by Mike Hayward
At the end of June 1998, members of Falcon Motor Club celebrated the club’s 50th birthday, with a celebration run. It started at the pub the club was named after, the Crown and Falcon, nestling in the High Street of the small Hertfordshire town of Puckeridge. The run then followed a route that traced the club’s history, passing many of the venues that had been used over the last fifty years.
Falcon started with just a handful of enthusiastic members, one of whom was the late H W Tucker-Peake (Tucker), who went on to become the club’s first chairman and competitions secretary. Tucker devoted a tremendous amount of his time and energy to Falcon and was the club’s President when he so sadly passed away.
One of the first events the club promoted, after it was recognised by the RAC in 1949, was a Closed Trial. This started a long tradition of Falcon trials. A speed trial at Tewin Water, Hertfordshire was held in the Summer of 1950. Funds were tight, so members pledged to cover any loss the club made. The event was a great success, with an entry that included one Colin Chapman in his Lotus Mk2, and members were spared any personal expense.
In the Autumn of 1950 the club took another step forward with the end of petrol rationing. This meant that events could now take place on the road. The trial was made a Closed Invitation event (today’s status is National). The trial took place in the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire area and was held on the 5th November, so naturally was called “The Guy Fawkes”. Even in those days the sections were doctored, as reported by our long time secretary, and now Club President, Ron Warren in his book ‘Behind the Falcon Badge’. To make the restart line better on Tatmore End a small water trailer was towed up just above the line and the contents were then released.
Over the next few years more events were added to the calendar, Driving Tests (now called Autotests) and another sprint was held at Hundson. This disused airfield was not used for long as the runway started to break up so we moved to Tempsford in Bedfordshire. Over use by motor clubs and motorcycles meant this venue was lost in 1955.
In the summer of 1956 and again in 1958 another restricted trial was organised. The major problem of trying to run a trial at this time of year is finding a course that is not completely over grown, so in 1958 we moved this event to March. What else could we call it but the March Hare Trial. An appropriately named trophy was titled the Mad Hatter.
Falcon were also running Rallies such as the Mardlebury and The Zelly. However, in 1958 when organisers were being sought, it was suggested that perhaps the ladies might like to have a go. The challenge was taken up and The Rally Venues became a regular fixture, with the ladies as sole organisers.
Ever since the loss of Tempsford, the club had been looking for another suitable venue for its speed event. In 1958 a venue became available to run the club’s first ever Autocross. This started a long history of Falcon’s involvement in this branch of the sport. The first event was held near Stevenage. By the early 1960’s a new venue was found at Dowsetts Farm, Colliers End, where many more successful events were run, including rounds of The Players Number Six Autocross Championship. In 1972 a new and exciting venue was found In the grounds of Knebworth House, the stately home of the Cobbold family. This venue was the only registered Autocross Venue listed in the RAC Blue Book.
Other events were also held there such as 2CV Cross and Speed Cross. The Course in Knebworth Park was designed by one of our committee members and now Vice President, one Peter Harper, who is probably better known as an International rally driver for the Rootes Team. He was a stalwart of Falcon for many years and was one of a team of first class organisers that included Tommy Bridger, a top notch Formula 3 driver, Derek FIeming, a trials driver and the owner of ‘Primrose’ and Desmond Scannell, who for twenty years was secretary of the British Racing Drivers Club, and became known as one of the foremost organisers of motor racing in the world. Another Falcon faithful was John Tucker-Peake, brother of Tucker – who also played an important part in Falcon’s history, serving on the committee for many years and playing an important part in the back-up team. John T-P was also the builder of the ‘Runner Bean’, the 1956 Ford Pop which is now being driven by Clive Kalber, who made the trip from his home in Cornwall in the ‘Bean’ to take part in the club’s Birthday Run adding enormously to this very special day.
