Trevor Taylor remembers...
In this day and age of “big money” Grand Prix motor racing, it is difficult to imagine any driver maintaining the same life style after he finished his active participation as he followed before he was involved. Even moderately successful Formula One drivers can earn a reasonable living out of the game and many people quite rightly feel that this desire to sustain a certain standard of living has almost relegated the pleasure of involvement to second place in many drivers’ priorities. Some would say that it is fashionable to “knock” the current style of Grand Prix motor racing. Equally, others deride talk about motor racing “sport” as outmoded and “fuddy-duddy”, the nostalgic preserve of those whose memories extend only up to the start of the Second World War. However, it’s less than two decades from the time when many people went Grand Prix racing because they wanted to do it for sheer fun, without any grand aspirations of becoming rich, living in tax havens and retiring with vast sums of money in a foreign bank account. One such individual is Trevor Taylor, team mate to the great Jim Clark in the works Lotus Grand Prix team throughout the 1962 and 63 seasons, and Motor Sport recently took a visit to his family garage business in the Rotherham suburb of Wickersley to chat about old times and old faces.
Lest one should get the impression that youngsters have only been getting into Formula One over the past decade, we should explain that Trevor Taylor has been retired from active motor racing for ten years, yet is still only a trim 44 years old, three and a bit years older than Mario Andretti – and a grandfather as well! He first started his motorsporting activities in 1954, at the age of seventeen, when he and his elder brother Mike built a quite neat and stylish Ford-engined special called X100. “It created quite a bit of local interest,” recalls Trevor, “and not only in the newspapers. We were actually invited to show the car on a BBC television programme called Teleclub. We did some sprints in it and decided at one particular event that whichever of us was quicker would be the full-time driver and the other would serve as mechanic. I think I ended up two-tenths of a second faster than Mike, and he immediately retired to become my mechanic. He was fantastically loyal and even came with me when I joined the Lotus Formula Junior team”. Trevor is quick to add that Mike still works in the family business which was originally started as a coachwork building concern founded by his still-enthusiastic, semi-retired father. Anxious to compete in as many events as they possibly could, the Taylor brothers also fitted the X100 with a “sort of hard top” and entered it in the Yorkshire Rally, but Trevor admits “it was so cold out in the snow that we gave up and came home. Dad was disgusted and wouldn’t speak to either of us for a week!”
For 1955 Trevor’s father bought a Triumph TR2 for his son to use in local northern club races and sprints, and this was retained for a couple of years before they acquired a JAP engined Staride Formula 3 500 c.c. single seater. “I remember first racing it at the Brough airfield circuit,” he recalls, “but it wasn’t as competitive as the Norton engined cars – or as reliable.” Wisely joining the ranks of Cooper-Norton owners, the Taylors then acquired the machine which had been used by Stuart Lewis-Evans prior to his graduation into Formula One. Distinctively painted in black livery with bright yellow wheels, and Trevor decked out in matching yellow crash helmet and overalls –“everybody was wearing blue ones at the time, so I got Les Leston to make me up a set of yellow ones” – the Taylor’s Cooper-Norton was a familiar sight on the Formula Three grids throughout 1958 and 59. He won a lot of races, beating many of the established stars like Jim Russel and Don Parker in the process. “That was a rough old business,” grins Trevor with pleasure, “but it was tremendous fun and I learned a great deal from it all.”
At the end of the 1959 season Trevor and his father decided that they would move up into Formula Junior. “We went down to the Racing Car Show at the start of 1960, originally planning to go and chat with Eric Broadley since the Lola looked like being the car to have,” recalls Trevor, “but we bumped into Colin Chapman on the Lotus stand and he had a long talk with Dad and I. He offered me a Lotus 18, on the basis that if we bought it and paid for its running, he would operate it as a works car.” Taylor was invited to a test session with the car and immediately realised that it would be highly competitive, so the deal was done and he lined up alongside Jim Clark as the second works Formula Junior driver for the 1960 season.
