Andrew Frankel usually doesn’t need much encouragement to get behind the wheel of fast racing cars but the idea of driving Trevor Willis’s 500bhp hillclimber up a frozen Shelsley Walsh had him scuffling for the warmth of the photographer’s studio. Besides, he was still gaffing over driving Simon Saunders’ latest Ariel Atom. He reckons that Willis and Saunders both delight in quietly defying the odds in a rather British, understated and impressive way.
Barry Sheene was rather British, too, but understated? Never. As a bike racer himself Mat Oxley knows the breed, so is well placed to explain why even amongst two-wheel heroes the cheerful Cockney had inner steel and that was before all those mended bones.
Inspired by Mat’s feature and buoyed by the baffling optimism that has seen him cycle to Paris, scooter to Silverstone and sail to work, our in-house biker Ed Foster will soon take to the track on a historic two-wheeler but it’s no RG500. That story’s for later, but it’s due to his quirky transport back-story that we set him to find out why an F1 car went to Bonneville.
Lastly, our new boy who’s an Old Boy. Simon Arron cut his teeth on Teesdale typewriters at Motoring News, becoming its editor and then editor of this title in the 1990s. He boasts (often) a deep knowledge of all things racing from Korea to Curborough, while his excruciating music-based car puns were a weekly highlight of The Telegraph. It’s his many years as an F1 reporter that gives him the insight for his travel guide to this season’s GPs, plus the perspective to decide if Nico Hulkenberg is the real deal. For his conclusion, turn to p70.