Motorsport broadcaster and journalist Larry Carter signs off from a year of reminiscing about the wonderful world of local motorsport. It has been some ride…

I’M not sure exactly how this page came about to be honest.

I distantly recall me searching out a tin of fence paint in the shed last springtime to get round to one of those jobs that had needed doing for ages after our illustrious PM promised he needed "three weeks to flatten the curve," so lockdown (number one) was the ideal opportunity to do that…

I had moved a fair few boxes (I have a big shed…) when I stumbled upon a suitcase which I’d forgotten about. I vaguely recalled there was some old programmes and magazines in there which I’d inherited when clearing Auntie Jean’s garage out (she still reads this column every week, by the way…). I opened it and a bit like the Clark Griswold National Lampoon’s Christmas tree moment in that superb festive film, I had a major lightbulb moment of my own.

In any normal year, I attend lots of events, motorsporting and otherwise and I always try to buy a programme. Not many people know that amongst the portfolio of jobs I do, I am responsible for producing virtually all the British Superbike Championship and a number British Touring Car Championship programmes from my tiny office in DL6 and have done for many years. So, maybe I have a thing about programmes.

I have thousands of my own from my half century or so on this planet, but these in the suitcase were from a different era. These were relics of a bygone age, some dating back to the turn of the 20th Century. Many had press cuttings, results inserted and were in remarkable condition for their age.

It got the juices flowing and I thought there must be a way of sharing this history, especially with having nowt to do as my industry in domestic motorsport was virtually shut down overnight, and for the many months ahead (so much for three weeks, eh, Boris?).

I have been a motorsport contributor to the Darlington & Stockton Times since the 1980s under the excellent stewardship of Malcolm Warne and it transpired into a weekly offering for decades until we stopped for mutual reasons a couple of years ago. But I’ve always maintained a relationship with the paper and religiously buy it every week. And I knew that despite the fine efforts and leadership of Hannah Chapman and her dedicated team, there would be empty sports pages to fill because of the increasing lockdown and you good people needed something to read!

So, I suggested to Hannah that I send in the occasional "flashback" feature and if she and the readers enjoyed it, we would do a couple more. It was only going to be a few weeks, remember. She agreed, so I submitted copy and the initial feedback was encouraging. That was April 24 last year and nearly 40 submissions later (as we had a short break when the false dawn appeared last summer), here we are nearly a year on.

But as they say, all good things come to an end and with the prospect of grassroots sport to again fill these pages, and this time there is real hope of some normality returning, it is time to stand aside and let the modern stars rightly take centre stage again.

The first lockdown column of April 24, 2020

The first lockdown column of April 24, 2020

This has been an illuminating voyage of discovery for me as much as anything, I’ve found out things I didn’t know through extensive research and talking to people. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of compiling these little ditties. Yes, I know it’s very specialised and motorsport isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, far from it in some cases, but whether we like it or not, we have a very rich local history in the region which I hope I’ve been able to proudly highlight.

From Princess Diana to Lord Lucan via James Hunt and Lewis Hamilton at Croft Circuit, we’ve alluded to them all in these pages. Local world champions Gary Havelock and Andy Hetherington, TV, and movie stars such as Steve McQueen, James Garner, Vicki Butler-Henderson, and Kelvin Fletcher. Current aces Paul Broatch, Kevin Procter and Phil Stead and last week’s tribute to the women of the sport.

Departed heroes including Ken Redfern, Andy McGladdery, Geoff Johnson, and Alex Clacher. Scott Trial legends from the 1930s, 70s and 80s, rallies, rallycross, and races, 130mph speed records on Redcar and Saltburn beaches in the 1920s. Massive local crowds at Croft Touring Cars and Superbikes, scrambles and grass tracks, and the places that used to echo to the sound of horsepower which are sadly no longer.

There is so much more to tell, with hundreds more stories I could extract and it’s my intention to do that at some point as this has given me the momentum I needed. I am in the process of planning a couple of books along similar lines so, at the risk of a blatant self-plug, keep an eye out for those. And I plan on keeping the motorsport theme going in these pages for a few weeks yet as sport re-emerges from the darkness, I’ll be telling you a bit about what’s happening on two, three and four wheels.

I couldn’t have done these without the help of numerous people who have willingly supplied information, details, scans, and pictures to accompany the features. Terry Wright and his wife Yvonne have been a mine of information whilst Tony Todd has responded to just about every request to pillage his superb photographic archive. And they have never asked for a penny for their contributions, nor have I incidentally.

To coin a phrase from a famous talent show; in no particular order, thanks to Andy Ellis, Sarah Hall, Trevor Copping, Neil Sturgeon, Tim Whittington, Barry Watson, Ian Hardy, Phill Andrews, Johny Bean, Neil Pinkney, Martin Downs, Phil Wain, Alan Horner, Clive Challinor, and anyone else I’ve inadvertently missed. And, of course, the contents of Auntie Jean’s suitcase…

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Hannah and her wonderful team at the D&S Times who have continued to produce a quality publication every week despite some of the most difficult and challenging times in recent publishing history. She and they have done a wonderful job and I ask you to continue supporting this historic publication as its rich heritage is testament to its longevity. It is a part of our region as much as any landmark, person, or establishment.

Thanks for all the support and kind words, stay safe and Happy Easter. Over and out.