Ly­d­den Hill’s lat­est fight

Motor Sport News - - In This Issue - Pho­tos: Kerry Dun­lop

It is worth tak­ing a brief look at the his­tory of the cir­cuit to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how it used to work so well for club-level com­peti­tors.

The orig­i­nal owner of Ly­d­den Au­tosports track, as it was once known, was Bill Ches­son. He was by no means a wealthy busi­ness­man, but a man with an over­dose of vi­sion, drive and en­thu­si­asm for mo­tor­sport.

He started out in the late 1950s by buy­ing up a hand­ful of bangers, which he stored on farm­land on the site of the present cir­cuit. Then he marked out the field and rented out the cars to his mates to race for the day at £10 a time. Fans at the ear­li­est pub­lic events soon learned to wear wellies be­cause of sheep drop­pings.

Soon, Ches­son was able to buy the field and he suc­cess­fully staged stock car, banger and mo­tor­cy­cle grasstrack events un­til in 1965 he was able to lay down a hard sur­face for mo­tor rac­ing. The planned lay­out was to have been iden­ti­cal to the cur­rent cir­cuit, but he ran out of as­phalt at the bot­tom of the hill and he could not af­ford any more, so he sim­ply turned it around to com­plete a kid­ney-shaped loop. The ex­tra sec­tion up to North Bend was added later.

Very lit­tle was spent on the cir­cuit dur­ing Ches­son’s own­er­ship for the sim­ple rea­son that he was re­luc­tant to make any in­vest­ment be­cause he had to ap­ply an­nu­ally for plan­ning per­mis­sion to con­tinue to race. There was no point in plan­ning ahead.

Fa­cil­i­ties were still very ba­sic in 1983 when Da­mon Hill turned up to con­test the Marl­boro/ Daily Ex­press/ Yamaha Club­mans Cham­pi­onship. Asked if she was wor­ried about her son tak­ing on the other teenage tear­aways on two wheels, mother Bette said: “I’m much more wor­ried about him hav­ing to use th­ese ghastly toi­lets!”

Con­se­quently run­ning costs were min­i­mal, which is why or­gan­is­ers such as the Thames Es­tu­ary Au­to­mo­bile Club, 750 Mo­tor Club, Tun­bridge Wells Mo­tor Club, BARC and BRSCC, among oth­ers, could af­ford to race there reg­u­larly.

And when there was a brief gap in the fix­tures Ches­son sim­ply formed his own group to or­gan­ise his own events – the Astra Mo­tor Club.

At one point in 1984, the 750MC, Astra and BARC staged meet­ings on con­sec­u­tive week­ends.

It’s a far cry from Ly­d­den’s cur­rent predica­ment.

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