Between them, Clark and Taylor simply mopped up the opposition, and Trevor enhanced his reputation with wins at Aintree, Crystal Palace, Silverstone, Brand Hatch and Goodwood. Amazingly, when it came to the start of the final round at Silverstone, a study of the records showed that he and Clark had the same number of wins, second places, third places and fastest laps. Remembers Trevor, “Jim couldn’t do that final race at Silverstone because he was off racing F1 somewhere else. So I suggested to Colin that we share the Championship, Jim and I. We went to John Eason-Gibson with the suggestion and the RAC accepted our idea”. Today such a gesture would be dismissed out of hand as “unprofessional”, but it seems merely a reflection of the different attitudes which prevailed in those relatively carefree times – as well as an insight into Trevor Taylor’s regard for Jim Clark. Talking about that first year in Formula Junior, Trevor stresses just how much he owes to his father for making it all possible. “We had the best of everything. If we needed some more wheels, or a new engine, we just went out and got them. You know, Mike and I were young at the time and I don’t suppose we gave a second thought to just where the money was coming from. But it was Dad all the time. I know he’d got a good, solid business, but we were spending a lot of money on my motor racing by the standards of those days. He always gave me whole-hearted support and never skimped on anything.”
For 1961 the Lotus Formula One team was composed of Clark and Innes Ireland, Trevor remaining for a second season in Formula Junior with the new Lotus 20. He romped away to win an (unshared) Championship once again with wins at Snetterton, Oulton Park, Aintree and Crystal Palace in addition to this first foreign triumphs at Solitude and Reims. After being given his first F1 outing in a old Lotus 18 in a non-title race at Crystal Palace, Taylor watched from the touch lines as the difficult situation between Chapman, Clark and Ireland brewed up during the course of the season. Chapman could clearly see that Clark, ostensibly his F1 team’s number two driver, had the promise to eclipse Ireland’s level of ability and when Innes was dismissed at the end of the year it was an even more agonising business since Innes wound up the 1961 season by winning the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Team Lotus’s first Grand Epreuve triumph. When Ireland was fired, Trevor Taylor found himself invited to join Chapman’s Formula One team alongside Clark. “I didn’t need to be asked twice when Lotus phoned and asked me if I would run in South Africa during the winter of 1961/62. I’d half been expecting it anyway . . .” smiles Trevor.
Clark and Taylor were armed with 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax engined Lotus 21s for their South African tour and Trevor started the 1962 season with victory in the Cape Grand Prix on January 1st. Interestingly, examining the Motor Sport records, Taylor not only won the first international F1 race of 1962 on New Year’s Day, but by taking his Lotus-Climax V8 to victory in the Natal Grand Prix on December 22nd, during the next “winter tour”, he also won the last Formula 1 race on the calendar. However, as Trevor was quick to remind us, a great deal of trouble and heartache went on between those two successful events.
“I started off by knocking the 24’s nose section off at Monaco” he smiles, “and then everything went fine at Zandvoort where I finished second, between Graham Hill’s BRM and Phil Hill’s Ferrari V6. I remember being quite impressed with myself at the time, beating the reigning World Champion”. Then came the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps – and with it came trouble for Trevor Taylor!
Taylor recalls that he enjoyed Spa and led for 15 laps of this race “before I locked my rear wheels and slid up the escape road at La Source. That let Jim go by in the new monocoque Lotus 25 (Taylor was still using a spaceframe 24 at this state) and I got involved in a big battle with Willy Mairesse’s Ferrari. He was a bit quicker than my Lotus up the back section of the circuit, climbing back up from Stavelot and he got very close on one lap as we went into the last left hander but one before La Source”.
