In 1981 de Villota contested the World Championship for Makes, teamed with Guy Edwards in this Ford-powered Lola T600. They won at Brands Hatch and Enna, then finished 3rd in class and 15th overall at Le Mans when joined by fellow Spaniard Juan Fernandez.
Photo: Paul Kooyman
Unlike many racing drivers, none of my family was associated with motor sport or the motor trade. Spain, my country, had its sporting roots in bull fighting, football, and golf. Motor racing was for a minority of people. During the 1960s, I was a spectator at the Rally of Spain, part of the European Rally Championship, and saw the Lancia Fulvia of Harry Källström. I was transfixed by the way he twitched the car first one way and then the other, his total car control was amazing. In this moment I was smitten by the way he made the car dance and I wanted to do this, and make motor sport my life’s work. In this time, too, I was very impressed with the driving style of Jim Clark, and a little later Jochen Rindt. I wanted to experience circuit racing for myself and started driving a Lotus Super Seven in Spanish hillclimb events. I took my little car and tried racing on circuits against cars like the Ford GT40 and Porsche 906, and 908—a little foolish you may say. I changed to racing a Renault Gordini in the Spanish Cup series and then went on to Formula 3. Up to that point, we had Alex Soler Roig and, earlier, Alfonso de Portago, as notable national drivers on the world stage. They were exceptional people who had money to boost their careers. Unfortunately, they did not turn Spain into a nation that would support the sport. My early years of racing went hand in hand with the early years of the Jarama circuit; it was a small step to introduce the Spanish people to a sport that had been dominated by other European countries, such as France, Italy, Germany, and England.
Motor racing was my hobby at this time. I had studied Economics, graduating with a BA, and began a career in banking. At the time I quit working, I was director of a branch of Banco Iberico (a major bank in Madrid), I was married, and had a young baby—yes, please tell me, I was just a little crazy! It was a big decision, and a dramatic situation to put my family in. No money coming in, no finances at all, the irony of it all was everybody thought I was a rich millionaire. My first race in England was in the ShellSPORT Championship of 1976, in the Lyncar. I competed in most but not all of the rounds, and had a couple of 5th places; it was a year of learning. The second season, 1977, started very well. The Lyncar was looked after by a good team of mechanics headed by Martin Slater. The first race of the season was at Mallory Park; we wheeled the car out and everyone looked at it thinking it was a brand-new car when, in fact, it was the same car as the previous year. I won quite easily, the boys had done such a fantastic job preparing it.
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