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BRDC 75th anniversary


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#1 Doug Nye

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 10:50

Apropos not very much, I just thought I'd mark the fact that the British Racing Drivers' Club's notional foundation date was March 12, 1928 - 75 years ago yesterday. The modern Club is having a bash to celebrate this evening, in the RAC Club in London.

Here's a little background and perspective:

"Is it one of the most exclusive of clubs, a band of heroes, guardians of Britain’s most consistently successful international sport, or an outmoded flock of flannelled fools, blazered buffoons? Each phrase has been applied in recent years to the select British Racing Drivers’ Club, owners of Silverstone circuit and erstwhile organisers there of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix. Less well publicised – considered less newsworthy - has been the BRDC’s age-old role as benevolent subsidisers of much of British club racing – the productive schoolroom leagues in which so many young drivers, designers, engineers and mechanics learn their craft.

March 12 marked the BRDC’s 75th anniversary. The organisation began as a uniquely British combination of upper-crusty gentleman’s dinner club and racing driver’s trade union. Its earliest beginnings are rooted in the ‘Bentley Boys’ mystique of 1920s London cafe-society, the babble of like-minded bonhomie and “I say ‘Babe’ old boy, that’s a damned fine claret…”.

Playing counterpoint to the glamour of such amateur Le Mans 24-Hour race winners as Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and multi-millionaire Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato, were their sometime co-pilots, professional gentleman journalist S.C.H. ‘Sammy’ Davis and Harley Street bacteriologist Dr J.D. Benjafield.

This latter pair – the high-living ‘Bentley Boys’ who always had to work hard to afford to play so hard – stood centre-stage in the Club’s creation. Davis explained the BRDC’s genesis with the wonderfully Britannic line “…an intelligent foreigner once remarked that if three people of three nations, one British, were wrecked on a desert island the first thing would be that the Briton would form a club”. Such inevitability was made fact by ‘Benjy’ Benjafield’s regular London dinner parties for his fellow drivers. Davis recalled “discussions arose as to how the dinners could continue without our host bearing the whole financial burden – out of which came the idea for a club”.

This proposed gin-and-giggle group gained backbone from A.V. Ebblewhite, chief timekeeper at Brooklands – then the UK’s only circuit racing venue for cars. He also proposed a racers’ club, though, as Davis somewhat sniffily observed, with “…a little of the trade union about it…”.

On March 12, 1928, a core committee of eight motor racing prominenten met to create the British Racing Drivers Club, headed by Benjafield and Davis, and on April 23 at 29 Park Crescent Mews, London, the infant BRDC began to function. A proper sense of priorities saw its activities begin by “organising a series of monthly dinners, at Pagani’s. The purpose was to promote the interests of motor sport and encourage all those interested therein, to promote social events celebrating special performances on track, to entertain visiting drivers from overseas and to further the interests of British drivers competing abroad…”

At the Club’s first AGM in December 1929 owner/driver Viscount Curzon – Earl Howe – became President, and remained so until his death, in 1964. For 1930 the BRDC first organised a race of its own, the ‘500’ at Brooklands. Plucking a figure from the air they set the prize fund at £2,800. Some wise-head on the committee added the caveat “subject to it being obtained” – which it was not… Corporate committee wisdom has guided the Club ever since. Further international races would be conceived and developed, some of which would enjoy long lives, and great stature.

The BRDC Gold Star competition was instituted to reward the most successful British racing driver of the year, and Gold Star recipients – including six racing Knights, Sir Henry Segrave, Malcolm Campbell, Henry Birkin, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart - regarded these handsome trophies amongst their most precious...."

Etc etc etc...

"Postwar, the BRDC fought a frontline role to revive British motor racing, first on the Isle of Man in 1947, before taking on Silverstone from 1949. The circuit and the BRDC became synonymous, the Club leasing the 850-acre Silverstone estate before buying its freehold in 1971. The Club’s stewardship of the British Grand Prix there into the 1990s became increasingly controversial, as the race itself became a football fiercely contested.

