Tony's Soapbox - not just about motorsport

Hello friends,

If you have already browsed the site you may have noticed an interest in motorsport photography which began in the early seventies. You may also have heard about the injunction granted to people who chose to come and live hundreds of metres from Croft Circuit. The Circuit was granted full planning permission in 1963 and since 1997 had operated under a section 106 planning agreement - they had voluntarily agreed to limit themselves to the number of days when they operate. This was accepted by a government planning inspector who made visits to the circuit, took evidence from numerous witnesses and came to a measured conclusion after much consideration. The noisier the days the fewer of them there were. The sound is measured at a distance of 10 metres from the track and the hour with the loudest average sound level is what sets the rating for the day. N5 is like traffic noise and these days are unlimited. N4 is 78 dB(A) and was restricted to 110 days a year whilst N3 is 85 bD (A) and was restricted to 70 days a year. N2 and N1 were proportionally louder and were restricted to 40 and 10 days.

Apologies for a brief physics lesson here but I hope it will help. If the distance from the source of the sound is doubled, the sound energy is spread over four times the area so the sound energy at any point is reduced to one quarter. This is a 6dB loss. So every time you double the distance from the sound, the level at the new position is reduced by 6dB. The sound is measured at 10 metres from the track so keep doubling that and eventually you come to 320 metres. At this distance the drop in level would be 30 dB. At 320 metres the average noisiest hour for N4 is 48 dB(A) and for N3 it is 55 dB(A). To most people this is just figures, so what does it mean in practice ? As a point of comparison our dishwasher is rated at 53 dB and is hardly a blight on our lives.

In the original court case the action was on nuisance, presumably noise nuisance yet the judge didn't feel he needed to hear the evidence of noise experts. The appeal court found there was nothing wrong with this. Along with many other people, I'd like someone clever to explain that to me.

When we moved next to Croft in 1982 our solicitor said of the circuit, "It may have been sold to a farmer but if it changes hands or he just changes his mind you could have Brands Hatch on your doorstep tomorrow." We paid for good advice and considered it carefully when choosing where we wished to live.

Why is it that some people now move into an area and decide to try to put a stop to activities that have been going on for years, decades or even longer ? And why do we allow it to happen? It isn't just motorsport that's affected but children's playgrounds, schools, the village cricket team, the farmer's cock and even the church bells which have rung for centuries.

And the last person to silence the church bells ? Why Adolf Hitler himself.

Just a thought, but perhaps people should be more careful where they choose to live. Wouldn't it save a lot of money and upset ?

You may be interested to know that the two main objectors have now left the neighbourhood. The injunction remains. I make no comment.

As I write this in August 2013, Croft have been allowed an additional 50 days per year, between Monday & Friday at noise level N3. Small mercies or should we not rock the boat ?

Alex Clacher 22/10/1935 - 1/5/2015

I first got to know Alex at the beginning of the seventies. I was advised that he was an expert on Hillman Imps - driving a particularly sporty one on the road, so I wandered into his office and he made the time in his busy day to chat. We met again at Croft purely by chance and that led to a friendship of over forty years.

Alex (or AJ as he appeared in programmes) had a long connection with motor sport. He rode trials bikes and appeared on the front cover of the programme for the Scott Trial of 1961. With help from Bill Hocking, he was then able to compete in motocross or motor cycle scrambling as it used to be.

He moved into car racing with the first of his Imps which was written off in a startline incident at Oulton Park. When I got to know him he was waiting for the second car an ex-Reg Hargraves Imp which arrived in late 1970. In the four years he had it, he reduced his lap times around Croft by about eight seconds.

It was a wish to take better photographs of the car that saw me buy better photo equipment. Our club, the Darlington and District Motor Club was organising Rallycross at Croft and a very snowy event saw me standing out in the elements almost alone, so I sent prints to both weeklies. Lo and behold, a few days later I had half the back page of Motoring News. A little later they were looking for a photographer for Croft and I got the gig. That ultimately led me to where I am now, almost a fixture at Croft Circuit.

