Frank Falkner got me into racing way back when, he was my mentor who lived in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and was the father of my school friend. So, I think I knew Frank from when I was around 10 years old. To give him his proper title, it’s Professor Frank Falkner M.D., one of the world’s leading pediatricians. Originally from England, he was also a long time Formula One fan. When I was around 15 years old Frank moved first to Washington and then on to Berkeley. Like most teenagers, I had a battle with my parents, dropped out of school and moved to New York. A while after I moved, my parents contacted Frank and asked him if he could visit me, have a talk and generally get me back on the right track. I met with Frank and, over a beer, I told him I wanted to go racing. At this point, you have to bear in mind I’d never been to a race, never seen a race, but I’d read many of Frank’s Autocourse and Automobile Year books. Frank was also well known to many Grand Prix drivers, his best friend was Bruce McLaren, he’d raced Formula Junior, he was Cooper’s representative when the Cooper/Brabham project came to Indianapolis and he was an independent member of ACCUS (Automobile Competition Committee of the United States), so you can see he was very well connected in racing. Although reticent at first, Frank eventually said he’d try and help me achieve my dream.
Frank called his good friends, Ken Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart and they both suggested I go to the UK and visit the Jim Russell Driving School at Snetterton. Jackie Stewart had said to Frank, “Let’s find out if the lad has any talent,” which was absolutely correct. Today, when people ask me how to get started in motor racing, I tell them to go to a school and see if they have any talent, or aptitude, for racing. The caveats being if Jim Russell said I didn’t have any talent, I’d return home and finish my schooling—that was a lot of motivation. To be honest, the first time I sat down in the car it was everything I wanted to do in life.
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