Arguably, the place always lived somewhat in the shadow of its more illustrious brothers in the MCD conglomerate, then run by John Webb, whose focus was more firmly on Brands Hatch and Oulton Park. Although I first visited Snetterton in 1977, back in the sixties, Formula One races were held at Snetterton. While Brands had its Race of Champions, and Oulton its Gold Cup, Snetterton didn’t really have a talisman event. But it did have the Norwich Straight in those days, and at 2.7 miles long, represented as much of a high-speed challenge as Silverstone.
In the mid-eighties, however, after ‘Motorsport Norm’ had retired, I found at Snetterton a real family. Regardless of the organising club, the circuit staff always seemed to be the same, and I was welcomed by one and all.
Over the years, various proposals have been raised for Snetterton, various track re-vamps have been considered, as have suggestions to build a housing estate on the site. Each time, the proposals came to nothing, and although small changes have taken place (including the emasculation, probably correctly, on safety grounds of the Russell chicane and a rebuilt pit complex), Snetterton remained fundamentally the same.
So the news that work is underway (and the photographic evidence) is just great. And with Jonathan Palmer at the helm, one can realistically expect a successful project. It has to be said that Palmer and his MotorSport Vision organisation has done a great job for British motorsport. Wouldn’t the Autosport International exhibition be a good place to recognise his achievements?
A few highlights of memories from Snetterton:
- Willhire 24 hour races in the late eighties and into the early nineties, including the longest race on which I have ever commentated, the Willhire 25 hours in 1989, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the event sponsor.
- A ride on a microlight, commentating into a tape recorder during qualifying for the Willhire in 1987.
- Commentating live from a helicopter during the opening laps of the 1988 Willhire.
- Allan McNish’s debut in 1987 (on the subject of whom, I am supposed to be seeing him at an informal Audi dinner this evening, so stand by for news of that).
- Hitching a ride back to Biggin Hill in MCD’s twin engined Cessna - taking off along the Revett Straight at the end of the race meeting.
- Chatting with Ronald Leigh Hunt (the actor who played David Townsend - John Wyer’s persona – in the ‘Le Mans’ film) about Steve McQueen, who had died a few years previously.
- Staying in various well-meaning but mostly dreadful guest houses in Thetford and Attleborough
With suitable encouragement, I might even expand on some of these, but my day job is calling right now!