A HISTORY OF This year the Historic Sports Car Club is celebrating 50 years. Paul Lawrence traces the story of one of the UK’S best organising racing clubs
The foundations of the HSCC were laid early in 1966 when motor racing photographer Guy Griffiths decided to tackle the growing loss of notable 1950s sports-racing cars from the UK, mainly to the USA. There was nowhere for them to race and Griffiths wanted to do something about the situation.
From that idea he developed the Griffiths Formula for cars up to 1955 and the inaugural race was held at Castle Combe in May 1966. It was won by Neil Corner’s Jaguar D-type and an entry of 25 cars showed that there was demand for the concept. More races were run over the next two seasons and, with Frazer Nash racer Betty Haig heavily involved, the Historic Sports Car Club was formed.
Through the 1970s the club steadily developed despite limited funds, but racing was only one part of its activities as other events offered the chance for non-racing members to use their cars on tours and at social gatherings. This was a time when historic racing was in its formative stage, mainly thanks to the high-profile JCB Historic Championship.
The late Brian Cocks, who took over as chairman in 1978, steered the club towards a full focus on racing. His key election pledge was that the club would become a race organiser and in April 1982 the first HSCC race meeting was held at Donington Park.
Little by little, the club’s cut-off date was being advanced too and was soon reset at 1971. Through the 1980s, the portfolio of championships grew and included Pre ’65 Single-seaters, Historic GT, Classic Sports (now the Guards Trophy) and Post-historic Road Sports. Four or five race meetings were organised each season, topped by a twoday international event at Donington Park. The patronage of John Foulston, boss of Atlantic Computers and soon to be the new owner of the Brands Hatch group of circuits, helped move that event to Brands Hatch and the Historic Superprix was born.
Foulston became a significant player in HSCC activities and his company sponsored the club’s high profile Historic GT Championship. Foulston won the fledgling Pre ’71 Single-seater Championship twice in the mid-1980s in his Mclaren M19 grand prix car before being killed at Silverstone in 1987 when testing a Mclaren Indycar. Foulston’s death was the catalyst for change and Cocks, who had moved from the role of chairman to the retained position of CEO, ended his term at the tail end of the 1980s.
Steve Lydon took over the reins and worked hard on developing the Thoroughbred Grand Prix series, but the financial burden of such high profile activity took its toll on the club and when Nick Overall was elected as chairman in 1995 he soon realised that the club was teetering on the brink of financial collapse. The permanent office at Kington Langley in Wiltshire was sold and debts were cleared, while backing from Chevron racer Richard Budge through his RJB Mining business gave the club some working capital.
Having regrouped the club’s activities, which included allowing TGP to move under the control of Bob Berridge, Overall’s masterstroke was recruiting Grahame White into the role of CEO. White said no initially, but after a year of discussion and persuasion he finally took the role in 1997.
The ensuing 20 years under White’s gently persuasive and highly effective management have been a golden era for the HSCC. White and the team he has built around him, including competitions secretary Alan Jones, have steered the club to significant prosperity and a prominent position within historic racing.
More championships were added through the 1990s, notably for Historic FF1600, Classic F3 and Historic Touring Cars, while Road Sports evolved into two series for Historic and 70s cars. The Pre ’71 championship was the forerunner of the current Derek Bell Trophy, while the Pre ’65 Single Seater Championship eventually morphed into Classic Racing Cars.
More recent additions to the club’s portfolio include Historic Formula F2000, Historic F3 and Classic Clubmans, while a mutually beneficial partnership with Formula Junior puts the category on most HSCC programmes. Organic growth has served the club well and will surely continue in an ever-changing arena.
White’s passion for F2, as well as his period role in the management of the category, made the Europe-wide Historic Formula 2 series a perfect fit when it needed a new home, and the Super Touring Trophy joined the portfolio on the back of its success at the Silverstone Classic. The Pre ’80 Endurance Series and the Jaguar Classic Challenge are the latest additions, and there are plenty of classes aimed squarely at the amateur weekend racer running on limited funds from an estate car and trailer.
Over the last decade, membership has maintained steady growth and has topped the 1000 mark. As well as a full schedule of racing for its own categories, the HSCC is also the race organising club for the Donington Historic Festival, the Silverstone Classic and the Walter Hayes Trophy.
People like Guy Griffiths and Betty Haig would not recognise historic racing today, but their enthusiasm and vision set the scene for the development of a true gem in British motor racing. The HSCC has come a very long way in 50 years and this weekend’s celebrations at Castle Combe will mark the anniversary in style. ■