Nigel Greensall: Is this man the world’s most prolific racing driver?

More than 100 races in a year, in cars both old and new? Nigel Greensall just can’t get enough of his life’s chosen vocation, as he tells Damien Smith

The numbers for one calendar year tell the story: a remarkable tally of 102 races and three rallies; 34 cars raced, both historic and modern, with 21 co-drivers; races on 23 circuits in nine countries; 30 wins (including class as well as overall), 63 podiums, 33 pole positions and 47 fastest laps. You have to wonder, is Nigel Greensall the most prolific racing driver in the world today? He must have a claim.

“It’s all about racing, in anything,” says the beanpole 6ft 1in racer when Motor Sport catches up with him, by happy accident, in a GT4 winter series paddock in Valencia. He’s turned up at the Spanish track for a one-off in a series run by German promoter Gedlich Racing to gain extra mileage for one of ‘his’ drivers, Harry Barton, and their Toyota Supra GT4. A professional racing driver for 30 years, Greensall’s speciality is mentoring and coaching, and Barton, 21, is the latest to tap into his vast experience to turn what started out as a historic racing hobby into a profession.

Car at the Gulf Historic with a Lister

Warm-weather racing at the Gulf Historic with a Lister.

Barton is by no means the only promising driver to hire Greensall for his services, hence the astonishing 100-plus strike rate in 2023 and a sumptuous list of ‘weapons’: TVR Griffith (x2, with both Barton and John Spiers), McLaren M1B, Lister Knobbly and Costin, Chevron B19 and B26, Corvette C6R GT2, a tryst of BMW saloons, Lola-Mazda LMP1, Morgan Plus 4… and on it goes. Take the Silverstone Festival last August. “Ten cars in nine races,” he confirms. “Everything from Lister Costin and Knobbly from the 1950s to the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo which is from 2016. Sixty years’ difference from the oldest to newest car, and I just jumped from one to another.”

The motivation? He loves it. All of it. As simple as that. We meet an awful lot of racing drivers here at Motor Sport… obviously. But Greensall has to be the most cheerful, optimistic and just plain happy – the drivers’ equivalent of a born-again Christian!

Chevrolet Corvette C6R GT2, ’23 Spa Classic

Chevrolet Corvette C6R GT2, ’23 Spa Classic

Just to prove his heart is in the right place, check out his influences. “I can’t recall the exact trigger point, but as a kid I can remember reading about Ronnie Peterson racing F1, F2, touring cars and sports cars. It was the approach he took and the style in which he raced that really inspired me. More recently people like Tony Stewart who has done NASCAR, IndyCar, sprint cars and is now doing NHRA drag racing. But my helmet colours are a combination of Peterson and Hans Stuck, my two inspirations as a kid.”

I remember first meeting Greensall in a Formula Palmer Audi paddock in 1998, in among a grid that included rising stars such as Justin Wilson and Darren Turner. At the same time Nigel was racing recent Formula 1 cars in BOSS – very much at ‘clubbie’ level. What exactly was the ambition back then? “Just to get to the next race and do another one,” he grins. “When I left school I went to college and studied mechanical engineering so I could learn about how cars are put together. From there, I didn’t have any money to go racing. My first job out of college was a croupier in a casino, then I was a debt collector in Birmingham.” Stop. Really? He’s too nice for such a job, surely. “I was the world’s worst debt collector! It was just a case of earning some money to find a way to go karting. But that didn’t lead anywhere.”

Nigel’s 2023 in numbers

Races Rallies Podiums Wins* Fastest Laps* Teams Co-drivers Championships competed in Circuits
102 3 63 30 47 20 21 7 23

The next step was novel. Margaret Thatcher gave him a leg-up… “At that time the government had the Enterprise Allowance Scheme,” he says. “They gave you £40 a week to survive on, and the opportunity to be self-employed and create your own business. I’m sure there were lots of plumbers, electricians and hairdressers who started that way.” Among others to use the scheme was Barton’s dad, Carl, a businessman who went on to enough success to now fund his son’s career ambitions.

“So I applied saying I was going to be a racing driver. They looked at me: ‘How does that work?’ I had to do a business plan and show that if I was on the scheme I could work seven days a week, 24 hours a day to raise sponsorship. I presented this business plan, they liked it and I was on the scheme.”

The breakthrough was convincing a local paper to ‘sponsor’ a rented Formula Ford for the Champion of Mallory series. The paper didn’t give him any money. “They gave me space in the newspaper to sell advertisements and keep the money from that, which allowed me to then rent a seven-year-old car,” he says. “The ambition wasn’t to win, just to go racing. And that’s still the ambition.”

Porsche 911 GT2 at HSR Sebring Classic

Porsche 911 GT2 at HSR Sebring Classic.

So, highlights? He namechecks racing Michael Schumacher’s Benetton B194 at Donington, Brands Hatch and Zolder. Then there were those Tyrrells. “They were almost current,” he points out. “In 1997 I was racing a 1994 car, barely three years old. That was fun, particularly at Mondello Park and Castle Combe. Taking a modern F1 car around Combe… people still tell me they were there.”

Picking out the best bit from his 2023 ‘ton’ takes some thought. A surprise outright win in a sopping wet Autosport 3 Hours at Snetterton driving a Lotus Elan with novice Ben Snee was a happy occasion as Greensall “drove its wheels off and floated around in the rain”. Barton was in his TVR Griffith and chuckles at the memory of Greensall coming past, giving a little wave… Then there was another wet-weather masterclass, in John Spiers’ far more brutal Lister Knobbly at the Oulton Park Gold Cup. Shades of Archie Scott Brown, right there. And the Spa 6 Hours with Barton in his TVR. “Harry had a great battle with Emanuele Pirro in a lightweight E-type. The two were swapping places, and I said to Harry, ‘How amazing, battling with Pirro.’ He said, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘Google him!’ What a privilege to be on track with a guy like that.”

Thumbs up from Nigel Greensall

another 100 races for 2024 then, Nigel?

Greensall didn’t set out to top 100 races last year; his most prolific season was a happy accident. When he’s not racing, he’s usually at a circuit testing or coaching. It’s simply what he does – every day if he can. Then there’s rallying, a relatively recent diversion, but an ambition long-held since his dad took him to watch Markku Alén twirling a Lancia Stratos through Sutton Park on 1970s RAC Rallies.

But the rallying avenue also has value in his driver coaching. “With all the folk I work with I take them on a journey,” says Greensall. “They might be racing one car, but outside of that I’ll get them to try lots of different cars. I like to take people rallying for instance. It makes you a better driver.”

So what’s next? Can he top the ton again? “Haven’t a clue! In America I’m trying to set up an opportunity to try some late model racing, stock cars that look like a NASCAR, but run on short ovals with a lap time of about 18 seconds. I was looking at the qualifying times from the other night. The top 30 was covered by three tenths of a second.”

Barton is feeding off that enthusiasm. “Nigel brings experience, but also it’s his attitude. I’ve met lots of people who are very serious. Nigel’s perspective is if you don’t enjoy every lap it’s a day wasted. Also I do a lot of training with Rob Wilson. His teaching is like the core level of driving. I kind of see him as book one in how to drive fast as a professional. Nigel is like book two. He puts context and application on to what Rob teaches me.”

The ambition is to get Barton to Le Mans in a GT3 car by 2026 – with Greensall as his co-driver. The mentor is 62, by the way. “There are cars I’ve raced for more than 20 years that I make sure I get back into every year and compare my lap times,” he says with a glint of defiance. “Those lap times are still improving.” No flicker of backing off, then. Don’t dismiss another Greensall ton in 2024.

Nigel Greensall

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