Finding your way in to historic racing

Simon Arron meets a racing enthusiast combining a day job with driver coaching

Harvey Stanley (right) celebrates victory at the 2021 Goodwood Revival with DK colleague and established historic racer James Cottingham

Harvey Stanley (right) celebrates victory at the 2021 Goodwood Revival with DK colleague and established historic racer James Cottingham

Drew Gibson

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Combining work with a personal passion is a goal for many – and achieved by a relative few. Harvey Stanley is one of that small number. By day he works as an acquisition consultant for respected Ferrari specialist DK Engineering in Chorleywood, Herts. He is also on the board at Pursuit Racing – “I guess the best description of my role is driver relations manager” – a fledgling preparation business that also devotes a lot of its time to coaching.

“The idea of Pursuit is that we look after the driver,” he says, “because they are the customer. This isn’t GT3 racing, where the sponsors are paying for it. The driver is paying, so we want to look after them and their car.

“You might find two seconds per lap by spending £100,000 on a new period-type engine, but with an amateur driver you might find even more through coaching or simulator work, which costs only a tiny fraction of that. Historic racing has traditionally been about the cars, but as standards on the track become higher and higher, closer to a professional level, we need to start focusing on drivers a bit more.”

And is there a similarly competitive edge to his role as an acquisition consultant for DK?

“In some ways,” he says, “a particular type of racing car is almost like a ticket to an event, if you wanted to compete for instance at the Goodwood Revival or the Monaco Historic. And there are only so many tickets available.

“I even got to race a GT40 at Spa – that was a real pinch-yourself moment”

“Finding a car to fit the bill is exciting, but the closer you get to the event, the more money you pay for those cars. It’s a balancing act, trying to source a car that will be accepted in the event, will be competitive and will also offer the best value for money.”

When he’s not preoccupied with either of his roles above, Stanley is also an accomplished historic racer who has competed in many desirable cars – and in 2020 won the Peter Auto Porsche 911 2.0 Cup title, sharing with Richard Cook.

“I started racing in 2015,” he says, “in an MGB, a popular choice that has served many people well. I’m lucky to work at DK, where we have some great cars and some very good customers. One of them was a successful guy who wanted to race and didn’t know where to start. We came up with a deal whereby he would fund the racing while I would organise everything, advise on which car to buy and which races to enter, sort out the forms and HTP [historic technical passport] renewal – all things that can be daunting for the first time.

“We ended up sharing the driving and we both got a lot out of it. Then other customers were also interested in sharing with me.”

Harvey Stanley racing an MGB

An MGB gave Harvey his first taste of racing. It’s an ideal choice for a novice

He went on to race E-types, an AC Ace, a Porsche 911, AC Cobras… and then a GT40.

“That was pretty daunting,” he says. “Everything I’d driven before was essentially a road car turned into a racer, something that also applies to things like the Ferrari 250 GT SWB or 250 GTO. Suddenly I was driving something designed from the outset as a racing car. I felt super-nervous, but then I jumped in and found it did everything it was supposed to do. That was a bit of a game-changer for me – and I even got to race one at Spa, a real pinch-yourself moment.”

He describes his 2022 programme as “a bit mixed”, though he will be fairly active. “I was hoping to do all the Peter Auto meetings,” he says. “Covid has obviously had an impact on racing in Europe over the past couple of years – and Brexit has also had an adverse effect, because all the carnets you now have to fill in are a real headache. Even so, I still hope to be able to compete in Peter Auto’s Sixties’ Endurance series, in a Cobra, and most rounds of the 911 2.0 Cup. There will also be events in the UK, including Silverstone Classic.

“In modern motor sport you might have an eight-race championship calendar – and that’s it. With something like an AC Cobra, you can choose a greater selection of events. That’s one of the great joys of racing historic cars.”

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