Is it time for Rockingham Motor Speedway’s vast empty stands to be removed?
In July 1979 I was sitting on a beach in Bournemouth enjoying the sea, sand and quiz book. Yet even the winter dream of such an idyll can soon become quite tedious as one looks for any distraction from boredom. That’s when one might take a stroll to the ice cream van parked up on the promenade. Any excuse to relieve the fidgets. On this particular occasion I had returned to our sandy patch bearing the fruits of my flip-flop venture. Two 99’s with cherry sauce and two bars of quickly melting chocolate. Having settled myself back onto my mat I noticed that on the inside of my chocolate wrapper there was printed a competition that one could enter by answering a couple of questions and completing a sentence. How relieved I was to turn my trusty pen to something other than yet another word search or crossword in my family sized summer bumper tome. Not only that but when I’d finished scribbling my entry it would give me the perfect excuse to nip into town to the post office. Less than a year later a letter arrived at my home in Gretton to let me know that I’d won a competition as a result of my chocolate bar wrapper entry. The prize? A three-day driving experience at Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent.
In short I loved every minute of it: being driven around one of the worlds most famous circuits in a twin seater Lola at lip-splitting speed: who wouldn’t? Driving solo in speed trials in a formula car to die for. Being trained to handle any vehicle on a skid pan approached at a rate of knots that dared to defy the possible. All of this began my absolute love of the sport although sponsorship in those days was incredibly scarce without which it would be impossible for me to continue to drive competitively. Many years later I think I was one of the few people in my part of the world that actually welcomed the news of the arrival of Rockingham Motor Speedway on my doorstep. I was honoured to be asked to present the Corby Sport Awards at Corby’s old Civic Theatre which had been sponsored by the speedway. I was present at the launch of the circuit and its plans for the future.
I was at the circuit to meet my formula 1 hero Nigel Mansell as he performed ‘doughnuts’ down the finishing strait. I had interviewed the directors as they spewed forth their excitement for the people of Corby and the future of the circuit. Yet today, as I drive past the back of those amazing empty stands between R.S Components and Gretton I find myself wondering why those massive unfinished-looking chunks of metal either side of the main stand and hospitality suit’s are still standing. They’re obviously surplus to requirements of the current business model and the local environment would undoubtedly benefit from their removal. ‘Angel of the North it aint!’