Marcus Simmons - Off the line

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Gerry and clay

Gerry Marshall died on April 21 2005, of natural causes, while he was doing what he was born to do: driving a powerful racing car in a manner unthinkable to most of us mere mortals.

That’s why, to mark a year since his passing, we are celebrating the cars and the movement he made famous: the sensational DTV-built Vauxhalls and the ridiculously ingenious Super Saloons. Dave Richards, who has written our DTV feature, has a prodigious knowledge of the Vauxhalls that rolled out of Bill Blydenstein’s Shepreth premises; and Marcus Pye, our Super Saloon writer, has always been captivated by the wacky hybrids that scorched British circuits in the 1970s.

Me too, actually. Marshall was my first racing hero, and some of my earliest memories entail the Thames Television-backed Old Nail Firenza at Thruxton’s Allard bend — usually at ludicrous angles and with the engine note continually barp-barp-barping. As a young kid I had no idea why he was doing that, and it was only much later that I realised he must have been steering the thing totally on the throttle.

In later years I remember my disappointment as Gerry headed pitwards with Baby Bertha. But then he’d re-emerge to carve his way through the field: the only reason for the pitstop had been to give himself a bit of work— and the rest of us a bit of fun. What an amazing guy.

Clay Regazzoni — also featured in this issue — was another hero. Over two interviews, Adam Cooper has got the Swiss’s life story, from his early competition days to the inspirational way in which he has coped with the aftermath of his 1980 accident at Long Beach.

Regazzoni is actually the only guy who refused to sign my autograph book when I was a lad! It was after final qualifying for the 1977 British GP — and he’d failed to make the cut in his Ensign. I saw him through the open door of the Ensign team caravan and pushed my book through, but he shook his head and said, “Tomorrow”. I couldn’t blame him, but I knew there was no chance of him being around the next day… How strange this sport is: two years later he’d be back at Silverstone, winning the ’79 British GP to give Williams its first victory.

• The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed some changes in the panel on the left. The editorial team of MotorSport is the same, but the publishing rights have been transferred from Haymarket to Stratfield Ltd. There are exciting plans for the magazine as we move forward into a new era.