|I started racing in 1973 at the tender age of 17 just a
few days before my 18th birthday. My first car was a Hillman Imp, which
was formerly owned by Andy Slaughter!
My first race was at
Silverstone in Production
Saloons, where despite stalling on the grid I finished third in class.
During the season I raced against Tony Lanfranchi and John Webb (yes
that one) who drove Moskitvich's. I commuted to Ingliston in Scotland to
contest their series (they paid start money...£16.00), driving the Imp
on the road. On one occasion the head gasket blew on the way there, and
I managed a temporary repair at Shap Fell. After the race the car
consumed water faster than petrol, however, the result did help me to
win my first Championship.
In 1983 I took part
in a televised Hot Rod event at Northampton Stadium. As track champion I
had to start last on the grid but it was a Le Mans style start, with
drivers running to their cars. I practiced several times but I usually
ended up sitting on my seatbelts so on the day I tied the belts back
with cotton, which was easy to break once in the car. The race went out
live on ITV and we sat out on the grid for a long time. Then despite the
fact that it was August, it began to rain. Everyone was on slicks but
there was no time to change to wets with the race starting imminently.
I managed to get away well at the start bearing
in mind there were 29 other cars on a quarter mile oval. By lap 10 I was
in the lead closely pursued by Peter Grimer, an acknowledged wet
weather expert. Soon he swept around the outside and started to pull
away. However I quickly realised that the outside line was slightly
dryer on the banked oval and slowly began closing up again, particularly
when Peter caught a gaggle of back markers. With 2 laps of the 30 to go
I made a move but Peter saw me and tried to edge me wide. I glanced the
safety fence but thankfully got away with it and took the lead with one
lap left. Needless to say, Fred Dinnage in the studio was moderately
impressed. The manoeuvre went on to get a replay in the sports
round up later in the day.
It was my late father
who took me to see me to a Bank Holiday meeting at Brands Hatch, who
introduced me to Motor Racing. My overwhelming impression of that day
was seeing Jim Clark two wheeling a Ford Cortina around
Clearways. Clark went on to drive a couple of other cars that day, but
the Saloons always stayed in my mind.
years I have been fortunate to drive over 50 different types of
cars, ranging from the small Mini to a huge Mercury Cougar. The Mazda
RX7, Honda Prelude and the current Escort WRC have been three of the
more successful examples but the best handling ?......that has got to be
Rob Cox's BDA engined, Caterham 7 based, "Black Brick"
The quickest car must be a Ford Sierra with a Porsche
956 engine. It was capable of over 180 mph on the old pit straight at
Zandvoort in Holland, this car also gave me a huge scare when it took
off over Deer Leap at Oulton Park.
|My biggest accident was rolling end over end at Epymt
in Wales on the Tour Of Britain in a Ford Capri. Some kind soul ha
removed a warning sign just before a blind brow. There was also a bone
jarring incident with a marker barrel at Northampton Stadium, which took
the best part of six months to heal. However the car was repaired for
the next day.
The mid 1980s to early 1990s saw some of
the wildest saloon cars roam the English circuits in Thundersaloons. I
was lucky enough to drive cars in both class A and class B, including
Ford Sierras, Ford Escorts, Mitsubishi Starion, Mazda RX7, Opel Manta,
Honda Prelude with such talented drivers as Andy Rouse, Dave Brodie,
John Brindley, Richard Piper, Mike Wilson and Jonathon Buncombe. It
really was an exciting time. During this period I also got to drive
various other cars ranging from Peter Bevan's fabulous Ford Anglia,
Sean Brown's Toyota Corolla and Ford Sierra, Frank Cundell's BMW M3,
John Harrison's Sunbeam Tiger and Chris Weedon's version, Tim Bowles'
Camaro and Nick Torregani's Mustang.
By 1995 most of the saloon classes were in
decline. Thundersaloons had been killed off, whilst Historic saloons
had so many rule changes no one knew what would be eligible from one
year to the next. Production saloons had also disappeared. My
enthusiasm had also gone.
It took an offer from Mark Burnside to
share one of his MGs at Lydden to kick start things again. There then
followed some successful forays into Europe, firstly with Frank
Cundell's Escort Cosworth, then with Dave Thomas's Ford Capri to
really get into top gear. By now the Honda was allowed into Formula
Saloons despite having to run with a restrictor. Julian Swayland had
also loaned me various Sierras until we got hold of the now familiar
Ford Escort WRC.
The rest,as they say, is recent history.
With on going development, courtesy of Joe Stevens, this has turned
out to be one of my most successful cars. The four wheel drive makes
it virtually unbeatable in the wet, although it is surprising how few
wet meetings it has raced in.
During my 40 or so years of racing I have
been lucky to attract sponsorship in various forms. Quite often it has
only been free product. However, when times are hard this is most
welcome as it means money can be spent on other items.