Ingliston on the up
The SMRC continued to run race meetings at Ingliston. A number of championships were run throughout the 1970s, including single seater classes for Formula Libre and Formula Ford plus Modsports, Sports & GT and the ever popular Special Saloons. Formula Ford had 28 entries in 1975 for example and had to be split into two separate races as only 16 cars could start at Ingliston!
Among the Formula Ford newcomers in 1974 was a certain George Franchitti who retired after a few seasons to concentrate on his eldest son Dario’s karting career. It was just as well he did as Dario Franchitti would go on to win the famous Indianapolis 500 race three times and become a four times winner of the US Indycar Championship.
Ingliston was a tight circuit with buildings close to the track in many places. At the opening meeting of 1975 in April, special saloon racer Doug Niven infamously got on the grass at South Stand in his Boss Escort going on to the back straight when the throttle stuck open. He hit the barrier which launched the car over the top of the public toilets, which thankfully were empty at the time, and Doug emerged with minor injuries from the wreckage! Needless to say, it was decided to move the toilets away from the edge of the circuit after the season ended and no spectators were allowed in the area during racing!
The Club was always part of the Ingliston heritage but in 1975 the Knockhill Circuit opened in Fife having been created by the farmer, Tom Kinnaird, who owned the land and this gave Scotland a second racing circuit. Initially it was used by bikes but gradually cars were attracted as well and motor racing started there in 1975. Initially meetings were run by Lothian Car Club and Scottish Sporting Car Club before SMRC became involved in the early 1980’s and since then the Club has run the majority of car racing at the circuit.
In 1976 the July meeting saw one of the largest crowds ever at Ingliston when 16,500 spectators attended. The SMRC run meeting was visited by the Radio 1 Roadshow and, in addition, DJ Noel Edmunds raced an Opel Commodore in the Production Saloons race although he retired after a collision.
During the 70’s the scene at Ingliston was dominated by the hugely popular Special Saloons which were dominated by the three Ingliston stars of the period, Doug Niven, Bill Dryden and Walter Robertson. Doug’s most successful car was undoubtedly the VW Beetle Super Saloon with the V8 Chevy engine with which he won the 1978 Special Saloon Championship. He was up against Bill Dryden’s Vauxhall Firenza and Walter Robertson in his BMW F2-engined Ford Escort and subsequently the F1-engined DFVW. Cars were becoming more technically advanced and many of the top runners from around the UK headed up to pit their wits against the local specialists and a number of their cars eventually found their way into the hands of the Scots. Stars like Mick Hill, Nick Whiting and Gerry Marshall were regular visitors and the first two sold several of their cars in Scotland.
Another exciting championship of this era was the up to 1000cc saloon class. It provided close exciting racing with drivers such as Ian Forrest, Laurence Jacobsen and John Fyda leading the field for many years.
In 1970 and 1978 Ingliston had a visit from three time world champion, Jackie Stewart who demonstrated the March 701 and Tyrrell 003 F1 cars respectively in front of the large crowds. Also in 1978, John Romanes handed over control of the Scotcircuits Ltd circuit operations to Graham Hamilton and Gordon Dalzell, who continued the good work and ensured that SMRC continued to run all the meetings. One of the highlights of the late 70’s was an appearance by F1 star Eddie Cheever, a friend of Graham Hamilton, who drove a March 772 owned by Ingliston regular Jimmy Jack, and starred in the Libre race.