Motorsport broadcaster and journalist Larry Carter looks back on the career of a true stock car legend, Paul Broatch, who this year is celebrating half a century of competition, and has no intention of quitting just yet…

IT may have escaped your notice but it’s now less than five months to the start of the rescheduled UEFA European Soccer Championships taking place all over Europe. Or at least it’s supposed to, but like many, I have my doubts…

Assuming it does go ahead, hope springs eternal that good old England will do a bit better than they did last time. But will leading the front line be Gary Lineker, once again tasked with scoring the goals to end decades of sporting hurt?

However unlikely that scenario may be, when it comes to stock car racing, age is no barrier, as continually proven by Bedale ace, Paul Broatch. Now 63 and proud of it – and three years the senior of Mr Lineker incidentally – the silver-haired auto engineer has a career spanning nearly half a century where he’s now classified as an all-time legend.

Despite the ravages of Covid, Stock Car racing was one of the very few sports which continued relatively unaffected last year with meetings going ahead despite restrictions in line with Government guidelines. It also meant "Broatchy" celebrated his 49th year in the sport – a remarkable achievement.

And as you’d expect for such longevity, his honours make for impressive reading. Over such a distinguished career, Paul has racked up hundreds of wins to clinch a plethora of titles. Notable successes include him being Outlaw Gold Cup champion, National Points champion, Outlaw Grand National and Points champion, World of Shale champion and a multiple BriSCA champion in various classes.

Broatch’s career started way back in 1972 as a raw teenager, at a time when kids’ racing was virtually unheard of in this country. Going through the ranks, he fuelled a reputation as one of the toughest drivers out there, taking no prisoners and making plenty of enemies along the way. But conversely, he was always fair in what is a very physical sport (where shoving a fellow competitor into the fence is allowed!) and gained huge respect throughout the sport.

He was also someone you’d try to park next to in the pits as if you had a problem, he’d be over in a flash to help you sort it, often at his own expense (or perhaps even the cause of it!). He’d bust a gut to get you back out on the track but once there, expect what was coming if you saw him in your mirrors and you didn’t move over quickly.

Broatch has always prepared his own cars, and those of his emerging star son John, from his Leeming Bar premises, where he is a near-neighbour of fellow racer Paul Prest. The two of them don’t clash on track much as Broatch tends to race in his favoured Formula 2 class whereas Prest competes in Formula 1.

In the British Stock Car Association (abbreviated to BriSCA), drivers are graded by their previous performances and allocated a roof colour accordingly. Broatch gained the highest group of "Superstar" (red) which means for virtually every race, he (and all the other "red roofs") have to start the oval races at the back of the field and work their way through. It inevitably leads to contact, hence the armour and large bumpers on the cars to "assist" with the passing moves.

There have been many, but a couple of standout moments spring to mind regarding Broatch’s career. Back in 1985 as Paul was establishing himself, larger-than-life Hartlepool Raceway promoter Warren Taylor tied up a sensational and unique deal with United States Tobacco International, one of whose brands was the smokeless tobacco sachets, Skoal Bandits, which were so popular in the USA.

It coincided with the product (now banned) being aggressively marketed in the UK and with an impressive budget to spend, Taylor set up an F2 team which included Broatch. As part of the deal, Taylor included the Skoal Bandit Shoot Out at Hartlepool in the autumn of 1985 which saw a lucrative "Dash For Cash" which was won by multiple world champion Stu Smith.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The rather snazzy cover of the November 1985 meeting at Hartlepool RacewayThe rather snazzy cover of the November 1985 meeting at Hartlepool Raceway

But rubbing shoulders with American NASCAR stars and IndyCar drivers at events and promotions during the season, with all the razzmatazz of the American dream thrown in, was a little too far removed from his usual domain of rolling around on a freezing North Yorkshire workshop floor, fixing a wagon axle. And wearing a Stetson while chewing gum didn’t really suit this gritty, down-to-earth Yorkshireman.

Then there was the time when Paul nearly won the World Championship. With many local tracks closing, including places like Newcastle, Hartlepool and Aycliffe, the oval at Barford Raceway near Barnard Castle hosted the 2004 BriSCA World F2 Championship. Up against 2003 victor Barry Goldin and runner-up Billy Batten, Broatch was confident home advantage would benefit him but after a tough race, he finished second to Batten with Goldin in third. It was his best chance to win it and he fell just short.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The 2004 world final at Barford – first Billy Batten, second Paul Broatch (centre), third Barry Goldin Picture: ANDREW HINGLEYThe 2004 world final at Barford – first Billy Batten, second Paul Broatch (centre), third Barry Goldin Picture: ANDREW HINGLEY

Prior to that, he had come close at Hartlepool in November 1986 when he was leading the F1 World Championship final only for a puncture during a caution period to rob him of that opportunity too.

Whether or not Broatch gets another chance remains to be seen but despite the progress of time, he has no plans to hang up the steering wheel just yet as he enters his 50th year of competition. But you would never bet against him….

“I still race because I love it,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve raced bangers in grass track, competed in autograss and rallycross and done a few rallies but stock cars is my passion. I prefer the F2 class as you get the speed, contact and competition. I plan on competing again this year and making up for lost time due to a number of events being affected last year.”

  • Thanks to Neil Pinkney and Martin Downs for their help with this feature.