In the hot seat -- Win Percy

He became a racing driver by accident and left TWR by mistake, but Win Percy loved his job. He was never tempted by single-seaters though. And don’t mention football…

Is it true that you started your competition career racing a Ford Anglia on ovals? — Christopher Regis, via e-mail

It was a 997cc Anglia. Rosemary, my fiancée, and I went to watch the stock cars at Weymouth. They allowed you to try your road car against the clock and I won. I absolutely loved  going sideways and joined Woolbridge Motor Club the next week. I’m still a member.

Did you enjoy driving for Spike Anderson and the Samuri (that’s how they spelt it) team? Was it really as chaotic as it appeared from outside? — David Wells, Scunthorpe

Dear old Spike — yes, he did spell it wrong. It was my first break and I have great memories of Big Sam (the Modsports Datsun 240Z). It was a bit amateurish — like when someone forgot to insert the brake-retaining pin, which I discovered at the end of the first straight…

Can you tell us about the great TWR XJ-S ‘modifications’, in particular the football in the petrol tank? — Maindrian Pace, Portland, Oregon

The XJ-S was amazing — heavy, no power brakes or steering, really hot inside, but with almost 500bhp and heaps of torque. I’ll never forget standing on the podium after our Spa 24 Hours win in 1984. Football? We never played football in the car— let’s leave it at that.

Why did you leave TWR Mazda to go to Toyota for 1982? — Jules Martin, Birmingham

I’d just won the championship with Mazda and Tom (Walkinshaw) congratulated me, then said, “Pity we haven’t got anything for you for ’82.” I walked down the pitlane and bumped into Mike Copeland of Toyota. He asked me why I was looking glum, and I explained I had no drive. He said, “We’ll take you” and we shook hands. Then Tom said, “I was only joking —you’ve got a Rover for next year.” I told him I’d shaken hands on a Toyota deal and he told me to go and unshake. I said, “I don’t do that.” Then we won the title with the Corolla!

Just how good was Tom Walkinshaw as a driver? — Trevor Bartlett, Reading, Berks

Tom was very good. Very aggressive, very hard on the machinery, but his goal was to ensure any weak link would break — once. Then he’d have a bulletproof car. He was the most enjoyable partner l ever had in a car; I think you could say we got the best out of each other.

Is it true that you were approached to run the TWR Volvo squad? — Craig Fortune, Wolverhampton

No. Tom summoned me up to Donington Park to test the car on Dunlops, which made me chuckle after so many years fighting them in the ETCC. We were quick on those tyres but it never happened — probably for financial reasons.

You were very competitive in British GTs with Harrier. How come you left the squad? —  Derek Aucock, Cambridge

Two reasons: one, I was running the team as well as driving, living at Evesham away from my family, which couldn’t last; two, I couldn’t agree a package for the next year. We’d been very successful and the team was growing fast, but I just wasn’t comfortable.

How good was the late Kieth O’dor, your Janspeed Nissan team-mate in the BTCC?  — James Black, West Bromwich

Very, very good. He was honestly the only team-mate in my 40 years of competing who could kick my butt. I wasn’t comfortable with front-wheel drive, but I had the greatest respect for Kieth and for Janspeed. I enjoyed my time there. In the end it was only a misunderstanding which caused the break. Someone told Jan O’dor I’d accepted a Mazda offer, but I hadn’t.

Who was the best driver you ever competed against in saloon cars? — Ginevra Rees, Leatherhead

Steve Soper.

Is It true that you left the BTCC because you were upset with Eugene O’ Brien’s driving?  — Clive House, Banbury

No. I did become very angry with him, but that wasn’t why I left. I wasn’t comfortable with FWD and general BTCC driving standards.

Were you ever tempted to have a go at single-seaters? — Daniel Meek, Tumbridge Wells

The only one I ever drove was a Formula 600 when I was coaching Rob Austin at Cadwell Park — I’d never seen the wheels go round before! But I just enjoyed touring and sportscars.

How come you drove at Le Mans for Nissan in 1988 rather than Jaguar?  — Rashed Chowdhury, Telford

Jaguar had nothing else apart from Le Mans, whereas Nissan offered me a whole season of saloons, the GTS-R turbo touring car, and Group C in Japan and Le Mans.

How disappointing was it not to win at Le Mans? —  Ken Browning, Little Leighs, Essex

Oh, hugely. I always had the greatest respect for Le Mans and a slight fear of the place. It was not until my days in historics that I relaxed. I was dogged with bad luck in Group C and never came to enjoy it until the historic phase.

What did you think of the Bathurst 1000, and how satisfying was it to win there in 1990 with Allan Grice? — Peter Grace, Lincolnshire

That was the biggest motorsport project I ever took on. I went to Australia in January 1990 to build a team from scratch, from just a blank sheet of paper. I was both driver and manager, and to win the biggest touring car event in the world aside from the Spa 24 Hours was immensely satisfying.

What were your feelings when Johnny Herbert recently won the Le Mans Legends race in ‘your’ ex-Hawthorn 1955 D-type? —  Christopher Hill, Horsham

Well, I wasn’t there — I’m no longer allowed in the pitlane because of my wheelchair — but I was genuinely happy for Johnny, and more so for Nigel and Naomi Webb (the owners of the D-type). They gave me so much pleasure in that car. I’ll never forget it.

You always seemed to get a great deal of pleasure from your racing, but which is the most enjoyable car you ever drove?  — Roger Baillie, Croydon

You have to remember I never dreamed of being a racing driver. My career just went from year to year and I’ve had so many enjoyable cars. My 105E Anglia with a 1650cc twin-cam was wonderful. In touring cars the XJ-S was just amazing; in Group C I loved the Jaguar XJR-11 with the twin-turbo V6. One of my favourite memories is Spa in 2003 when I did a 2min12.4sec, faster than the top F1 cars in the TGP race! And I love 505, that D-type: going sideways in that at 150mph at Goodwood is wonderful — as much fun as I’ve ever had in a motor car.

Do you have any more plans to get back into racing after your injury? (Win’s legs were paralysed when a back operation went wrong.) —  Rob Barnes, via e-mail

Currently, no. The operation has caused quite a few problems, and my priority is to get back as much movement as possible and spend more time with my family who have meant so much to me over the last couple of years.