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Photo: Peter Collins

Beating Peter Gethin for the European Formula 5000 champion-ship was something really special. I had a great car and tremendous support from Alan McKechnie to thank for that. Had it not been for Alan’s support, I may not have “made it” at all. For the 1974 F5000 season, we changed cars from a Trojan 101 to the Lola T332-Chevrolet. I won four races, Brands Hatch, Mondello Park, Thruxton and Mallory Park, and had consistent high finishes at other venues, which meant I was championship leader by the time we headed to Brands Hatch for the last round. The only driver who could beat me was Peter Gethin. He had to win and I had to finish lower than 5th. Everything was going to plan, I got the pole, but Peter was alongside me. Vern Schuppan, from the second row, made a terrific start and was leading by Druids Hairpin. I kept Peter Gethin behind me until, on lap four, disaster—my engine let go. It was a nail-biting finish, but thankfully Schuppan took the win, with Ian Ashley 2nd, and Peter Gethin 3rd… and the championship was mine. Although I’d had that retirement, the Lola was such a great car to drive all year, it was definitely the car to have. The T332 replaced the very fast and capable T330 that ran in 1973, and was simply a refinement or upgrade to contend the 1974 season with.

Having a great car is one thing, having the team behind you is another. Alan McKechnie Racing (AMR) was such a great, close-knit team, just four or five of us, based at the McKechnie Farm. Such a team would be laughed upon these days with so few staff, but we gelled well and enjoyed our successes. I’d been with Alan following a bad crash I had while testing at Castle Combe, midway through the 1971 season. Following my recovery, he rented an F3 March for me to drive at the Brands Hatch Christmas meeting. We did a gruelling season of F3 together for 1972 and, although it was a treadmill of a season racing week in week out, it’s where we all got to know each other very well. The Rothmans F5000 European Championship was a big step up in the new Trojan 101, like most embryonic cars initially it was hard work, things went against us, but by the end we had some great results. After the success of winning the 1974 F5000 European Championship it was time to make a break for the big time, Formula One. However, while on paper it looked right, history shows I was with the wrong teams at the wrong time, BRM, Lotus and RAM Racing all the same, but it was chasing a dream. It could all have been so different. Looking back, my greatest days were with AMR and winning the championship with the F5000 Lola T332 was the icing on the cake.

As told to Mike Jiggle