Having begun as a motorcycle grass track as far back as the 1920s, Brands Hatch has been a racing circuit for over 60 years. For more than half that time its fortunes were directed by the acumen, inventiveness and determination of John Webb. He began looking after its PR in 1954, and became its chief executive in ’62. He continued to be its driving force, and that of the other circuits that joined his portfolio — Mallory Park, Snetterton, Oulton Park, later Cadwell Park and, for a period, Castle Combe and Mondello Park — until his 35-year role came to an abrupt end in November 1989.
Such was the professionalism with which Webb managed the business that he was often criticised for being involved in motor racing only for the money. He points out that this is very far from the truth. “My motivation was never to get rich. In fact, in my life I’ve often lost out by not putting money first. I was just a motor racing enthusiast who enjoyed making things happen.”
For 20 years John and his wife Angela — first his secretary at Brands, then a fellow director — have lived in comfortable retirement in a country property beside a hill village in eastern Spain. We lunch at the Melodia Restaurant in Sanet y Negrals, and the starter includes avocados from John’s garden.
From his birth in 1931, John suffered from an abnormality of both hips. He was expected to spend his life in a wheelchair, but he soon developed a distinctive rolling walk which required no crutch or stick. “As a child I suffered a lot of derision. Other kids can be pretty merciless, and while they were playing football and running around I had to sit alone. It taught me to fend for myself. When you live with a condition you don’t feel sorry for yourself, you just get on with it. I was always fascinated by mechanical things, especially aeroplanes, and when I left school at 15 I applied to Miles Aircraft Ltd, makers of the Messenger and the Gemini, who were near my home in Reading. They put me in their publicity department — and then went bust. So I went to be assistant press officer for the Farnborough Air Show, and at 22 I decided to set up my own business as a press agent. My first client was Silver City Airways, who ran the cross-Channel air ferry service using Bristol Freighters: three cars in the nose and 15 passengers in the back. It was a lovely subject for PR, because the air ferry was an intriguing concept and lots of famous and semifamous people used the service.
“In January 1954 I got Brands Hatch as a client. My first job was to publicise the new loop up to Druids, which extended the track to all of 1.24 miles.” Brands was a primitive place then, with no permanent buildings and spectators standing behind a rope. It was managed for a motley group of shareholders by an accountant called John Hall. “I said they should run a meeting on Boxing Day, which had never been done before. He told me to get on with it, so I hatched it up with Ken Gregory, who was running the BRSCC then.” On December 26 1954, 20,000 spectators turned up, the circuit’s biggest crowd so far. Stirling Moss dressed up as Father Christmas to start the F3 final, and an ox was roasted on South Bank and sold off at a shilling a slice. In a neat piece of cross-promotion, the Formule Libre race was for the Silver City Airways Trophy. It was won by Don Beauman’s Connaught.
“Connaught, run by Rodney Clarke and backed by Ken McAlpine, was another of my clients. Racing teams didn’t really have PRs in those days, and there was no sponsorship as such. You weren’t allowed to advertise on cars or overalls, apart from small acknowledgment to trade names like Shell and Dunlop. Connaught needed money badly, and wanted to create awareness. In August 1954 their new streamliner was ready, and we made a big splash with that.” Announced just four weeks after the Mercedes W196 streamliner had made its victorious debut at Reims, the all-enveloping B-type created a sensation, even though in that form it was to achieve little success.
“I set up, not very successfully, a Connaught Supporters’ Club, and in 1957 I chartered a plane to take members to the Syracuse GP. It cost £500 to hire a Dakota to fly to Sicily, sit in Catania for three days and fly back. We took 36 people at £30 each, so we returned about £500 to Connaught.” In fact almost all the seats were taken by drivers and team personnel, for in those days it wasn’t easy to get to Sicily, and the top racers were happy to travel with everybody else. After the race, on the two hour trip from the track back to the airport, the tour coach’s radiator sprang a leak. Stirling Moss, Rob Walker and Jack Brabham were part of the human chain collecting water from a mountain stream, using Stirling’s trophy — he’d been third in the race for Vanwall — as one of the containers.
