Sad News – Murray Walker

Many of you will have heard that Mr F1 – Murray Walker has sadly passed away.

The Lancashire Automobile Club is sad to hear the news that Murray Walker has crossed the finishing line.
Many of you may not know that Murray was a friend of the LAC. Way back in April 1986 Murray trekked north to attend a Club charity event at the Dunkenhalgh. His fellow guests included Martin Brundel, Eddie Jordan, Russell Spence and Colin Bennett. The evening was dubbed ‘The Grand Prix Night of Stars. The event was compered by our own David Taylor.
I was lucky enough to be President at the time so had a meal sitting next to Murray. Great evening – great bloke.

Sad News – John Casey

We have just been told that John Casey passed away on Friday evening.
I haven’t got further details as yet.
John competed in many LAC sprints and hillclimbs over the years in his immaculate, and quick, Mini Cooper. Always a smile and usually a joke at the ready.
Great bloke and a great competitor.
Picture taken by Peter McFadyen at LDMC event on the Isle of Man in the 70’s. Peter’s copyright.

Hannu Mikkola a few words from our own Mike Wood

I got to know Hannu quite well more or less when he first came onto the International Rally scene driving on a couple of events or so for Datsun. He was already recognised in his home country of Finland as a up and coming driver and maybe because of my own connection with established Finish drivers, Timo Makinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Simo Lampinen, just to name a few, we immediately connected with each other. At the end of 1968 and because of the British Leyland take over, BMC closed the Competition Department, this meant that almost all the established drivers and co-drivers were out of jobs. However, the Ford Competition Department at Boreham already had their eye on Hannu and signed him up for the 1969 season. They of course needed a co-driver/navigator to sit alongside him and I am pleased to say that Roger Clarke, already a established member of the Ford Rally Team recommended myself as a suitable applicant. I was duly interviewed by the then Ford Comp Manager, Bill Barnet and because of Roger’s recommendation and presumably my own International Rally experience I was offered the position of co-driver to Hannu, an offer I immediately accepted. The full Ford Works Team for 1969 were Roger Clarke and Jim Porter, Ove Anderson, I can’t remember his co-driver and Hannu and myself.

I have to say that year 1969 with Hannu was not all that successful. Our first event would be the Monte Carlo Rally, but just before we were due to start our recce I damaged my knee so I was replaced by Jim Porter, Roger Clarke’s regular co-driver, they duly finished the rally in 6th place I think, Roger and myself did ice notes for the team. Our next event was San Remo Rally which we failed to finish due to a accident. The next event was the Austrian Alpine Rally which we won; we then went to Greece for the Acropolis Rally and failed to finish due to a broken rear brake. Our next event was the French Alpine Rally and we failed to finish that one due to a suspension problem and our final 1969 Rally was the RAC Rally which we failed to finish again due to a big going off in Dalby Forest in Yorkshire, so apart from the win in Austria, not a very good year.

At the end of 1969 my contract with Ford was terminated and I was replaced as co-driver to Hannu with fellow Scandinavian, Swede, Gunnar Palm. Ove Anderson’s contract was also terminated and he was replaced by Timo Makinen. I actually never found out why I was not retained although I think pressure may have been brought to bear by Ford Sweden for Gunnar to sit with Hannu. I have no qualms about this, Gunnar was one of the very best co-drivers around and he was and still is a very good friend of mine. Hannu and Gunnar continued together with huge success, one of which was their win on the 1970 World Cup Rally.

Hannu Mikkola was one of the best drivers in the world and at the time he was competing, probably the very best. Apart from his driving skills he was also a lovely guy, great sense of humour and very easy to get on with, I cannot remember us having a cross word when we were together. We always remained friends and it was a tremendous shock when I heard that he had died, I will sadly miss him.

Mike Wood.

