VECTIS VIEW: Tim Addison, Promoter of the Sandown Sprint

Back in the 1990s I worked at Silverstone and was a great fan of the RAC Rally. Every November I spent a week following the rally around England, Scotland and Wales, along with thousands of other motor-racing fans. You could see the value of motor sport to attract big crowds well outside the summer holiday season, so perfect for the Island.

I first sketched out some rally stages on the Isle of Wight back in 2001, but in those days it would have required an Act of Parliament to get the roads closed. It was all pretty impractical. When I came back to the Island in 2009 things had moved on. New legislation would allow a local authority to grant permission and this was eventually passed into law in 2017. By this time I’d already started to put together some new ideas.

To be honest my initial plans were probably too ambitious. I sat down with some key partners, but no-one really had a clue what I was talking about. So I contacted Malcolm Smith, chairman of the Isle of Wight Car Club. I’d known Malcolm for many years and, in the 1980s, had been a member of the club. I was a terrible driver at various autotests and a marshal in Parkhurst on its famous Island Stages Rally.

The club was founded back in the 1940s and has a long history of organising motor sport on the Island and is still a Motorsport UK affiliated club. I introduced the concept of the Sandown Sprint to its committee in November 2018 to a mixed reception. There were obviously risks in a venture like this, but I assured the Club that I would take on the financial liability if it could organise the motor racing. That’s basically the partnership which developed and how the Sandown Sprint was run last weekend. The committee took a leap of faith and I’m grateful to them, and particularly Malcolm, for making it happen. If anyone is interested in getting into motor sport then I can’t think of a better way than joining the Isle of Wight Car Club.

Sandown was my preferred choice of venue as it has a couple of important advantages. Firstly, there are not many people living along the proposed track and, secondly, it has an elevated sea wall which makes a good spectator enclosure. It’s also my home town, so I suppose there was a bit of bias too. It does have several large visitor attractions, so sitting down with the owners and the town council was our next step. Malcolm and I organised a meeting in January 2019 to explain the idea. To our delight it was given an enthusiastic thumbs-up, so we could now take the idea to the Isle of Wight Council and Island Roads with a view to getting a Motor Race Order issued. This next meeting took place on the rainiest day of the year and we all retreated from Culver Parade to the nearby Caulkheads pub. Again we had a positive response.

The Island Car Centre Sandown Sprint is now one of only a handful of closed-road races that have taken place in England. We planned to run two weeks before Easter, but lost the 2020 and 2021 dates due to the national lockdowns. There is an awful lot involved and it couldn’t happen without a mountain of support. Volunteer marshals, sponsors, contractors, officials, spectators and competitors made this happen. It’s been a long time in the planning, but I hope everyone agrees that it was well worth the effort.