A RETIRED racing driver has been reunited with a trophy that was taken from him nearly 50 years ago.
John Blades, who is well-known across the region for his tailoring skills, was victorious in 1961 at the once-famous Blagdon Sprint, on the outskirts of Newcastle.
He kept the rose bowl as a centre-piece at home until 1964 when Newcastle’s Kings College Motor Club, which organised the event, came to take it back.
After nearly half a century since holding the trophy, Mr Blades was put in touch with the chancellor’s office at Newcastle University and within three days the rose bowl was tracked down.
The 73-year-old was taken to see the trophy in a hall of residence and recognised it almost immediately.
“I could hardly believe it,” he said. “I spotted it at 30 paces as it sat in a trophy cabinet. It was remarkable to have found it after so many years.
“Blagdon was always a narrow and difficult estate road, twisting but fast along its three quarters of a mile length. The main obstacles were estate fences and safety straw bales.”
Last held in 1964, the Blagdon Sprint was hosted by Lord Ridley on the Blagdon Estate, north of Newcastle.
Driving his Lotus 17 Coventry Climax, Mr Blades won the team award with drivers Phil Walton, in his Jaguar 3.8 saloon, and John Brown, driving a TVR Climax.
Mr Blades is known as a retired racing driver, so much so his 70th birthday party three years ago prompted a congratulatory email from Sir Stirling Moss.
His motor racing career included racing Lotus cars, Ginettas, Chevrons and GT 40s.
Now his application for membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club is being considered in what Blades confesses is his “last wish in life”.
There is much support for this from fellow former racing drivers in a high-speed band of brotherhood.
He has strong local links with the Croft circuit where he presents the Derek Bell Trophy for Formula 2 and 5,000 cars at the Darlington & District Motor Club autumn meet each year. There is an ever-present John Blades Trophy.
“I once held the outright best ever time for the Croft circuit,” said the retired racing driver. “I had it for one week.”
Journalist Chris Dobson is ghost- writing a book about his close friend’s racing career.
He said: “I haven’t got very far but the initial research shows an impressive number of firsts and perhaps most impressive of all is the warm regard he was held in by motoring journalists.
“Yes, he did mention the rose bowl and its disappearance and it is true that, after fast approaching 50 years since he held the trophy, we found it in three days but that had nothing to do with me. I simply made a call and spoke to Lizzie Taylor at Newcastle University and through her very kind help we found the trophy.”