Phot copyright Mike Wood

Sad News Linda Parkinson

Sad news.
We are sad to report the sudden death of Linda Parkinson, just before Christmas.
Linda was the wife of Geoff Parkinson, a member of many years, who ran the TVR Racing championship and were regular attendees at Lancashire Automobile Club social events.
In HSCC Racing. They were well know to many members, and always had open house at their motorhome
in the paddock. Partners for decades, they finally and joyfully tied the knot just a year before she died.
We of course extend the Clubs condolences to Geoff and hope to see him at our events in the future.

Vintage Car Rally 1963 Pendle Hill

Another video from the motoring past. This time 1963. The film was taken approacing the Nick of Pendle climbing from Sabden. The event started in the Burnley area and finished at Clitheroe Castle taking in Longridge Fell and Jeffery Hill on the way. As I recall Bill Turner and Ted Heath were part of the organisationa team. I marshalled on this event in 1968/9 and if I recall correctly we started from Gawsthorpe Hall in Padiham. If anyone has other recollections please let us know.

Sad News Tom Blackburn

We are sorry to hear that probably our longest standing member Tom Blackburn has sadly passed away.
Tom was a member of the Lancashire Automobile Club in 1953 when Mike Wood joined so it is unlikely we will have any members who have been with the club for longer.
He was a regular entrant in LAC rallies and tours right up to the lockdown last year. The picture attached is Tom navigating his beloved MGB in the 2019 St Georges Day Run. At 6’2” he said he had a shoe horn to get in!
Tom had been suffering with poor health and had spent a time in and out of hospital in recent times. He passed away peacefully on Tuesday morning whilst in Longridge Community Hospital. Tom’s wife passed away several years ago.
The Club wishes to pass on it’s condolances to his friends and family.

In 2005 Tom put pen to paper and wrote `Tom Blackburn My Life’ and the article below is taken from it.

My thanks to Toms son, also Tom, for passing this on to me.

Geoff Awde

In Ribbleton, Preston on the 22 July 1932 Thomas and Minnie Blackburn introduced a son they would christen Thomas.  Britain was in the grip of the Great Depression with high unemployment, soup kitchens becoming the norm and hunger marches to London from the north of the Country.

None of this bothered little Tom who had a healthy childhood and in 1938  he started his education at Woodland School in Ribbleton. In 1939 the family moved to a rented house on the front on East Beach at Lytham. Tom had a year at St John’s school and then at the age of 8 went to Lawrence House school in St Annes as a boarder. He remembered going to church on Sunday 3 September 1939 and on the vicar’s portable wireless hearing Mr Chamberlain’s announcement that we were at war with Germany. The air raid shelters erected on the green became a play ground for Tom and his friends. Tom recalled that whilst he was at Lawrence House in 1941 or 1942, on a Sunday night at about 8 pm all the young boys were rushing around in a state of undress waiting for their bath when German Bombers came over and dropped two bombs which fell on the school football fields only fifty yards from the school. One house nearby had it’s corner blown off and the bath was hanging out at an angle. Not much work was done the following day and the boys were crawling around looking for shrapnel.

In 1945 Tom continued his education at Oundle School in Northampton a school boasting no less than 3 winners of the VC and in it’s students Sir Peter Scott, the naturalist, countless MP’s and high ranking members of the Armed Forces.

Tom left Oundle in 1950 and started a 4-year student apprenticeship at English Electric, Preston. Whilst at English Elactric he attended  the Harris Institute doing HNC in Mechanical Engineering and met a lot of new friends some of which were apprentices at Leland Motors.

Among then was John Lyons (the son of Sir William Lyons who then owned Jaguar cars).

Toms passion for anything mechanical led to an early interest in motorsport and having passed his driving test he purchased his first car an 1932 Aston Martin International for the the princely sum of £250. It had been an ex works car and had been taken to Le Mans as a mobile spare parts vehicle and Tom described it as well used. (That car today would probably be worth well over £100,000).

His interest in motorsport started in the left hand seat as a navigator but as his finances  improved he swapped seats and started driving. Unlike most of todays events, the route would cover over 1500 miles with starts on a Friday and finish on a Sunday, with little sleep in between and was more a reliability test of man and machine. It was described at the time as “Timed Touring”” which sounds like just a run out, but who can average 30mph over Hard Knott Pass or Rest and be Thankful in Scotland.

In the early 50`s he competed in most of the major rallies of the day among those was the RAC Rally and it was on that event that in 1952 that he suffered a serious `off ‘ when swerving to avoid an “imaginary‘’ platoon of soldiers marching in the middle of the road. The telegraph pole he hit probably didn’t move very much and it resulted in a fractured skull.

After that accident Tom concentrated on one day and one night events and one weekend he competed on a Friday, setting a new record up Barbon Hill Climb, and a class win. Then Saturday night the Fylde Motor Club midnight Rally, which he won, then home for breakfast on Sunday morning, followed by a Sprint at New Brighton Promenade that afternoon which again he won.

Next he turned to the circuits and started racing first in a Lund Special, then in a variety of Jowett Javelins and Jupiters and his beloved TR2. His success in rallying carried on into racing and he became part of the Standard Triumph Works Team which won the Tourist Trophy Race at Dundrod in Ireland in 1954. He then went as reserve driver to the 1955 Le Manns. That year Le Manns was marred by the horrific racing accident which saw 84 people loose their lives and is still today the worst motor racing accident of all time. Tom had his sights set on doing the three greats, the Tourist Trophy, Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. The latter was renowned for its attrition rate with many race fatalities and the line was firmly drawn by both family and, in particular, Diane who Tom was due to marry in September.

So Tom became a sensible married man and concentrated on his various businesses until he retired at the age of 60.

Tom never lost interest in motor sport so in 1996 the bug bit again, when an old school pal invited him to join him on the Euroclassic, a four day tour of France and Germany taking in many of the major racing circuits, such as Spa, Hockenheim and Nuremburg, to name just a few. His renewed involvement in motor sport provided an invaluable distraction following the untimely death of Diane and Tom continued driving on events in Europe as well as many nearer home until  failing eyesight meant he had to give up driving.


Red Rose Ramble

Dear member,
Preston & District Vintage Car Club (PDVCC) are hoping to run a scenic tour on the 6th June this year and have extended a kind invitation to LAC members.  I appreciate that we remain in uncertain times, but in the event that this ‘damned’ Covid continues to spoil our lives and the event has to be cancelled, all entries will be refunded.
I have attached event information, the supplementary regs and an entry form (see above). If you have any questions, just get back to me, or contact Martin Jelly directly.
               Andrew Ogden

Sad News of LAC Stalwart

We very sad to impart the news to you all that our very good friend, colleague and companion Alwyn J Davis. MSc. died this morning following a short illness. He would have been 93 later this month.
Many of you will rember Alwyn as the person in charge of signing on at LAC events including 3 Sisters Sprints, Coast to Coast, Fellsman, Manchester to Blackpool and St Georges Day Runs.
He also ran controls on our events as well as providing radio coverage on the Wales Rally GB with David Bell.
He also took a lead role on our Committee being Chairman and President in the past as well as preparing much of the paperwork for our runs and social events.
He was diagnosed with C-19 10 days ago but stayed at home til last night when he suffered a heart arrhythmia , the para medics arrived, he was then. taken to hospital
His family were with him, other than his wife Margaret- who is unwell and also in hospital herself.
Alwyn and Margaret had only recently moved to be near their two daughters Katherine McFarlane and Marianne Dyer, their husbands (both of which are senior RAF Officers) and children.
David Bell added the following:
I last spoke to them both for a while on Christmas Eve and they were both settled in and pretty well ok. We discussed many topics, including Alwyn’s stated goal (on his 90th ) to do a Tiger Moth Wing Walk in 2021.
I got him interested in motorsport, and he joined The Lancashire Automobile Club over 30 years ago.
Having now reached the final control, He is, and will be very sadly missed. With his cheerfully smiley disposition. Sharp wit. Cheeky sense of humour  Wry smile. Knowledge of Welsh and a keen eye for perfection but above all , a man of integrity, honesty and a true friend ( especially in Malt )
Goodbye old chum

The 1964 Liege – Another view!

