By STEVE HOLE

Actually, there are no, horses here, rather a look at one of the sixties leading racing driver schools, Motor Racing Stables, based at Brands Hatch. Along with Jim Russell Driving Schools, they were the leading trainers of budding Jackie Stewarts in the UK during the sixties.

Motor Racing Stables was always thought of as having been started at Brands Hatch Circuit, with then-owner, John Webb being the founder. That isn’t quite correct. The inimitable Webb was definitely involved but not at the start.

A lovely photo showing Jim Clark with MRS boss, Geoff Clarke at Brands Hatch with a new batch of Lotus Elan training cars. I think the photo was taken by the late Graham Arnold – I found it on Pinterest and would love to give due credit for its original source

Motor Racing Stables was actually the brainchild of a chap called Geoff Clarke and was originally based in Tingewick, near Buckingham at the old RAF Finmere. They started activities in 1963.

It’s not documented how Clarke ended up moving to Brands Hatch and whether it was Clarke or Webb’s idea but I think they were at their new Kent base by 1965.

It was definitely Webb – heavily involved in the creation of Formula Ford – who could see the undoubted potential of having a driving school on site. He could see a conveyor belt of future FF1600 drivers and to be honest, why wouldn’t he? The first FF1600 race took place at Brands Hatch on July 2, 1967, incidentally.

The idea for FF1600 was sound. An attractive way into single-seater racing that cost a lot less than F3 although it would provide a perfect stepping stone as driver talent would always shine through.

Webb, Clarke and then Brands Hatch circuit manager Jackie Epstein, created a place for Motor Racing Stables in the top paddock, near the BRSCC building. In fact. MRS brought their modest fleet of four Lotus 31s with them to Brands Hatch.

That soon changed and upgraded and quickly grew thanks to a fleet of Lotus’ first dedicated FF1600 car, the 51 after Webb and Lotus’ flamboyant sales director, Graham Arnold had arranged a deal they were both happy with. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall of that office as they put a deal together! Arnold would later supply MRS with a batch of white Lotus Elans.

To power the Lotus 51s Webb also did a deal with Ford for 54 Cortina GT engines priced at £50 (rather than the usual £65).

The other livewire choice of car for any building racing drivers’ school of the day was the Merlyn II or Alexis Mk14, although the latter was out as MRS’s fierce rivals at Jim Russell School had bought a large batch of them. So, that was out, as a result.

MRS’ chief instructor was John Tomlinson (father of well-known test pilot Graham Tomlinson) and his skilled bank of instructors included the larger-than-life Tony Lanfranchi, Ray Allen and former motorcycle ace Bill Ivey. At the same time, the late Brands Hatch race commentator, Brian Jones was also involved in running the administration side of the business.

Motor Racing Stables certainly had its set ways and drummed discipline and manners as well as race craft into their budding racing drivers. For example, one of Graham Clarke’s policies was that before a pupil could compete in a proper race at the end of their training they had to race in a timed ten-lapper on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, albeit with the layout reversed to give the drivers a ‘new challenge’.

It’s not really known the exact number of drivers who went through the doors of Motor Racing Stables while getting their backsides into their Lotus 51s and Elan school cars but it must have been huge including many future stars.