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He had been racing on and off since 1964, but success had eluded Stuart Bamforth until he started to get serious in 1974.
Racing a car numbered ‘3’, which had been built for Jim Potter by Jumbo Tustin back in 1970, Stuart recorded his first final victory at Rochdale that year.
That win was enough encouragement to lead Stuart to the workshops of Brian Powles during the winter of 1974-5, and for the 1975 season the well-known ‘Challenger’ car as it was named made its debut.
It was to prove a season of some significance for the Slaithwaite based scrap metal magnate. A new professionalism was evident in his approach to the sport, and results came in keeping with the new commitment. Several final wins in the first half of the season underlined that the number 3 team were on their way up in the sport, and the July grading list showed Stuart 7th in the points. He was drawn to the Nelson semi final on July 31st, which was on a clashing date with Long Eaton. Long Eaton decided to run on Saturday afternoon to avoid a direct clash, and despite having just one car, Stuart raced at Long Eaton, won the final, and then raced his ex-fire engine transporter to the Lancashire track for the all-important semi!
Stu finished fourth behind Willie Harrison, Mike Close and Frankie Wainman but going to White City Manchester for the big one, very few of the sports ‘experts’ were hanging their shirt on Bammy coming in 1st.
The big money was on Willie Harrison, not for the first time, but with neither Stuart Smith nor Doug Cronshaw qualifying this really did look like Willie’s turn, but it was to be one of those races!
Run in light drizzle, the race was barely a lap old when Glyn Pursey went airborne into the fence, causing the race to be stopped. At that point Stuart Bamforth was firmly wedged in the fence but the car was OK and on the restart he fortuitously moved up a row due to Pursey’s absence but when the green dropped for the second time it was John Goodhall in the lead, from Mike Close and Willie Harrison, with Stuart in 4th. Down the back straight for the first or second time, Harrison moved in for the kill while Close did likewise on Goodhall, and in the space of a bumper contact on the greasy track the first three were destined to exit the race, allowing Stuart Bamforth to move in to a lead position he was not to relinquish.
During the rest of the race plenty went on behind Bamforth, but nothing was going to deny him his finest hour, in racing terms at least.
For the 1977 season Stuart repainted the car into an even more impressive gold livery, but his racing was reduced to accommodate what was to emerge as his greatest contribution to the sport. Stuart took over the promotion of F1 stock cars at Bradford’s Odsal Stadium from Barry Gomersal for the new season, and completely rebuilt both track and safety fence, and then showed the rest of the promoters how to promote. With the later outright purchase of Belle Vue Manchester, Stuart became the gold standard promoter in the golden age of F1 stock cars.
Sad, therefore, that the name Bamforth is no longer associated with the sport. As for the car well, it moved into the hands of others in the late seventies, but was eventually rescued by Stuart, restored to its gold wining specification, and was last seen raced by Bammy at Belle Vue on Stuart Smiths testimonial day back in 1986. Yet another old racer awaiting that pipe dream Stock car museum.
As for Stuart, he moved on to earn a well-deserved crust as owner of the former David Brown Tractor factory in Meltham, now known as Meltham Mills Industrial Estate. As for his contribution to stock car racing, well it was considerable, he goes down in history as one who did a lot to help it prosper and grow, making the golden age possible.
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