The pleasures of the closed road

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Racing on public roads, although an endangered species, at least survives for motorcycles on the Isle of Man and in Ireland. In continental Europe it’s pretty much confined these days to Spa and Belgium, but of course during the 1950s – at least until the trauma of 1955’s Le Mans disaster saw almost every Government rewriting circuit safety rules – likely-looking loops of public road were closed for racing almost everywhere.

One of the more obscure four-wheeler venues – better known to motorcycling fans – was Sweden’s 4.5-mile Hedemora course, where enthusiastic locals organised the ’Hedemoraloppet’ race meetings, culminating in the international event of May 23, 1954.

One of the winners that day was the co-creator of the entire Cooper 500 line, Eric Brandon, who held off two sister cars driven by “the Dane Nelleman and Svensson of Sweden” in an F3 Cooper 1-2-3. Patrick Head’s father Michael won the 12-lap over-1600cc production sports car race in his C-type Jaguar, presumably during his time as military attaché at the British embassy in Stockholm. Among those he beat were Jochen Rindt’s future father-in-law Curt Lincoln in an Austin-Healey and future F1 GP winner Joakim Bonnier, learning the ropes in his Alfa Romeo 1900.

The accompanying up-to-1600cc race fell to visiting German racing writer Richard von Frankenberg in his Porsche 356, before that day’s feature 25 laps for sports-racing cars, which attracted a strong foreign entry including Portuguese owner-driver Casimiro d’Oliveira with his Pinin Farina Spider-bodied 4.5-litre Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia V12. He faced George Abecassis in the works HWM-Jaguar, Duncan Hamilton’s private C-type, a couple of 2-litre Ferrari Mondials, Cliff Davis’s Tojeiro-Bristol and Percy Crabbe’s Kieft.

The booming Ferrari led home Abecassis by almost a minute, with Hamilton third. Look at the photo of d’Oliveira muscling his big Ferrari round Hedemora’s long, open curves – hardly changed at all today, although long unused for racing. He could at least be assured that every one of those birch trees around the outside has had a comforting straw bale strapped to its trunk – Health and Safety, Sweden, 1954.