All of our ‘regular’ readers will be well aware of Mike Wood and John Wadsworth’s exploits on the 1964 Liege. I posted this story on a Facebook page and recieved a reply of another contestants, Doctor Beatty Crawford, reccollections of this car breaking event.
Our 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege rally.
The Royal Motor Union Club wanted only one car to finish the Spa-Sofia-Liege rally. In 1964 they almost achieved their objective. Of ninety-seven starters just twenty-one made it to the finish and then only because the organisers extended the maximum lateness by two hours. Today it is difficult to believe just how hard this rally was, a virtually non-stop drive across the worst roads in Europe, from Belgium all the way through Yugoslavia to Bulgaria and back. Average speeds took no consideration of stops for fuel or food. There was virtually no servicing. From the start in Spa the rally went through Austria and into Italy, where the event began in earnest. After reaching Sofia in Bulgaria the rally simply turned around after one hour rest and began the long trek home with the timed runs over the gravel-covered, fearsome Vivione, Gavia and Stelvio Passes. This is from the obituary on the winning co-driver Tony Ambrose: “The 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege was by general consensus the toughest road rally ever held in Europe, an event of a format that could never be held these days. Rauno Aaltonen still praises Ambrose’s part in their momentous victory in an Austin Healey 3000. Crews faced four days and nights with no scheduled chance to sleep: Tony planned it all, he forced me to sleep even at moments when I wasn’t so tired. He even drove one 77-mile section at night in 52 minutes. We were going at maximum speed, 150 mph, on cobbled roads amid unlit horses and carts, yet he was such a safe driver I slept through it all! He could have been just as good a driver as he was a co-driver.”
Adrian Boyd and I took part in a Humber Sceptre. We were sponsored by Alan Fraser Racing. Alan was a very wealthy, slightly eccentric, Rootes dealer in Hildenborough, Kent and took a liking to Adrian after he had won the Circuit of Ireland in 1958. He basically ran Rootes works prepared cars as a private entrant. We drove for him on the 1964 RAC rally in a Humber Sceptre and finished 21st overall. On the Circuit of Ireland we were given a Sunbeam Tiger but severely blunted its teeth when we aquaplaned off the road into a large rock on Sally’s Gap. Alan had entered two other cars, Bill Bengry and Ian Hall in a Sunbeam Rapier and John La Trobe and David Skeffington in a Humber Super Snipe.
We were like babes in the wood when it came to the Marathon. No recce or Tulips so all the route was on maps and I can tell you that the map in Yugoslavia was no better than a quarter inch to the mile. One of my jobs was to obtain cash for petrol and emergencies. I had envelopes for Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria since there were no credit cards in those days. Our only asset, so we thought, was young age and a slow but reliable car.
The first part of the route was easy. We departed Spa in southern Belgium, home of the F1 track and straight on to the German autobahns. Then off the autobahn onto A roads to Bregenz on the Austrian border. But we never even made it to Bregenz. At about 4.00 am a noise suddenly developed in the gearbox. A few miles later we were dead in the water. The gearbox drain plug had vibrated loose and fallen out. Loctite had been invented yet. Apparently the plug hadn’t been wired to prevent it loosening.
All we could do was sleep and wait until daylight. We were awaked at about 6.00am by German Polizei who had found us parked at the side of the main road. “Oh, oh” we thought we are in trouble, but no, in sign language and broken German we explained that we were “kaput.” The very friendly cops soon produced a rope and towed us to a garage in a village called Wangen. It was still only 7.00am and we waited another hour until the garage owner arrived. His name was Herbert Schek. He spoke English and we told him our story. He asked us where we were from and we said Northern Ireland. “Northern Ireland” he said, “Do you know Sammy Miller?” It turned out that he too was a top trials rider and was a great admirer and friend of Sammy.
