Croft circuit celebrated their 50th birthday in traditionally elegant style on 23 May, hosting a grand selection of the great and good from racing and television stardom as Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship drivers and celebrity guests joined in the party.
The north-east’s premier motor racing venue turned 50 on Friday (23 May) having begun life back in 1964 as Croft Autodrome, since becoming a firm favourite of British motorsport having hosted top-level series including BTCC, Motorcycle racing, Rally, Rallycross and single-seater championships down the years.
The BTCC first arrived back in 1997, when Alain Menu won both races at a track he will compete at once again in the fifth meeting of an exciting season on 28/29 June. Menu told The Checkered Flag of his memories of Croft, saying: “I enjoyed racing at Croft and I remember the big crowds that use to turn up back in the 90s. I’m looking forward to going back as the turnout is very good in the BTCC once again.”
Many synonymous racing names have competed at Croft circuit down the years, including Formula One World Champions Ayrton Senna, James Hunt, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Alan Jones and Sir Stirling Moss, as well as Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti.
Current BTCC drivers Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan were at hand among the names visiting Croft’s for its celebratory day, Speedworks rookie Ingram commenting: “Croft is one of my favourite circuits. I’m very much looking forward to tackling the track in a BTCC car for the first time here next month.
“Croft is always one of the events you look forward to because it’s a fantastic atmosphere – it’s extremely busy and everyone is just so friendly, which sums up the personality of the place.
WIX Racing Mercedes A-Class driver Morgan echoed the opinion shared by many drivers, saying: “It’s really fast and on-the-edge – you have to be so precise and any slight mistake will be punished, as I found out myself last year in touring cars! The fans turn out in their droves and it’s great because they can get into the paddock, meet all the drivers and get up close to the action. Whenever we come here there are thousands of fans, and that’s great for everyone.”
Former Ginetta Junior, GT Supercup and one-time Porsche Carrera Cup GB guest car driver Max Coates was on hand to visit the North Yorkshire venue, leaping behind the wheel of a Hillman Imp and an ex-Lotus Formula Ford machine.
Television stars also flocked to the circuit including TV chef and renowned petrolhead, James Martin, who brought to the party two of his classic Minis and a 1950s Ford Prefect 107E in iconic Alan Mann Racing colours. Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher was also present with his Redline Racing Porsche Type-991 911 GT3 race car, while guest of honour Chris Meek competed in the original meeting back in 1964 and spoiled the audience with stories of Croft through the ages.
Croft circuit manager Mike Cantelo was smitten with the enthusiasm shown for the venue’s celebration, saying: “What a fantastic way to begin Croft’s 50th birthday celebrations! We had a superb turnout of drivers, cars and media and the sight of current BTCC machinery mixing it with historic single-seaters and classic saloons out on the track was an awesome spectacle.
“To have James Martin and Kelvin Fletcher come along for the day and take to the circuit made it extra-special, and the insight from Chris Meek on the early years of Croft and its evolution through the ages was fascinating to hear. From the past to the present, Croft has played an important role in motor racing in this country, and now we are entering the most exciting era yet – the future.”