Talk curve -- Historic motorsport insight -- Angling for success
At 33, Dan Cox is 10 years younger than the Ford Anglia he races in the Historic Racing Saloon Register Championship. However, his heart is firmly with old cars, reports Paul Lawrence
"There has got to be a defect in my genes," says Dan Cox of his passion for 1960s cars. His younger brother Ben goes even further back, owning an ex-Hamish Moffat Bugatti with which he tackles VSCC trials and hillclimbs. "We're into old planes as well," continues Dan. "There's just a bit more about them."
Their father Henry raced Anglias in the 1960s. "I had a big thing for them, even as road cars," says Dan. Initially, Cox Junior did a little bit of karting, but his 10-year-old chassis was very brittle and would snap at most meetings. "I never imagined being able to afford to go racing," says this self-employed engineer. "My last proper job was lecturing on motor vehicle engineering at a tech college."
A trip to an HSCC meeting was a turning point. "Dad and I went to watch the Historic Racing Saloon Register race at Silverstone at the end of 2001 and we raved about it," says Dan. "Then this Anglia came up for sale and we had to have it." Although this ex-Nick Mizen car hadn't run for a couple of years, they took it to Llandow for a test and father and son were hooked. "It definitely lit us up. It was fantastic!"
Henry, now turned 60, duly returned to racing after a break of about 35 years. "We shared the car in 2002 and I won the class, although I only did about half the races," says Dan. "I thought everyone else was going gently as the cars were old!"
Seeing his son's speed, Henry stood down at the end of 2002. "I get more fun out of seeing him race it now," admits Cox Senior.
"In 2003 we had a fuel line that was drawing in air," explains Dan, "and it just wasn't running how it should have done. When we found the problem it was a very good feeling. Then I made a right mess of it at Cadwell Park. Too much sideways and that was it. It went up a bank and stood on its nose."
Last season was a bitter-sweet experience, with three wins and a series of dramas. The title was out of reach, but Dan proved himself one of the pace-setters in the supercompetitive HRSR series. The first race of the year at Donington in April delivered his first overall win, and more followed at Castle Combe and Brands Hatch GP.
"The winning is good," says Dan, "but I'd sooner have a really good race and finish second. I don't want it easy. When you win well, it keeps you smiling all week." But it was far from all smiles in September, when the propshaft snapped at Spa and damaged the underside of the car. "I almost made myself ill with it," admits Dan. "I was in the garage every night until midnight to get the car ready for the Mallory round two weeks later. Then we had a gear lever problem there."
That level of commitment is common in historic racing and Dan has high standards: "I like to put a spanner on every nut and bolt after every race. It's a big deal for me. It's not a day job, but it seems like it at times."
The plan for 2005 is clear, but he has a level approach to his racing: "I'd like to try to win the title this season, but setting goals does put you under pressure. I want to do as well as I can, but keep it real."
Given his obvious pace, Dan could probably cut it in contemporary touring car racing. But it's not an option that inspires him. "I have looked at other classes of racing, but there was nothing else that interested me," he explains. "It's not just the racing, but also the other cars and the nostalgia. There is an awful lot to be had from historic racing, and modern machinery certainly wouldn't drive me out into the garage every night!"