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Museum marks Croft's motor sport half-century

Published 27 August 2014

Ayrton Senna, James Hunt and Jenson Button have all raced there - now Croft circuit's half-century is to be celebrated by a new exhibition in the north of England. The display at Richmondshire Museum uses memorabilia to tell the story of this iconic North Yorkshire track from its opening as Croft Autodrome in 1964, through its mid-Nineties revival, right up to the present day.

Originally an RAF base home to Wellington and Lancaster aircraft, the site became popular with Darlington and District Motor Club in the late-Forties and Fifties, which held race meetings at the airfield. These first events used a mix of runways and perimeter roads, proving popular with both drivers and spectators.

In 1962, motor sport enthusiast Bruce Ropner bought two thirds of the autodrome after the Air Ministry put it up for sale at auction. The 160-acre purchase included the runways and a third of the perimeter roads.

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, Croft was home to the Daily Mirror Trophy Meetings and eventually grew into a site for testing and development of new cars, as well as a place where drivers could go for training and instruction.

In 1967, Croft got its big break when it began to host rallycross events, using part of the tarmac race circuit combined with a new, specially-created loose-surface track. Broadcast live on ITV’s World of Sport programme, they were hugely popular and gave the circuit much exposure.

By 1981, however, times were getting tough. Profitability of events was falling and Croft was in desperate need of resurfacing, which forced the circuit to close for a while. It was soon back in action, though, and in 1987 hosted the FIA Internations-Cup, staging the event again in 1990 and the British round of the European Rallycross Championship in 1994.

More redevelopment work in 1997 saw the circuit's layout revised and new features like a race control unit, pit area and spectator facilities, creating the venue that we're familiar with today. This revival drew premier British motorsport events, including British Superbikes, British F3 and British GT.

Croft is now run by the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC), and each year welcomes the popular Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. It also hosts a retro-inspired Nostalgia Weekend and British Rallycross Championship, as well as track days.

To find out more about the exhibition, admission charges and opening times, visit Richmondshire Museum's website.

Croft -aerodrome -image -of -formal -opening -with -ribbon -cutting

The ribbon being cut at Croft's opening back in 1964.

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