed by a doctor (form supplied in the Starter Pack).

The MSA may be contacted on 01753 765000, by visiting their website www.msauk.org or alternatively, you can write to them at:
The Motor Sports Association Ltd.
Motor Sports House
Riverside Park
Colnbrook, Slough
SL3 0HG

Once you are in possession of a competition licence you need to become a member of an MSA recognised motor club such as the BARC.

Once you have gained your licence, you are ready to take the next step, and decide which Championship or Series to join.

There are over 100 different Championships in the UK, administered by dozens of different organisations or clubs. For most of them, you will need to buy and race-prepare a car or join a professional team who provide and maintain the car.

Costs

It is very difficult for us to quantify the costs of you becoming a racing driver as the frequency at which you compete or the degree of technical sophistication you wish to attain will have a very significant impact on your overall costs.

However, you should recognise that you will incur costs in all of the following areas:

  • ARDS course and competition licence
  • Personal equipment (overalls, helmet etc)
  • Purchase of a suitable car (depending on the Championship you wish to enter)
  • Car preparation or Team agreement
  • Purchase of a suitable electronic transponder for race timing purposes
  • Annual Club membership
  • Annual Subsidiary Club membership, depending on the Championship
  • Annual Championship Registration fee
  • Race entry fees
  • Transport costs to/from each race meeting (using a trailer or transporter etc)
  • Accommodation at race meetings, hotels, food etc