By definition, successful racing drivers are hyper-competitive. Many come from or develop motor trading ties. Amongst the select BRDC membership of just over 800 the reaction of hyper-competitive motor trading sportsmen to being beaten by another member to a potentially profitable idea has proved an often combustible mix. In the 1990s a seismic disturbance within the Club focused upon a proposal by entrepreneurial Scots former driver turned team principal Tom Walkinshaw to capitalise upon the Silverstone name by involving the Club heavily in a chain of his dealerships. Led by former Lotus Formula 1 star Innes Ireland and the ever-combative Ken Tyrrell the reaction was a heady mixture of tacit “if only I’d thought of that first” and vocal “I’d never vote for that b----- since he crowded me into the pit wall here in 1974…”. In any Club old scores sometimes die hard. In a motor racing club old scores often involve nightmarish flashbacks of old scares…

L’Affair Walkinshaw having been resolved - his proposals rebuffed – the BRDC resumed business as usual, with a revised board, and ever more active business involvements, a world away from its dinner-club roots.

Then Bernie Ecclestone raised Formula 1’s previously affordable price for the BRDC to keep the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Completely unable to meet Mr E’s price-tag, the Club saw him strike an alternative deal, ultimately with Octagon Motorsport to run the race at Brands Hatch, plans negated by the Kentish course’s non-compliance with current requirements. Octagon then struck a last-minute race-saving deal with the BRDC to lease Silverstone, an arrangement whose full effects are yet to become apparent – though very much to the Club’s short-term financial advantage, Octagon’s future is itself now in question.

But within British motor racing the BRDC as an institution retains immense charisma. Denis Jenkinson, who in 1955 navigated Stirling Moss to victory in the 1,000-mile Mille Miglia round-Italy road race, perhaps put it best when he wrote: “There is no way you can buy an entry into the BRDC, you have to earn your membership, and even then you have to be invited to join, which makes membership something really special in the realms of motor racing…”. From the oldest member, Tom Delaney at 92 to the youngest, Formula 3 star Gary Paffett at 22, that special buzz still survives. Because, as Jenks wrote: “No greater accolade exists in British motor racing”, or – as current President Sir Jackie Stewart recalls “The day Helen sewed my bright new BRDC badge on to my racing overalls was one of the proudest days of my life…” – which, like the club itself, surely involves strong competition…"

DCN

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#2 Roger Clark

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 22:15

Happy birthday to the BRDC. Their role in the development of motor racing should never be under-estimated.

Doug mentioned the BRDC's role in subsidising British club racing. They seem to be one of the few organisations who recognise that Formula 1 should be the peak of the pyramid and not something that stands independent of everything else. Let us hope that attitude can somehow survive the Octogan era.

#3 Gary C

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 23:07

hear, hear! I'm just hoping they will be able to do something now that it looks like Octagon are going to unload there assets. If only I had enough money to buy Brands.............

#4 Barry Boor

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 23:22

If only I had enough money to buy Brands.............


But Gary, surely, you HAVE ?

#5 Gary C

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 01:03

well actually, Barry, it won't be long................

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 09:24

Interesting, actually, Martin Brundle chaired the dinner last night and prefaced his introductory speech by saying "Apologies have been received from Mr Bernard Charles... - well deserved...!".

Gary Paffett, youngest BRDC member, made an impromptu little speech of thanks describing how for the past three years his annual racing budget had been topped up by a Club donation which made a big difference for him between being able to run competitive equipment and standard cannon-fodder. This often maligned organisation really is one of the very few in motor sport which puts something back in.

And Paddy Hopkirk told a lovely story about being at a party at Jimmy Clark's farm at Duns in the Scottish borders at which there was a marked shortage of crumpet. Jimmy issued Paddy with the keys to a disreputable old white farm van and despatched him into town where there was a nurses' home attached to the local hospital. Paddy duly collected a bevy of pulchritude there and delivered them to the party. It was going really well when some stocky Scots youth came up to Paddy and started plucking at his sleeve: "Paddy, you've driven at Oulton Park, haven't you? Tell me, how do you take Old Hall Corner there, do you keep left of the bumps on the way in or...????".

Paddy, engaged with a nurse on each arm, simply turned to the earnest enquirer and told him bluntly to "piss off!".

"...and that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first time I ever spoke to our President, Sir Jackie Stewart".  ;)

DCN

#7 Vitesse2

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 10:05

Thanks Doug - I needed a laugh this morning! :rotfl: :rotfl:

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 10:38

Pulchritude, Doug?

You seem determined to raise the standard of the vocabulary around here...

Most would just say 'buxom wenches,' I'm sure.

#9 fines

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 14:11

Alright, I looked up crumpet :eek:... but what's pulchritude??? :confused:


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Simply get a new President
And all will be forgotten!

