Allan Staniforth

THE Chequered Flag has fallen for the last time on Allan Staniforth a self-taught engineer whose single-seat racing cars inspired enthusiasts worldwide.

His book High Speed, Low Cost, written in 1969, described in detail the construction of his Terrapin Hillclimb and Sprint car which in its many forms helped him set fastest times in its class in competitions around Britain and also claimed a handful of World Land Speed records.

Only a month ago – at the age of 84 – Mr Staniforth, known in motor racing as Stanners, raced his Kawasaki-powered Megapin single seater at a track day at Harewood Hillclimb, near Leeds, where he had competed at almost every event since1962.

Until he retired, Mr Staniforth, who lived in Horsforth and later Pateley Bridge, was a journalist on the Daily Mirror, a job which took him into the Bogside of Londonderry during the Northern Ireland troubles, to the Icelandic Cod War on a Hull trawler and to murders and disasters across the North of England.

His day job was just a means to finance his love of motor sport. But his skill as a writer meant that when he came to write his books, including Competition Car Suspension, they won wide acclaim. His famous 'string computer' used to design suspensions was years ahead of the PC.

He was generous with his time and knowledge, frequently helping newcomers to the sport of Speed Hillclimbs. Constructors were always told "add lightness". It was said that he was so approachable queues formed at race meetings to speak to him.

Mr Staniforth remained a schoolboy at heart. Born in 1924, he flew with the RAF towards the end of the Second World War, cadged a lift with the Dam Buster Squadron on a practice mission and was a navigator in the Berlin Air Lift in 1948. Flying in Lancasters permanently damaged his hearing.

When the Daily Mirror organised the London to Mexico World Cup Rally in 1970, Mr Staniforth drove an Austin 1800 'Land Crab'. It was one of many strange vehicles he drove, including an Aston Martin Works DB3 which he ran on the road, but it was the Terrapin – designed and built with Richard Blackmore – which made him world famous.

It brought serious motor sport competition within reach of a new generation who had the enthusiasm but not the money. More than 30 years on the Terrapin is still being raced and some of its drivers, in racing overalls, carried Mr Staniforth's coffin at his funeral in Harrogate.

Fleetwood Mac's The Chain – theme music to the BBC Grand Prix programme – played as Mr Staniforth's grandson carried his green and white racing helmet into Stonefall Crematorium in front of his cardboard coffin covered in a Chequered Flag at the start of a thanksgiving for his life led by his friend Barry Whitehead.

Those present, who included the racing driver Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams and the rally driver Phil Short, as well as generations of Hillclimb and Sprint competitors, heard another friend David Grace deliver a tribute on behalf of the designer and constructor of British Hillclimb Championship cars, David Gould. He was Mr Staniforth's friend for 40 years, but could not attend because of commitments in the US.

Mr Gould said Mr Staniforth's enthusiasm, knowledge and his ability to communicate complex ideas in simple language across the generations was instrumental in in encouraging young students into an engineering career.

Mr Staniforth leaves a widow, Patricia, a daughter, Clare, a son, Darrell, and five grandchildren. It is hoped that a trophy to commemorate his life will be presented at Harewood Hill Climb where his ashes are to be scattered.