Schoolboy's 50-Year Old Photographs Offer a Rare Glimpse of Original Sprint Event

Friday 22 May 2015

Unpublished images taken by a talented schoolboy photographer capturing the original Chateau Impney sprint during the 1960s have been unearthed by the organisers.

Taken almost 50 years ago by former Bromsgrove County High School pupil Hugh Miller, the pictures offer an unseen snapshot of the original event organised by Hagley & District Light Car Club.

Now retired and living in Nottingham, Hugh recalls how as a car-mad 16-year-old in 1963, he and his school friend Roy Cottrill wrote to Autosport Magazine about their love of motorsport and photography, convincing its editorial team to commission them as photographers to cover the sprint events.

Armed with an Autosport-issued press pass and only basic single lens reflex cameras, they went on to capture the action at the Chateau Impney sprint events in 1963 and 1964.

While Hugh submitted some images to the magazine, the vast majority of the pictures he took were never published and have remained in his private collection ever since. Still a keen amateur photographer, in recent years he added the images to his online portfolio which allowed the Hill Climb organisers to discover the pictures when researching into the original sprint events.

Hugh and Roy’s days as Autosport’s roving photographers were unfortunately short-lived when, one morning in 1964, the magazine’s then editor Mike Kettlewell, called Hugh’s house to discuss their next assignment. His mother answered the phone and informed the editor that her son was unavailable due to being out at school, inadvertently revealing their true age and putting an end to their work for the magazine. As Hugh was about to leave home to take up a place at Oxford University to study Biochemistry, he was quick to forgive his mother and left home with some fantastic memories of his time as a roving motorsport photographer.

Reminiscing about the event, Hugh said that Chateau Impney was always great fun as there was an open paddock at both the top and the bottom of the course. He and Roy used to run to the top of the hill and then ask the drivers to give them a lift back down.

Hugh particularly recalls one trip perched in the small passenger seat of a Grand Prix Bugatti with one foot on the gearbox, as well as a ride in the one-off seven-litre Chapman Mercury racing car.

Still a frequent visitor to the area to see friends and family, the retired psychology lecturer hopes to recapture some childhood magic when he returns to Chateau Impney in July as a guest photographer. He will even have the opportunity to see the Chapman Mercury again as it is being driven at this year’s event by the original owner Phil Chapman’s grandson – but has no plans to ask for a lift this time!

You can view more of Hugh Miller's portfolio of photographs here.

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