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Birmingham Superprix - Britain's most controversial circuit?
1966 - Peter Barwell and Martin Hone's dreams



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During the beginning of the Swinging Sixties, many motoring clubs appeared in and around Birmingham, organising many types of motoring events such as sprint rallies and hill climbs. These gave the ordinary motorist, with more than a passing interest in motor sport, the opportunity to experience such events first hand without the colossal costs usually incurred when competing with the professional race drivers.

Many social events and presentation dinner dances held by these clubs were the catalyst for opportunities to discuss and share ideas of a possible motor race in central Birmingham. The idea of a road race around the newly built Ring Road must have occurred to many racing enthusiasts and been the subject of many of these discussions for years to come.

There was one synonymous man named Peter Barwell. He was a councillor at the Birmingham City Council and he was part of a committee called Entertainment Sub-Committee of the Council’s General Purpose Committee. Barwell first thought up of the idea of a Birmingham road race when he went to watch the 1961 24 Heures du Mans race whilst on honeymoon. Peter Barwell said: “If one was to say, when was the seed sown? It was me standing at Le Mans in June 1961.”

Then another synonymous man named Martin Hone. He was born and bred in Birmingham. He was in the carpet business and then he pursued his interest in motor racing. He drove Porsches around Europe’s various road circuits. He has experience in racing during his eight year career including class wins at the Autosport Championship in 1965 and 1966. It helped him to provide an extensive knowledge in the background of motor sport.

He oozed determination and enthusiasm as he converted a run-down warehouse into a nightspot, the Opposite Lock Club in 1966. It quickly rose to become one of Birmingham’s premier nightspots. He contributed a lot of hard work and made publicity to make it a success for himself. Also it promoted international jazz, international motorsport and food.

Then the inevitable came when a member of the city council called him to invite him to a meeting to meet various councillors and people who were planning to move Birmingham forward from its reputation as a drab, dark and run-down city into a resurgent and exciting city. To Martin Hone as his enthusiasm encouraged him to propose something that would frighten the council members he said: “As a city internationally famous for the manufacture of cars, but with not many ‘firsts’ to our name, how about I organise the first-ever street race in Britain?”

But Martin Hone would acknowledge that it would be an obstacle because of an British law that banned cars from exceeding the speed limits (in other words, racing) on British public roads. Also he would have to convince the Birmingham City Council, West Midlands County Council and the Parliament. It would be an obstacle that stood in his way for twenty years to come.

This particular law was only established in 1960 as motor-racing or speed trials were prohibited on any public highway. Other local authorities were supposed to have closed highways for rallies and hill climbs but the only possible explantation for this was that the roads were privately owned, or they had authority from Parliament to do so.

Even though at the early stages of the Birmingham Road Race project, he revealed a proposed circuit that would use the new Inner Ring road in the centre of Birmingham.