The CSCC Special Saloons + Modsports series
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DRIVER : RON HARPER from Middlesbrough
CAR : 1971 TRIUMPH SPITFIRE
ENGINE : HONDA Straight 4 ( 1997 cc )
CLASS : C NUMBER : 7
SERIES RECORD : 13 STARTS -
3 CLASS WINS -
8 CLASS RUNNER-UPS
+ JACK HARPER : 1 START
1 CLASS RUNNER-UP
TRIUMPH SPITFIRE - HONDA
THE CAR :
Way back in 1980 Mike Kettlewell released his Pace motor racing directory , an invaluble reference guide that amoungst other things featured 291 biographies of UKs racing drivers. Not many of those still race regulary
some 33 years later , fewer still STILL racing the exact same car as they did in 1980. Yet Ron Harper , now aged 70 still enjoys his motor racing in his trusty old Triumph Spitfire.
Ron first started racing in his own road car , a Triumph-engined kit-car called the Fairthorpe Electron Minor in 1966. The motor engineer then built up his own Triumph Spitfire racer for the 1972 season. Initially in white the racer had a fixed hardtop and bootlid spoiler , it ran with its factory-size engine of 1147cc in the 1150cc Modsport class against specialist machinerey like Davrian , Ginetta , Mini-Jem and Clan opposition. With a subtle engine-bore to 1208cc for 1975 Ron moved up a class to take on the many Sprite / Midgets in the 1500cc class. With enough class wins Ron won the 1976 BARC ( Yorkshire ) North of England Modsport Championship outright. After experimenting with a supercharged engine Ron refitted the 1.2 engine for 1979 and won the 1500 class for a second time with 10 class wins , placing 2nd overall. 1980 saw Ron breifly dabble in single seaters with a F2 Chevron B40 often at the same meeting as using the Spitfire , in which he finished 5th overall. By 1985 with BARC out of Modsports Ron raced in both the 750 MC series in his `venerable` ( as Autosport described it ) 1498cc BDA Spitfire , it and the much tougher Donington GT . I first saw Ron at the 1987 GT season opener ,where he won the 1500 class that day .With Modsports gone and GT fading the BARC ( NW ) Sports/Saloons became the top mixed modified series. Ron with his 1498cc BDA powered car enjoyed its golden period winning the 1500cc class in 1990 + 1991 ( sponsored by Gresham Spartans ) and again in 1992 ( Clearway Filters ) but this time also the overall title. Autosport noting `Ron Harper`s almost vintage Spitfire dominated Class C`. At the end of 1992 the car was advertised for sale. The ad said `100% reliable , strong + easily maintained` and thats been the cars strength to last 40 years. The car was retained and Ron duely won his class for a 4th year running in 1993.
The re-opening of the local circuit at Croft was a blessing and Ron took 3 more class titles in the Northern Saloon/sports 1997,98 + 99.
Incredible to fast forward to today and the same driver/car combination is still competitive. “I’ve been racing since the mid-1960s,” said Ron, “and it’s like a drug, you get addicted.“You can’t leave it alone, no matter how old you are.” Today the car has a Honda engine “It’s a virtually standard Honda S2000 engine which, on paper, with 240HP it should be fantastic.“But I didn’t realise it was that much heavier and it’s upset the balance of the car.` After finishing 3rd in Class A2 in the 2011 Darlington+District Club`s Northern
Saloon + Sports Car Championship Ron became part of the special saloons revival , as did Bob and Neil Claxton. “But on August Bank Holiday at Mallory Park, I’ll be racing in a fore-runner to the revival of the Historic Motorsports and Super Saloons that were around in the 1970s.My car was one of them, of course. I’ve raced it since 1972.That is more attractive to me because I’ve been racing against brand new cars.” he said in 2011. Back amoungst other modified racers Ron made every round of 2012 and having turned 70 , four rounds in 2013.
Long may this remarkable ,enduring car/driver partnership continue.