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Simon Hughes & Della Watson (Simon is Life Member no. 14)

Current Car: MK IIA Austin Healey Sprite

Years of Membership: 22

I first joined the AHSDC in 1987 as an 18 year old, after an old school mate, Tim Dore told me what a great weekend he had spent at Bordertown in SA. He had been with his parents, and all these other people where they had been driving around flags in a paddock, then spending the night telling stories about how fantastic the day had been and how much better they were in their youth. All this, while stumbling around with their drinks, ever so careful not to fall into the huge bonfire carefully built by Ralph Dodd - what a fantastic host he was. You would never miss a ‘hay ride’ Sunday mornings.

Tim also had a Mk.1 that was in need of serious body work, so I was happy to help him with this, which gave him time to worry about the much more important mechanical stuff.

So in 1988 came my first full year of competition in Tim’s Mk.1 with a 948cc or 803cc engine depending on which one we could get to go at the time. This was a fantastic and nervous time learning to drive on racetracks and motorkhanas. I will admit to hating motorkhanas in those days; however, they soon became one of my favourite motorsport events.

1989 saw the combination of father and son driving the Mk.1, so while Mike and Tim fought for ‘Sprite Champion’, I decided I would compete in my Datsun 1600. Meanwhile Owen Crombie decided it would be best if we came to a deal and I drove his newly acquired ‘Mustard Midget’. This was a ‘tidy 1972 round wheel arch American’, with a rough exterior. With a little fettling it soon looked just like an Australian delivered car, so off I went on another educational year of driving. The Midget had some unusual suspension quirks where it would corkscrew into a spin almost every time you took your foot off the accelerator at high speed. It certainly demanded your attention with fine car control. Although Owen was the victor at the end of the year, it was fantastic for both Owen and myself to compete so closely all year long.

Late 1989 saw me needing my own Sprite. This is when Sue Brice (at that time Gardiner) decided she did not need the 1963 “heap of junk” Mk. IIA in their garage. So I bought a project car. In January 1990 this car became EDM 013.

With this car I have had a fantastic time driving at so many AHSDC events. From Sprint events, Hillclimbs and Motorkahanas. The car has won the Sprite Championship 5 times, once with Owen driving in 1995 and 4 other times with myself, and runner-up in 2002 with Della driving. In 2001 we had fantastic success at the National Challenge in Goulburn. Although the car managed to take home many awards, the highlight was Del winning fastest lady, and second outright in the ‘Street Motorkhana’. Not bad for someone driving in her third event! Over the years the car has competed at National challenges in Vic, NSW, SA and QLD.

Not so long ago, we would say our favourite events were tarmac rallies. The sensation of driving a good Sprite very quickly on a closed twisty public road, with your navigator telling you what’s ahead, is something that all Sprite enthusiasts should try. Over a ten year period EDM managed to win its class three times. Much to Del’s and my excitement we were able to win in 2007 - the final year ‘open cars’ were eligible to compete.

Del has also raced EDM in Vic State Races, Sandown Historic meetings, and at many events over a seven year period from 2001. Talk about a steep learning curve, after a couple of years motorkhanas and sprints, Del finds herself on the grid on the front straight at Sandown with 35 other MGs and Sprites! Not to mention the fantastic experiences we have had competing together at ‘Rally Tasmania’ events. These days we are enjoying the challenge of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship Events and the occasional motorkhana.

We have also enjoyed being on at least 10 different Committees over the years, not to mention National Challenge Sub-Committees. In 1993 it was very rewarding to be President of a Car Club with 210 members, and 30 competitors at any of the 6 motorkhanas we would run a year.

It’s true to say that that the Sprite Club is still very much part of our lives, we have formed friendships and memories we will carry with us for life. With the car only being 47 years young, there must still be heaps of things we can do in the future……....

Simon was awarded Life Membership in November 2008.

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