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The class of '89

Whistlin' Jack Smith >> Features >> Class of '89


Twenty years ago hot rod racing was going through an evolution phase, the Toyota Starlet was about to pushed out to make way for newer models. Being small and rear wheel drive the Starlet was an ideal car, the front wheel cars couldn’t compete. The rules were re-written to allow for front wheel drive cars to be converted, this happened back in 1986 yet it took many years for the Starlet to lose its crown. 1989 was the year that Norman Woolsey’s iconic Royal Mail Peugeot 205 took the world by storm.

Frank Love's RetroStox

Looking back to time what happened to the class of ’89.

The star of that year was 950 Norman Woolsey taking his second world championship. Looking through the grid for the world final it was a quality line-up with six previous winners starting the race and another 5 drivers who went onto win the world championship. Other formulas at the Spedeweekend also included past and future champions. During the next 20 years all the winners barring three were racing at the 1989 Spedeweekend.

1 Stewart Morton

This Scottish driver raced in the English series. In 1988 he was the quickest in the lap times but that wouldn’t put him on pole. This year was the last year he raced. Finished 3rd in the 1989 British championship.

4 Neil Facey

Neil had been slowly moving out of the shadow of his brother Colin and becoming a star of the class. 1988 was a successful year for him winning the English and NHRPA championships. 1989 was a good year finishing second in the World Championship and taking the National title but he switched he efforts to Thundersaloons. Over the last year there has been lots of rumours regarding his return to the class.

6 Steven Dance

Raced in the Super Rods throughout the 80’s with lots of success winning the English in 1986. 1989 was his best year in the Nationals, he ran well in the World Final and finished 6th. Taking a break from racing he returned with the Eurocars in 1995, that became VSR. Then stepping up to Pick-up series in 2002 and won the championship in 2007 racing under number 16.

07 Mark Jones

One of the talking points of the World Championship was Jones’s removal during the race that also claimed Polley. Jones was running third at the time. Returning in 1990 (racing as 332) with the first ever SHP Peugeot 205 that was destroyed before getting another one. This second was very quick but unreliable. He put the car on pole for the 1991 but ended the race on the infield. Mark raced up to 1993, but returned towards the start of this century creeping onto the back of the grid of the 2004 World Final.

8 Paul Grimer

Definitely one of the best drivers to never win the World Championship but by 1989 his career was heading towards the end, he only raced in one more world final.

19 Mick Collard

Racing his Mazda he wasn’t setting the World alight and only had a third in the English during 1989 but it was the next year that he got people talking. The set-up of the qualifying put the top 16 through with the next 20 drivers racing in semi-finals. Collard arrived with a brand new 205 that got him into the race via the last place (21 English drivers that year). The wet race had a drawn grid and Collard pulled out number four, after a few laps he lead the race but retired. Collard kept in the Nationals for a few years before retiring but came back in the 2 Litre Hot Rods in 1997 winning the 1998 Winternationals title.

31 Dick Hillard

Dick qualified for his first World Final in 1989 in a Fiesta but that never made the start. Going back to a Mazda he finished second in the NHRPA at the end of 1989. Previously he had raced in Super Rods and Stock Cars. Dick famously raced the ‘magic roundabout’ Fiesta because he spun so much. Once armed with a SHP 205 he became a serious contender and finished 2nd in the 1993 World Final. Dick retired from Nationals in 1996 but returned for the 2002 World and raced since.

63 Phil White

One of the top drivers of the era, he rose to the top scooping the World in the epic wet race of 1988. That year he also won the National title as well as the Super Rods World Title in his first race in the class. The 1989 race he was one of the favourites along with Polley, their rivalry had been gradually building. White made a charge through the race making it up to second place over the line, but was docked places for putting Mark Jones in the wall.

The following years he fell away a bit and switched to a Vauxhall Nova. Maybe it was mind games but the Nova was always deemed difficult to drive, yet he won the 1992 World in it with either Hunn or Woolsey glued to his rear bumper, plus the National title. That car went to Colin Reed as White got a 205, spinning in the ’93 world he threw away his chance to win it yet recovered for third. The controversial ’94 race White led for most of it but had mechanical difficulties causing the chasing pack to close and then spin him out of the race. White like many at the time joined the Eurocars vowing to race in both classes but the 205 was sold to Ian McKellar. White moved into Pick-ups and raced there since finishing third overall in 2003 and 2005.

66 Colin Hall

Not exactly a star in the star during 1989 he found his feet when racing a 205, this was quick and qualified second for the 1991 race. He had a go at leading before finishing back in fifth. Colin raced in Nationals up to 1994 making a one-off return in a Mark Jones 206.

