TMC racing venues
There are a number of fundamental requirements when selecting a site for grass track car racing. The field must have adequate space, shape and terrain to accommodate the racetrack, pits, public parking and spectator areas. The geology of the ground is a consideration in order to provide a suitable surface for the cars to race on. It is essential there is good access into the field, and once the vehicles are there they are able to move around the site. A water supply is necessary to service the canteen and toilets, and also for soaking the track when there are dusty conditions.
By far the most important and significant requirement is to have a landowner who is agreeable to allow motor sport to take part on his land.
Not too many points to overcome then!!!
Over the years, despite some tense moments, Tongham Motor Club has secured a number of tracks, and as a consequence, run continuously during the period.
Initially in 1972 TMC raced at Gus’s farm (Lodge Farm) in Normandy, but the club soon outgrew the track and there was also a problem with dust blowing across the main road.
We then moved to Clasford Farm in Worplesdon on the Aldershot Road. Not only did we race there, but it became the base for storing our equipment when we competed at other venues. The racetrack was varied every meeting, but owing to the sandy nature of the soil the cars seemed to jump from one hole to the next, causing a lot of accidental contact and resulting body damage.
Tongham Motor Club’s motto was ‘Racing for Charity’ and for that very reason we had several meetings each year at Knowle Lane in Cranleigh. Dust was a real problem here, so we pumped water from an adjacent stream. When this dried we resorted to importing water in ready mixed concrete trucks.
In 1974 we also raced under the North Downs at Box Hill near Dorking.
At the beginning of 1975 we had several meetings at Blackbushe, the circuit situated in a semi-quarry between the airfield and a go kart track. It was a sandy track run anti-clockwise, down a steepish slope and through a narrow gully that was only two cars wide. We raced at six venues that year, remembering an extremely wet meeting at Ockham, the stubble field at Effingham, which sapped the energy from the cars, and the superb track at Bramley, which had access just off the main road.
The next year we again raced at Blackbushe, Bramley and Cranleigh, but we also competed at Clandon where TMC held the Southern Championships. SEGTO was a fairly loose organisation at the time, but this particular meeting instigated a move to a more formal set-up with standardised regulations and an annual championship, and commenced officially in 1978.
The first meeting in 1977 at Church Crookham was a disaster, with cars being completely bogged down to the axles, and eventually had to be abandoned. We fortunately found another site at Liphook where the cars circulated round high voltage electricity poles and a small copse. The racing created a lot of dust over the adjacent properties and it was thought a wise move to seek another venue. This turned out to be Sparwood Farm, Plaistow in West Sussex, where TMC stayed until 1983. We raced in two locations at the farm, the second between trees heavily protected which formed the boundary of the two fields the circuit was situated in. At one time a solid pipeline was constructed from a distant well to supply water to some storage tanks, but unfortunately we extracted too much liquid which the well was unable to replenish.
We were approached by the Sutton Hightonian Club (later Croydon Motor Club), who were suffering from a low turnout of cars, to alternate meetings at each home venue. We had a similar problem and agreed to have combined events, meetings being held at Plaistow and the grassy slopes of Layhams Farm at New Addington.
The farmer at Sparwood Farm decided to lease our field to an adjacent landowner for grazing, which meant a new location was required for the 1984 season.
After much investigation our current venue at Four Marks was discovered, but it was already being used for grass track racing, and also for moto-cross events. Southern Counties Motor Racing Club, which was RAC sponsored, was approached to share racing, but there was disinterest on their part, and they unfortunately fizzled out, leaving the field solely for TMC’s use.
The first year we raced on a track in the area where the pits are currently situated, and the pits and public parking where the track and access road are now. For 1985 the areas were reversed to today’s set-up, as the previous pit area had become a mudbath from the motorcycles practising over the winter. There were huge ruts and a large dungheap where the access road is now, and after a colossal effort and lorry loads of hardcore, and later the surface topped with tarmac planings, the road was improved from the main farm buildings to the revised pit area.
With the necessary support of the owners of Brick Kiln Farm, Tongham Motor Club has made the site into a purpose-built grass track arena with an Armco- protected circuit, containing split level straights cut out from the natural contours of the ground. The spoil from the excavation was used to create the spectator banks, and these have been landscaped and edged with permanent fencing.
When we arrived at Four Marks we just had a large canteen, a small caravan, no heavy equipment, but a lot of lorry and tractor tyres. Things have certainly changed and improved during almost fifty years of TMC’s existence, with the added stability of having now held events at the same venue for over thirty-seven years. Hopefully, we shall be able to race here for years to come, obviating the stress of finding the next location, which by necessity has to answer all those demands mentioned at the beginning of this article, to enable us to continue holding grass track events in the future.
By Colin Rumary