Saturday, 18 August 2018

1952 Charterhall International Car Race Meeting

The following blog relates to Ian Hopper’s appearance at the International car race meeting held at Charterhall on the 11th October 1952.

Ian Hopper and his H3 Hopper Special were by now a force to be reckoned with in both National and International hill-climbing events, having won the previous year’s Bo’ness International and winning both the Bo’ness and Rest & Be Thankful International events in 1952. He also competed in his first International car race at Turnberry on the 23rd August 1952, finishing 3rd in his heat but had a DNF in the final.

The Glasgow Daily Record & Newcastle Journal car race meeting at Charterhall was the first International event staged by the Winfield Joint Committee. They had previously run National events at Winfield Aerodrome, some ten miles away from the current venue. Both circuits were ex-RAF fighter aerodromes in the Border region of the country and being easy to visit, attracted large crowds. Charterhall had a very long (3/4mile) and hence fast straight and was known at the time as an ‘engine wrecker’.

Circuit plan

Ian was entered in the Sports Car Class – up to 1500cc. This was a straight 20 lap race and was the first event of the day. His old sparring partner Jimmy Gibbon was also there, along with the ‘up-and-coming’ David Blane from Paisley. David was driving the actual Jowett Jupiter than won its class in the 1951/52 Le Mans 24hour race and also the 1951 Tourist Trophy race. Although the entry was not large, it produced one of the most exciting of the day’s races and had the crowd on their toes from the off.

To quote the 17th October edition of Autosport:-

R.G. Shattock in RGS Atlanta

"The first race, for sports cars of up to 1½ litres, produced a fierce battle between R.G. Shattock (RGS Atlanta), Jim Gibbon (Rover Special) and Ian Hopper (Hopper Special). For lap after lap the trio passed and re-passed, with Gibbon showing the most enterprise at the bends. Hopper fell back, leaving Gibbon and Shattock to fight it out. The last-named green car displayed really excellent road-holding: Gibbon’s rear suspension became progressively softer and his challenge consequently eased off. Jim Lawrence took third place with his Cooper-MG".

So what happened to Ian and the Hopper Special?
At the height of the Shattock/Gibbon/Hopper battle, Ian had set the fastest lap of the event at 1min. 39.5secs – 72.5mph. Sadly he subsequently suffered a big-end problem, slowed and eventually had to retire. However, a most interesting photograph taken by Pelham-Burn & Cox Photographers from Fearnan, shows Ian proceeding in a reverse direction to the race. Quite why he was doing this I guess we will never know, but he was never one to follow convention, does not appear perturbed and the car does not look externally damaged.

Ian Hopper facing the wrong way in H3

Luckily we also have a have a photograph of Ian and the Hopper Special going in the correct race direction that day. Perhaps in the previous shot he was returning to the paddock against the flow of traffic. His front wheels are turned hard to the left and this would be the case if the paddock was indeed his destination. Whatever the scenario it would have been a worrying time for P. Holyoake in is Rover Special.

Ian in normal race direction

What is clear is that the Charterhall International was a great success.
On that Saturday in October a crowd of over 60,000 turned up to see a first-class event, although the anticipated battle between Farina’s Thin Wall Special and the BRM’s of Parnell and Wharton never materialised. Connaught’s achieved an ambition in returning a 1-2-3 victory in the Formula 2 race. Ian Stewart defeated Stirling Moss, both in C-Type Jaguar’s, to round off a great season for Ecurie Ecosse.

Sadly all Ian Hopper took home that day was a dashboard plaque:

It is fair to say that he was capable of winning his event and was unfortunate on the day. But that is the nature of racing; you have to finish too win. He had won on the same circuit previously that year and in his hands the Hopper Special was no slouch.

Hopefully Joe Potts, the designer and manufacturer of the H3 Hopper Special rolling chassis was not too disappointed. What with Ian’s effort in the 1500cc Sports Car Class and the fact that seven of his Bellshill produced JP cars were entered in the Formula 3 event, would surely have bought a smile to his face.

Including himself the drivers were:-              Bill Frew                              JP(Vincent)
                                                                                Joe Potts                             JP
                                                                                Cliff Carter                          JP
                                                                                Johnnie Higham                JP
                                                                                Ian Sutherland                   JP(Vincent)
                                                                                David Blane                        JP
                                                                                C.M. Mauritzen                 JP


So all in all a good turnout for the Bellshill brigade.

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