Friday, October 19, 2007

New Cross Stock Car Racing

Stock Car racing is a motorsport based around the premise of using ordinary cars rather than special racing cars. In its early days it seems to have been a chaotic affair of bangers smashing into each other and turning over.

Its local significance is that according to Pete Marsh (from where this fine picture was sourced), the very first stock car race on British soil took place at the New Cross speedway stadium, off Ilderton Road, on Good Friday, 16th April 1954. A 26,000 sell-out crowd attended with as many as 20,000 more were locked out of the packed venue.

The South London Press reported of the night: 'This is not a sport for the statistician, beyond a pure record that a French driver won the final. Thrills and spills are the points that count with the crowd. It gives them the thing they want in speedway, tumbles and accidents without anybody getting hurt... Cars were bumped and rolled over and over with their drivers getting out afterwards without a scratch. Wings were wrenched off as cars jostled for position. The ladies were there , and to show that the female sex give nothing away to the to the men one English girl driver won her heat. Unfortunately she was the centre of a three way crash in the final and never finished' (SLP 21.4.1054).

Two weeks later 48 drivers attempted to 'turn over or wreck each other in their bid for the £50 prize for the winner of the final'. The competitors included East London's 'Oily' Wells, the crowd's favourite on the first night, ex-New Cross speedway star George Craig and two women - 'English girl Tanya Crouch and French driver Michele Cancre d'Orgeix' (SLP 30.4.54). Not long afterwards, Stock Car racing left New Cross for Harringay in north London.

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