“Out of that grew my motor racing charter service, Webbair. I ran it until 1963, not to make money, but so I could get a trip and my hotel expenses out of it. We flew to most of the European races, and just about all the drivers used us: Clark, Gurney, Brooks — nobody had their own planes in those days — plus team people like Colin Chapman and John Cooper, and journos like Gregor Grant and Peter Gamier. We had full in-flight catering and complimentary drinks, and every flight was a party. By law we had to have a trained stewardess — Cliff Allison’s sister was one we used — and I had Webbair uniforms made for them. And I got Frank, the barman at The Steering Wheel Club, to come along to serve the drinks. All lady passengers got an orchid on boarding, and to keep the drivers amused we used to hand round Airfix plastic kits for them to build during the flight. Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby had an ongoing game of gin rummy that lasted most of a season. It was all tremendous fun, but in 1962 some races got cancelled and I was left holding the fees, so I had to stop it.”
John did a bit of racing himself, always with an eye on what could make good publicity for a client. With the advent of petrol rationing after the 1956 Suez crisis, bubble cars and economy vehicles enjoyed a brief vogue, and John was asked to generate some press for a tiny twoseater van called the Astra Little Horse. “I saw the lap records page in the Goodwood programme had an empty space for the 350cc class. So I entered a handicap race against Jaguars and Aston Martins, and duly set an extremely slow class record.” John also realised that the Jensen 541 coupe, as a four-seater, counted as a saloon car in the prevailing regulations, and bought a second-hand one for £1500. In the rain at Silverstone he beat the Austin Westminster of the then current hot-shoe in touring cars, Jack Sears, and at the August Bank Holiday Brands he led Sears again until the steering broke. In the 1959 LondonParis Air Race, marking Louis Bleriot’s flight of half a century before, John used a works Jensen and a Silver City flight to go from Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe in 2hr 27min 25sec. Today, even using the Tunnel, that would be hard to achieve.
“Ten years later, in 1969, it was the 50th anniversary of Alcock and Whitten Brown’s 1919 Atlantic crossing in the Vickers Vimy. To commemorate it I proposed a race from the top of the Post Office Tower, which had been opened four years before, to the top of the Empire State Building.” An RAF Harrier jump-jet took off from the old railway yard at St Pancras, coating buildings and passers-by with coal dust, and its pilot did tower-to-tower in little over six hours. A Royal Navy Phantom, flying supersonic and helped by in-flight refuelling, a helicopter and a motorcycle, did it in the reverse direction in 5hr 11min. But Webby did pretty well, too. “I had a Ford Cortina waiting at the foot of the tower, drove it to Heathrow and straight into a Boeing 707 transport plane which was ready for take-off. I relaxed with a few drinks on board, landed at JFK, drove the Cortina into Manhattan and whizzed up to the top of the Empire State in the lift. My total time was 9hr 19min.”
Brands Hatch took a big step in 1960, when the track was extended to 2.65 miles. Despite the proximity of the new section to local housing, planning permission couldn’t be withheld because its route — through Hawthorn’s to Westfield and Dingle Dell, then hard left through Stirling’s Bend back to Clearways — had been used pre-war as a scrambles track, so prior use had been established. “People assume that Hawthorn Bend and Stirling’s were named after Mike and Moss, but that was what those corners were called on the old scrambles track — after a big hawthorn bush and the nearby Stirling’s Pig Farm.” At the same time permanent pits were built, the paddock properly surfaced and the whole track widened. On August Bank Holiday the first car meeting on the new track included a Formula 1 race for the Silver City Trophy (again!). Although his role at Brands was still only as a part-time PR, John put his all into this event. With the BRSCC’s Nick Syrett running the meeting, a full Fl field was gathered, including works Ferraris. Almost 60,000 spectators turned up, producing chaos on the surrounding roads. World Champion Brabham (Cooper) won from Graham Hill (BRM), Bruce McLaren (Cooper) and Phil Hill (Ferrari), with supporting races going to Clark, Sears and Salvadori. Brands Hatch had come of age.
“The accountant who did my books had a client called John Danny. He ran a quoted investment group called Grovewood Securities, which had nursing homes, a plastics company, nothing very glamorous. He had no interest in motor racing, but I persuaded him that owning a circuit would improve his company’s image. So in April 1961 Grovewood bought Brands Hatch for £92,000. Within a year I was its full-time executive director.
“Cynics said Grovewood had only taken Brands over to develop the land for housing, and for years there were rumours about it being turned into a shopping mall. But that was never true, at any stage. In the first year’s trading we turned a profit of £40,000, so Grovewood already had a third of their money back. Danny said, ‘John, if you could find me any more of these tracks, I’d be interested.’ We tried to buy Aintree, but Mirabel Topham’s price was too high for Grovewood. And I did a super deal with Major Shields, who owned the longdisused Donington Park: we shook hands on a 42-year lease at £10,000 a year. This was long before Tom Wheatcroft got interested. But John Danny didn’t want a long-term commitment to something that needed total renovation.
