Simon's snapshots #9

Racing History

British Saloon Car Championship, Oulton Park, April 17 1981

More than 30 years have passed since this was taken, but the principal elements remain core parts of the British motor sport landscape.

Designed by Joseph Turner and built circa 1775 (a few years after Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot began dabbling with primitive, steam-powered vehicles), the gates to the former Oulton Estate have become one of racing’s greatest photographic clichés. The whitewash finish has long since been buffed away, however, and today they stand resplendent in their original sandstone, a few metres from Lodge Corner’s braking zone. They hail from an age when Oulton was a stately home rather than a racetrack, although it became rather less stately after the residential quarters (located close to what is now Old Hall corner) burned down on February 14 1926.

The picture’s central feature isn’t (quite) as old as the gates, but Barrie Williams is still both active and effervescent at the age of 75. Here, he is sliding his 1.6-litre Mitsubishi Lancer through Lodge en route to third place in the race for the two smaller classes in the British Saloon Car Championship. Chris Hodgetts (Toyota Celica) won easily, while Stirling Moss (Audi 80) took second. Williams’s team-mate David Morgan finished fourth on the road, but was penalised for a jumped start and ceded the position to Jon Dooley’s class-winning Alfasud. A sticking throttle obliged Martin Brundle to retire his Audi.

In the race for larger-capacity cars, Win Percy led all the way from pole in his TWR Mazda RX-7 to beat the Ford Capris of Gordon Spice and Andy Rouse. The winning car was sponsored by Pentax, manufacturer of the very Spotmatic that took this shot.

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