IN the annals of history, the seaside towns of Saltburn and Redcar don’t really stand out as major bastions of motorsport heritage, but going back a century, they were very much to the fore.

Okay, famous residents such as aspiring young TT ace Davy Todd, veteran racer Dave Woolams and former 500cc Grand Prix crew chief, Geoff Crust, who worked with the likes of world champions Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz aside, the beaches of the Cleveland Riviera are not where you’d expect to find such sporting excellence.

But those very sands where these days, dog walkers mingle with locals and tourists alike, along with the odd surfer, were once the scene of some popular and historic action on both two wheels and four.

The abundance of hard, smooth and flat sands at Saltburn, or more accurately Agar’s Gap to the north, which were several hundred feet wide at low tide, saw the adventurous pioneers descend with their fledgling jalopies starting with LR Anderson in July 1904, but it wasn’t until two years later that things started to get more official and serious.

Having moved from Filey the previous year, July 14, 1906, saw an estimated 60,000 spectators witness Warrick Wright traverse the two-mile course at a speed of 96.5mph, but it was the following year which saw brewery heir, Algernon ‘Algy’ Lee Guinness in his 200hp French-built V8 Darracq take on the Dietrich of Maharajah Tikara. Guinness upped the speed on the course between Marske and Saltburn to over 111mph despite atrocious weather, before bettering it the year after to 121.6mph, setting a new world land speed record in the process.

In 1922, Malcolm Campbell went on to traverse the measured mile at an average of 138.08mph, although timing anomalies deemed it not to be a record. But with increased speeds and the onset of the Second World War, plus a storm in 1938 which removed lots of sand and reduced the width available, Saltburn was considered no longer suitable, so the action was moved up the coast to Redcar for racing to commence in 1946 after hostilities ceased.

Although there had been some record of racing at Redcar going back to the 1920s, the new course was based at Coatham and used the wide sweeping crescent of sand towards South Gare where tens of thousands of post war fans would flock to watch both speed trials as well as sand racing. Mixtures of cars and motorcycles took part in the various competitions of differing lengths and disciplines, organised by Middlesbrough and District Motor Club.

One such meeting took place on Saturday, July 14 1951 and comprised 15 events from a 3.15pm start to the last race starting at 8pm. More than 100 competitors converged with P. ‘Harry’ Shaw from York winning the one-mile 250cc solo motorcycle race on his Velocette to open proceedings, taking the three quid prize money.

J. Richmond from Darlington won the opening car event in a 1496cc HRG whilst another York Velocette rider, J. Benson won the 350cc race.

Richmond’s F. Harrison won the single-mile 1500cc car event in his 1172cc Ford Special with the one-mile 600cc bike event going to Manchester rider Reg Dearden on his 499cc Norton. BSA works rider Fred Rist from Birmingham won the one-mile 1000cc event followed by local Middlesbrough rider H.R. Walton winning the four-mile 200cc solo race on his James.

An attempt at the ‘Flying Kilometre Record for Motor Cycles’ saw Darlington rider A. Roddam achieve a speed of 107.55mph on his 998cc Vincent HRD, but that didn’t trouble the 136.40mph set by George Brown the year previous.

Onto the 20 miles 350cc solo race for the East Yorkshire Championship which saw Fred Rist take the win for BSA ahead of Middlesbrough’s J.F. Bean on a similar bike. However, in the corresponding event up to 600cc machines, Rist had to give second best to the 499cc Norton of fellow Brummie R.B. Young, each race winner netting a tenner.

Into the evening and the ten miles 1000cc solo handicap race saw local rider D. Connett take victory on his 197cc James before Harry Shaw won his second event of the day in the 250cc 20 miler for the East Yorkshire Championship. The similar event for 1000cc machines, run concurrently, saw Fred Rist net his third win of the day with another £10 in prize money to boot.

The 20 mile 4500cc handicap race for cars saw Richmond’s T. Sunter claim the win in his 3442cc Jaguar XK120 before claiming a superb double victory in the ten mile Sports Car Race to close proceedings, bumping his winnings up to £16 as a result.

Racing ceased in 1955 but it was resurrected by local enthusiast Ernie Crust in 1962 and bike racing on the beach continued at Redcar for a number of years until a combination of financial, logistical and operational factors saw the end of the action for good in the 1980s.

The cost of the programme for the July 1951 event was one shilling with advertisers such as Uptons, Wm. Armstrong and Pallister, Yare & Cobb (all motorcycle dealers of Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough), Wake’s Pork Stores (Newport Road, Middlesbrough), Rea’s Creamy Ices and Flemings of Redcar for Jaguar.