“Then Reg Parnell told me that Clive Wormleighton, who owned Mallory Park, wanted to sell for £150,000. Danny and I said yes on the spot. Oliver Sear, who ran Snetterton, was short of cash, and to my amazement he only wanted £35,000, including 300 acres. So we snapped that up. Oulton Park was more difficult, with about 40 individual shareholders, and we had to fight for that one. But we got it for £150,000, again with about 300 acres.
“So now we had four circuits. With Brands it was like playing with the train set; with four tracks it was like running the whole railway. I realised that, as long as I did it with tact, I could almost control British motor racing. The other circuits always waited until about August before thinking about their calendar for the next year. I had my complete calendar ready by April, and as my circuits were running most of the national championships I could then tell the others what dates they could have. But, although the media liked to portray the different circuits as being at daggers drawn, we all worked together pretty well. Jimmy Brown, who managed Silverstone, was a fantastic man. We’d vie against each other for the best dates and deals, but on matters of general policy we thought alike. Sid Offord, who later ran Thruxton, was the same. The three of us could usually thrash things out between us. We also leased Castle Combe for a five-year period, but it only ever broke even. And we had a lease on Mondello Park in Eire for a while.
“I found out before Silverstone did that Aintree, which had the British GP on alternate years with Silverstone, didn’t want to continue with it. So in 1964 we ran the Grand Prix for the first time. But we only got 42,000 spectators, and we lost money. We didn’t realise that was the normal attendance at the time: everybody bandied about figures of 100,000 but, as Jimmy Brown later confirmed to me, they were fiction. Aintree’s real figures were in the 20s. Of course start and prize money were hugely less then, but so were ticket prices. We were the first evil people to charge a whole £1 to get in. For our next Grand Prix in 1966 we still charged £1, but we threw in a free programme. And by degrees we marketed it better, so we’d virtually sell out the GP by January. In 1968 we had 84,000 over the three days, probably 60,000 on race day. The largest genuine crowd we had was for the 1982 Grand Prix, when we got the FOCA award for the best-organised GP of the year. Including working people, we had 186,000 on site over the three days. At the first GP we had Chris Barber’s Jazz Band to give a concert at the end of the day, and later we had the air displays, the Vulcan bomber and Concorde.”
By now Brands Hatch could claim to be the busiest race track in the world. After Jo Siffert was killed in October 1971 a lot of work was done to improve track safety by the standards of the day, and more work was done for the ’74 season. In ’76 a new pits complex and paddock were built, with Bottom Straight realigned to make room for it. That was the year the British GP was stopped by a first-corner accident: when it seemed that James Hunt might not be allowed to restart, the crowd roared its disapproval and threw beer cans onto the track. Hunt duly won, only to be disqualified two months later.
“In 1978 I had a wild idea. I told Angela to ring up the Albert Hall and ask how much they wanted for a last-minute booking for the Tuesday before the British GP. The answer was £1200. I couldn’t believe it. So we put on the Grand Prix Night of the Stars. We knew Bill Cotton, the controller of BBC1, because he’d done one of our celebrity races, and of course his father Billy Cotton, the bandleader, was a serious racer pre-war. Bill agreed to televise it live, and we had Morecambe & Wise, Bruce Forsyth and lots of other top acts. Most of the F1 drivers came on, and James Hunt did a turn with his trumpet. We sold seats in aid of the Lord’s Taverners, and got an hour of prime time TV. Then on the Thursday we had a press reception in the House of Commons. Margaret Thatcher came — she was Leader of the Opposition then — and I remember her deep in conversation with Ronnie Peterson. Can’t imagine what they talked about. Meanwhile we set up scrutineering on the other side of the Thames, on the South Bank, so people could see the cars. In those days the F1 teams were still reasonably co-operative.
