Courses not just for horses

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Having achieved success with her Aintree horse racing meetings, Mrs Mirabelle Topham decided that she should add motor racing to her repertoire, so she had built a car race track inside the celebrated course over which the Grand National was held annually. When we motor journalists went to see the opening meeting at the new track we were asked not to walk on the ground over which the famous horse race meetings took place.

I remember going to the first international car race meeting on May 29, 1954, organised by the BARC for the Daily Telegraph. The track was exactly three miles to a lap, which was covered in an anti-clockwise direction but which changed to the more normal clockwise for the second meeting. Resembling an airfield circuit in being perfectly flat with long straights, its series of eight interesting bends gave considerably lower lap speeds than Silverstone or Goodwood.

On this opening meeting the rain did not dampen the spectators’ enthusiasm as they were rewarded by seeing Stirling Moss drive in truly professional style in his new Maserati 250F, winning the Aintree International 200 race ahead of Reg Parnell in a Ferrari and Ron Flockhart in a BRM. Moss also dominated the 500cc event in his Beart-tuned Cooper-Norton. Duncan Hamilton took sports car honours in his C-type Jaguar from Carroll Shelby in his Aston Martin DB3S and Jimmy Stewart in the ex-Le Mans-winning Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar.

I also recall, after one meeting at Aintree, setting off for home which involved driving through the Mersey Tunnel. In the left-hand lane was a very slow driver so I moved into the opposite lane, not realising that such a move was not accepted. When I got to the exit of the tunnel I saw someone signal to me, which I presumed was a friendly wave, so no need for me to stop. This person obviously took my number as some time later I received a complaint from the Mersey Tunnel Authorities for changing lanes illegally.

I reported this in Motor Sport, and later received an anonymous letter from a lorry driver who said he knew the person who had reported me to the authorities, and also knew where he lived and that he parked his car outside his house. The correspondent drove heavy commercial vehicles and implied that the person who had reported me would one day find his car a different shape…

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