Croft Autodrome prepares to mark its 50th anniversary

4:39pm Friday 21st March 2014

CROFT Autodrome will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, and with a bumper calendar of high-octane outings capped by the mid-summer Nostalgia Weekend, fans will be kept entertained season-long from start to finish.

The circuit roared back into action in style last week following the traditional winter lull, as wall-to-wall sunshine greeted a wide variety of racing saloons and single-seaters taking to the track to signal that Croft Circuit as it is known these days, together with its new race control room and indoor seated dining area, is once again open for business.

Croft Autodrome hosted its first motor racing event in August 1964, in the guise of the Daily Mirror Trophy Meeting for touring cars, GTs, sports cars, single-seaters and bikes. Exactly half a century later, on August 2nd and 3rd, the sights, sounds and smells of yesteryear will be recreated when the Nostalgia Weekend roars into the North-East’s premier motor sport venue as stars and cars from past eras are sure to wow crowds both on and off the track.

Now entering its fifth consecutive year, the winning blend of historic Hillman Imps and legendary Lotus Cortinas, live music, fashion displays, World War Two encampments and air shows makes the Nostalgia Weekend a must and one of the prevalent themes during the 2014 festival is expected to be touring cars through the ages, in the year that the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship looks set to produce one of the most competitive and compelling campaigns in its long and illustrious history.

The BTCC will also visit Croft on June 28-29, when no fewer than seven former champions will take to the track and race around North Yorkshire’s only international race track. Always a favourite among the championship contenders, the track will doubtless set the scene for some spectacular battles and intense action.

That’s far from all that there is to enjoy at Croft over the coming months, however, with the BARC, BRSCC, North East Motor Cycle Club, Darlington & District Motor Club, Roger Albert Clark Rally, British Championship and BTRDA Rallycross amongst others all set to pay a visit.

“This is a big year for Croft , and to be able to celebrate the anniversary on the very same weekend as the first race meeting back 1964 makes it even more special,” said circuit manager, Mike Cantelo.

“The Nostalgia Weekend is a fitting event to mark this momentous milestone, and will hark back to those early days when Croft Autodrome was still in its motor racing infancy. It will appeal to fans of all ages across the generations, and we hope many of them will similarly attend some of our other high-profile meetings over the course of the campaign. Our spectators have a lot to look forward to in 2014.”

Croft 2014 Calendar – March 29-30: North East Motor Cycle Club Race Meeting; April 21: Darlington & District Motor Club Easter Sprint Meeting; April 26-27: BARC Race Meeting; May 10-11: Darlington & District Motor Club Race Meeting; June 28-29: Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship; July 19-20: BARC Race Meeting; Aug 2-3 Croft Nostalgia Weekend; Aug 16-17: Derby Phoenix Motor Cycle Club Race Meeting; Sept 6-7: BRSCC Race Meeting; Sept 20-21: BARC Race Meeting; Oct 4-5: Hottrax Motorbike Race Meeting; Oct 18: MSA British Rallycross Championship; Oct 19: MSA Rallycross Grand Prix; Nov 16: BTRDA Rallycross Championship; Nov 29: Roger Albert Clark Rally; Dec 28: Christmas Stages Rally.

ALAIN MENU has hailed a positive start to his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pre-season testing preparations with Chrome Edition Restart Racing, as the twotime champion made his track debut in the team’s Volkswagen CC at Croft Circuit last week.

Menu clinched the BTCC drivers’ crown with Williams-Renault in 1997 and then again with Ford in 2000, before leaving British shores for the DTM and subsequently a prolonged stint in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, in which he claimed no fewer than 23 race victories for Chevrolet.

Now the man esteemed as one of the finest tin-top racers of all time is back in the BTCC, after signing an agreement to campaign a Volkswagen CC for Team BMR in what is arguably shaping up to be the series’ most fiercely disputed season in history.

There will be no fewer than seven former title-winners and a cluster of up-and-coming young guns all vying for the same piece of track and the top step of the podium.

The 50-year-old got behind the wheel of his new car for the first time at Croft and professed himself satisfied with early progress.

“It’s been a good test,” Menu asserted.

“The weather has been great, which was exactly what I needed for my first time in the car as it enabled us to get plenty of running in. As a team, we know we are not completely up to speed yet, so we have been focussing on learning how to work together and trying to improve the car.”

Menu triumphed twice at Croft en route to lifting the 1997 BTCC laurels, and the Swiss ace clearly retains a great deal of affection for the popular North-East venue.

“I’ve always enjoyed racing at Croft and have good memories of the circuit,” he continued.

“Prior to this week, I hadn’t been here since 2000, but I was able to pick it up again fairly quickly. It’s an interesting track to drive, with a fun blend of different types of corners and it’s a little bit bumpy in places.”

NORTHALLERTON enduro rider Robbie Wallace was competing in the second round of the Perkins Slade Ride Off Road Enduro Championship last weekend riding his Motoconnection Sponsored Yamaha YZ125.

The event was held at the army training area, at Ripon, which was mixed woodland and open gravel tracks. The fine weather attracted a huge entry of 162 bikes with 67 bikes in 16 year old Wallace’s class alone for the two hour race.

Wallace made a fine start and came out of the first corner in third place and by the end of the first lap Wallace had pushed through to the lead. It soon became evident that the day was going to be a hard one when by lap three the leaders were encountering lapped traffic meaning patience was going to be the required so as not to slip up passing back markers on the narrow sections of the track. By the one hour mark Wallace was still leading his class but was beginning to come under pressure as second and third place was less than one minute behind.

Unusually the track began to turn greasy as the dry surface was cut up which made it even more difficult to overtake consistently. On lap 12 and with 15 minutes to go Wallace got snarled up with some fallen riders on a hill climb section and by the time he recovered and cleared the obstacle, he had dropped to third place.

His pit crew gave him the news that he was third and only 40 seconds off second place, so he pressed on with the last lap finishing just 29 seconds off second place and one minute off first place.

Although the result on the day could have been better Robbie is now leading the championship.


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