At that time, the ZF gearboxes used by the Team Lotus Formula One Cars had a rod activating their selectors sticking out of the rear of the casing. Coming through that left hander at Spa, the “shark’s nose” of Mairesse’s Ferrari got close enough to tap the rear of Taylor’s gearbox, actually knocking it into neutral. “Suddenly the engine revs went sky high and my car snapped sideways,” Trevor remembers with a wry grin on his face, “I was heading straight off the road, but I honestly think that Mairesse’s Ferrari then saved my life. It hit me again and straightened my car up slightly. If it hadn’t, I’d have gone straight off into a bank. As it was, I shot down a ditch and Willy hit a telegraph pole, rolling his car over in flames . . .” What Taylor modestly doesn’t admit is that the telegraph pole fell down, bisecting the Lotus just behind his head. Trevor hobbled away, shaken, but Mairesse spent several weeks in hospital recovering.
Trevor continues, “I was getting a bit prone to accidents by this stage”. At Rouen, gendarmes lined up in front of the pits at the end of the 1962 French Grand Prix prevented Surtees and Trintignant from pulling off the circuit and their two cars were stopped, virtually side-by-side, as Taylor’s Lotus 24 came flying over the brow before the startline. “I came over that brow and thought ‘I don’t believe this!’ There was simply nowhere to go”. Trevor’s Lotus locked up its front wheels for 150 yards as he aimed for the gap to the left of the track between Trintignant’s machine and the straw bales. “But I could see that there was only room for the monocoque without its wheels. I ducked down low in the cockpit, thinking 'Ah well, Trev – here we go again’, and came shooting out the other side like a sausage. Mercifully, Chapman could see what happened and fully realised that it wasn’t my fault!”
Trevor escaped from this accident unscathed, but the pattern of his misfortune continued. At Enna, the extremely fast lakeside circuit in central Sicily, Bandini’s Ferrari dived inside him on the 120 m.p.h. corner before the pits, but the Italian slid wide in front of Trevor’s Lotus as he came out of the corner, dropping a wheel on the “rough stuff’ and showering him with rocks. Taylor raises his eyebrows in retrospective frustration, even nineteen years later! “One rock went straight into my mouth, another knocked me out. The car hit the guard rail, rolled, threw me out onto the track and then launched itself back over the guard rail where it burst into flames. I was left skating down the track on my backside!”
Towards the end of the year there was some consolation for Trevor Taylor when he found himself leading the non-Championship Mexican Grand Prix only to be called in to have his car taken over by Jim Clark. “But Jim was most generous about it and I still have a gold Rolex watch he gave me with 'winner, 1962 Mexican Grand Prix’ inscribed on it.”
As far as Trevor Taylor was concerned, playing “second fiddle” to Jim Clark in the Lotus team did not worry him at all. Talking to him on the subject of this twice World Champion Scot, it is obvious that Trevor has nothing but praise for the shy and unassuming Border farmer who became one of the Grand Prix racing’s greatest exponents of all time. “For me, Jim was the best of all time,” says Taylor without a second thought, “I know that it is difficult comparing different drivers from different eras, but I will always consider Jim Clark to be the very best. I raced against him, he was one of my contemporaries. But there was no way I could compete with him. I had to try, to work at the business. He was born to it. Sometimes I use to follow him round, but although we’d got totally different styles, I knew there was no way I was going to do what he was doing”. Trevor cites one particular example of following Clark through Goodwood’s Woodcote corner and into the chicane. “I was thinking about getting the power down through the chicane and watching Jim at the same time. Then he just flicked the car sideways round Woodcote and was away, through the chicane and off in one flowing movement. There was just nobody racing at the time who was in his class”.
Trevor makes it clear that this high opinion of Clark wasn’t simply confined to his racing ability. For his team mate Jim represented all the good qualities by which he still judges personal standards. “He would never do anything behind your back,” recalls Taylor, “he would rather help you than hurt you. He was a truly gentle character and I don’t recall ever having a hard word with him. People used to get the wrong impression about him, of course. They thought he was cold, but the truth of it was that he was very shy if he didn’t know you. He was a thinking driver as well. I remember when he once had a big argument with Chapman at Oulton Park following a steering breakage. He came over to me, fuming, and said “I wonder what this is all about, Trev. This motor racing lark sometimes seems to be a mug’s game’. He didn’t often fall out with Chapman, probably because Colin knew how good he was and didn’t push him too far. But when he got into one of these moods you just had to leave him alone and let him work his problem out for himself.”
