Early Drag Racing in UK

This post brings together some early scrapbook material about my involvement and that of my brother Jon with the early development of drag racing in the UK. I was prompted to bring this material together and scan some early press articles on our activities after an enquiry from Jeremy Cookson who runs a web site documenting early drag racing strips in the UK, and he was asking abot Riccall Airfield in North Yorkshire. This was the location of a number of eighth mile sprint and drag racing events run by the British Quarter Mile Association (BQMA).

Jeremy Cookson
Raceway Promotions & Club Liaison
Shakespeare County Raceway @ Long Marston Airfield

I run a Facebook page entitled UK Drag & Sprint Strips That Time Forgot. This is where we document as much as we can about long forgotten airstrips and motor racing circuits other than the established ones like Santa Pod. Recently we have added a profile about Riccall Airfield, Yorkshire where we are trying to piece together event and date information from the days when the certainly forgotten about British Quarter Mile Association ran a few eighth mile events in the late sixties (1969 I think). So, this is when I performed the usual search on Google and came across your blog page and references made to Riccall. In your time I note that you used to be the flag starter as well as Competition Secretary for the BQMA, and I was wondering if you could give me some additional information about these events that we could include in the profile. As you will see from the FB link we have uncovered 3 photos, the club logo and that’s about it. Since I have discovered that the club had its own newsletter called Acceleration. Dave Hoy and Chris Tilney I believe contributed to this publication with cartoons and artwork. Chris in fact is one of our Group Members who used to help out running events for the Newcastle & District Timing Association and Millfield and Tughall Airfields before moving to Felton as the North East Hot Rod Association.


My reply tried to give some information about BQMA…

You came across my blog post which included a short bit on BQMA and the eighth mile strip races we did at Riccall.


1965-10-03-BDRA-Dragfest-2-Woodvale-TicketMy other club involvement in the mid 1960s through to the mid 1970s was in Drag Racing clubs. Younger brother Jon won a competition in the Eagle Comic and was awarded 1964 “Drag Festival” tickets. I went with Jon and elder brother Morris to see the second visit of the US Drag Racing Team to the UK in October 1965 and saw them in the Drag Fest at RAF Woodvale Airdrome near Southport in Lancashire when the first 200+ m.p.h. finish from a standing start on a quarter mile run on British soil was done by Buddy Cortines. The participants included Don Garlits and Tony Nancy amongst other famous early US drag racers.


Drag-Racing-UK-Clubs BQMA Logo

I was a member of the National Sprint Association (NSA), British Hot Rod Association (BHRA) and British Drag Racing Association (BDRA). I also was involved as competition secretary and flag starter for the British Quarter Mile Association (BQMA) who ran events at Riccall Airdrome in Yorkshire. On one event at Riccall advertised for us by free (some called them “pirate”) Radio 270 we had thousands of people turn up to see the drag racers. I ran a drag bike in some events, and my brother Morris who raced a go-kart also entered at one stage with that.

My scrap book also contains a copy of two short pieces in The King’s School Pontefract Magazine – “The Pomfretian” from 1964 and 1965, and some local events we ran to promote drag racing in the North of Britain… including a Dragster float in the Knottingley Carnival on 3-Jul-1965 and a social evening on 18-Nov-1965.

In late 1965 and early 1966 brought together drag racers in the North for some social events which led to the formation of the BQMA…

I designed the BQMA logo and still have the original artwork in my sketchbook. A run of stickers/decals and a few chrome bumper badges were produced. One is on the wall in the De Lacy Motor Club House at Brotherton in Yorkshire with various motoring memorabilia. Also here is an image of a BQMA membership card… mine from 1967…

There is a posed BQMA group image of a couple of the dragsters and three drag bikes with their crews at Riccall…

I cannot recall how many races we ran. The races were only open to club members by our RAC competition licence… but one specific event went a bit viral when Radio 270 (as In mentioned above) ran a LOT of mentions of it on the radio.

At that time Jon was in touch with Radio 270 off the Yorkshire coast and even went out to the boat that had the transmitter just at the time we did one event. He had met Mr. Proudfoot, a supermarket chain owner in Yorkshire, who was involved with Radio 270 and got invited out there… which led to the coverage on the station and encouraged a LOT of people to come. I recall over 1,000 turned up, but that is from a vague memory! And to comply with our licence to let them in we had to get them to join the BQMA… So for a year we had a BIG membership! They did get their Gestetner produced newsletters, but it was way more work than we expected. Mike Hobman was the general secretary. He died at a very young age I am sorry to say. Our dad, Charles Tate (a local JP) helped us out a LOT and took charge when the car queues backed up at Ricall. Coordinated with the police to make sure there were no obstructions and helped sign folks in at the gate. Sterling job for which I have continued to have fond memories of a busy but excellent day. We met our licence conditions.

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