When Ron Cayzer first took his small sons Alan and John along to watch Stock Car racing, little did he realise what a major part that trip, down to Rayleigh Weir Stadium, not far from his brother's home in Southend on Sea, would play in shaping activities around the family farm for the next 43 years. Gradually, watching the racing at Brafield, Northampton and at Coventry where they saw Johnny Brise win one of his World Championship races, and at tracks closer to home, caused the sport to take a hold on young Alan as it has many youngster, and in 1964, he became the proud owner of an ex Alan Charman Oldsmobile powered car and - it's not documented whether he'd actually intended to or not, or Mrs. Elsie Cayzer's actual reaction - Ron just had to go along with it all, to the extent that he bought his own car
(you can just imagine the conversation can't you? "It wasn't my idea, luv, it's the boy see, I'll have to go with him, keep an eye on him, sort of thing.."), and the two hit the tracks, as numbers 266 (Alan) and 267, racing as often as funds and farming allowed. For the following year, Ron built himself a Cadillac powered machine, while his son achieved no little success over the years 1965/66 reaching the Red grade in a car built by himself. Both father and son won their first Finals at the Walthamstow Stadium, north London, a fine little track that was a sad loss to our sport in the following decade, but which still holds greyhound meetings to this day.
Alan's brother John was by now 'champing at the bit' to get started, and the Cayzers became a three car team in '67 when John set out in an ex Tony Last car, whacking the fence in his first outing at Harringay, but going on to win a heat race later that year at Kings Lynn, a track that came back into the family's racing lives in later years.
This was a time, you see, when Formula 1 Stock Car racing was in a period of recession least as far as the south and east of England was concerned, only Harringay and 'The Stow' being within easy reach of rural Suffolk - today of course, London has but one oval race track and that's on the south side. If they wanted to race, some big changes would have to he made and those changes came on Boxing Day 1967 when the three joined Spedeworth's Superstox, with their handily placed tracks at Ipswich and Great Yarmouth. By the end of the decade, Spedeworth would have Walthamstow on their track roster and Wisbech would he another useful addition, so the Cayzers wouldn't go short of racing in a manageable radius of home. They even recruited a cousin. Peter, who raced for a couple of seasons, before a fire in his car during an Ipswich meeting unsurprisingly put him off. Peter ran 359 as his number, while Ron, Alan and John had nos. 379, 380, 381 respectively, and John proved most adept at racing the smaller Superstox, then 1800cc MGB powered, getting to the top of the points in a highly competitive period at Spedeworth, in 1969 in one of a set of boxy looking, but quick, home built cars. When 'Short Circuit' started, in 1977, few reports from Dave Smith on Spedeworth racing in East Anglia didn't have a Cayzer win when the Supers were on the card.
TODAY AND TOMORROW
Old Ron died in 1981 but had an enormously satisfying racing career alongside his sons and would he a happy man today if he could see the next generation at work, not as it happens on the family farm, a wheat and barley operation that still keeps Alan and John Cayzer busy at the very rural location of Saffron Walden, Essex, but 'at work' in the racing sense. Before we go further, let's clear up some family facts that seem to confuse many folk, in or out of the clannish circle of F1 Stox, 2002 style.
Steve Cayzer, who nowadays races number 380 -and very effectively too, he was an out and out winner at this year's Skegness European weekend - is the younger son of Alan, not John as some think. He is just 26 years old, but his spare 9 stone frame has led many punters to speculate that he is a teenage racing sensation fresh out of the Ministox! Actually, 'Huggy' as the family nickname him, got his start in racing just like dad, aged 16, at Yarmouth, Wimbledon and Aldershot, but didn't take to the Superstox. It was later when the sound of V8 again started to reverberate in the ears at tracks like Kings Lynn, that Steve took up racing again and although his career might be said to he patchy in its successes, he has a 'never give up' attitude on track and like his dad, is a dab hand at welding and fabrication.
'Big League' Stock Car racing has a vast back catalogue of racers from backgrounds in the Motor Trade - workshops and know how Transport - Yards with space and big rigs to carry big race cars - and Farming, especially ills the kind the Cayzers do, where dealing with big machinery - combines, ploughing gear, tractors - is part of the job and working under pressure especially at harvest time, while putting in long hours is endemic to the lifestyle. Having learned a lot from 'the old man', Steve has built cars before and the current machine is very much in the workmanlike, tough but quick, mould of all modern F1 Stockers, powered by a 540ci Chevrolet motor assembled by the team from Peter Knight supplied parts. The car may be modern, but somehow it looks when compared to those funky machines of years ago, very much a Cayzer car. The plain paint work, the number style, the lack of any sign writing other than the digits on the car. Uncanny. Steven may not be big, but he's tough. We watched him at Kings Lynn recently where Andy Smith decided he is as 'persona non grata' on his bit of the raceway. Others might have backed off, 'Huggy' did not. The serious looking young racer doesn't say a lot but he did tell us a few weeks later at Mildenhall, where we met the family: 'I don't mind that. Drivers like Smithy know what they are doing, you know where you stand and deal it. It is drivers who just crash into you or can't drive straight that are the problem." At Mildo, Steven doesn't get a lucky break in his heat, but wins the Consolation in convincing style, zapping through the traffic from his Blue grade start on the tiny hut deceptively fast shaleway to lead in very few laps. Grandad would have loved it.
