On June 5th 1976, at White City Stadium Manchester, F1 stock car racing suffered one of its darkest days. The throttle jammed wide open on Brian Wallace's car and, before he had a chance to react, the car had collided with the fence at full speed. Tragically, he lost his life, the first fatality for almost 16 years. Brian was 31 years old, married to Jacqueline and father to two young children, Simon and Jane.
Brian had been a spectator in the mid 1960s but felt the racing had become too predictable for his taste and he stopped attending meetings. This self imposed exile was to last for three years or so until a customer towing a stock car to race at Belle Vue Hyde Road stopped for fuel at Brian's garage in Farnworth. It reignited his interest and he went along to watch. Not only did he enjoy the racing, he decided it was time he had a go. Through a contact he found a second hand car parked up on a farm at Horwich near Bolton. It had only raced twice, at Coventry, and both times had rolled over.
Brian made his debut towards the end of the 1972 season, the car powered by a big block Ford engine, and proved to be a quick learner. He picked up enough grading points to achieve a yellow roof by the end of the season. However, his first full season in 1973 got off to a poor start as he was beset by mechanical gremlins. He suffered a blown clutch, seized steering box and a holed radiator causing him to drop back to white grade for a time. But his perseverance and doggedness eventually paid off with his first Final win at White City Manchester in July, following which he took delivery of a brand new car built by a leading stock car constructor at the time, 179 Allan Barker. Initially it was powered by a 400 cubic inch Pontiac GTO engine but later this was replaced with a 427 cubic inch Chevrolet. By now up to blue grade, Brian gained his second Final victory again at White City.
A third Final came in the following year at Aycliffe, in May 1974, and by June he was a star grade driver, among the elite in the sport where he remained for the rest of his short racing career. Brian earned the nickname, 'The Farnworth Flyer' , a reference to how quick he went. He had a no fear, tenacious driving style and was never one to avoid mixing it with more experienced drivers. Neither would he dwell on or moan about bad luck, he always displayed a positive attitude to his racing, was ambitious for success and proud of his car's appearance. He was a hard but fair competitor, able to dish out the bumper and prepared to take it in return. It was great entertainment for the fans and Brian became a terrace favourite that led to his own, very popular, fan club being set up. Off track he was just as passionate and eloquent in promoting the sport. There is a video of Brian driving and being interviewed at White City Manchester in 1975 and posted by his son Simon on YouTube - copy and paste the following link to view it:
Pictured below is a model of Brian's 1974 car that appears in the video:
Brian's contribution to stock car racing was of the highest order and he was arguably approaching his best years of racing. He will never be forgotten.
Since 1977, the annual Trust Fund Championship is raced in his honour with the impressive trophy being a solid silver replica of his car perched on top of a wide plinth. A collection is normally made at the meeting by the drivers using their helmets as collecting boxes and the funds go to the Drivers Benevolent Fund that helps support drivers injured while racing and unable to work. Also the programme usually has an article that mentions the origin of the Championship and makes reference to Brian.
The safety improvements introduced following Brian's fatal accident included double springs on carburettors, wire mesh screens, separate routing for battery and fuel lines, improved firewalls and the front roll cage hoops angled backwards, not upright.
At his funeral in 1976, hundreds of people from all corners of the stock car extended family joined Brian's family, relatives and friends to pay their respects in a moving and memorable service. It was the Stock Car Supporter correspondent, Brian Eley, a close friend to Brian, who captured the emotion of the occasion so succinctly with the following words:
'Your final race is over; the chequered flag lies unfurled,
Maybe you didn't win my friend, but the loser is the world.'
Brian's Pontiac car had always been a project on my list of models to make but somehow I had never got round to it until, out of the blue, his son, Simon, contacted my website in October this year.
Simon was 10 years old when he lost his father and he told me that two years earlier, his Dad's fan club had presented him with a wooden model of his Pontiac powered car. He played with it until it fell apart! Now, when he looks back, he wishes he had put it in a glass case. Over the years he has collected magazines, programmes, photos, articles, videos and memorabilia - anything that makes reference to his Dad. He even had a go at driving a stock car in 2003 and although expensive and scary, he found it somehow very satisfying to race with his Dad's number 119 on the same shale tracks that he used to race. He says he may have another go in the future but a lottery win may be required first!
Simon was able to let me have a couple of colour pictures of his Dad's Pontiac car and from them and other pictures in various magazines in my stock car files, I have been able to make two models of the car. One has plugged the gap in my collection and the other has been mounted in a display case and presented to Simon and his family as a token of appreciation for all that his Dad meant to the sport and all his fans. In fact, Simon called to pick up the model and we spent a lot of time talking about his Dad and stock car racing in general. See picture below: