Posted 29 October 2014 - 09:25
Commander Philip E.Heseltine R.N ( ret.), was a marshal at early Snetterton meetings when Oliver Sear formed the Snetterton Motor Racing Club in 1954. He quickly became chief marshal, perhaps because of his ability to command? This was a post he held at all SMRC meetings until 1958 when he took on the role of Clerk-of-the-Course at some meetings. This continued into the 1960s, at most SMRC meetings by then he was CoC. However he also attended some BRSCC meetings as the RAC steward. Grovewood Securities purchased Snetterton in 1963, this included the SMRC which held its last race meetings in 1964. Heseltine continued to be CoC at the remaining SMRC meetings, thereafter becoming a BRSCC steward, as this club then organised most of the Snetterton meetings. If the Commander worked as an official at Brands or other circuits I do not know, but due to his East Anglian and BRSCC links he was appointed chief of the BRSCC EA division. In 1957 Jim Russell thought it might be a good idea to try and set a 24 hour distance record around Snetterton with his Vauxhall Victor. It is said the Commander arrived at the circuit clubhouse in the evening as Jim and his team were celebrating their feat ( av 56.55mph ) to learn of this and asked Jim if he'd like a trophy to acknowledge it? The Commanders Cup was born and could be challenged by any team of drivers in a single production car. A Singer Gazelle successfully won the cup in October 1958, covering 1392.94 miles. Subsequent winners included a John Aley team in a Mini, Gerry Birrell in a Ford Consul and in 1978 it was unsuccessfully challenged by Gerry Marshall, Tony Lanfranchi, Whizzo Williams, Roy Pierpoint and Jack Sears in a Porsche 924, although Jack kept disappearing to go and work on the harvest! With the arrival of the Willhire 24 hour race in 1980, Britain's first 24-hr race, it was open to any single car team. However other attempts away from the Willhire were made, in 1982 Gerry M, Lanfranchi, Skid Scarborough and David da Costa took up the challenge in a Roger Dowson prepared Ford Capri. The circuit manager Peter Stayner said they could use the old pre-74 circuit if they wished, still intact then with the Norwich Straight. This was I think the last time the full 2.71 mile lap was used in competition. In the 1983 Willhire the AFN entered Porsche 928S of Tony Dron, Andy Rouse, Win Percy and Phil Dowsett raised the bar to 1907 miles. An attempt has not been made as far as I am aware since the demise of the Willhire 24 hour race in 1994, the record standing at 1025 laps of the 1.9 mile circuit in 1988 by Skid Scarborough and Lionel Abbott if a Ford Sierra. The trophy resides in the archives in storage at Snetterton Circuit.