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Fersfield was site of first motor circuit

Did you know Diss used to have its own motor racing circuit at which crowds of up to 8,000 attended?

While many readers know all about Snetterton and the major motor racing events which happen there, it was Fersfield which led the way for speed fiends in south Norfolk.

Diss Express reader Leigh Trevail is compiling a history of the long-gone race circuit and is seeking help from anyone who remembers attending the four events held at the former wartime airfield, or who has pictures or literature about the four race meetings which were held there more than 50 years ago.

Mr Trevail has dug out much of the details about how racing started at Fersfield and said: "Local men Peter Wren, John Sargenson, Moray Rash and brothers John and Ben Wyatt were all members of the Eastern Counties Motor Club, who met at the Hamlyn House pub in Botesdale, which was owned by Oliver Sear.

"Together they persuaded tenant farmer Roger Groom, of Fersfield, to seek permission from his landlord, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, to allow them to use some of the redundant Second World War runways on his farm."

The club held its first meeting at the new circuit on April 22, 1951 with a timed sprint seeing cars leaving two at a time, followed by six races.

"Although the meeting was not advertised, many locals got to hear about it and turned out to watch," said Mr Trevail, who added:

"This was the first race that the now legendary Archie Scott-Brown competed in."

The second event was on June 17 and, with an estimated crowd of 8,000, was a great success. Cars taking part included pre-war racers such as Bentleys, Frazer-Nash, MG and Bugattis plus Jaguars, Connaughts, Healeys and even a Ferrari.

"It was not the most exciting of circuits," said Mr Trevail, who has spent hours going through old newspapers and reports of the day to discover more about this little-known circuit.

"It was a straight followed by a hairpin bend, another straight to the main runway and back across to the first straight, running clockwise and exactly two miles in length," he said.

But the RAC was not happy with the safety measures at Fersfield and stated improvements had to be made that would cost an estimated 10,000, a considerable amount in 1951.

By then, Mr Sear had his eye on turning the former Snetterton airbase into a circuit, which appeared a much better proposition and, on the October 7, the Eastern Counties Motor Club held its third and final meeting at Fersfield.

Snetterton has since developed into a worldfamous multi-million pound motor racing complex, while Fersfield has become forgotten and no sign of its exciting past remains.

Do you have memories of motor racing at Fersfield or any literature about the events?

Write to Fersfield Racing Memories, Diss Express, Norfolk and Suffolk House, Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4AE or email editorial@dissexpress.co.uk"This was the first race that the now legendary Archie Scott-Brown competed in."

The second event was on June 17 and, with an estimated crowd of 8,000, was a great success. Cars taking part included pre-war racers such as Bentleys, Frazer-Nash, MG and Bugattis plus Jaguars, Connaughts, Healeys and even a Ferrari.

"It was not the most exciting of circuits," said Mr Trevail, who has spent hours going through old newspapers and reports of the day to discover more about this little-known circuit.

"It was a straight followed by a hairpin bend, another straight to the main runway and back across to the first straight, running clockwise and exactly two miles in length," he said.

But the RAC was not happy with the safety measures at Fersfield and stated improvements had to be made that would cost an estimated 10,000, a considerable amount in 1951.

By then, Mr Sear had his eye on turning the former Snetterton airbase into a circuit, which appeared a much better proposition and, on the October 7, the Eastern Counties Motor Club held its third and final meeting at Fersfield.

Snetterton has since developed into a world-famous multi-million pound motor racing complex, while Fersfield has become forgotten and no sign of its exciting past remains.

Do you have memories of motor racing at Fersfield or any literature about the events? Write to Fersfield Racing Memories, Diss Express, Norfolk and Suffolk House, Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4AE or email editorial@dissexpress.co.uk

 
 
 

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