"An Aycliffe specialist!" One of Ali's many Aycliffe wins.
"An Aycliffe specialist!" that short tribute sums up perfectly one of the most consistent young northeastern drivers in the past couple of seasons Alastair Davison (115). Apart from the sport's top- liners, perhaps only Phil Hayhurst could in recent years have warranted that title, so it is not altogether surprising that Ali's driving style is more likened to Phil's than perhaps anyone elses.
Ali's introduction to the sport came courtesy of Warren Taylor who 'persuaded' All to have a go in his Stu Smith built car in early '75, just before it was due to be transported across to Wilf Blundell's Southport base. Ali 'agreed', and with the Hartlepool tarmac still 'tacky' the obvious place to 'tame the beast' was on the dirt track outside Warren's house! (It's a bit like a 'long Nelson' but smoother!).
This operation completed satisfactorily, together with fortnightly visits to Aycliffe, saw the temptation too much for All to resist, and he applied for a formula one licence. The ex-Bob Smith number (115) was granted, and it was proudly displayed upon Gerald Taylor's ex-Bert Shipman car, complete with white roof and novice's black cross when All made his debut at Rochdale on Sunday, 20th July, 1975. There were no fairytale wins, but Ali's heat, consolation and National outings saw him complete the distance without damage, and the bug had bitten deep!
After pestering the Taylor clan for more races, Gerald agreed to let All drive at the last two Sunday Hartlepools of '75 one of which saw All gain his first points with a good heat third. With the season now over, All still wanted more, and with Gerald not willing to part with his own car, All went one better and bought a rolling chassis from Bert Shipman. Bert had originally intended to use this for his 'comeback', but such were Ali's persuasive powers that Bert 'sold up'.
Together with his father-in-law, George, and helpers including John Dowson (294) and Trevor Todd (138), a homemade body based on the Gerald Taylor British Championship winning car was fitted, with a good looking 425 cubic inch Buick engine slotted between the rails. With regular meetings at nearby Aycliffe and Hartlepool, Ali soon found himself painting the roof yellow, which he easily held throughout the '76 season.
Season '77 began in fine style with Ali scoring well so much so that a blue roof bedecked the (115) car when the first gradings of the year came into force. To mark this achievement All booked into Bammy's Bradford opener (along with Trevor Todd), and a fine consolation drive saw him score his first 'foreign' points, the car looking resplendent with its blue- check roof. Unfortunately the 'A' grading was not maintained due to Ali mainly being a 'two-track' driver, but during the year All scored 3 heat victories and a string of good Final placings at Aycliffe, eventually finishing at number 7 in the Aycliffe points table, with a meeting average of 9.36 points (more than many established red tops!). A total of 103 points were gained at Aycliffe alone and a further point would have given him joint fifth with (229) and (351). Not surprisingly Aycliffe is Ali's favourite track.
Ali and his wife Angela live at Low Haswell Farm in Haswell, County Durham, where All helps his father-in-law manages to get in a bit of practice with the stocker on his own 'private track' so that's how he's so good at Aycliffe! As far as car preparation is concerned, All is somewhat of a perfectionist, checking and double-checking to ensure that everything is in order, and it seems to be paying off for instance how many times can you remember seeing the (115) car pull off with anything but flats?
Angela admits that she has to share All with the stock car, but says: "We don't smoke, we don't drink, we don't go out and that's our only pleasure." It's nice to note the use of the word 'our', because Angela likes to get behind the wheel too, and in one ladies' race at Aycliffe, she even bumpered her sister, Anne (in the John Dowson car), to get by. All is lucky in having some tremendous vocal and moral support coming from Angela, her parents, sister, cousins in fact the whole family are 'stock car mad'.
Although Ali, John and Trevor ('The Three Musketeers') are great friends off the track, it's been terrific so far this year to see them battling away on the track, each trying to win his own personal battle Ali's longer track experience usually paying off eventually but it's been far from easy.
During the winter All purchased a coach from Frankie Wainman to help keep up his tidy reputation, and this hopefully could be a pointer for a bit more travelling which would no doubt help to consolidate his June upgrading to blue. After that there's only one more hurdle to overcome then All would really live up to his namesake and become "The Greatest."
Original image used by David Hadfield @ Flickr