Champions rev back up exactly 30 years on

Can you remember what you were doing 30 years ago?

These guys can - they were busy becoming Ashbourne's only World Champions.

Stock Car racer Dave Mellor, from Sandybrook, and his team of mechanics are this week celebrating the 30th anniversary of the win that propelled them to international fame in their sport.Dave only started racing a few years before his big win, after a friend introduced him to the sport and the talented yong rookie quickly rose through the ranks until he was competing at international level.And on September 23, 1978, at Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium, he romped home as winner of the World Championship Final in front of thousands in his number 304 stock car.
The team ran the car on a comparative shoe-string budget, using an old Ford engine that was similar to those used in the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 cars back in the 1960s. This made his triumph all the more significant, as many of his competitors used handsome sponsorship payouts to buy high-tech Chevrolet engines - the preferred choice at the time.

Dave's name is now forever remembered in the history of the sport, and he is frequently recognised at race meetings he attends as a spectator around the UK. The "Big Man", as he was known back in the day, admits he would have been nothing without his team-mates, who kept his 600bhp machine in fine fettle and followed him around Britain and Europe for competitions.

All the members of the team are still in the area, apart from Jonathan Brown and Robert Bott, who have sadly since passed away. But they meet up occasionally to reminisce about their glory days.

Dave said: "We always had to take a full team with us, and I couldn't have done it without them.
"The competitions were great fun, and it was definitely a social event as much as anything.

"It really doesn't seem like 30 years ago at all, to be honest - it only seems like it was last week."
Dave now hopes to rebuild the stock car, which has been in storage since he gave up the sport a few years after winning the world title. He confessed: "It just started getting too expensive, and we had to call it a day. I definitely miss it, and I still follow it to a certain extent - I still enjoy watching the races whenever I can."

Bricklayer Barry Wibberley, from Kniveton, fondly recalls his days on the winning team, in his role as a wheel and tyre man. He explained that the team often raced four times over a bank holiday weekend, in different parts of the country, so getting from venue to venue in their lorry was a "memorable" experience.

He said: "We were always late. We still are really, but because we were always trying to get everywhere so quickly we had some very dangerous journeys and they are probably the most memorable bits.

"Apart from my time with my family, they were the best days of my life. It was a type of racing where everybody helped everybody out, and we were all good friends.
"It was very tiring, because we all worked and earned as we still do, but we always pulled together on race days and Mr Mellor did really well, so that was a bonus."
Dave, 60, runs a successful Haulage firm from his garage in Sandybrook, as well as a busy filling station and garage which has provided employment for the town and his family for many years.
He is married to Brenda and they have two daughters, Leah and Vicky, and a son, Chris. Leah recently took over at Compton's Bumpsababy after snapping up the store as an impulse decision.

The honour of holding a world title this year brought Dave an unexpected surprise when he was chosen to throw up the Wednesday ball at February's Shrovetide game.

A keen Up'ard, Dave described the offer as a "very big surprise" and an "absolute honour". The ball was decorated with Dave's winning stock car, complete with the coveted World Champion's gold roof, and it was goaled at Sturston by Matthew Burtonshaw.

The remaining team members now hope to see the car restored, which Dave soon hopes to get around to doing. It will then, it is hoped, become a permanent memento of the incredible achievement that was so significant not just for Dave and his pit crew, but for Ashbourne as a whole.

Published: 24/09/2008 by ashbournenewstelegraph by Gareth Butterfield

 


 photo dm304-field_zps1e9534b3.jpg

This image discovered at Dave Mellor 304 'The Big Man' fan group and posted by Mark Weston

The championship winning team of the 1978/79 season. The photo was taken in the field behind Sandybrook garage. — with Steve Bott, Barry Wibberley, Dave Mellor, Jon Brown, Robert Bott, Randall Cundy (Urk), Graham Massy and Dave Shaw.