Last Ever Wimbledon
Originally on Whistlin' Jack Smith 2017
When the chequered flag dropped for the final time at Wimbledon I looked around at the crowd, this point usually signifies a mass exodus as nobody wants to be stuck in traffic. This night was different.
I remembered looking around at this point and whilst you would usually see people straightening up their clothes and packing their bags however they werenít; people were frozen still their eyes glaring out to the track as the engine noise started to fade with the red flags on their way. It was a sickening moment in your gut, you couldnít change a thing, racing had ended at Wimbledon forever. It felt like everyone had taken in a big gulp of air to try and compose themselves and reflect on what was left of a sport they love.
From here we waited for the opportunity to walk out onto the track now freshly covered by Superstox rubber as they proudly signed off with doughnuts and burn-outs. I had never been onto the track here and it was moment thatís difficult to describe. The crowd on the track are sucking up the last breathes of the tracks existence. Some wanted to just experience being there, others had their cameras flashing away, the wires were being shook and others gathered around various posts discussing if this was the one they hit hard. For me I looked up at the very spot where I would sit with my dad on what was the old turn one and it truly broke my heart. My memories canít be taken but it felt as the venue was disappearing in front of me as the heartbeat of Wimbledon was slowly fading out.
We wandered along the original home straight and it was refreshing to see the track from another view, realise how bumpy it is and how many holes had been filled in. I remember seeing a lump of tarmac that had broken up and thought I should pocket that, but I didnít; my initial thought was grab a souvenir but then I thought how it was a reminder of what we have lost.
Going through the tunnel didnít seem to be a joyous occasion, it was sad, it was the end. A memory of an iconic track like Wimbledon will change from one person to another. My memories as kid were being baffled by the journey and more so trying to get across the sticky carpets to an outdoor spot. I can remember Ricky Hunn hitting the post and I didnít believe my racing hero would intentionally crash so blamed the driver on his inside, from then on created an unnecessary hatred for Phil White. Ricky seemed to crash far too many times here. Iím glad I saw drivers like Andy Harris in their heyday at the track battling oval legends like Collard and Polley around this track.
It was the second track I visited and those early days I think of green BP Bangers and the programme guy that knew my name, he confused me. I should note that I was wearing a baseball cap with my name across the front, yes I was super cool back in the 1980s. It was also a track where I introduced my now wife to the World of Stock Cars and Hot Rods.
Wimbledon Stadium is a special place, I loved the way it was louder and you could feel the vibrations through your stomach. There was the danger of the posts that could destroy a car yet also make a driver feel more alive as they edge closer. No matter how cold it was to me it felt cosy, it was like the old armchair; seen better days but still feels right. You could hear other people during the racing; everyone would cheer and wince as one, the crowd seemed more engaging and the drivers would play up to it. The place had an aura, an atmosphere thatís difficult to characterise, it was a place that made a lot of people very happy during its lifespan.
The show that Spedeworth put on as the final night was brilliant, the drivers and officials should feel proud of what they achieved. They are following other greats, previous generations and notably the Eatons who made the place a special Stock Car track. We will miss Wimbledon and it will never be replaced, nothing will ever come close to what the venue was, the jewel in the crown, the grand old lady. The final song of the night perfectly encompassed the moment, I hope you had the time of your life.