From then on we were royally looked after. He took us to his house where we stayed. Herbert and his wife Annaline fed and watered us and he gave us the use of a hoist in his garage where we removed the broken gearbox. It was hard work since the two us had very little knowledge of anything mechanical. Meanwhile Adrian had phoned the bad news to Alan who arranged for a new gearbox to be shipped down by train from somewhere in Germany. It arrived next day and we soon had it installed and on our way again. We decided to meet up with the rally on its way back at a time control at the bottom of the Stelvio Pass.
We had no idea who would be still in the rally but both Bill and John arrived. Bill was from Leominster in Wales and many times “Motoring News Rally Champion” and very much a VW exponent. A bit like Robert McBurney, he was very good driver and an equally good mechanic. One of the major problems on the Marathon was punctures from nails on the roads in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Bill would sit in the back seat while Ian drove and took off the tyre and repaired the puncture while on the move! We tried to help us much as we could in our limited way and I had bought green grapes for the crews. I put a large bunch on the driver’s seat but Bill in his hurry to get going again forgot and jumped in on top of the grapes. I’m sure by the time he got to the top of the Stelvio, the wine was good, if a bit warm.
We followed them to Liege in case they would get into trouble, back through the border at Bregenz. Who was waiting for us with all sorts of food and drinks but Franz and his wife Annalie. Talk about hospitality. Bill and John made it to the finish without any problem and so Alan Fraser had two cars finish out of the 21. A remarkable feat.
I sometimes regret not being able to complete the entire event but the rally was never held again. It had become too dangerous and too anti-social. On the other hand, if ever there was a rally where “It’s like beating your head against a wall, it’s great when you stop” applies, this was it.
This is from an article in Retrospeed.
Exactly forty-five years ago a big red Healey 3000 driven by Rauno Aaltonen and navigated by Englishman, Tony Ambrose won the infamous Liege-Sofia-Liege Rally outright. In fourth place and winner of the Coupe des Dames, driving the diminutive SAAB, was Pat Moss, already a household name, not just for being Stirling’s sister but for also winning the Liege in 1960. Husband-to-be, Eric Carlsson, also driving a SAAB made it into second place behind Rauno.
Today it is difficult to believe just how hard this rally was, a virtually non-stop drive across the worst roads in Europe, from Belgium all the way through Yugoslavia and back. Average speeds took no consideration of stops for fuel, food or routine maintenance. Service crews were anyway pretty useless as the route never passed the same place twice. From the start near Spa the rally led down through Austria into Italy where the event began in earnest. Thirty miles south of Bled, Bo Ljungfeldt rolled his works Mustang and leader Henry Taylor disappeared over the edge and fell one hundred feet into a ravine, luckily without injury. Georges Harris hit a truck in his Lancia Flaminia and was reported as dead but this later proved more than a mild exaggeration. Other well known exponents suffered setbacks including Sydney Allard, Timo Makinen and Roger Clark. All soldiered on albeit running quickly out of time. It really is difficult to describe the conditions, cars were expected to keep going for hours on end over unmade stone-covered roads. All three works Triumph 2000s expired within twenty miles of each other while the inevitable punctures delayed both Roy Fidler and Paddy Hopkirk. Vic Elford retired his Cortina after running head on into a wall near Kotor. After reaching Sofia in Bulgaria the rally simply turned around and began the long trek home with the timed descents of the gravel-covered passes of Vivione, Gavia and, naturally, the Stelvio designed to catch out the tired crews. Stories of hardship abound. Carlsson lost one of his two cylinders after the Gavia, driving the final fourteen hours on 425cc while for the first time ever a Mini, the 1293 Cooper S of John Wadsworth/Mike Wood not only lasted the distance, but finished in 20th position. Citroen, the only manufacturer to have a team finish intact, won the coveted Team Award.