Jersey International Road Race
After the Second World War there were no motor racing circuits in operation in Britain, and no venue for the British Grand Prix, which had been held at Brooklands, which had fallen into disrepair after being bombed by the Germans.
It was decided that a street circuit in Jersey could be used for Grand Prix races, although they were non-championship events. However, as international sport recovered from its wartime cessation, some of the top drivers were attracted to race in Jersey.
The circuit chosen was from West Park to Bel Royal along Victoria Avenue, only a single-carriage road in those days, returning via St Aubin’s Road, a total of 3.2miles.
Remarkably the first race was held on 8 May 1947, a day short of two years after the island was liberated from German Occupation, and this was the first significant British post-war motor race, and the first with continental participation.
The drivers who took part included Britain’s Reg Parnell, who won in a Maserati, and the legendary French driver Louis Chiron. Cars included a range of Maseratis from Italy and ERAs from England, as well as Delages and a Bugatti.
The race was held again the following year, over 55 laps of the same circuit. It was won by Bob Gerard in his B-Type ERA, with George Abecassis second and Reg Parnell in third. Another famous name in post-war motor racing who participated in 1948 was Roy Salvatori.
In 1949 the race was again won by Bob Gerard in an ERA, with Emmanuel de Graffenried from Switzerland second and Britain’s Raymond Mays third. Kenneth Bears died during practice on the eve of the race, but this did not stop it being held again the following year, when the winner was Peter Whitehead in a Ferrari.
There was then a gap because Grand Prix cars were becoming too fast for the circuit and although a sports car race was held in 1952, at only a slightly slower speed than the Grand Prix cars. There were two heats and a final, which was won by Ian Stewart in an XK120C, with Ken Wharton second in a Fraser-Nash and George Abecassis third in an Aston Martin.
This was to be Jersey’s last road race and, although there has been talk of reviving the event in some format over the following 50-plus years, it was never really a realistic proposition given the speed of modern-day racing cars who would have to race on a circuit where traffic is today restricted to 40 mph, and 30 mph in some sections.
In contrast, Ian Stewart’s average winning speed in 1952 was nearly 90mph and fastest laps approaching 100mph were recorded in 1948-1950.
The future of the Road Race
The organizers of the Jersey International Motoring Festival have always tried to instill the spirit of the Road Race in the Festival.
In the past demonstration runs have been put on to show a little of how the Road Race might have looked and we intend to continue working towards resuming the Road Race in some form in the future.
JIMF thank all of our sponsors who help keep this amazing event going.