Mallory Park Formula Three race, July 7 1957
A borrowed sprocket and some strange advice from an unlikely source was enough to turn Trevor Taylor from Formula Three rank outsider to outright race winner
I had a bit of a disastrous Formula One career. People always said there’s only one way to make a name for yourself, and that’s to loop-the-loop in front of the grandstand. I had a bloody good try! A lot of people say I was unlucky. I wasn’t I’m still here. I’ve got a photograph on my wall of a start at Monaco, and there’s seven drivers in it. And I’m the only one still alive.
But the race I remember best is well before my F1 days. It was my first big win in F3 at Mallory Park in 1957, in the old ‘doubleknocker’ Norton engine days. I had an old Cooper we’d bought from Stuart Lewis-Evans, when he got a new car. My father pumped a lot of money into my racing; he nearly went bankrupt supporting me. We had two garages, good businesses, but even then motor racing was costing money. If we wanted spare wheels, a gearbox, or another engine, it was there. I didn’t really know where the money was coming from, even when we had an F2 car later on. He was motor wing mad, and he’d raced bikes in his younger days. My mum wouldn’t even watch it on television later on she used to go to church every time I raced.
I was getting a bit desperate to win a race to show my appreciation. I’d actually won at Mallory a few weeks earlier, but it was only a small club meet. But this was a big national event, with guys like Jim Russell, Don Parker and David Boshier-Jones, all potential winners in F3. The big names were all going for the championship, and they were all top drivers.
In those days everyone was friendly. After the race we’d all be in the beer tent having pints. Even on the track, if you were an eighth of an inch in front going into a comer, it was your corner. There was none of this banging wheels. Look at touring car racing today it’s daft isn’t it? Those things cost a quarter of a million pounds and they just write them off like nobody’s business.
Mallory Park was a bit primitive. There weren’t many corners, and it was really down to who had the best engine. The big tuners at that time were Steve Lansfield, who did Russell and Parker, and Francis Bierd, who did Boshier-Jones and Lewis-Evans. The tuner we had was called Bill Stewart, a very old chap he was, one of the old school.
Practice started, and I think we on about the second row. But the problem was that we were overrevving down the straight. To change the ratios on .these motorbike engines you had to change the rear sprocket. The next sprocket up made 500rpm difference. So we were overrevving in the practice, and when we went to the bigger sprocket, we couldn’t get enough revs down the straight.
With my brother Mike, who was my mechanic, I went up to Boshier-Jones who, like I said, was a potential winner. We were Taylor win by discussing the revs down the straight, and he suddenly said, ‘What you want is a half tooth sprocket.” Mike said, “We haven’t got one,” and Boshier-Jones gave us his spare half sprocket. Instead of the difference being 500rpm, it was only 250rpm so it was just right.
About this time a young lad turned up who’d come over the bridge into the pits. He was talking to me and he said, “Oh by the way Mr Taylor, you’re taking the hairpin wrong.” You know what it’s like being a racing driver nobody tells you you’re taking a corner wrong. Being a bit big-headed I almost told him to bugger off, but I was intrigued, and said “How do you mean?”
The hairpin at Mallory was slightly banked, and apparently I was coming into it and dropping down onto the apex and then climbing the hill out of the corner for the run to the left hander just before the pits. He said that Russell and Parker weren’t doing that, they were using the bank like a wall of death. They were going up the bank, and then had a ramp to come out. I thought, “He might be right here.”
So I tried it in the final, with the half sprocket, and won the race! I had a fight with Boshier-Jones for most of the way, and finished just ahead of him. To beat him and Jim Russell with a Bill Stewart engine was quite impressive.
Bill was on the knee by the pits, and Mike went up to him and said, “What do you think Bill?” He said, “Well, it was inevitable he was going to win sometime. I think I’ve done myself out of a job, either Lansfield or Bierd will be after him now. Plus his first win will be worth 10bhp…
And believe me, it was. It is surprising, but you look around at the grid and it is worth 10bhp if you’ve got a win under your belt. Anyway, we went back to Boshier-Jones and handed his half-sprocket back to him, and said thanks very much. He didn’t look very happy…
On the way home we were still laughing. I always used to ring my father after the race and tell him how I’d done. This time we thought we’d get home and surprise him. As we pulled into the garage at Rotherham, I jumped out as the old Austin transporter was still rolling along the forecourt and ran to the back door to tell my dad. We got there and there was a big ‘1st’ chalked on the door! He’d rung Mallory to see who’d won the F3 race.
The next year I won the F3 championship, and a year later Colin Chapman asked me if I was interested in driving the Junior. I did a test with Jimmy Clark at Goodwood, and I got signed up.
Anyway, I’ve always remembered that lad coming up, it’s always stuck in my mind. If could find him today I’d give him a million pounds if I had it. I know it sounds silly, because everybody goes round a hairpin at one speed, but it did make a difference. I’ll never forget his face and him saying you’re taking that corner wrong…