88 Peter Grimer

Like brother Paul, Peter was coming to the end of his National career, the 1989 race ended in the back of George Polley’s car. 1990 was his last World Final racing a Ford Fiesta he came home third.

95 Andrew Dance

Another driver who left the class for the long circuits, Andrew never won anything of real importance in the class but was quick putting himself on the front row for the 1983 World Final. Andrew recently returned to racing in the Pick-up class.

134 Nigel Smith

8th place in 1989 World Final wasn’t anything that impressive but his car was the talking point of the year. The ‘holey’ Starlet was the first attempt at a spaceframe hot rod attaching front and rear chassis parts together. This car paved the way for the following 205 and Fiesta or the 1990’s. Nigel now fabricates Stock Cars.

303 Jeff Simpson

During the mid 80’s Jeff had been a successful Stock Rodder winning the World Title, he stepped up to the new 1600 Hot Rods in 1986, that car eventually being converted to his first National Hot Rod. Although a top runner in the class it took until 1990 for him to win his first major. In the class Jeff won the National, European, English and BP titles. Jeff brought a lot to Nationals racing the first Autocross Fiesta and racing the experimental Vauxhall 16 valve engine that actually won the 1994 British though the records will never show that. After two third places in the World the launch of his Fiesta made Simpson the favourite for the 1994 World. As White slowed from the lead the pack latched onto his rear, White spun out with 16 laps left and Simpson was deemed responsible and disqualified. Simpson’s was definitely the car pushing White but there was more force being exerted from behind.

White moved into Eurocars and slipped away from the short oval scene. Then in 1999 Simpson returned to qualify for the 2000 World, he need and finished second behind White. Their rivalry intensified and the subsequent ramming put both on the sideways, Simpson then had to stop racing with a back injury.

In 2008 Simpson made another return to the class racing son Matt’s spare car at Mallory finishing second. Since then he has made several appearances and has a chance of qualifying for the 2009 World.

George Polley 306 George Polley

‘The driver’ was a real crowd favourite 13 years on from his first title. 1989 he entered the race as a favourite but in the qualifying heats on the Saturday he crashed heavily. That wrote off his car and almost George, who discharged himself from hospital to find his mechanics had built up a new car overnight. From mid-grid Polley was gradually moving up but slamming into the side of Mark Jones after his altercation with White. Polley only made one more appearance in the World the following year. That wet race saw Davy McCall win when starting next to Polley, Polley spun out and crawled home to tenth place.

Surgery stopped him from racing but returned in 1995 in the Stock Rods winning the Southern and Long Track titles. He showed his liking for the longer tracks by winning the 2000 Lightning Rod Long Track Championship. His last appearance was in a one-off meeting last August in the Lightning Rods finishing 7th in the final.

Although not always racing George has kept in touch with the oval world with his company Polleysport, his children have gone onto race, David now racing successfully in Brisca F2’s.

413 Roger Peck

Moving up from domestic hot rods at Swaffham Roger got his hands on the ex-Barry Lee Starlet and made his first appearance in the World Final during 1989. People knew this guy was something special and his drive in the ’90 NHRPA to second place signalled his intentions. Qualifying mid-grid in the ’91 World Peck made a great charge around the outside to claim a famous victory. At the time he was the youngest ever winner and had eyes set on bigger things. He moved onto the circuits but never had the budget to get further.

Peck was back to the Nationals in 1997, the following year he finished 4th in the World and won the British Championship (the only title Colin White didn’t win that year). He got rid of his 205 for a HCD Fiesta, that proved pretty disastrous and Roger sold-up.

639 Ricky Hunn

Learning his craft in the Anglia and Group A Hot Rods once Ricky moved into National Hot Rods he was quick. It took until 1992 for Ricky to become a star in the class when he got a 205. Super-quick in the hot laps he was on pole for the 1992 World but retired from second, the following year he retired whilst leading. He made up for that by winning the National title in ’93. Entering the ’94 World he wasn’t a favourite as previous years and had a poor lap time. After some stoppages Hunn was still up with the leaders, as White slowed Hunn put himself on the outside and swept past everyone as they smashed into each other. Hunn held from Steve Skitmore for the win. He finished fourth the following year and also led a bit of the ’96 World.

Work commitments kept him away from racing before returning in 1999 with one of his old 205’s that Gavin Seagar had raced. In 2003 he raced a 206 but it was the Corsa the following year that won him the 2004-05 English points title. Then he qualified on the front row for the World Final, but that race ended embedded into Tom Casey. Hunn was soon banned and hardly raced since. A new car for Hunn should hit the track soon.

