My favorite racing days were with John Jordan. John Jordan was a great man, he was a true enthusiast who loved the sport. He was a man of speed, racing on land and water, and he loved flying too. For me, they were the most enjoyable times competing in the National British Championships, particularly the Formula Libre races. I drove John’s BRM and then, my greatest racecar, his Lola T330. Indeed, John had raced the car himself, he’d also run Tom Belso in it as well. In its day, the Lola T330 was the car to have in F5000. In July 1984, I broke the outright lap record at Castle Combe, I think the record had stood since the European F5000 series way back in 1970. My best year with the car in the Formula Libre Series was 1986, when I won the championship, I was runner up in 1987 and 1988.
My motor racing career began working for (Sir) Frank Williams as a mechanic. Frank would buy wrecked Formula Three cars from the UK and the Continent, strip them and rebuild them using new parts. During this time I built my own Formula Ford car from the wreck of an F3 Brabham. The car was my entry into the sport in the late 1960s. Being exuberant, I thought I’d take on two Formula Ford racing series in one season. It was a little too much, but I managed to be runner-up in both. Runner-up, as all drivers know, is first of the losers! Fellow competitors at that time would be Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Gerry Birrell and other good English drivers who somehow fell by the way. I feel I got known by more people, doing both events, and that led to Formula Three people looking at me. Indeed, in 1970, I gave up working and raced full time.
I joined a small private Formula Three team in 1970 and drove a Brabham BT28 in the Motorsport Shell International Championship. The Monaco F3 race was a round of that championship, which I won. I also went on to win the Formula Three championship that year too. I thought I’d done enough to get into Formula Two, but the Formula Two teams were saying, “We’ve got a car for you to drive but so and so from Italy has £50,000 sponsorship—any chance you can match it?” Colin Chapman approached me for 1972 and asked me to drive, given the previous 12 months had been a bum year for me I jumped at the chance of racing for Lotus, which was one of the top names in the sport at the time. Unfortunately, the Lotus 73 F3 car was quite radical in its design and was a bit undrivable. I only had the one win but coincidentally a good 2nd place at Monaco—in the wet, too. So, I nearly won Monaco twice. In the race I had a coming together with a French driver that put me back to 18th place. I raced on to 2nd, catching Patrick Depailler closing at nearly two seconds a lap, finishing only 1.2 seconds behind on the line. Chapman said, “Let’s get you in an F1 car.” So I was entered in a Lotus 72 at the 1972 Race of Champions. That lasted until Druids when the fuel pump belt broke, so I had no power. I always remember that race, the car was late for qualifying so I was at the back of the grid, I remember asking Colin, “How do you get one of these things off of the grid? I’ve never started with an F1 car before.” He just put his arms around me and said, “You’re the driver boy, not me!” Being a Brands specialist in other formulae I thought I would use the same tactics, I was on the inside of the back row, the flag fell, everybody got off. I went down the inside all the way to 5th place that’s when the bloody fuel pump belt broke and that was that. In a strange way it may have been the best thing that happened. I did feel a little out of my league.
My career had fits and starts of some things good, others not so good. I was one of those drivers who was never in the right place at the right time to get a top drive, but I kept on trying nonetheless.