HRDC To Revive Willhire Racing From the 1980s

Julius Thurgood, founder and Race Director of the HRDC, is planning a reunion for cars which originally competed in the Willhire 24 Hour, Britain’s first 24-Hour  race.

The Willhire 24 Hour, initially conceived for production cars, was held at between 1980 and 1994. Over the years, the race included both sports and saloon cars, although in later years it ran FIA GpN cars running in the National Saloon Car Cup, which was run by the BRSCC.

Thurgood, himself a veteran of the first three Willhire events, is upbeat about the project: “Over the past year or so, quite a few people have contacted me wanting information on cars that ran in the Willhire – often to help them identify cars that may have run in any one of the fifteen 24-hour events.

“Some cars, like my MGB that ran in the original event, are well know and are still racing, while others surface as ‘barn finds’ from time to time – such as the 1985 winner – the ex-Roy Eaton / David Oates / John Clark 2.8i Capri – which Neil Godwin-Stubbert rescued recently and has so brilliantly brought back to life. Naturally, some of these cars are now ‘orphans’ with no particular place to race, so it is a natural train of thought to see if there are enough original cars out there to warrant running a ‘Willhire 24 Reunion’ event.

“A full, 24-Hour race may just be a step too far, but I can see that a 6-hour enduro is perfectly feasible. However, if we can get this initial reunion race event off the ground – who knows where it may take us? Certainly, if we can evoke the unique camaraderie and carnival atmosphere that was the hallmark of the original Willhire events, we will be onto a winner for both competitors and spectators!”

Winners of the early Willhire races read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of British motorsport in the 1980s: Pete Hall / Martin Carroll / Syd Fox were part of the team which won the inaugural race with an ICS Opel Commodore in 1980. They followed it up with another Opel Commodore win in the following year, having drafted Andy Rouse into the team. In 1982, Rob Wells / Chris Alford / Malcolm Paul took overall honours in a Morgan +8, but then it became the turn of Porsche – winning in 1983 and 1984 with Tony Dron leading the 1983 winning team alongside Andy Rouse / Win Percy and Phil Dowsett. It was then up to Bill Taylor / Paul Edwards / Barry Robinson / John Lock to keep the Porsche flag flying in 1984.

So, if you think you have an ex-Willhire contestant lurking in your garage – contact Julius Thurgood with your details and some background history on your car. You never know: the moment may well have arrived to stage a renaissance for these venerable long-distance racers!



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