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Vidal, in the Alpine-Renault, being chased by a Porsche 904 at Reims in 1965, where he failed to finish due to engine troubles. Photo: Roy Smith

My very first experiences in a racing car were in a Lotus Seven. In fact, prior to purchasing the Lotus I went to Lotus and asked for a job. I thought I must know how they build these cars if I’m going to race them. I was conscious too that I had to learn how to set up the car, vital if I was going to look after it mechanically myself. The other problem, being French, I had to learn the English language. So, 1960 was a very busy year for me, moving to England, working at Lotus, learning the English language and, lastly, joining the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School at Snetterton to learn how to drive racing cars. I was just 19-years old at that time—many would say young and foolish!! Jim Russell taught me well, the schooling idea was really good. We’d learn racing lines, how to brake, how to overtake and how to drive fast and remain in control—the system worked very well and many of the star names graduated from schools like Jim’s. I did a number of club races and visited many of the great English race circuits, like Aintree, Oulton Park, Silverstone and, of course, Snetterton.

I watched motor racing at Snetterton too, and well remember some of the good drivers of the day in Formula Junior—that would be in 1961—I remember the Team Lotus boys, Pete Arundell, Mike McKee and Trevor Taylor, particularly Trevor Taylor and his brother Mike, who was his mechanic. Trevor was so much fun, always laughing and making people laugh. He was a very good driver too. When his helmet went on he was a racing driver, not a joker! Trevor won the Lombank Trophy Formula Junior race at Snetterton in early 1961. The master of Snetterton was, of course, Jim Russell. He not only raced at the circuit, but taught drivers to race at the same circuit—he knew the place like it was his home. Trevor told me a story about Jim Russell. Knowing Jim was the man to beat at Snetterton, Trevor asked Jim where the braking point was for the first corner, Riches. Jim told Trevor there was a white stone several meters from the corner and this was an ideal braking marker. Trevor thanked Jim for telling him. During the night, between practice and race day, Trevor and his brother Mike, who were sleeping in their van, decided to gain an advantage by moving the white stone further away from the corner. This would mean that Jim Russell and those who also used the white stone as a braking marker would slow down earlier for the corner than necessary. Knowing the stone had been moved, this would leave Trevor room to brake later and gain an advantage. All went as planned and Trevor won the race. Gamesmanship, I think he called it.

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