675 John Steward

In this world final John raced under this PRI number but changed to his old banger number of 175 the following year. Like Hunn was a crowd favourite for his outside moves and the fact he should have won the world before he did. In 1995 hot-shot new-boy McKellar snatched the title from Steward with a few laps left to run. Steward got his revenge on McKellar by winning the National title ahead of him, the first of four he was to win. The 1998 race Steward was punted out by Woolsey leaving his car perched upon Woolsey’s and injured, Steward fought back but after finishing second to White was disqualified for a technical infringement. For the 2001 World Steward judged the traffic perfectly to pass Casey to collect the World title.

Steward didn’t finish the race the following year and had his sights on something new. As a big NASCAR fan he raced in the UK version, unlike previous attempts like Eurocars these were imported from the US and raced only at Rockingham super speedway. This series has slowed imploded. Steward’s last hot rod race was in Hunn’s 206 at a National Championship, his son Nigel also raced recently in the Nationals. Rumours are always rife that John will return.

701 Phil Morgan

Son of Spence, Phil made the unusual switch from non-contact to contact. Under-rated in Nationals he did win the 1988 British title at Newton Abbot. In Saloon Stock Cars he won the ’99 and ’01 World titles, he has won all the major titles in the class a true legend.

718 Colin White

In his first attempt in the formula Colin was gradually getting among the stars. In 1989 he was 3rd in the World, 5th in the National and NHRPA and won the Best in Britain. He raced in the 1990 world before racing domestically. When the Vauxhall engine was legalised White returned in an Autocross Fiesta. In 1997 White took the British Championship at Ipswich and then World title the following year. Later on that year White put together a Corrado (which Volker Timm had been racing) for a trip to South Africa, but it ended up flying on the British tracks. Colin White dominated the scene winning 3 back to back World titles and all the other major titles.

Colin White felt though he wasn’t being treated well by the promoters, he was banned for clashing with White and then as World Champion given a year ban for bringing the sport into disrepute.

He made a few Outlaw appearances plus helped Malcolm Clein and James Jamieson Jnr but his real interest was in the Days of Thunder series. Although he hasn’t qualified for a world final since he is one of the quickest out there, if he raced every meeting he would be in a world final, though he isn’t a dominant as he was back from 1998-00.

730 Steve Hall

Made it into the race from a lucky drive in the Wisbech semi-finals. Didn’t race again after that.

734 Ralph Sanders

Although not always racing a National Hot Rod Ralph has been racing Hot Rods. His best year in the class was 1986 winning the English championship and finishing 8th in the World Final. Through the 90’s most of his racing was at the south west Autospeed tracks but did qualify for the 1993 World. Made a full return to Nationals and raced in the last three world finals.

800 Jock Burgoyne

Jock had two stabs at National Hot Rods, this was his first one but he was soon racing Stock Rods as the formula disappeared in Scotland. In Stock Rods he won the Scottish title 3 times, the National title in ’96 and placed 2nd in the ’96 World.

He switched to the domestic class winning the World Cup in 1998, with no Nationals in Scotland he made the decision to run in the English series. With a Vauxhall Corsa he had one of the biggest crashes ever during the 1999 National Championship but built another car. In 2001 he had the best Scottish finish with a third place.

863 Paul Wightman

Coming from karting Paul was another driver with plenty of potential but as the racing in Scotland ended so did Paul’s career. He raced the weird dwarf cars before returning recently with the unusual motor bike powered Ford Ka.

885 Ian Marr

This was Ian’s only appearance in the World Final.

Norman Woolsey 950 Norman Woolsey

Brought the World title back to Northern Ireland claiming his second world title. The grandfather of hot rod racing wasn’t done; he won another world title in 1993 as the formula came close to dying in Northern Ireland. Woolsey kept it alive and raced his car in other countries, gradually drivers came back and the class flourishes there. Norman Woolsey’s last appearance at the World Final was in 2001 racing a Peugeot 206 that began life as a Fiesta.

Norman now makes occasional appearances in the Classic Hot Rods owning the ex-Barry Lee Escort mk1 and ex-Gordon Bland mk2.

962 Ormond Christie

In 1989 Christie was already in the history books for winning the World title three times with the Toyota Starlet (he had also another 5 top 10 finishes), but he wasn’t done with that. In 1990 he won the British Championship at Arena Essex, this time the Starlet didn’t have Ford power but a Vauxhall 8 valve, the first success for such engine. Ormond became very ill and stepped away from the circuits.

