Right. Mike Wilds (March 85B)& Tony Trimmer (Lola T330) - opening lap - October 1988
Page updated4 11 2012
In the 1980s it was still quite possible to buy and race a year-old F1 car in a minor British club event , no silencers, original tobacco advertising still in place and without a troop of technicians needed to simply fire up the engine!
Castle Combe, in those days, existed, as a low-key, club racing haven where major championships almost never ventured. The last major league race had been European F5000 in 1970. For years afterwards the circuit had teetered on the edge of closure, beset by financial and planning issues and noise complaints from a very few, vocal, NIMBY neighbors. With such a precarious situation there was, unsurprisingly, no capital investment to improve it's ancient bumpy surface and limited spectator facilities. In many ways it was stuck in the late 60s, and some would say, all the better for it . The viewing was clear of any debris fencing and the run off areas were compact enough that you could stand pretty darn close to the cars as they blasted past, heightening the impression of speed and excitement.
In the 90s things changed, Combe's existence was finally secured and today it's a smart, well maintained and busy venue - a circuit of the 21st century with debris fences and large spectator banks to keep in the noise, a tarmac covered paddock and slick organization. In recent years it's played host to British F3 and BRDC GTs , a major annual rally day and more than a few TV shows. Just don't get me started on what they have done to the track layout...
Back in the 80s every meeting would feature the circuit's own hard fought FF1600 and Special GT series and an eclectic mix of club racing series from Mini Sevens and Ford Fiestas to Monoposto and Clubmans. Several times a year the national Formula Libre series would pitch up and give hardy spectators the chance to see some really big ,fast, loud single-seaters (and one or two sports racers) in action. Often not that many of them and usually there were only two or three cars that were likely to feature at the front - but what cars! F1, F5000, F2 Group C, even a Can Am car or two....
The era ended in 1989 when the Libre series fizzled out and big single seaters disappeared from the circuit until a one-off visit from the BOSS series in August 1997. In that race the 12 year old lap record was shattered by Nigel Greensall's Tyrrell-Judd V10 F1 car. Recording a lap time almost 4 seconds faster than Alo Lawler's McLaren had achieved in 1985, Greensall set a record that, due to the subsequent circuit layout changes, will stand forever.
50.59 seconds 130.93mph