Oulton Park Gold Cup
The Blaster Bates Trophy
Historic Inter-Marque - 31st August, 2015
The Blaster Bates Trophy
In keeping with the special atmosphere that is generated by the The Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting, FISCAR took the opportunity to acknowledge its special status by introducing a titled race that its members could compete for. Whilst FISCAR retained the old fashioned sense of camaraderie generated by the Historic Inter Marque Team Challenge, it has also now introduced a class structure and, for this meeting, The Blaster Bates Trophy for the outright winner.
Derek Macintosh Bates was born in Crewe in 1923. He served with the RAF during the war flying Halifax bombers and also became a specialist in bomb disposal. After the war he returned to his previous employers, Rolls Royce, only to find that the company, making substantial cutbacks on high wartime production levels in post war austerity Britain, was unable to offer him a suitable position. He decided to set up his own demolition business utilising the skills with explosives that he had acquired during the latter stages of the war. This expertise was greatly in demand particularly in respect of the demolition of the many high stack chimneys that peppered the landscape of the industrial North of England. It was in this capacity that he earned the nickname ‘Blaster’ Bates. One of his many contracts was in blasting out the land for the construction of Oulton Park race track. His impact here was twofold, since not only was it a literal one, but it also led to his naming of what is probably the best known corner on the circuit when during the course of setting charges he startled a courting couple. Thus was born Knickerbrook!
Blaster Bates was one of those larger than life characters and it was backed up by his 6’ 4” stature. Incredibly active, he had many hobbies including motor cycling, shooting, fishing and rugby. He was a gifted raconteur, in demand as an after dinner speaker and on television chat shows and made a number of records in which he recounted his most hilarious explosive exploits. He also undertook a lot of charity fund raising. He died in 2006 from congestive heart failure, following a long battle with diabetes. Today, we remember his involvement in the construction of the magnificent Oulton Park circuit and his naming of its most famous corner.
It is usual when naming a trophy after an individual, as a matter of courtesy, to seek the approval of the family but at the time of writing, FISCAR had so far failed to make successful contact. We sincerely hope however that members of Derek ‘Blaster’ Bates family would approve of this manner of remembering him, and with cars from the decade in which the circuit was constructed.
The entry for this race, whilst of high quality, was frankly disappointing numerically, with just 14 cars, later reduced to 13 when Steve Wright had to withdraw his Porsche 356, following a back injury. Mike Freeman put his Lotus Elite on pole by 1.5 seconds from Jonathan Abecassis in his Austin Healey 100/4 so it appeared, on the face of it, that the Trophy was only going to go one way! The Frogeye Sprite of Allan and Neal Cameron benefitting from the rather damp and slippery track conditions qualified an excellent 3rd, albeit over 4 seconds behind Jonathan, and alongside, qualifying a fine 4th was Tim Stamper, in Richard Bell's Aston Martin DB2/4, despite a badly behaved hub spinner which allowed the nearside front wheel to part company with the car, fortunately without any apparent damage. Geoff Ottley qualified his XK120, 5th, with the Alfa Romeo Guiletta SVZ of Brian Arculus alongside on row 3. Jim Campbell, looking unusually 'cool' in shades, qualified his Austin Healey 100/4 in 7th. It was great to see Glynn Allen out with us in his 2.6 litre Aston Martin DB2 lightweight (are there any others left with the original 2580cc engine?) and, sharing with Darren Roberts, the car qualified 8th. Austin Healey Captain, Nigel Grice, qualified 9th in his 100M. It's always a joy to see Keith Hampson's Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans out with us and Keith qualified 10th alongside Nigel, whilst the 6th row provided a sharp contrast of the 'Little and Large' variety with the Frogeye Sprite of John Tewson dwarfed by the massive presence of the thundering Allard K3 of in Mark Butterworth. Last but not least, and surely destined to go forward during the race was John Waterson in his Lotus Elite, creating an Elite Top and Tail symmetry to the grid.
Sadly we were to lose another car before the start as Tim Stamper ran out of fuel on the way to the startline leaving a gap in row 2, now occupied solely by the diminutive Cameron Frogeye. The little car's excellent qualifying position left it vulnerable on a drying track and it was overhauled on the startline by Geoff Ottley in the XK120 and Brian Arculus inhis Alfa, both making good starts.