I was very pleased to see from the Trinity 2015 Oxford Today (p. 57) that the Oxford University Motor Drivers’ Club (OUMDC) is still in existence, and active, unlike another club of which I was a keen member, the Railway Society (OURS). I was OUMDC secretary during my second year, 1967/8. One of my predecessors, a year or so before, had pulled off a real coup in getting Graham Hill to visit and give a talk — the humorous and racy (in every sense) nature of his talk can be only too easily imagined!
My own tenure began well as I was able in my first term to invite Tony Rolt of Ferguson Engineering — four-wheel-drive pioneers from my home city of Coventry. I then aimed higher, and was able to persuade Jackie Stewart to come and talk; however, disaster struck, for me at least.
About a week before the date, I was told he could not come because of duties elsewhere, the details of which had to be kept secret. It was a week or so before it emerged into the public domain that Jackie had been secretly testing, in Spain if my recollection is correct, the new Formula 1 car designed by Ken Tyrrell, the first under his own name. A ‘good cause’, I suppose, but not in my eyes! I have never had the chance to meet Jackie and tell him of my disappointment! After that, the rest of my tenure, was, in my fellow committee members’ eyes, and indeed mine, very flat.
As current president Doug Henderson has discovered, the club in my day was heavily involved in road rallying, not only in running weekly ‘12-car’ events during each term (I recall I finished third in the navigators’ section two years running), but also in organising in mid-Wales a very well-known round of the Motoring News Road Rally Championship, the ‘Targa Rusticana’.
This event actually gave its name to a system of road rally timing — ‘Targa Timing’ — whereby each marshalled timing point had a clock set to be at zero when the first car was due, regardless of the actual time. This system, devised by a former Club officer called John Brown, who went on to be a professional co-driver, was simpler for working out the overall times for each car, but unfortunately had the side effect that there was no way of checking that each stage had been covered at an average speed of 30mph or less, as required by RAC Motorsport rules! Consequently it was, some time after I went down, banned by the RAC!
If Doug would like any more history or tales of my era, don’t hesitate to give him my email address, and if I’m in Oxford, during his Presidency, I imagine there are still pubs in Jericho...?