The future of London’s last motorsport venue is in jeopardy as Wimbledon Stadium is set to be redeveloped into a football stadium.
Wimbledon Stadium has been home to stock car racing since 1962, but plans for a new AFC Wimbledon football stadium are almost set in stone to take its place.
The demolition of the greyhound racing track in Plough Lane has divided opinion but the loss of London’s last motorsport venue has gone under the radar.
John Christie, 33, from Northern Ireland, won the 2013 World National Hot Rod Championship and has fond memories of racing at the prestigious track.
Mr Christie, son of five-time World Champion Ormond Christie, concedes it is unlikely there will be a U-turn in events but thinks alternatives have been overlooked.
“I don’t understand why they don’t want to take this stadium and maybe do something with it to make it into a three-sport venue,” he said.
“Something like speedway would be good as it brings a big crowd these days so if something like that can be done and the facilities can be brought up to standard then it would great.
“Behind football and the mainstream sports it is one of the biggest sports and this is the grassroots level of motorsport.
“I’m just annoyed that some of the people who make these decisions don’t see that.
“They just see it as a derelict stadium and they don’t seem to appreciate what does go on because it’s not on TV and it’s not in its prime like it was 30 years ago.”
Once the go to place for a fun-filled evening of greyhound racing or energy-pumping stock car races the venue has fallen behind on maintenance and numbers have dwindled in the past decade.
A new 20,000 seat football stadium for AFC Wimbledon and 601 new homes are scheduled to take its place — which would have a damaging effect on both stock car and greyhound racing in the UK.
Derek Warwick, one of the country’s greatest Formula 1 drivers and a winner of the Le Mans, was one of the track’s most famous winners.
Despite all his achievements in the world of motorsport he said in an interview in 1997 that the race he holds closest to his heart was at Wimbledon Stadium when he became Superstox World Champion at the age of 19.
“To say that was his best moment in all that he achieved speaks volumes for this place,” said Mr Christie.
“We get that same feeling though and it’s one of the only stadiums that has a football-style atmosphere because it’s such a small arena.
“Most motorsports like Silverstone are in a big open area and there isn’t much atmosphere but tracks at like Wimbledon the atmosphere is brilliant.
“From a drivers point of view whenever I’ve raced there I’ve loved it. It’s brilliant, it’s got that atmosphere and you can feel the history all around it.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson ‘called in’ the project for further consultations on Tuesday 22 March, delaying a decision on the plans for a new AFC Wimbledon stadium which isn’t likely to take place until July, by which time a new mayor will be in office.
Image courtesy of John Christie, with thanks