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Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Thursday, 15 July 2010 14:23 UK
Castle Combe racing circuit celebrates 60 years
Castle Combe Circuit
One of the first meetings at Castle Combe in 1950

The Castle Combe racing circuit near Chippenham is celebrating its 60th birthday with a special meeting.

Organisers have billed the event as 'one of their most significant meetings ever'.

"We've got a race from each decade," marketing manager Rodney Gooch told BBC Wiltshire. "We've matched that up with displays on the circuit.

"We'll have cars from various motoring clubs and then a very packed race programme," he said.

Behind closed doors

The track was previously a Second World War airfield before staging its first meeting on 8 July 1950.

The safety system in those days was stakes banged into the ground and rope!
Rodney Gooch

The event, which catered for both bikes and cars, was held behind closed doors in order to see whether Castle Combe could stage future meetings.

"The idea was to try to prove the safety system just in case there was something wrong with the circuit," said Rodney.

"The Bristol Car Club ran the meeting, they had been running down at what is now Bristol International Airport.

"The safety system in those days was stakes banged into the ground and rope!"

In 1950 the drivers at Castle Combe did not wear crash helmets.

"It's just astounding to think of that.

"No protection at all, in today's age it just seems impossible."

The cars competing in 1950 saw the drivers sit in front of the engine.

Castle Combe Circuit
The back of the grid at Castle Combe in 2010

"It's almost motorcycle technology but what's interesting is in the 60s Formula One developed that way so perhaps it was quite a visionary in many ways."

Each driver and rider from the inaugural meeting was given a commemorative cigarette lighter though the name of the venue was spelt incorrectly!

Famous names

Over the years the likes of Stirling Moss, Ayrton Senna, Eddie Irvine, Graham and Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell competed there as they made their way through the motor-racing ranks.

Musicians Chris Rea, Nick Mason and Shane Lynch have also raced at Castle Combe.

Many past drivers still have strong connections to the circuit. Steve Roberts started racing there in the 1970s before going on to compete on a national stage.

Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss competed at Castle Combe in his heyday

Since 1987 he has run Merlin Motorsport at the track, supplying parts and equipment to drivers on race and track days.

"I raced here for three or four years. It was an interesting place to race," he said.

"The GT championship was good fun, we won that two years.

"If you're an aspiring driver you've got to visit here."

Volunteers essential

Husband and wife motor-sport fans Adrian and Nicky Fawdington moved to the area in 1980 and immediately looked to get involved with Castle Combe.

Adrian is currently the Clerk of the Course whilst Nicky is Chief Steward.

They are volunteers and on a race-day manage more than 200 marshalls, also volunteers, around the track.

"I'm always at the track by 6:30am and ready to start by 8.00am," he explained. "We don't finish until 7.30 at night.

"It's a long day, but a great day. We wouldn't still be doing it after 30 years if we didn't enjoy it!

"Work brought me to the south-west, so why not live next to what I enjoy which is motor-racing.

"In that time, what a difference. We're looking at a modern pit wall just like you'd see at Grand Prix circuits. It's such a transformation."

Memory lane

Castle Combe is preparing to welcome back many drivers and their vehicles from the past 60 years and Rodney Gooch is looking forward to it.

"About 18 months ago we started planning and it's fascinating to look through and there's still a lot to be told. We're very proud and looking forward to celebrating.

"It's great getting people's memories, it's been a lot of fun. If we don't get them now it might be too late.

"We've got 20 races packed into the two days and over 400 cars.

"We're hoping for some of the drivers who participated in that first meeting."

The Diamond Anniversary Meeting is taking place Saturday 31, July and Sunday 01, August 2010.

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