Simon's snapshots #3

Racing History

A series in which Motor Sport’s features editor raids the loft to salvage grainy fragments from his racing past

Staw Renault 5 Elf Challenge, Oulton Park, August 9 1980

Here’s one for the run-off area police – and also a perfect illustration of why photography became a sideline rather than my main career choice. See that yellow flag in the background? I should probably be taking aim to my left…

The picture shows Derek Speight and David Bearns leading a group of Renault 5s (the 1289cc TS model was the specified racer du jour) towards Fosters Corner – little used nowadays, but a staple back then because the full-length Oulton was decommissioned from 1975-84.

Cascades was a quicker corner on the short circuit… and drivers had only a short straight to get their car settled before braking hard for the tight right that followed. It caught many out – and still does, when used.

Even with the more relaxed attitudes of 34 years ago, it seems odd that nobody considered pushing back the Armco on the left of the photograph, but they didn’t. Today, an extensive gravel trap smothers that area.

And me? I was standing on a small earth bank, fronted by a slender guardrail – features that have long since gone. The writing was on the wall after a car took a tumble – a Triumph Dolomite Sprint, if memory serves – and ended its journey on top of said bank, propped against a wooden box in which marshals once sheltered.

It did feel a bit exposed, but at the same time it was an impossibly thrilling place to stand. I’d been popping home from the University of Sheffield at weekends, to report races for The Altrincham Guardian, but had until recently done so from the woodworm-riddled comfort of the Lodge grandstand. Now, at the age of 19, I had trackside access to watch Renault 5s and their ilk from close quarters as Motoring News’s official photographer. And I was paid £4.50 per picture used, which bought quite a lot of beer at Sheffield prices.

It seemed hard to imagine that life could get much better.

See if you can identify the cars parked on the bank in the background and leave your guesses in the comments

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