History of the Darlington & District Motor Club
It is very difficult to tie down a date to the actual formation of the club, but a 1905 handbook of the Bishop Auckland and Darlington Motoring Club is in existence. The club also holds Photographs of Motorcycle events from what appears to be around the early 1920's and it is recorded that the club was affiliated to the North-East Automobile Association and the ACU Yorkshire Centre by 1922. But it is not until February 1946 that the current title was adopted, when the club was reformed after the 2nd World War.
The first competitive event was the Roderick Gray Sporting Car Trial at Reeth in July 1946, along with a Treasure Hunt, (open to the public) which attracted around 100 cars. Bear in mind that petrol rationing was still in force, and would be for sometime to come!
By 1950, the club was regularly running Motor Racing at various airfields such as: Croft, Thornaby, Leeming, and Catterick. Other regular events included Hillclimbs at Catterick camp and Sporting Car and Motorcycle Trials. An early Committee member was Captain Arthur Mallock, who created the Clubman's racing car, the Mallock U2.
Of course, certain events have gone down in history! The Grinton Picnic, which was a scatter event on public roads in broad daylight, required the participants to visit the largest number of controls in the shortest time. It was Road Racing in the real sense - on moorland and country roads often with the competitors travelling at high speeds on the same bit of road but in opposite directions! The Scott Trial is known as the toughest one day motorcycle event in the country. The club ran it for many years, although staffing problems in the 80's forced the club to pass on the organisation to Richmond Motorcycle Club who have carried on the tradition of this classic event. DDMC has continued to support Motorcycle Trialling and today still organises a good number of events each year.
When Croft Autodrome opened in 1963, the club was on hand to run a number of events each year. The most notable was the Battle of Britain Race Meeting held each August Bank Holiday. This was the only event in the country to cater for 2, 3, and 4 wheel motorsport! It attracted around 20,000 spectators each year and raised substantial amounts for charity. The variety of cars entered would bring horror to the faces of modern day officials, as the speed differentials could be enormous. DDMC also ran a number 3 or 4 hour Relay Races as fun event for the members of the then numerous Northern motor clubs. However, these races proved their worth - they provided a good training ground for the up and coming rally star Hannu Mikola to learn the art of tarmac driving.
Always innovative, the club became only the second to organise Rallycross, hosting the televised World of Sport series alongside the Martins/Texaco clubman series. This background was to save the club in future years. At this time, club members were competing and marshalling at events all over the world. Our most famous driver was Jimmy Blumer who took part in the Monte Carlo Rally and the Alpine, racing throughout Europe.
In 1981, a real body blow struck the club with the closure of Croft Autodrome. As the club had deliberately kept out of organising rallying so as not to affect other local clubs, it appeared that we would soon lose the membership and income needed to keep the club alive. Our clubhouse went with the circuit.
Fortunately, George Shields (a local farmer) had a good relationship with Bill Chaytor (the new land-owner). They came to an agreement to create a rallycross circuit - the only purpose-built venue for the sport in the country. By April 1982 (less than six months after closing for "the final time") Croft Circuit echoed to the sound of competitive cars. The track started at around a mile long running out to Tower and back down the middle runway but, gradually, a shorter, more spectator friendly, circuit emerged and was to provide exiting motorsport for the next ten years. Apart from hosting it’s own 6 round Clubman Series, ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’ also staged the Internations Cup (twice) and the European Rallycross Championship along with regular visits from the British Rallycross Championship. A number of Club members became high profile competitors both home and abroad including Mark Rennison, Michael Shield and preparation expert, Tony Bardy. Northern competitors continued to dominate British Rallycross up to the mid 90s.
During this time, Whitby and Darlington combined to organise a single venue rally utilising all the roads and tracks around the Aerodrome. A couple of sprints were also held, both setting the scene for years yet to come.
When racing enthusiast Trevor Norris married Kate Chaytor a new page opened for Croft. Now holding the reigns of the Chaytor Trust lands, which owned Croft Autodrome, plans were put in place to reopen the full race circuit. Naturally DDMC immediately started to organise race meetings whilst continuing to run Rallycross events up to and including The British Rallycross Grand Prix.
The club has gone from strength to strength since. Particularly now that Croft Circuit is once more a racing circuit of renown. Whilst Rallycross does not now feature, the club organises the Northern Saloon & Sports car Championship, and is running two race meetings per year. The Jack Frost Stages, currently sponsored by Cartersport, starts our year off in January. The British Sprint Championship was also a part of the Club’s year but costs have overtaken that event. DDMC owns two Rescue Vehicles which cover motorsport events throughout the UK and we also supply the lion’s share of the Officials and Marshals at all the Croft car events.
DDMC is an amateur Club. None of its Officials are paid and yet we feel that we bring a friendly professionalism to the sport. We hope you agree.
Folks with better memories who'd like to add to this story can get in touch using the Contact Us page. Or anyone with an old photograph they would like to see copied onto the page please contact the webmaster.