#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 14:23

Originally posted by fines
Alright, I looked up crumpet :eek:... but what's pulchritude??? :confused:


Pulchritude (noun) : physical beauty (especially of a woman)

Basically the same meaning as crumpet ...... :lol:

#11 fines

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 15:22

Ta, Richard! :)

Announcer: That, ladies and gentlemen, was "Learning English the TNF way", part 253. Welcome back, pupils, tomorrow for part 254, when we will learn what Australians refer to when they speak of "buxom wenches"...


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U have one more chance to save face
Simply get a new President
And all will be forgotten!

#12 Doug Nye

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 15:39

Glad I'm doing my bit to elevate the tone around here... in between the slang, jargon, abuse, profanity, and generally rough-house sailor fun... :smoking:

DCN

#13 david_martin

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 16:20

Originally posted by fines
Announcer: That, ladies and gentlemen, was "Learning English the TNF way", part 253. Welcome back, pupils, tomorrow for part 254, when we will learn what Australians refer to when they speak of "buxom wenches"...


Always happy to do my bit to advance the state of the lexicon ;) From the OED, 2nd edition:

Buxom, adj.

4. Full of health, vigour, and good temper; well-favoured, plump and comely, ‘jolly’, comfortable-looking (in person) (Chiefly of women.)


Wench, n.

b. A girl of the rustic or working class.



#14 Darren Galpin

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 16:48

Can also translate as "comely lass".

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 20:33

Originally posted by fines
Ta, Richard! :)

Announcer: That, ladies and gentlemen, was "Learning English the TNF way", part 253. Welcome back, pupils, tomorrow for part 254, when we will learn what Australians refer to when they speak of "buxom wenches"...


Glad you enjoy learning, Michael...

Now repeat after me the Australian version: "gorgeous shielas"

Then maybe you'll learn to what (or whom) Australians refer when they speak of 'good lookin' tarts.

#16 2F-001

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 20:43

In the very modest amount of writing that I've done, I can only recall using ''pulchritude'' once - and it was in regard to, not a woman as such, but a Lotus Elan. I would guess this brands me as something of an anorak...

#17 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 20:48

I learned all my posh English from listening to Leonard Sachs, the MC of "The Good Old Days" TV show.

#18 2F-001

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 20:54

And all the more strange that all his son 'Manuel' ever seemed to say was ''Que?''!

#19 Ron Scoma

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 21:11

David Martin said.....

"Wench, n.
b. A girl of the rustic or working class."


Well, I'm sure glad someone involved with cars works... Sherlock Holmes himself couldn't find gainful employment among car people if his life depended on it....
Cheers,

Ron Scoma

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#20 David Beard

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 21:17

Originally posted by 2F-001
In the very modest amount of writing that I've done, I can only recall using ''pulchritude'' once - and it was in regard to, not a woman as such, but a Lotus Elan. I would guess this brands me as something of an anorak...


"That quality of appearance which pleases the eye; beauty; comeliness; grace; loveliness."

That suggests to me that you consider that the Elan was all about appearance. I always thought that it was a car with the most modest of looks...
It's looks were understated, and if you drove one, it's inner workings were easy to translate. Not at all feminine.

#21 Ray Bell

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Posted 14 March 2003 - 21:30

Originally posted by David Beard
"That quality of appearance which pleases the eye; beauty; comeliness; grace; loveliness."

That suggests to me that you consider that the Elan was all about appearance. I always thought that it was a car with the most modest of looks...
It's looks were understated, and if you drove one, it's inner workings were easy to translate. Not at all feminine.


Depends on which Elan is being written about...

#22 Anorak Man

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 03:37

You lot have been distracted from the esentials by Our Doug's attack of Roget's Spasm, and hot-toasted breakfasts, can we please have the Honourable Anorak's question answered:

Paddy, you've driven at Oulton Park, haven't you? Tell me, how do you take Old Hall Corner there, do you keep left of the bumps on the way in or...????".

And are the bumps still there?

AM

PS. Eh Doug, you failed to mention in your role of honour three time BRDC winner Little Bira.
Was he the only Asian in the BRDC?

#23 Rob29

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 08:42

Originally posted by Anorak Man


PS. Eh Doug, you failed to mention in your role of honour three time BRDC winner Little Bira.
Was he the only Asian in the BRDC?

I wondered about that. AFAIK he was the only non-british comonwealth citizen to be admited. Irish & South Africans seem to have been thrown out when those countries left the comonwealth.