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My Brief Encounter with F1

Here’s the naturally gifted Ronnie Peterson in the misconceived March 721X at speed during the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix. Photo: Maureen Magee

Like many motor racing fans, my original dream of becoming a World Champion racing driver started when I was a small boy, aged about five or six years old. How this was to become a reality was beyond dreams, I was the son of a Lutterworth farmer and far removed from the sport itself. In later years, once Dad let me loose in the farm Austin A60 pickup across the tracks and fields, I would drive as I believed a World Champion should, flat-out on the straight and cutting the apex of a corner just right to continue maximum speed, or induce a four-wheel slide. I remember that it oversteered wildly everywhere. As time went by, my dreams dwindled somewhat with a reality check, but I remained massively interested in racing cars and indeed studied mechanical engineering as a result. I was fortunate enough to get a job with the late, great, Tom Wheatcroft at his Donington Museum restoring the cars. Working in Tom’s proximity was a real eye-opening education for a young lad.

John BoyesPhoto: John Boyes Collection
John Boyes
Photo: John Boyes Collection

As my work and education continued I enrolled in a mechanical engineering course at Loughborough University. Part of this course had to include some industrial work experience, and I found myself working for March Engineering at their Bicester HQ. Tom Wheatcroft had a significant hand in my being there, as he was at the point of buying a March F3 car for Roger Williamson—his deal to buy the car included my work experience! I remember him saying to me, “Ay up lad, if you want a job there, I’ll make sure Max (Mosely) gives you one. If I’m buying a car for Roger they can give you a job.” It was typical Tom. So, that’s how I ended up working for March Engineering.

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