History Of Shenington Airfield
The kart club shares the airfield with the present Shenington Gliding Club. Flying started from the site in 1941 as RAF Edgehill. Initially Wellington bombers used the airfield for flying practice, but occasionally supplying aircraft and crew for operational bombing raids. A memorial stone is situated near the entrance to the kart circuit. The airfield is more famous for being the site of the test flights of the first jet powered aircraft. In 1942, and amongst great secrecy the tiny Gloster E28/39 came for its trials. The aircraft was fondly known as the “Flying Fart” by all who worked upon it. During 1943 Hurricanes and Martinets came to be based at the site. The Korean War in the early fifties required the re-opening of RAF Edgehill, this time as host to Harvard and Percival Prentice aircraft. If you wish to learn more about RAF Edgehll a book has been written with that title.
History of the Club
Kart racing was brought to the UK in 1958 by American airmen based here in the UK. After a successfull demonstration at Silverstone in 1959 British rules were drawn up and soon large crowds were coming to meetings. At first the local club was called Banbury Kart Club, inaugurated in 1959 and holding the first meeting on Shenington (Edgehill) airfield in February 1960 (see picture left for the first ever start). Five thousand spectators came to see the twenty or thirty drivers competing, in those days there were not so many demands on leasure time. The club was founded by a Mr John Cooper who bought karts for hire, these were augmented by competitor’s own karts. The facilities in the village did a roaring trade on that first weekend and indeed on many others. During 1960 an 1961 the club held rounds of the first World Championship which had its final round in Nassau, Bahamas, the other rounds were in Italy and USA. Stirling Moss raced at Nassau but not we believe at Shenington, but many famous drivers such as Graham Hill did race karts in that time period. The first club was believed to be the British Kart Club – founded by the first editor of Karting Magazine – organising a meeting at Lydd. Our club joined forces with Solihull to become the Solihull and Shenington Kart Club in the mid-sixties.
During that period Nigel Mansell CBE, born 8 August 1953 in nearby Upton-on-Severn, was a regular competitor, first in Juniors (see picture below) and then in the 210 National class. He is now our President. During the seventies the club adopted the name we have now, Shenington Kart Racing Club. Initially the track was accessed from the village itself with various configurations of circuit layout. Within a couple of years it settled on current site, algways using both ‘end’ of the track but with some variations coming back through what is now the pits parking. In part the move to the current site was AP building its own oval banked test track on another part of the airfield. Despite the large attendances the club was soon in debt, so Pietr Klaassen (father of the well know scrutineer Paul) formed a new committee and made it a members only club to get finances back on an even keel. The club passed through the chairmanship of various persons, including Chris Hodgetts (subsequently a British Touring Car Champion), Steve Chapman in the nineties and Mike Coombs from the late nineties to 2012. Mark Allen, another long time committee member, has raced at the club since the Mansell days and his wife Lesley is now Chairperson. In the early nineties a small addition to the track included the Wilkins complex, named after Tony Wilkins, who has raced almost since the beginning and has raced up to a few years ago, he still demonstrates on a 210 National kart. During another low point in the club’s history in 1969 Tony and wife Sue joined the committee and helped to foster a regenerative process that lasts to today. The club is a limited company, not profit making, everything being ploughed back into maintenance and development. The current Race Control and Scrutineering Building was built in 1987/88, replacing an earlier wooden structure. A famous concrete sided cafe gave rise to the corner of that name, built to replace a wooded shed. The cafe no longer exists, but the club built a new Club House and
Toilets nearby to Cafe Corner which was fully opened in 2004, by our President Nigel Mansell. ‘Sheny’, as it is affectionately known, is considered on of Britain’s premier circuit, regularly holding major championship meetings. Many now-famous drivers have raced at the circuit, Nigel Mansell, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson, Guy Smith, Paul Di Resta and Johnny Herbert. The club has produced many drivers going onto fame and fortune in professional motor sport and in karting. The circuit is registered as a Grade 3 heritage motor racing venue in LARA’s (Land Access and Recreation Association) register.
Images of first race courtesy of Karting Magazine. You can read the report of the first race at Shenington HERE