As the Northern Irish scene came back from death’s door Ormond built a car and was given a place in the World Final. Not expected to feature in the results Ormond pressured Andy Steward throughout the race trying to squeeze past on the inside but blasted around on the outside to nip ahead for the win, this wasn’t no fluke as he romped home the next year. As five times champion he broke Barry Lee’s record but still went for one more. The 1998 he received a black cross while leading but as the race was restarted he pulled off with a puncture.

That wasn’t the end of Ormond but was his last big race, now son John carries the legendary name.

994 Keith Martin

1989 was Keith’s third World championship in the Nationals and the following year he had a great chance of winning but took second place to the relatively unknown Davy McCall. 12 years on that result was copied.

In between that time Keith hadn’t stopped racing but stepped down to the 1600 Hot Rods winning the World title in 1996 and the British for three years in a row. His return to National Hot Rods in a Renault Clio happened in 1997 with a win the European Championship but could never get the performance in the World. It took until 2005 for him to win the title with Malcolm Blackman trying to pounce on any mistake.

Roger Peck and Steve Hall were the two drivers that prospered from the semi-finals but who were the drivers that lost out?

302 Andy Harris

The big man of hot rods had some good days and some bad ones. The only title he won of note was the BP championship in 1988. Harris continued in the Nationals up until 1991. He then stepped down to the 1600 class finishing second in the World Final in ’92 and ’95 (both at Wimbledon). Although competitive the only title he got his hands on was the National title in 1995. He stopped racing with Spedeworth around 1996 but returned around 1999 for a few meetings.

498 Nigel Murphy

A successful driver in the class during the 80’s taking third in the 1981 World Final. By 1990 Murphy was racing the 1600 Hot Rods after being priced out of Nationals. He raced them for a few years before supporting son Kieran in motorbikes. Kieran now races a 2 Litre Hot Rod.

The support programme was littered with other quality drivers

7 John Carding

Back in 1987 John finished 9th in the World Final but the Midlander was moving to another class. Winning three Lightning Rod National championships on the trot he never had the chance to win the World as it never existed. John came back to Nationals and won the ’94 English title at Birmingham. John passed away October 2007.

247 Mick Cannon

During this era Mick was one of the few to race an Escort mk4, it took him to the top of the points at one point but he never got that car to a World Final.

271 Trevor Stimson

Only made one World final appearance and that was the following year as a yellow grader, tied on points with Collard for that last place. His last appearance has been in son Neil’s spare car.

286 Steve Burgess

Had qualified previously and in 1990 won the points title and luckily drew grid one but didn’t feature in the wet race. The 1991 race he led before Peck burst past and took 4th place his finish.

Burgess slipped away from the National scene to Peterborough. He returned in 1998 with a Steve Wills built Fiesta that took him to third in the English championship. With a new Wills 206 he won the first and only ever Outlaw World in 2003. Steve now races occasionally in the Nationals.

305 Deane Wood

Wood raced in Nationals 20 years ago, since then there hasn’t been made classes he hasn’t raced. Came back in 2005 but promoting Spedeworth has taken priority.

362 Nick Barrett

One of the few drivers who kept with a steel bodied car whilst everyone else had Kevlar and glass-fibre panels. Kept with the class until 1992, son Carl races in Stock Rods.

412 Mark Peck

Never as successful as brother Roger. In 1990 moved into the 1600 class. Had a long lay-off from the ovals but returned with a Nova in 2004. Still looking after that car for Diggy Smith and Malcolm Blackman.

471 Steve Skitmore

Although not in the 1989 event he was to feature in many more worlds. Two second places and third in the big event, many points titles, European and English titles also appeared in the 1990’s. Skitty raced up to 2003 in the Nationals.

685 Mike Beeston

Moving to PRI from Ringwood Beeston had the World winning Starlet of Phil White and kept the same chequered pattern but in red. Won the Supreme championship at Arena Essex and raced up to 1990, his car raced in the World with South African Johan Cronje. Beeston raced on the long circuits once the Eurocars became an established formula.

691 Steve Dudman

Licensed at PRI used this number but last raced with the number 3 (also raced as 204). His best time in the class was the mid-90’s with an Autocross Fiesta, before dabbling with a Peugeot 205 and 206. Featured on Top Gear when the ’95 National Championship was a feature.

The 1600 World had a interesting grid containing Chas Farrer, Alan Dent, Keith Rumary, Colin Gomm, Dave Longhurst, Barry Lee and Micky Codling. Elsewhere at the Spedeweekend Alistair and Andrew Steward raced Bangers, they became very successful in Stock Rods but known as Tick and Andy. In the Saloon Stock Cars Malcolm Blackman raced.

The Class of '89 by Webmaster Paul Ballard (2009)


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Photos: 1990 NHRPA Championship

Former Hot Rod driver profiles

205 History


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