Taylor’s relationship with Colin Chapman was quite satisfactory for the entire time they worked together, but although Trevor admired and respected him as a racing car designer he felt that he was a man to be kept at “arm’s length” on a personal basis. “I always got the impression that he would dominate everything and everybody if he got the upper hand, but he respected you if you decided to stand up to him and confront him”. Taylor smiles when he recalls how Colin came up to him on the plane to the United States Grand Prix at the end of the 1963, suggesting that Trevor concentrate on Formula Two and sports cars for the following year. “He told me that he thought he could bring me back into F1 after a brief rest”, says Trevor laughingly "but I wanted to stay in F1 and so we parted company. I always amuse myself by thinking that he didn’t want to increase my share of the car’s earnings. In 1962 I didn’t have a retainer, of course, and took only 25 per cent of the car’s income, paying my own expenses out of what I earned. In my three year contract it said that I would have 33 per cent the second year and 50 per cent the third year. But Colin came to me at the start of 1963 and said ‘Trev, times are hard’, so I agreed to go on for 25 per cent!” When the writer told him about the sums of money involved in Formula One today, Trevor simply shook his head in amazement. “I averaged between £200 and £300 per Grand Prix,” he laughed, “and when I came home from the US after driving one of Tom O’Connor’s Lotus 10 sports cars with a couple of thousand dollars in my pocket, I thought I was a millionaire!”
Generally, Taylor had a peaceful and pleasant relationship with Team Lotus throughout 1962 and 63, despite his alarming series of accidents. But there is one incident that stands out. When he won the Natal Grand Prix at Westmead, at the end of 1962 season, he crossed the line with only fourth and fifth gears working. Clark’s Lotus 25, which had encountered some problems, finished second “about twelve seconds behind me”. Trevor laughs again as he continues the story; “I was having to slip the clutch all the time to get round the slow corners, so I’d got my problems. Then in the car going back to the hotel Colin turns to me and says ‘Trevor, I’m absolutely disgusted with you, not slowing down and waiting for Jim’. I just exploded and replied ‘don’t be such a daft so-and-so, I couldn’t have gone much slower if I’d wanted to!’ That was our only real row!”
After leaving Lotus, Trevor’s path took him to the British Racing Partnership team, funnily enough driving alongside Innes Ireland, the man he’d succeeded at Team Lotus. Taylor’s eyes light up when he recalls his relationship with Innes; “He was always my kind of man, a real larger than life character. At first I think he resented me for taking his drive, and we nearly came to blows in a bar at Reims the following year. But we made it up over a few jars and, by the small hours, we were the best of friends, staggering home to our hotel down the main street clasping each other round the neck and continually patting each other on our backs!”
Unfortunately the Tony Robinson designed BRP-BRMs, just “didn’t handle proper” and the best Trevor could salvage from that year was a sixth place at Watkins Glen. Then BRP ran out of money and Traylor’s Grand Prix career came to an end. His racing continued for the next few seasons with sponsorship from Sheffield industrialist Hugh Griffiths’ Aurora Gears operation, the cars including a couple of Mini-Coopers – “for myself and sister Anita, an amazingly good driver” – and latterly an F2 Brabham. Trevor was also inveigled into the cockpit of the Shannon-Climax V8 for the 1966 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, “but it was a dreadful car and when petrol began pouring into the cockpit on the first lap, I pulled off and stopped on the course. I didn’t want to get back to the pits and have that awful thing repaired!”
For much of 1967 and 68 back trouble kept Trevor Taylor away from much motor racing, a long-term legacy of all those accidents. But at the start of 1969 he was invited to drive a Team Surtees Formula 5000 Surtees TS5 in the newly instigated national series for these V8 American engined cars. He fought for the first year’s Championship all the way to the final round at Brands Hatch when he tripped over Chris Warwick-Drake’s slow Cooper which he was lapping at Westfield, spun into the bank and watched as Peter Gethin inherited the title. “I was just about crying with frustration at the end of that particular day . . . “, he recalls with annoyance.
