Back in the early 1950s I was racing my own Cooper 500 fairly successfully. I managed to beat the works team a couple of times, and I got noticed. Colin Chapman was looking for another driver. The people who did most of the sponsorship in those days, probably the only sponsorship then, were the fuel companies. I was already signed up with Esso and so was Colin. Colin made it known that he wanted another driver to Reg Tanner who was the Esso competitions manager. I was racing my own car at Snetterton and Colin asked if I wanted to drive a Lotus around. He said, “How do you like it?” and I said it was very nice. He asked if I thought I could go a little quicker and I said I could go a lot quicker. He then said, “But don’t bend it, it’s the only one we’ve got!”
So, I went round quicker, and when I went home a few days later, there was a contract to drive for Lotus on my desk. In a nutshell, that’s how it happened. It was as simple as that. Part of this contract was a retainer from Esso to drive for Lotus, and that was for £2000. In today’s terms, that doesn’t seem like much but a friend of mine worked it out, and that would be about £30,000 now. That was quite a lot of money, enough to keep my family without having to do any other extra work at all, and it left me free to do a bit more racing.
Access to the full article is limited to paid subscribers only. Our membership removes most ads, lets you enjoy unlimited access to all our premium content, and offers you awesome discounts on partner products. Enjoy our premium content.