Some things are harder to write than most, and this is one of them. I first met Ove on the Acropolis Rally in 1964 when he drove a two-stroke Saab 96 to 10th place. He drove the car down from Sweden and back, and the only recceing he had done was on the way down to Athens.
As a reporter for Motoring News I met him several times over the next two years as he did major internationals for Saab and then Lancia. Then for the 1966 RAC Rally I was selected to co-drive for him. It was, for us, an epic, and all the troubles we overcame on the way to seventh place forged a lifelong friendship, and revealed to me that not only did he know how to drive rally cars, he knew how to prepare – and repair – them.
The following year we were together in Lancias, finishing second in Monte Carlo and winning in Spain. We won the Gulf London Rally in a Lotus Cortina Mk2, and thus for 1968 the emphasis switched to Ford. Ove drove the Escort Twin Cam to its first international rally result in the San Remo, where we were third. While I stayed at Lancia, Ove drove Escorts with a run of bad luck that earned him the nickname of rallying’s Chris Amon. Released for 1971, he got a drive with Alpine-Renault and promptly won Monte Carlo, San Remo, Austrian Alpine and Acropolis.
The quiet and modest Ove made his first contact with the Japanese when he and I reunited to do the 1972 Safari in a Datsun, which gave us 12th place. This was the beginning of Ove’s love affair with that demanding event. For the RAC Rally of ’72 he drove a Toyota Celica to ninth, which launched him on the path to Toyota Team Europe. Before TTE, he won the 1975 Safari in a Peugeot 504 with Arne Hertz. In the early years of TTE, he did many rallies with Arne but, when Hertz went to Ford, Ove discovered Henry Liddon, a pairing that started as driver and co-driver and morphed into team boss and manager – a formidable combination until Henry’s untimely death in 1987.
Ove hung up his helmet in 1980 to run the Toyota rally effort, with immense success. TTE won the Safari three times in a row with the Gp B Celica Turbo and three more with the Gp A Celica 4WD. In the 1990s Toyota won three manufacturer titles and four driver titles. Up until 1993 TTE belonged to Ove, but Toyota bought him out and in ’97 expanded the operation to build a sports car for Le Mans. Then Toyota turned to Formula 1 for the 2002 season, again with Ove at the helm. But he retired at the end of ’03, moving to South Africa last autumn. He died in an accident during a classic rally there on June 11.
I did 20 international rallies with Ove, and sat next to him on interminable FISA committees trying to make our rallying dreams come true. A nicer guy you could not expect to meet; the perfect gentleman whether you were stuck in a Kenyan river bed or if the oil cooler had just dropped off. The only time I ever saw him slightly less than cool was after a long, hot day recceing when a waiter sprinkled his melon with salt rather than sugar. John Davenport
Legendary hillclimber Reg Phillips died at his home in Devon in May, aged 93. He competed across seven decades, only retiring from competition in the 1990s. Reg started before WWII, in which he fought in the Western Desert. As well as building hillclimb specials like the Fairley Mercury, he also drove sports-racers including a Chevron, and then production cars including a Ferrari 308 and Sunbeam Lotus. He had a particular passion for Shelsley Walsh where his best time was set in a Chevron in 1976. He broke the 30-second barrier with a climb in 29.89sec.
The founder of TVR, Trevor Wilkinson, has died aged 85 in Minorca. Trevor left school aged 14 and in 1946 bought a wheelwright’s business which he renamed Trevcars, carrying out car sales and repairs. Having built his first car in 1947 – a two-seater special – he completed his first ‘production’ car, the Grantura, soon after. The business, now named TVR, flourished. It wasn’t until ’62 that he sold the firm and set up a light engineering business with Jack Prickard. The TVR Club’s website paid tribute saying, “Trevor was a quiet man, much loved by his friends.”
Rodney Bloor, driver, entrant and car preparer, has died aged 74. Bloor made an impact in the 1950s racing an Austin A35 before going on to sports cars, F3 and F2. He also raced a Formula Libre Brabham in two non-championship F1 races in 1965, finishing 12th in the last F1 race at Goodwood. Thereafter he retired from racing, becoming an entrant flying the colours of his family firm Sports Motors, which ran among others Peter Gethin, Tim Schenken and Gerry Birrell in F3. Bloor made an unexpected return to racing last year, in Historic Formula Fords.