“We had lots of ideas, tried a lot of new things. The Race of Champions in March began as an F1 race in the years when we didn’t have the GP, but became a successful annual fixture. There were other F1 races like the European GP and the Jackie Stewart Victory Race. The BOAC 500, later the BOAC 1000, was a round of the World Sports Car Championship, and never lost money. The last one in 1989, with the Silk Cut Jaguars and the Sauber Mercedes — by then it was just called the Brands Hatch Trophy — made the highest profit of any race outside the Grands Prix, even though it came a week after the British GP at Silverstone. Every year we got better at our promotion. Bad weather only used to lose us about five per cent of the crowd: when people have decided to come, they don’t change their mind just because it’s raining. Bank Holidays were key, because people wanted an outing, and we’d get a decent crowd even for a club meeting. That’s why we planned our calendar early, so we could claim the best dates before anybody else.
“We even tried running the Grand Prix and the big sports car race on consecutive weekends. That was 1984. If you’d paid to go to the GP you could go to the British Aerospace 1000 seven days later for nothing. That worked well, and we had a tremendous crowd for the sports cars, but two big weekends running put all the permanent staff under huge pressure. Funnily enough, it was won by Jonathan Palmer, with Jan Lammers in a Richard Lloyd Porsche 962.
“Some ideas worked, some didn’t. The Indycar visit in ’78 is top of my list of failures. I flew over all the top cars and drivers from the US for two races on consecutive weekends at Silverstone and Brands, but I overestimated the knowledge of the British public. I thought they’d flock to see the Indy stars, but the name A J Foyt meant nothing to them. I offered Silverstone a halfinterest in the project but they didn’t want to take it on, so I hired their track for the first weekend and took all the risk.” At Silverstone the weather delayed the race from Saturday to Sunday because Indycars don’t run in the rain, but for Brands the weather was fine. Using the short circuit, Al Unser qualified on pole in under 41sec. But attendance for both weekends was meagre. “We lost £250,000, wiping out all the profit we’d made on that year’s GP. But John Danny never told me not to try new ideas. He said, ‘Bad luck, but don’t try that one again.’
The Radio One and pirate radio station days really brought in the crowds. When the Bay City Rollers came to Mallory we had 50,000 people at a track where 20,000 felt full. Some of the kids threw themselves into the lake in their excitement, and we were on every front page next day. Of course the purists didn’t like it, but they never tried to understand the rationale behind it. They said it was money-grubbing, sticky-fingered Grovewood, but Grovewood never took any profit out of the business. Everything went back in to develop the sites.
“Research showed that 60 per cent of our spectators came from within a 25-mile radius of the circuit. So there was little point in national advertising, but local radio plugs really worked. In fact, gate was never responsible for more than 35 per cent of our turnover. It split very roughly one-third gate, one-third catering and one-third the rest: on-track advertising, corporate events, mid-week track utilisation. Once we got The Sun to offer free tickets to their readers, and we got 20,000 for a minor club meeting. We did well, because they all ate and drank a lot.
“Ford competitions boss Stuart Turner, a man for whom I always had the greatest respect, proposed that, at the end of each meeting, the days’ winners take part in a victors’ race in Escort Mexicos. But they didn’t care about the cars, it was just bang, bang, bang, and Ford were left with wrecks. So we tried celebrity races: House of Lords versus House of Commons, stars from cricket and other sports, journalists and radio disc jockeys. It got us huge publicity.
“Formula Ford happened because Motor Racing Stables, the Brands racing school, was using F3 cars and, to save money, put a standard BMC engine in one and ran it on road tyres. It worked fine and Geoff Clarke, who ran the school, proposed running a fleet of them in mid-week school races. I said, ‘We’ll never get the pupils interested unless they can see it leading somewhere. We need to call it Formula something, to make it seem important. We could use standard Ford engines, and call it Formula Ford.’ Within days we’d contacted Ford, and Walter Hayes gave us 50 Cortina engines. We wanted the chassis to be built by an established name, so we had Bruce McLaren over to dinner, but he didn’t want to do it. Then Colin Chapman said he could sell us a Lotus F3 car, but with road wheels and tyres, for £1000. We ordered 25, and it took off from there. It delivered brilliantly close single-seater racing at a fraction of the cost of F3, and within a couple of years every railway arch and shed was building Formula Fords. It’s been estimated that in the ensuing 40 years over 10,000 chassis have been made. We tried to translate the principle into sports car racing, too. Firestone came on board — they’d done well out of Formula Ford with their F100 tyre — and we agreed to call it Formula Firestone. But just as the first car ran, Firestone’s head office decreed a worldwide withdrawal from all motor sport. We were committed, so we announced the class as Formula F100, but only about 40 got built.
