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Motorsport Aspirations

I am not sure when I first wanted to be a racing driver, but it was probably in the mid-sixties when I was about 15. I had no clue about how to become one, despite being surrounded by motorsport history. Brooklands was a ten minute bike ride away and near to that was Cooper’s new yard with Allan Mann a few doors away. My big sister was a secretary at Thompson and Taylor and knew Roy Salvadori (one of my heroes). Ken Tyrrell’s legendary woodyard was a twenty minute bike ride away (if you knew the way through the woods). Bruce McLaren lived nearby and I saw him on the road in the M6GT. I’ll stop now, because you get the picture.

In 1969 we moved away to the comparatively motorsport free zone of Upminster in Essex (little did I know) where I made friends with a lad a year older than me who was an apprentice car mechanic who shared my dreams of getting into racing cars. We decided on trying Formula Ford and, because he liked the name (and had more money than me) wanted to buy a car called the Mistrale. Pete and I took ourselves down through the Dartford tunnel to Brands Hatch where we quickly decided that FF was, perhaps, quite a crowded category and that we should look elsewhere.

Enter Pete’s uncle who was sales director at a Rootes dealership. He was very supportive, agreed that FF was maybe oversubscribed and that if we were to go with a Rootes product he could raise some funds for us. He knew of the legendary Fraser Imps and of Bull McGovern cleaning up in the RAC tin top Cham,pionship with his Sunbeam Imp and pointed us that way. We were not convinced though and so we came to Formula 4 where the Imp powered Vixen was the way to go.

Pete’s uncle was on board and promised that, if we raised £1000, he would give us another £2000. From Motoring News we could see that a chap named Mike Wilds was the class of the formula and Pete’s uncle suggested that, if we got our side of the cash together, he would come in and buy Mike’s car at the end of the season and we could run it in 1971. That August we went off to Thruxton, taking the train to Andover and walking to the track (every penny saved was one towards our dream). We talked to some of the F4 boys in the paddock and were hooked. The Vixen looked more like a proper racing car than an FF and would be our passport onto the grid.

Then it all unravelled. He and I were both big fans of Jochen Rindt. We had watched him at Thruxton and Crystal Palace in F2 and were confident that he was on his way to the world title that year as luck began to go his way. Then came Monza and that dreadful Saturday. Pete saw it as a sign that he should not get into motor sport, joined a Pentecostal Church and got religion in a big way. Motor racing was not God’s work and with that my plans ran aground, my sinking completed when I met a girl…

A couple of years later I had scraped together the money to start the MRS course at Brands where, on my first day, my instructor was none other than Mike Wilds. My cash ran out though and I got into marshalling instead. It was the nearest I was to get to racing. Such is life.

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