This could have caused a clash of loyalites when Alex began to race further afield, but fortunately we had been joined by a college friend, Les Cookson, renowned Hillman Husky driver, who was more than up to the task. During that period Alex set half a dozen lap records - some of them in places he was visiting for the first time. I remember Les telling me, with great relish, how John Homewood had set a new class record at Brands only for Alex to break it later that afternoon. He visited Snetterton twice and broke the record each time. It was lost later when the circuit was reconfigured so a new record had to be established. He was known as a smooth, very fast driver and quick to learn a new circuit.

He took as much pleasure from developing the car as in driving it and all the work was done in his garage at home apart from any machining for which he hadn’t the facilities. May I say at this point he never raced Minis and there was never a paving slab in the front of the car ! It had an aluminium panel in the roof, the engine suspended on cycle frame tubing, a plastic door and successively wider wheels as regulations changed. It ended up with F3 front tyres at the front and F5000 fronts at the rear. Getting the front slicks up to operating temperature was a challenge which was solved by designing, making and fitting his own air dam. It ran the highest first gear Jack Knight could provide and the only secret we ever kept was that it ran a standard diff.

Pressure of time to run his business eventually put a stop to his racing and the car was sold.

In recent years, he acquired a Rover 2000 in which he competed in historic trials and raliies.

A great sportsman and a true friend, Alex would have been eighty later this year and will be sadly missed by those who knew him. He leaves a daughter Julie, granddaughter Gioia , his partner Catherine and his ex-wife Angeline.

I conclude by taking the liberty of quoting three times British Saloon Car Champion Bill McGovern. On hearing of Alex's death he said,
'Alex was a lovely guy and a very good racing driver.'

MSA Rallying requirements. In the light of well publicised incidents, the MSA has made changes to accreditation for rally photographers. I was invited to be Croft's photographer in 1995 when the circuit re-opened for racing and have covered every type of motorsport that has been held here. I have met all criteria and have the necessary insurances etc. MSA now requires all rally photographers who wish to be trackside to pay to register with them and pay an additional £150 as a deposit on an annually renewable tabard. For only a couple of events a year, that I do mainly for fun and as a service to local clubs I'm afraid I cannot justify this outlay. It seems therefore that the 2015 Christmas Stages was my last rally on the previous basis for the forseeable future. However there is a greater variety of conversation to be had in the public areas. Therefore, may I say that it has been a pleasure to contribute to our sport and many thanks to those who have helped me deliver. I understand that action in the forests and other unprotected areas was long overdue and the MSA had to be seen to be taking action but if the Armco at Croft is ok for Touring Cars, Superbikes, Rallycross etc why not for rallies where the cars tend to be slower and not in groups ?

1995 Croft Circuit modified from an excellent Rallycross venue to accomodate Motor Racing As Well. The arrival of the Covid-19 unpleasentness left me with a lot of time on my hands. After threatening to do it for over 20 years I started to scan my old films and what bettert place to start than the preparations for the return of Motor Racing to Croft Circuit in April/May 1995. The pictures in order are :

The line through the Chicane is opened up, the pits are on the outside of the circuit and the track now runs over the old pit lane as well as the right hand side of the previous track.

Just one of the huge and fascinating pieces of equipment which appeared on the circuit.

Road planing equipment used to remove some of the old surface.

Earth moving at the Chicane.

Looking back down the track towards the Chicane, The first asphalt is laid in the pit lane while the foundations are laid for the new part of the track beside it.

Heavy machinery hard at work. A schoolbay's dream.

The circuit layout in 1995

A ribbon of beautifully amooth new surface winds through the Chicane.

Looking up Railway Straight towards Sunny Corner, showing the Hangar Complex put in to slow vehicles before they drove through what is now the assembly area heading to Hawthorn.

Heat shimmer on the Railway Straight looking towards Hawthorn. Perhaps not quite as good as giraffes on the Serengeti ?

Sunny corner leading onto Railway Straight (now C paddock)

Perhaps chiming with the history of the site, a Jeep heads reverse way through the Jim Clark Esses as they have become known.

Finally, the start-finish area with the faithful green double decker which multi-tasked until it was pensioned off and went to be loved and cherished elsewhere.