“In 1968 I saw Lola’s prototype for American Formula A, which used five-litre pushrod production V8 engines. A great concept, but I thought a powerful class needed a more powerful name, so I came up with Formula 5000. The cars were almost as fast as the F1s of the day, and far cheaper: the Lola T140 sold for £5500 ready to go, and the McLaren M10A was around £6750. F5000 ran successfully for several years.” Other formulae followed in seasons to come: some worked, some didn’t.
“By 1970, when we were all being told to Export or Die, I was exporting motor racing. We ran F5000 races in Belgium, Italy, Germany and Holland, which brought some currency back to this country, and we ran a five-round Formula Ford series in Brazil. We didn’t get the gate money for the first four races because the local circuit owners fiddled the figures, but the last one, which was the reopening of Interlagos, had such a huge crowd that they couldn’t hide it from us. I managed to get the money paid into a Sao Paulo bank, but the authorities wouldn’t allow me to take it out in sterling. I waited until Frank Williams was taking some F2 cars out there, and paid him £1000 to bring it back. He humped home bales of cruzeiros in his personal luggage.
“Another Williams deal happened when Frank rang me late one night in early 1971 and said, ‘John, I absolutely have to have £5000 by tomorrow morning. If you can get me five grand cash I’ll let you have an F1 car to use four times this season for one of your proteges. The only proviso is, if it gets stuffed, that’s the end of it.’ So I got him his money next day, and we had his year-old March 701 for the Race of Champions. We gave it to Ray Allen and he did a good job, finished sixth, split the works BRMs of Howden Ganley and John Miles. Three weeks later, in the Good Friday F1 race at Oulton Park, we put Cyd Williams in it, because he was a local hero up there. He hit the Bailey Bridge, went upside down, stuffed it. So Frank took it back.
“We did try to help drivers who we thought were characters, and were promotable for our circuits. Tony Lanfranchi was finding it difficult to make a living as a driver, and asked me how he could get better known. In those days most helmets were white or silver, so I said, ‘Do something startling, like painting your helmet a funny colour.’ So he just daubed clumsy rainbow splodges of colour on it, and his helmet stayed like that for the rest of his career. Keith St John, who raced a purple Can-Am McLaren sponsored by Radio London, was another character. I think his real name was Keith Smith, but I suppose he thought St John would be more memorable. He married the Dutch girl racer Liane Engeman.”
Fast girls always had good media potential. Lella Lombardi was drafted into a Brands-backed F5000 drive, and downhill skier Divina Galica came next. “We bought her a year-old Fl Surtees, with engine, for £9000, and got it looked after by Nick Whiting, Charlie’s brother. Nick won a lot of Brands saloon races; his wife was my secretary for a while. In 1990 he disappeared from his garage in West Kingsdown, and a month later the police found his body in the Essex marshes, stabbed and shot. That was a ghastly business.
“Desire Wilson was another talented lady. She and her husband Alan arrived from South Africa in ’78, and soon Alan was managing all four tracks for me. I can’t praise him highly enough. Des, when she wasn’t racing — and becoming the first woman to win an F1 race in our Aurora series — helped run the racing school. Before Alan the manager was Jackie Epstein, a wonderful man to have on the team. He’d raced a BRM in his youth, and was a good engineer: his father was the sculptor Jacob Epstein. When the M20 was being built alongside the circuit he made friends with the local works director, while we were making our new paddock. A lot of the earth to change the level of the paddock came from the motorway.
“I believed that motor racing circuits should be owned and run by motor racing people, free from outside management pressures, and I knew Grovewood was vulnerable to takeover. More than once I raised the finance to buy the circuits, but John Danny said no. In 1972 Grovewood was bought by Eagle Star, but life went on until, in ’84, Eagle Star was swallowed up by BAT. They didn’t want to own race tracks, and gave me first option to stage an inhouse buyout. We’d sold Mallory Park to Chris Meek in ’73, so it was just Brands, Oulton and Snetterton. I spoke to Bernie Ecclestone, and to John Foulston, who was worth around £200 million from his Atlantic Computers business and was a keen historic racer. I put them together and a deal was thrashed out whereby Bernie and Foulston would buy the circuits 50/50, and I’d run them. A week later Bernie rang me and said, ‘I’ve gone cold.’ So I went back to John and he agreed to go for the lot, with Angela and me taking 20 per cent. We offered BAT £3.5m, but then David Wickens, who ran British Car Auctions, offered £5m. He was a friend of Bernie’s, and maybe he was acting as a front for him. So we had to go to £5.25m.”
