Castle Combe’s key moments
From wins for Moss and Hawthorn to a 1994 Tyrrell smashing the lap record, there have been plenty of memorable occasions in the circuit’s long history
We pick out the most significant events from the track’s history
EARLY STARS SHINE ON NEW AIRFIELD TRACK
Castle Combe was England’s most westerly circuit when the Bristol Motor Cycle & Light Car Club organised its first race meeting on the disused airfield, for cars and motorcycles, behind closed doors on 8 July 1950 – a month before Gregor Grant published the first issue of Autosport. Although Davidstow in Cornwall hosted events from 1952-55, Combe endured, through various hiatuses, to be the popular venue it is today.
Early stars included Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn – who won twice on his debut in 1951, driving Rileys, and would be Formula 1 world champion with Ferrari inside seven years – and Ken Wharton.
Moss was ejected from his Cooper 500 in October 1953, having clipped Tony Rolt’s F2 Connaught at Quarry. Wharton shattered the outright lap record that day in a shrill BRM V16, leaving it at 1m13.6s (89mph). Some 20,000 spectators witnessed it, underlining enthusiasts’ thirst for racing and the fledgling venue.
GRIFFITHS FORMULA SPAWNS BIRTH OF HSCC IN 1966
Concerned that obsolete sports-racing cars were being sold inexpensively and exported from Great Britain, eminent motorsport photographer
Guy Griffiths addressed the situation positively, leaving a legacy for enthusiasts to savour to this day.
His ‘Griffiths Formula’ initiative was a mechanism designed to give owners of some fantastic cars, which were little more than a decade old, the opportunity to compete and reason to keep them.
The inaugural race at Castle Combe in May 1966 – won by Neil Corner in his ex-works/ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-type XKD 504 (right), from Chris Warwick Drake (Lotus-bristol X) and John Le Sage (Aston Martin DB3S) – laid the Historic Sports Car Club’s foundation stone.
The event was run jointly by the Frazer Nash and Porsche Clubs, parts of the AFN Ltd ‘family’ in Isleworth, which owned the circuit. That important link is why the HSCC’S logo still features an iconic Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica.
ABECASSIS WINS REDEX TROPHY THRILLER
Sportscar racing was on a par with single-seater competition at
Castle Combe in the 1950s. Aston Martin’s future Le Mans winner Roy Salvadori was the standout of the former genre, driving Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, Maserati A6GCS, Jaguar C-type and DB3S with gusto. But Squadron Leader George Abecassis – partner with John Heath in Hersham and Walton Motors, whose HWM marque competed in sportscar and F2 races – won the Redex Trophy international race in October 1955 after Salvadori’s Aston broke.
Driving an Hwm-jaguar, Abecassis (left) beat 1950 Le Mans victor Louis Rosier in a Ferrari 750 Monza – by a fifth of a second in a photo finish with the Frenchman! Noel Cunningham-reid in another HWM finished third.
Abecassis’s grandson Jonathan is a regular competitor at the Autumn Classic. Last October he won the Fiscar Intermarque race at the wheel of his left-hand-drive Austin-healey 100/4.
FORMULA FORD’S ROOTS FIRMLY ESTABLISHED AT COMBE
Castle Combe hosted the second Formula Ford race in July 1967, won by Dan Hawkes in a Lotus 51. The British Racing and Sports Car Club South Western centre – with Howard Strawford now at its helm – launched a championship in 1969, also taking in rounds at Llandow in South Wales.
FF1600 has consistently provided some of the greatest racing at the Chippenham venue, with four-time champions Bob Higgins (Martlets, Royale RP29A and Reynard 91FF) and Gavin Wills (Van Diemens and Swift) and title hat-trick winners Kevin Mills and Josh Fisher its leading alumni.
Higgins still competes (left) alongside his two lads, Adam twice champion himself, taking the family haul to six. That’s a total matched by the Fishers, Josh’s late father Brian having snared three Combe Special GT championships in Shrike P16 and Skoda 130RS machinery.
Mills’s successful team has invariably been among the frontrunners with subsequent generations of drivers and continues to gun for more.
Moss was among the stars to race at Combe in the early days, along with Hawthorn and Collins