Alan Cayzer hasn't raced for a few years now, but he's always there at the meetings and puts in a lot of workshop time. It was he who filled us in on many of the behind the scenes detail and the 380 car. Brother John though, is still out there on the track - what he won't say, is for how much longer. John Cayzer is a different character from Alan; he hesitates at first when we talk about doing a story on the family, recalls my name after some thought and feigns reluctance when we ask for a picture but you know, by the way he ribs promoter Ron Coventry upon arrival with the 495 car on the back of an open, and very elderly Ford D series flatbed, and the occasional twinkle - he is in my wife's good books by not leaving her out of subsequent conversation - that a wicked sense of humour lurks within. So when he sighs, "My lad just isn't interested. He's 21, I'd give him the car, he could go racing next week, I don't want to be doing it much longer..." that he may, or may not, be serious. However, running the again self-built car that John has used for some five seasons must be hard work and although lots of friends and family come along - you meet a lot of people in 35 years of racing - neither he nor Alan's boys have lots of crew like many F1 drivers do nowadays, nor the under cover working facilities, awnings, or other accoutrements of the 21st century racer.
John Cayzer does have a nice line in quotes mind you and sums up racing Formula 1 Stock Cars in a nutshell, when he says, "You want to race one of these things before you go and watch 'em really; you won't want to do it afterwards if son look too closely!" John's day at Mildenhall doesn't start well when he gets a puncture after running into a melee that already has his nephew in the midst of it, but later the old flair that made him a star turn long before some of today's F1 red tops were even born, at a time when 'Wildcat' Stu Smith was just starting his rise to the top, shows up. I won two Finals here I think," John, now 51, tells us - "When BriSCA raced here in the Eighties." But not today, although he does get third behind Steve in the Consi and another top ten finish in the GN race, both times a couple of spots ahead of young Matt Newson, who man or may not, be able to race cars like this on tracks like this in 35 years time when he is the same age as John Cayzer is now.
THE TALL GUY
Back with Alan's sector of the family, we were introduced to the second of this generation's racing Cayzers, Stuart. "You won't miss him," Uncle John had said, "He's about two feet taller than his dad and four times the size of his brother!" Alan Cayzer concurred, "I think we've got them the wrong way round, there's Huggy, nine stone and racing the V8, and Stuart's too big to fit in an F2 - we had to build the car around him."
Stuart Cayzer, who takes it all in good part, is indeed a good deal taller than everyone else in the family - including his mum, who no longer lives at the farm, but is along for the day with grandma - and like his brother, works it an entirely different industry to the elder generation - Tesco Supermarkets. Stuart is, we would say, sufficiently imposing a figure to be a first class Security officer at the big Bar Hill store, although he probably needs to keep his amiable nature a bit of a secret from would-be shoplifters and rip-off artists, while Steve works on maintenance for the company, based at Saffron Walden. Stuart is 27, and while brother Steve maintains a comfortable single life, living 'at home' and working on the race cars - he built Stuart's neat looking 379 machine - the F2 racer to married to Charmaine. We didn't meet Charmaine at Mildenhall, but she is - shall we say - coming round to racing a bit more since the unfortunate pre-wedding incident where Stu crashed heavily, broke three toes and his coccyx (tail-bone, it's sometimes called and it bloody hurts when that happens) and very nearly put the kybosh on the wedding. "It took quite a bit of talking to sort that out..." says Stuart a bit sheepishly. "and my foot hurts every now and then two years later, but I think she understood about racing. In the end." We notice Charmaine's name is neatly sign written on the race car.
Ironically, Stuart was not very interested in racing at all in his earlier years, but one day said, almost out of the blue, that he fancied a go and bingo! Steel was ordered and a car built in the team shop before he could get out of it. It's fair to say that results have been a little sparse - although he did win a GN race at Skegness a while back - but in these days when hordes of eastern counties F2' congregate when the surface is dirt and the action promises to he hard, the likeable six foot something racer isn't alone in having a modest points total.
When on consider that BriSCA have 70 plus yellow grade drivers alone, more than most divisions could muster in total, it's something of a wonder that the vast majority of drivers don't get discouraged - very few 'must win or I'll sulk' racers in F2, especially shale-based F2, it seems....
Realising that their popular little raceway has a loyal band of racers like Cayzer, S. Mildenhall's promoters run an all-season 'Whites and Yellows' championship and it is here that Stu is giving it his host shot, lying fourth in the points going into the June 16 meeting. Sadly he doesn't get too many more from the day's show, getting put out of his heat, bouncing back with a nice third in a busy second Consolation (there were so many entries, there were two such races) and then having the steering bent in the hurly burly of a typical no holds barred dirt track Final.
Stuart told us ''We learned a lot from the first car I had and this one has a lot more leg-room, with a dropped floor. Safety has improved so much in these cars even since I started racing, and this one handles a lot better."
He is the only one of the Cayzers ever to acquire a sponsor, and the proprietor of Haylock Timber, one Patrick 'Happy' Haylock is more than - er - happy - to spend some time at the track with the crew, helping out or just watching the action, so it's a good deal all round. Stuart's father is confident results will get better too. "He seems to get better as the meeting goes on," says Alan, "The GN is always a favourite race, we had seconds here (at Mildenhall) recently, and he's doing well, and enjoying it." Grandad Ron would he well pleased with that, too.
Our thanks to Kelly Cayzer for help with the story via her website www.cayzerracing.co.uk.