He won in a car Jan Lammers thought too slow and could have been a rally star if he hadn’t bid for the Land Speed Record. Just don’t mention Roberto Moreno’s grundies
You were a winner in F3. Did you ever have any Fl aspirations? John Keen, Wolverhampton
I suppose so, at least directly after winning in F3, but then my teammate Chris Lambert was killed at Zandvoort. That really affected me: I still remember Tony [Lanfranchi] telling me to give up the single-seaters as they were too dangerous. And they were, back then.
How far can you drive a Mazda RX3 on two wheels and did you ever roll one completely? Barry Knott, Shrewsbury
Quite a way and not quite. But I tried! I did put one in a ditch on the Tour of Britain in ’75. I’d run into an old boy on his way to church, doing about a million miles an hour, and knocked over a hedge. Then all these cows got out. Noel Edmonds was following me and tried shooing the cattle back into the field!
Gerry Marshall and Tony Lanfranchi have all had books written about them. When can we expect a ‘Whizzo biography? Julian Edser. Brighton
Paul Lawrence is doing one at the moment. Hopefully it will be out before the end of ’06. I need to do it soon before I forget everything.
You won the 1964 Welsh Rally in a Mini Cooper. Is it true that you were then offered a works BMC drive? Giles Perry, Maidstone
Not strictly true. Stuart Turner [BMC competitions department head] gave me a great deal of help. He was God and I really appreciated all the help he gave me. That said, he never actually gave or offered me a car. I listened to all of his advice and acted upon it and I imagine I could have gone further in rallying but I lost my driving licence shortly after the Welsh and that undoubtedly hurt my career. I was on my way to the Racing Car Show in my Mini. According to the policeman who stopped me, I was attempting to break the Land Speed Record. Most people know me as a circuit driver but I did something like 230 rallies, including quite a few internationals. I’ve always enjoyed rallying.
What was your greatest race? Gavin Scott, via e-mail
Hmm, I suppose that would have to be the Renault Alpine one-make race at Brands Hatch on the same weekend as the 1985 European Grand Prix. I was the only Brit in the race, although I was only a reserve for the Rothmans Holland team. I only got the call on the Wednesday before the race. There were lots of very talented drivers competing and I only got the drive because Jan Lammers said it wasn’t quick enough. I can still remember the crowd response and I’m sure that’s what lifted me. Same too for Nigel Mansell the following day. The crowd was brilliant. To win in a car that a star driver refused to get into meant a lot. Jan and I share a giggle over that, even now. He’s a really nice guy.
Which driver were/are you happiest driving wheel to wheel with? Andrew Dawson, Twickenham
I’ve raced against so many people over nearly 50 years. I suppose from my time in saloons it would have to be Andy Rouse and Win Percy. They were two drivers you could usually trust not to do anything stupid. Having said that, Tom Walkinshaw was one guy I remember being hard as nails but very fair. There was one race at Brands where we drove a lap of the Grand Prix circuit side by side and never touched; and we broke the lap record. There aren’t that many drivers you could do that with. In historics I suppose Nick Swift is a very good driver and trustworthy.
Where’s the strangest place you have ever raced? Dave Cheatham, Lincolnshire
Blimey, I suppose it would have to be a circuit in Peril, Santa Rosa I think it was called. When I was racing Escort Mexicos, I got to know this Peruvian guy and bought his car when he returned home. Anyway, we kept in touch and he invited me to do this six-hour race with him. I can remember it being right on the coast and there was nothing to stop you from driving into the sea if you screwed up. Anyway, I was out in his Escort and it caught fire. There was nothing between the track and spectators and after I did a Masten Gregory and bailed out, the car actually carried on around the bend, away from the crowd. I was pictured on the front page of the following day’s newspaper, being hailed as a hero for avoiding an accident. I was actually looking after myself! The country’s president invited me to his palace: he loved me because it was the first time in about 20 years that he hadn’t been on the front page!
Who christened you ‘Whizzo’? Brett Marshall, Portland, Oregon, USA
Andy Marriott. It was after I’d won the Welsh Rally. He wrote something along the lines of, ‘Who is this whizz-kid from Wales?’ Except I was from Hereford.
Is there a car you’d still like to drive? Craig Price, via e-mail
I’ve driven just about everything so I suppose the only thing left would be a modern F1 car. I would love the chance to drive one with nobody around. I’d just like to experience one. If Steve Sutcliffe [Autocar journo] can drive an F1 car for more than three laps, I don’t see why I can’t! I raced against Frank Williams in F3 so I could always ask him for a go.
Was the Jaguar Egal evil to drive? Chris Prince, Humberside
I was asked by Geoff Richardson to drive that car. He was a wonderful man. He’d had the cider-drinking champion of the north, Chris Summers, driving the car but thought it was about time he got some fresh blood so put me in it. That car was a beast, with a 7-litre Holman & Moody Ford Galaxie V8 which produced about 400bhp. It was horrendous to drive with way too much power and no grip. It always ran out of brakes too. The thing is, it was so quick to the first corner that I won a lot of races in it. After Geoff sold it, the next owner sprinted the car but scared himself silly. Last I heard it was in the US. I’d love to know if it’s still around.
Is it true that Roberto Moreno used to sleep in your van on Clapham Common during his FFord days? Rashed Chowdhury. Telford
Actually, it was on Wimbledon Common. I had a Transit van that I used to tow my Dolomite Sprint with. Roberto had no money and was doing odd jobs for Charles Ivey’s Porsche business at the time, Charlie’s team manager looking after him in Formula Ford. Thing is, they didn’t have a tow vehicle. Rob used to borrow it on a Friday and return it on a Monday. Anyway, I kept hearing stories about me scoring with some girl in Wimbledon: I was hearing about misted up windows and nights of passion in my Transit. Rob was sleeping in the van! Even left his underwear in it…
Is it true that you finished third in the World Karting championship? Adrian Sharpies, via e-mail
Yep, but only because everyone else broke down. This was right at the very early days of karting. My father manufactured the Fastakart. The championship was actually a race in Shenington. There were drivers from all over the world but I think there were only three finishers! I’d love to own a Fastakart.