Saturday 4 November, Coventry (date to be checked)
Coventry Stadium was the scene of the first Midland Car Advertiser Championship. This was also to be the last appearance of the Grand Prix Midgets before being flown to Jamaica to compete in a number of Rothman Pall Mall sponsored meetings.
A top class entry was present to do battle for the honours of the night. These included such names as Paul Emery, Cliff Davis, Tony Stubbs, our own Editor, John Holtham, No. 1 driver for Auto Enthusiasts, also David Niven of Auto Enthusiast. Don Bray was there driving the 208 car and Brian Spicer, the ex-sports car driver.
The younger drivers, Martin Robertson driving the Team Castrol car, Chris Davis, son of Cliff, driving his own very efficient little Midget. Ex-stock car driver Mick Avery was also there, so as you can see this had all the ingredients for fast, exciting racing.
Coventry stadium is noted for its smooth efficient organisation, strictly controlled by Charles Ochiltree and his manager Bob Griffin. This meeting was to be no exception. Right from the start people were efficiently parked, and everything was kept smoothly moving along.
Also on the menu for this night were the all-action bangers, who in fairness to them really put on some fantastic racing and delighted the crowd with their antics. Race 3 was to be the first Midget heat of the night and a field of 21 cars came to the line. Our own Editor, Tony Stubbs, was in this heat trying to regain some rather indifferent form.
After the slow warming up lap they were off. Twenty Grand Prix Midget cars came hurtling down the straight into the first bend with shale flying from the wheels as they fought to gain control through the rather slippery bends at this stage. A fantastic sight, the crowd really on their feet enjoying it right from the start.
Don Bray, in the 208 Radio Luxemburg car, took the lead right from the first lap, closely followed by the 'Hot Bra' magazine Midget driven by Chief Inspector Fretten and Peter Jopp in No. 69. Top rally man, yet another man from the flying fuzz, Arthur Knowlton, driving the 128 car. Another driver making a good impression in his race in the early stages was Coventry lad Paul Daly, driving the No. 17 car.
Meanwhile the star men at the back were finding it very difficult to get through the field simply because the track was very damp and slippery, plus the fact that the front runners were going very fast: this always presents a problem for the cars at the rear of the field. Nevertheless by lap 10 Paul Emery had moved into sixth place with West German Joe Therstappen tucked in behind him.
We now know where the term jockeying for position comes from, because it was quite a sight to see 20 cars weaving from side to side trying to find some sort of opening to get through. Everybody was hanging the tail of their car well out, keeping the power on trying to get as much adhesion as possible. It must be remembered that although the cars have a very short wheelbase they are powered by full race engines, which gives them plenty of torque and overall top speed.
On the final laps of this first heat the 208 car was still maintaining its lead, with Paul Emery in the No. 1 car doing everything to get on terms with Peter Jopp was still holding third place, with John Holtham (Auto Enthusiast) making a good show into fourth place with fifth place at this stage David Underhill, a chemist from Barnes in Surrey, followed by our own Ed, struggling to make some sort of progress through the field.
With one lap to go the only unfortunate incident of the evening occurred. The 128 car driven by Arthur Knowlton seemed to come rather wide out of the bottom bend and make contact with the outside fence, this in turn swung him across the track, unfortunately in the path of David Niven (Auto Enthusiast).
The 128 car sustained quite a lot of damage, the driver fortunately, seemed to only have a damaged knee, which was causing him to limp when he got out. David Niven was also rather shaken, but in fact after a rest was able to race later in the evening. This of course brought the race to a rather rapid finish, but as this was in the final lap, there was no reason for the race to be restarted.
The result of this rather hectic first heat was Don Bray in 208 car, Paul Emery in No. 1, John Holtham. No. 9 (Auto Enthusiast), No. 7 David Underhill, No. 69 Peter Jopp, and finally in sixth place our own Editor, Tony Stubbs.
Two races later in the evening the Midgets came out for their second heat with still 20 cars. It was unfortunately less West German Joe Therstappen, who had brake failure and obviously had Jamaica in mind. Still, there was a very strong field, and once again the front runners made a good break and a fast start.
This time the 306 car driven by John Lowe, who comes from Luton, took the lead and held it until lap 8 when he was passed by Peter Jopp. Peter was obviously having a good night and had been making steady progress, we understand over the last few weeks. The 306 car held second place, but by lap 11 was passed by John Holtham (Auto Enthusiast), who was also having a very good evening. He is yet another driver who has obviously progressed as the season has gone on.
Star men were having their problems, and all sorts of incidents were happening further down the field, people seemed to be disappearing in all directions, but managing to come back again on the straight. Chris Davis seemed to be having a good race, as was father Cliff. Paul Emery and our own Editor were struggling to hold seventh and eighth positions at this time, but by lap 14 the pattern of the race altered. The 306 car dropped back, David Underhill, No. 7, moved into third place, with Paul Emery in fourth place and our own editor in fifth.
Also at this stage, No. 41, Peter Smith seemed to be going well and was moving up through the field, but the final result, after much changing of positions, was to be 69 Peter Jopp, John Holtham (Auto Enthusiast) No. 9, No. 7 David Underhill, our editor, No. 6 Tony Stubbs, No. 41, Peter Smith, and David Niven No. 14 (Auto Enthusiast). After this race, it was obvious by the feverish action of the drivers in the paddock that everybody was hoping to qualify for the Midland Car Advertiser and Auto News 1972 Championship. This was to be run over 20 laps.
At this stage in the evening there is always lots of discussion by the individual drivers on who could possibly win this event. Unfortunately, No. 1, Paul Emery, was not to be present as he had lost his drive due to the clutch disintegrating. As we have already said, Joe Therstappen from West Germany was out, but John Holtham (Auto Enthusiast) was obviously on his best form that evening, very much a favourite to take this event.
Another dark horse in the final was to be No. 19, Mick Avery, the ex-stock car man who has spent many evenings on the Coventry circuit and certainly knows his way round. By most of the drivers he is considered to be the best performer they have on shall. So after one warming-up lap, the race was on.
Sure enough No. 19, Mick Avery, took the lead and in fact held it until lap 8. He was closely followed yet again by the ever improving Peter Jopp. with John Holtham rapidly moving into fourth position followed by the 306 car. At this stage, Cliff Davis had also made a forward move and was lying in a very pleasant sixth position, followed closely by David Niven (Auto Enthusiast) and Martin Robertson, who strangely did not figure in the results as he normally does. By lap 8 our editor surprised the field, and us, by coming through into second place behind Mick Avery and in fact managed to pass him on lap 10. He was still followed by Mick Avery in second place, third place being held by Peter Jopp and John Holtham, who was struggling to pass both of them. Once again John Lowe from Luton showed how quickly he is improving his driving by holding a very good fifth position with Cliff Davis in sixth and David Niven (Auto Enthusiast) in seventh. The battle for second and third and fourth positions enabled our Editor to build up a lead in first place and in fact hold it, much to his embarrassment. As we say, all the action appeared in the lower places, Cliff Davis and David Niven were struggling for position. John Holtham (Auto Enthusiast) just could not get past Peter Jopp and Mick Avery and that is how the positions finished. This final race really had the crowd on their feet.
It was inter esting to note that from a crowd which is so dedicated to the Formula 1 stock cars, that they could be so enthusiastic for these mighty Midgets. We felt that many friends were made this night and we know that the Grand Prix Midget Racers look forward to racing at Coventry next year.