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It is with great regret that the Club has to report that Martin Thomas died last Saturday 3 July at the age of 81 after a short illness.

Martin will be best remembered for his exploits in V8-engined touring cars in the late ‘60s and the 1970s but his racing career had begun some 10 years earlier in various single-seaters and sports cars. With backing from Ovaltine, a type of malted cocoa bedtime drink which is perhaps no longer the household name which it was 50 years ago, Martin entered the three Silverstone rounds of the British Saloon Car Championship in 1969 with an ex-IROC Chevrolet Camaro Z28 acquired via Jack Brabham. It proved to be very quick but unreliable so for the following year Martin switched to the ex-Jackie Oliver Ford Mustang. Prepared by his own business, SRG of Biggleswade, Martin and the Mustang became an established part of the BSCC scene.

The ex-Roy Pierpoint/Bill Shaw Racing Camaro replaced the Mustang for 1971 and provided Martin, still running on Ovaltine, with not only some better placings in the BSCC including second place to Brian ‘Yogi’ Muir’s Camaro in the Yellow Pages Trophy at Thruxton, and third places in the SKF Trophy at Snetterton behind Yogi and John Fitzpatrick’s indecently quick Ford Escort RS1600 and at Silverstone in the NCR Trophy behind Frank Gardner’s SCA Freight Camaro and ‘Yogi’, but also to star in a race at Crystal Palace which has gone down for posterity as one of BBC TV’s 100 Great Sporting Moments. From pole position Martin led away from the Ford Escort RS1600 of Mike Crabtree and Gerry Marshall’s Vauxhall Viva GT. For the next 12 laps Martin wrestled the Camaro round the tight and twisty little circuit, fending off everything that Mike and Gerry could throw at him until on lap 13 the Escort squeezed ahead. Martin briefly re-took the lead, only to spin at Ramp Bend. Mike took the flag first three laps later ahead of Gerry who was declared the winner after Mike was penalised for jumping the start. Martin recovered to take fifth place, but it was his car, and the way in which he drove it, which makes for such a gripping race, even now in grainy black and white! It is on youtube.

Continuing with the Camaro for 1972, Martin teamed up with the redoubtable Terry Sanger to finish fifth in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Silverstone, a round of the European Touring Car Championship which was dominated by the famous Cologne Capri RS2600s of Jochen Mass, Dieter Glemser and Toine Hezemans. The Camaro had one more season in it as a Group 2 car before a version of Group 1 for less modified cars took over. At this time Martin was Chairman of the British International Saloon Car Drivers’ Association and played a significant role in the formulation of the new regulations. It was not until 1976, however, that Martin was once again able to commit to a full BSCC season, now with a Triumph Dolomite Sprint. Best result of the year was a 2.5-litre class win and fifth overall behind four 3-litre Ford Capris at the BRDC Graham Hill International Trophy meeting in April. Against class opposition which included Andy Rouse’s Broadspeed Dolomite and Gerry Marshall’s Vauxhall Magnum, Martin was regularly in the top three throughout the year and ended up eighth overall in the then multi-class BSCC.

The Dolomite was replaced by a Ford Capri III 3.0S for 1978 which was principally driven by ‘Yogi’ Muir in the BSCC but Martin joined him for the Tourist Trophy at Silverstone in which they came home eighth overall from 44 starters. A year later Martin shared a Capri 3.0S with Rad Dougall in the TT to finish 13th. Although he then more or less retired from driving Martin continued to be very much involved through SRG in the build and development of racing saloon cars. He was one of the first people to see the potential of the Rover 3500 SD1, running a car with sponsorship from Patrick Motors for ‘Yogi’ Muir. As a diversion SRG also prepared a Renault 5 Gordini for Jack Brabham to drive in the saloon car race supporting the 1980 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch and the Renault 5 championship-winning cars of Neil McGrath and Jim Edwards whose granddaughter Jade is currently competing in the BTCC.

Although he had qualified for Membership many years earlier it was not until 1995 that Martin became a Full Member, thereafter taking a keen interest in Club matters and regularly attending AGMs to ask pertinent questions. He will be much missed. To Martin’s wife Barbara, daughter Zoe and son Toby the BRDC offers its most sincere condolences.

The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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