Thruxton Modsports

Cobra

The Thruxton circuit in Hampshire played a major role in the history of UK Modsport racing . The British Automobile Racing Club ( BARC ) had been based at the Goodwood circuit since 1948 but when that closed to public racing at the end of 1966 the BARC moved their administrative base the 60-odd miles north-west to the Thruxton circuit. After much development work the circuit was finally ready for the 1968 season . There was a restriction however that the circuit could only hold 12 days of racing a year.
Before the term `Modsport` was assigned the first 2 Production sports car races at Thruxton were won by Tony Shaw in his Jaguar E-Type setting an early benchmark fastest lap of 1m 32.6 ( 91.6 mph ). For 1969 , now sponsored by Chevron Oils Shaw won again and lowered the record to 1m 30.4 ( 93.82 mph ). 1970 saw the true birth of Modified sportscars `Modsports` and one of the new cars accepted , the nimble Lotus Elan of Norman Cuthbert proved a match for the E-types and Cobras as he equalled the lap record on his way to race victory.
BARC were leading the way in running a Modsport championship nationally and as the 70`s got going the Thruxton circuit traditionally hosted 3 of BARC`s `Chevron Oils`sponsored rounds , usually the opener ,a mid-season one and the finale. The club were putting on a packed programe given the 12-day restriction and even the 100km Modsport race in May 1972 was reduced to finish before the 6pm cut-off ,that man Tony Shaw winning again.
Jon Fletcher was a regular front runner at this time in his 2000cc class Elan and won back-to-back BARC titles in `72 and `73. Amongst other cars that did well at Thruxton were the TVRs. Ted Worswick won the June`72 round in his mighty 5.4 litre Tuscan and this car won again the following March with its new owner Brian Hough , the 1971 overall champion having stepped up from his 6 cylinder version. Sadly Hough was killed in the Oct `73 race in a crash at Kimpton Bend , now known as Noble.
For 1974 Modsports were changing ,`big bangers`were in decline and new cars such as Porsche 911 ,Datsun 240z and Davrian were in as BARC remained the leading Modsport promotors. Jon Fletcher won the easter monday round but the suprise of the season was the speed of the little 1150cc class Davrian. Bob Jarvis took his to 2nd overall that easter and shared the new lap record lap with Fletcher at 1m 28.2 ( 96.16 mph ). He dominated the class ,won the overall title and with his 2nd place finish behind Alan Broad`s 911 dropped the lap time to 1m 27.8 ( 96.6 ). In his interview for Autosport that November he explained how committed you have to be with the high-revving Imp-engined Davrian round Thruxton and was hitting 140mph up the hill into club.
1975 saw another Elan man Richard Jenvey set a new outright modsport lap record at the finale at 1m 25.2 ( 99.55 ) . A time that would stand for 5 years. Who would do the first 100mph Thruxton Modsport lap ?
By 1976 the 2000 to 3000cc and over 3000cc classes had been merged and the upto 2000 class sub-divided at 1500cc to reflect the influence of the smaller engined cars. 19-year old Medical student Jonathan Palmer won the opener in his Marcos but thereafter the year was dominated by John Cooper in his Porsche Carrera. He won the April and October rounds and all 13 rounds he competed in. One man enjoying the new 1500cc class was Ian Hall in his Mini-Jem who won the class 9 times to take overall runner-up. His 1m 31.6 ( 92.59 mph ) class lap record at the season finale would stand for 4 years until smashed by Steve Soper. Hall still races today in the CSCC with his Darrian.
Palmer and Jon Fletcher were the main rivals in 1977 with the latter taking his 3rd BARC overall title ,Palmer the class on his way into eventual F1 fame and latterly Chief Executive of MSV. Bob Jarvis returned to win outright again in 1978 and lowered his class record lap though this was beaten in 1979 by John Puglsey at 1m 26.39 ( 98.18mph ) also in a Davrian. Remarkable times for a small-engined machine.
1980 had another rising star in Steve Soper a future BTCC legend. He took 4 seconds off the 1500cc lap record in his Fiat X1-9 by the end of the season. The 2-litre class cars seemed to best suited to Thruxton that year Nicky Ellis ( Elan ) winning in May ,Mike Chittenden ( Ginetta G4 1.6 ) in August and Rob Cox-Allison in September in the distinctive `Black Brick` Caterham Super Seven. Cox-Allison had smashed the outright lap record in May with a 1m 22.98 ( 102.21mph ), finally breaking the 100-mph Modsport lap barrier .
The cars that have won the BARC Modsports titles reads like an A-Z of the British sports car industry and in 1981 it was the Morgan plus 8 of Rob Wells who beat off Porsche and Marcos rivals to win both the big class and the overall title. Pat Longhurst was a longtime Davrian stalwart and had many class wins at Thruxton in the `little`class. Enough class wins to win the 1980 and 1982 `STP` titles outright. 1983 was the last year BARC ran a Modsport championship in its true form. The era was coming to an end with fewer competitors nationally and BARC ran the final year with just a 2-class system split at 1600cc. Rob Cox ( having dropped the Allison part ) was the last champion after 14 seasons of memorable Modsport racing to which Thruxton was always at the heart.
`Special GT`was depending on your viewpoint either the saviour of special saloons and Modsports or the demise of both as separate entities. Donington had led the way in combining both these saloons and modsports genres plus the new generation of clone GTs into one championship. It was a spectacular sight indeed. Moving with the times Thruxton and BARC hosted a one-off Special GT race as part of the`City Business Machines`race day in November 1982 and was screened on BBC Grandstand. What should have been a showcase for the circuit turned into regretable `carnage` after 6 cars were damaged at the first corner , Allard. The ex-Steve Soper Fiat driven by Costas Los was launched onto the safety bank and badly damaged ,Steven Roberts and Bob Jarvis in Davrians were out along with the saloons of Kippax and McGaughey. David Enderby in his Karman-Ghia was hit by one of the ASCAR saloons and suffered a broken-ankle having debuted the car only the week previously. At the restart one of today`s entries , the Escort RS2000 of Dale Minton was badly damaged in a roll at Kimpton thankfully without injury. All this marred an otherwise fine televised exhibition of modified racing.
For 1984 BARC ran an unsponsored 3-class`Special GT`mixing Modsports with Saloons. Rob Cox won the September Thruxton round in a car that`s also on the entry this weekend. The then brand new Racing Fabrications-built Lotus Elan of CSCC series stalwart Paul Sibley. Running in its first form with a 1.8 twin cam and pre-flat bottom Cox set fastest lap at 1m 21.26. But with only 8 starters that day the writing was on the wall...
And finally in July that same year Thruxton welcomed another club to compete when the DRC brought the Donington GTs down. Jeff Wilson won comfortably that day in his BMW M1 clone though fastest lap was set by James McGaughey in his new car the Toleman `Lancia 037`at 1m 21.33 ( 104.28mph ). How far had McGaughey travelled to get his class win ? A 900-mile round trip from Cowdenbeath ! That`s commitment !
So this weekend the CSCC are grateful to BARC for the chance to bring the excitement of Modsports and special saloons back to this fine circuit.

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