Diary: My month in racing

Officially honoured as the ‘Southern Most in Love with Chevrons’, Pye evokes memories of a B21/B19 and drives a B8. And he looks back on a sub-40-second F1 lap

Malllory Park: Half a century of car racing at Leicester’s ‘friendly circuit’ was chronicled in this tome before it joyously returned to green, and for everybody who has visited – as spectator, compeitior, official or humble scribe – this special little speed bowl cannot help but evoke memories.

I first went 30-odd years ago, to one of the myriad club meetings which have been its lifeblood since the beginning, when the resourceful Nottingham Sports Car Club hosted the opener on Whit Monday, 1956.

I’ve experienced highs and lows there, among htem a rare win, at the wheel of Paul Howarth’s Chevron B21 (which has masqueraded as the Baby Bertha-slaying Chimp Super Saloon – see Motor Sport, April 2006 – but had regressed to being a ‘B19’ for historic purposes), in 1982.

My overriding memory, however, is a relatively odd one, which dates back to the 1979 Auroa AFX British Formula One championship. The 500bhp grand prix cast-offs were far too quick for their surroundings, particularly since the barriers were adjacent to the tarmac.

All the more surprising, then, that the combination of a competent Belgian driver and a reasonable if not great bolide cut the first sub-40-second pole. Bernard de Dryver and his RAM Racing-run Fittipaldi F5A simplly flew that May afternoon. And while he nervously jumped the start, that 39.84sec (121.98mph) time earned respect.

Nowadays. tiny motorcycle-engined Monoposto cars zip round in the 44s, times of which Aurora F1 and F2 makeweights would have been proud.

Snetterton: Despite being a southerner, and thus ineligible to adore them to the degree of a native Lancastrian, early Chevron GT cars have long been a passion.

I’ve raced six of Derek Bennet’s masterpieces, thus my cup already runneth over. Yet I can never resist the opportunity to add another one to my CV.

When Simon Leighton bought chassis 38 from South African collector Gary Dunkerley in the summer of 2004, I dived down to Egham post-haste. Entranced by its orginality, and detailing typical of the Bolton-built cars, I couldn’t wait to see it after restoration.

Now retired and with time on his hands, the former airline pilot has done a fabulous job, and sold half the project to his long-time team-mate, Leicester dental surgeon John Taylor. Fulfilling a long-standing promise, I was honoured with a driving stint on its maiden test at Snetterton

Now resplendent in Ferrari yellow, it’s the earliest B8 I’ve sampled. Looking as fresh as the day it left the former cotton mill in Old Chorley Road, the car and its Lester Owen-prepared BMW engine performed faultlessly. Gliding around fast corners or wrestling it though chicanes on treaded Dunlop tyres reminded me that B8s suited almost everybody.

Famed for flattering modest ability and giant-killing in gifted hands, they are quite simply my favourite racing cars. Watch out for the Glenn Racing Stables duo having enormous fun as they join the Historic brigade this season.