Stirling Moss, Brands Hatch, 1960

This photograph was taken back in June, 1960 when the Lords Taverners organised a charity kart race at Brands Hatch.

Stirling Moss emerged as the race winner and he is seen here leading Innes Ireland. It was a high profile event that attracted large crowds with good coverage in the usual motoring magazines and some of Britain’s daily newspapers, too. Earlier that month, the reigning world motor racing champion Jack Brabham had recorded back to back F1 victories at Zandvoort and Spa. Ireland had followed him home at Zandvoort with Bruce McLaren finishing 2nd in Belgium. Both Brabhan and McLaren took part in the Lords Taverners kart race, with Graham Hill another recognisable name. Innes Ireland had made his F1 debut with Colin Chapman’s Lotus team 12 months earlier at Zandvoort.

Yorkshire born, but of Scottish descent, Innes joined Rolls Royce as an engineer before serving as a Lieutenant in the Parachute Regiment. He began racing with an old 3 litre supercharged Bentley belonging to his father. His success in winning the 1957 Brookland Memorial Trophy had placed him on Chapman’s radar and, when Cliff Allison left Lotus for Ferrari, he was offered a contract. Graham Hill transferred over to BRM in 1960 and Innes was promoted to team leader with Alan Stacey as his team-mate. When the Lords Taverners kart race took place, John Surtees had already joined Lotus as an occasional third driver. This would lead, indirectly, to a major row between Chapman and Ireland later that year. Stirling Moss also campaigned a Lotus in F1 events throughout the 1960 season, albeit as part of Rob Walker’s privately run team. He was already well established as a British motor racing icon, having finished as runner up in four consecutive world championships from 1955 onwards. In 1959, he’d claimed 3rd place behind Jack Brabham and Tony Brooks. Moss established a reputation for being able to take any car and knock at least one second off the lap time of its regular driver.

By June, 1960 he was serving as a Director of Keele karts, built by a family friend Mike Keele who lived close to Stirling’s parents in Tring. Later that year Stirling would take a couple of Keele karts over to the Bahamas and compete in the GPKA (Grand Prix Kart Club of America) “world” championships. The Lords Taverners had been formed ten years earlier by a group of cricket loving actors led by Martin Boddey. Their original aim was to raise money for the National Playing Fields Association by organising matches between thespians and professional cricketers. Actor John Mills served as the Taverners’ first President, but by 1960 Prince Philip had taken over this role. In between had come a string of household names such as Jack Hawkins, Sir Laurence Olivier, Tommy Trinder and Sir Ian Jacob. The Brands Hatch kart race was a significant departure from normal practice because, until then, fund raising activities had been confined to cricket matches and social events.

It was Sheila Van Damm who originally came up with the idea of staging a celebrity kart race. Then aged 38, Sheila had taken over ownership of the Windmill Theatre from her father, Vivian, from which source she developed many useful show business contacts. She could also draw upon lots of friendships in the motor racing world established during her days as a top rally driver. Her first competitive outing was in the 1950 MCC Daily Express Rally which she’d entered as a publicity stunt for the Windmill Theatre. Her Sunbeam Talbot bore the legend “Windmill Girl” on its bonnet. This event led to a place in the official Rootes group rally team for 1951. Competing in the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally Sheila shared in a prize for the top team along with fellow Sunbeam Alpine drivers Leslie Johnson and Stirling Moss. She became the 1954 European Ladies Champion and repeated this success a year later. Sheila partnered Peter Harper in the 1956 Mille Miglia driving a Sunbeam Rapier with which they won their class at an average speed of almost 70 mph.

She entered this race again in 1957 but retired after crashing through a shop window. This proved to be her last international event as a driver. Specially adapted Trokarts powered by Villiers 9E4 engines were used for the charity race, all supplied free of charge by the manufacturers, Trojan. This Croydon based Company had begun life in 1904 when Leslie Hounsfield set up an engineering concern known as Polygon Ltd. Eight years later, he produced his first car and changed the firm’s name to Trojan Ltd. 11,000 saloon cars and 6,700 vans were produced, all using four cylinder two stroke engines that claimed to have just seven moving parts.

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Amongst Trojan’s more famous van customers were Oxo, Cow & Gate, Duckhams Oil, Brooke Bond Tea and the Post Office. In the mid fifties Hounsfield’s controlling interest was bought out by Lambretta who used Trojan’s extensive premises for assembling their scooters. A 30 year old motor racing enthusiast Peter Agg took over the Company in 1959, but he retained a licence to build Lambretta scooters. That year Peter also decided to buy the Clinton engine concern in America. Whilst over there to conclude the deal, he visited his first kart racing event and became instantly smitten. Peter arranged for a shipment of Simplex karts, all powered by 95cc Clinton motors. Rebadged as Trokarts they made their first appearance during a demonstration event at Silverstone in August, 1959.

Within less than a month, the Company began its first production run at Croydon and claimed to have turned out 500 karts. Well known Trokart customers included Prince Charles, King Hussein, Max Bygraves and our very own Paul Fletcher. Peter and his team worked tirelessly to promote karting and the Brands Hatch race was just one of many high profile events that they became involved in. However, within 18 months of this race taking place production of Trokarts had ceased altogether. Instead, the Company concentrated on building Heinkel Bubblecars. They also produced Elva sports-cars before getting involved with Bruce McLaren’s F1 team.

Between 1964 and 1972, no less than 200 McLarens rolled out of their Croydon factory. After attempting their own ill fated F1 project in 1974, Trojan’s fortunes suffered a gradual decline, although Peter Agg himself helped secure Barry Sheene’s two world championship motor cycle victories when he took over the ailing GB Suzuki enterprise. There’s a popular misconception that British karting has only started to become widely publicised within the last decade or so. This photograph, and its accompanying story, is proof that the sport was capable of attracting high profile names right from those very early days.