A man who would not forgive me for not mentioning his part in Falcon history is Ron Warren, who for twenty one years served the club as secretary, as well as driving his Dellow as part of the Falconers Trials Team. Ron, together with Tucker and Derek Fleming, won the MCC team award on several occasions and is still actively enjoying his motor sport, regularly enjoying trips to Le Mans. As well as being a Vice President of the MCC, he is President of Falcon. Falcon is very well known for inventing new events. One such was called the Falcon Express. It was originally arranged as a sprint in 1959, at Snetterton but a clash of dates forced a re-think. The rules at the time said that a Driving Test must not exceed 200 yards in length, so with Snetterton providing so much space we laid out tests 199 yards long. The competitors loved it and the Falcon Express became a firm favourite.
Another firm favourite event was born in 1967, called an Autopoint. This involved a series of mini Autocross courses set out in a field, the idea was to keep expenses down by running the event under an Autotest permit. I suppose today you would call it an All Forward Autotest. So successful was this event, that a couple of years after its conception, it attracted an entry of over sixty for a closed to club event.
In the late fifties, there were more and more clubs being formed. Falcon recognised the importance for these clubs to get together. Over a period of some eighteen months, our secretary Ron Warren wrote many letters to exchange views. Ron was able to call a meeting in early 1958. At the second meeting in July 1958, Falcon were one of twelve clubs who formed The London Counties Association Of Motor Clubs the end of our trials as well. In a bid to stimulate Interest in trials, Tucker ran a Conducted Trial in the Berkhamsted area, again with little interest.
Then in 1982 the club suffered another devastating blow when Knebworth Park announced its intention to redevelop the site used for our Autocrosses. A frantic search began to find a new home for the Autocross. After several false alarms, the club approached Chess Valley MC with a view to use their Mursley venue. They agreed and Mursley became the new home to Falcon Autocross. By now the only other events we were running were Closed to Club Autotests. With a falling membership it was becoming more and more difficult to attract entries. The Autocrosses were somehow successful. Regular friends of the club turned up to marshal, and our Clerk of the Course, Terry Fisher, would travel from his home in Barnsley, to take charge. To help with costs we were joined by the Mini Cross Drivers Association, who put on their own event in between the Autocross runs.
By 1994 the club was at its lowest ebb. Membership had fallen to thirty seven with only one or two attending club nights. Despite this we still managed to run one Autocross and five Autotests. Then came the salvation. Local trials enthusiasts were feeling their needs were not being met at other local clubs and held a meeting to canvass opinions. Falcon representatives suggested that Tucker’s old club could be used as the focus for local trials activity and the rest is history.
Within weeks Falcon ran its first PCT for many years at Edlesborough near Dunstable, then in May a trial held at Great Brickhill, was titled “The March Hare Trial”. By the end of that year the membership had risen to sixty four. It was decided not to run an Autocross in 1996 as there were no club members doing Autocross any more. However, a small team of marshals went to do their stuff on Baddaford Lane, on the MCC’s Exeter Trial, and for the past two years have marshalled Clinton on the same event, braved Bareleg on last year’s Edinburgh and provided a big team on this year’s Crackington. All this in addition to having an average of seventeen crews on recent MCC events.
Today Falcon has one of the most active trials memberships in the country. There were forty Falcon members either competing, marshalling or organising on last year’s Edinburgh Trial, with the same number expected this year. Membership is now a 100 strong, and, earlier this year, Falcon ran its first RAC Championship Production Car Trial at Brickhill, which attracted an entry of over forty. Club nights are now regularly well supported and an Autotest series attracts a good entry for every event. Earlier this year the club experimented by running single venue “Mini-Classic” at Edlesborough, and there are tentative plans to run a real road Classic in the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in 1999.
Three years ago Falcon was on the verge of folding. Today things couldn’t be more different. The commitment and enthusiasm brought to the club by the new members has turned the club around. This couldn’t have been more evident than on the Birthday Run, where the atmosphere was full of optimism for the future. Happy 50th Birthday Falcon.