The purchase was announced in May 1986 — and just a week later came the shock news that Bernie, as FOCA, had signed a contract for Silverstone to host the British GP exclusively, bringing to an end over 20 years of alternating with Brands. That July’s GP, won by Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Honda, was the last at the Kent circuit. “I always had a friendly relationship with Bernie. We never had a signed contract, all our deals were gentlemen’s agreements, and I always paid on the nail. I wasn’t happy when we got the news we were losing the GP, but I have to remember all the good things he did with us in the years before. He was always a businessman. And Brands couldn’t have gone on hosting the GP forever. Short of a complete redesign and us buying a lot more land — and the circuit is too near built-up areas for that — it couldn’t have coped with the requirements of modern F1.”
Meanwhile under their new ownership the circuits were thriving. “A lot of people found John Foulston a difficult man, but he and I really got on, we understood each other absolutely. He had the same philosophy as Grovewood: if the business makes a profit, spend it on the business. We upgraded the tracks, we bought Cadwell Park, and everything was looking good.” Barely a year later, on a Tuesday afternoon in September ’87, John Foulston was testing his McLaren M15 Indycar at Silverstone. At Club Corner he left the track, hit the bank and was killed instantly.
“His wife Mary inherited. She became chairman, and she left me alone to run the business. Then she asked if I would give her daughter a job. I’d met Nicola as a precocious teenager, seen her rudeness and general attitude towards her parents, but she was now 22 and Mary wanted her to be commercial director. I said, ‘I’d advise against it, but it’s your company. If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. But I’ll need a signed agreement to say that, if it doesn’t work, you have to purchase my shares so that I can be released.’ Mary agreed to this. She always acted totally honourably. Nicola started on October 1 1989, and that weekend she went to Snetterton. On the Monday I had several phone calls from people in motor racing saying they’d heard I was leaving. Nicola had been telling everybody I was on the way out.
“As a way of expanding the leisure side of the circuits we’d set up a number of subsidiaries: a hovercraft school, clay pigeon shooting, go-kart tracks. These were separate companies and, with John Foulston’s full approval, we owned these 50 per cent and the operator owned 50 per cent, so he’d be fully motivated. Nicola told the world this was me passing money back to my cronies.
“There was clearly no future in my staying, and I knew it was best to make a clean break. I was 58, and I was intending to retire in a few years anyway. So I activated my agreement, and I left almost immediately. In that final year my bonus was calculated on profits of £1.6m, our best result ever, and I was paid all I was owed. But what hurt was we’d put together a superb team of loyal, experienced people, and within two years she got rid of every one of them.”
In our conversation we skirt around the bizarre complexities of the ensuing decade, with Nicola falling out with Mary and mother suing daughter, Nicola making a failed bid to buy Silverstone and negotiating with Ecclestone to get the Grand Prix back to Brands, the circuits progressively becoming more shabby, and then in November 1999 Nicola’s £119m sale to Octagon, sporting arm of the US-based Interpublic group. Soon Interpublic was looking for a way out, and by 2003 the business was up for sale. At the start of ’04 Jonathan Palmer’s MotorSport Vision, with backing from John Britten and Sir Peter Ogden, bought the four circuits for a reported £15.5m. Bernie was away over Christmas when the deal was done, and on his return was quoted as saying: “If they’d bothered to find me I’d have given a lot more.”
John Webb has nothing but admiration for Palmer. “As soon as he’d done the deal he came out to Spain to see me. The circuits were very rundown, and he had no past records. He was good enough to make me a consultant, and I think I saved him some wasted time. He’s doing an extraordinarily good job. He’s a motor racing man, so he understands how to make motor racing circuits work. But the whole economic structure has changed. Peripheral costs, things like municipal rates, have gone up ten-fold. Many of the race series are part of somebody else’s monopoly and have to be paid for. An organising club may have to be charged circuit hire of £30,000 a day. So spectator charges have to be higher, and entry fees also. And to race even the simplest car it seems you now need half a dozen people, a transporter and a motorhome. In our day, even for small meetings, we’d pay the organising club a fee. Or we’d charge the club a few hundred quid rent, and let them earn it back by giving them a share of the gate.
“I was extremely lucky, because I ran things at a time when almost anything seemed possible. I just had to think up ways to make the business work. And I never stopped being a motor racing enthusiast. We made some mistakes, but we made good things happen. That’s what I’d like on my gravestone: ‘He made things happen.”