Fans celebrate 40 years of Superstox
IN SEPTEMBER 1961, the first Superstox World Championship was held at Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich, and with this weekend marking the 40th anniversary, it was so fitting for the 2001 Superstox World Championship to top the bill.
IN SEPTEMBER 1961, the first Superstox World Championship was held at Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich, when the oval re-opened for Stockcar racing three years after the previous promoters pulled out.
Racing has been staged there ever since, with this weekend marking the 40th anniversary, so fittingly it was the 2001 Superstox World Championship that topped the bill.
The winner of the first race 40 years ago was Jan Scott, a Czechoslovakian who came to Britain in 1941 to join the RAF.
He settled in England after the war and is now 83 and still taking a keen interest in the sport and it was he who was guest of honour to start this year's race.
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After Friday evening's heats, Hampshire's Mark Eaton was in pole position with Crowland driver Gavan Kershaw alongside in a line-up of 40 cars.
Eaton never looked in any sort of trouble and led all the way. Chelmsford's Shaun Brooker got close to him on a few occasions, but eventually had to surrender second place to Hertford's Mark Kelman who came through strongly from grid 13.
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Brooker held onto third and Kershaw was fourth, but the other really strong drive came from Rob Perry who came from grid 31 to be sixth by the end of the race. The race itself was equally memorable for who didn't finish.
Felsham's Gary Sparkes, who has won the world title four times, blew his engine on lap two, and that incident also accounting for English champion Chris Bradbury.
Another well-fancied driver, Andy Bartlett went out moments later. British champion Geoff Bridges retired with a damaged back axle, while former stockcar world champion Dean Wood retired after hitting the wall.
Ipswich driver Mike Nicholls didn't have a particularly good weekend either; although he scored some points on Friday, they weren't enough to move him up the grid for Sunday's race where he ran some way behind the top 10 for most of the time.
The Stockcar East Anglian Championship was the main supporting event where, despite local worries that the title could go to a Southerner for the first time in many years, Colin Goodswen saved the day for the Anglians by just holding off Sussex driver Pip Williams.
Former world champion Lee Pepper won the day's Hot Rod final in a tight finish with Mark Boulden who won the European Championship here in August and then followed that with the National Championship just last week.
As well as the Superstox grid qualifying races on Friday – in which Perry and Sparkes were both among the winners – the rest of the evening was shared between the Rookie Bangers and the Reliant Robins.
The Rookie Bangers were as lively as ever, with big fields of cars being reduced to just a handful by the end of each race, while the Robins had the first-ever Assault Course meeting.
The track was laid out with all manner of obstacles ranging from ramps that had to be jumped as they raced round, to chicanes and even a part coned off so that there was only room for one at a time to get through.
Needless to say, it was action-packed and very amusing from beginning to end and thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd.
The other highlight of the weekend was the Veterans' races after the world final on Sunday where famous names from the past raced.
Many hadn't been behind the wheel for the best part of 30 years, and had certainly not driven cars as powerful as those used today.
But they all adapted surprisingly quickly, and produced two very good races, with lap times only a second or so slower than those of the regular drivers.
By coincidence Mark Eaton's car won both of them. The 1983 world champion Antony van de Oetelaar from Holland won the first of them and 1991 champion Darren Innocent the other. Eaton, who has not won a major championship before, is the son of Les Eaton, the promoter who re-opened the track 40 years ago.
The company is now run by Mark and his brother Roy.
Les, too, was back at the weekend to see both of them racing.