Other moments of interest came when Mike Costin rang him up one day and asked him to go to Silverstone to test the four-wheel-drive Cosworth Grand Prix car. “Mike said, ‘I’ll pay £25 a day’, so I said, ‘OK’ and went down there. It was running with a 40/60 torque split biased towards the rear, but the steering was still so heavy that I felt like an old man after three laps. I don’t think they were totally convinced about it, deep down. I had brake failure going into Becketts and, when a front driveshaft sheared coming out of Woodcote, I spun so many time that I didn’t know which way I was facing when I stopped. I’d never spun that quickly in my life. Mike said, ‘let’s go down the pub’, so that was the end of that!”
Trevor spent a second season in F5000 with a Surtees throughout 1970, but he still found himself involved in some massive accidents from which he walked away unscathed. Personally, probably the most alarming of his career came at the Salzburgring, which was pretty well flat-out for most of a lap in a Formula 5000 machine. Going through the fast left-hander after the pits, Trevor noticed “a puff of white smoke from the left front tyre. It had been punctured by a bolt, which we later went back and found on the track, and instantly deflated. Obviously I’d got no steering, so I veered off the track, clipped the end of the guard rail and flipped sideways up the bank before crashing back in the middle of the track, thankfully still the right way up. There was dirt, dust, smoke and steam all over the place and I hopped out pretty quickly."
While he was composing himself at the side of the track, he felt a deal of amused sympathy as a marshal came running up, took one look at the wrecked car which was sitting on the track, steaming quietly, without its driver – and burst into tears. He went over to Trevor and said “driver gone, driver gone . . .” Taylor could hardly contain his mirth as this unfortunate Austrian broke down with apparent grief, despite the efforts of both Peter Gethin and Mike Hailwood who were trying to tell him that Trevor was the driver, he hadn’t “gone” and everything was going to be all right!
“Within an hour or so, it wasn’t so funny,” smiles Trevor, “I had swallowed my tongue briefly while the car was rolling and my throat was so sore that I couldn’t eat anything for days. . . .”
Trevor Taylor’s last international victory of consequence had been in the 1969 Oulton Park Tourist Trophy at the wheel of a Team Elite Lola T70GT coupe, but this occasion was saddened by the premature termination of the race after Paul Hawkins’ fatal fire blocked the circuit. In 1971 Trevor had one last crack at Formula 5000 with the Len Terry designed Lada, sponsored by the Billinghurst based Malaya Garage concern. But that was not a particularly nice car – “I spun the wretched thing on the straight just before Stowe” – and after a massive accident at Oulton Park, where he gashed his left thigh open to the bone, Trevor Taylor did only another couple of races before deciding to call it a day. At the end of the 1971 season he retired back to the family garage concern, now Citroen dealers, at which he works to this very day.
Motor racing was one chapter in Trevor Taylor’s life, and now his business activities provide him with another. He hasn’t been back to watch or spectate for ten years, doesn’t read any of the sporting magazines and pays only a passing interest in television’s Grand Prix coverage. We asked him whether he had ever considered a come-back, something which has become quite fashionable in recent years. He smiled broadly. “You know, it’s interesting that you should say that. A week or so ago I got a phone call from Cedric Selzer, who used to mechanic with the Lotus F1 team. He told me he was restoring a Lotus 23 for historic racing and would I like to drive it”. He thought for another few minutes. “No, really, I don’t’ think I will go back. I have some fabulous memories of my time in motor racing. When I’m a bit down or depressed, it’s a great tonic to look back and think about all the fun we had in those days.” With no regrets, no bitterness at his misfortunes and no thoughtful looks “over his shoulder”, Trevor Taylor has turned his back on motor racing, probably for good. He has happy memories of pleasant times past and doesn’t want to risk tarnishing them by returning to look in on a World which has changed dramatically since those “golden years” when he partnered Jim Clark at Team Lotus. - A.H.