Ulsterman Irvine was as much a hard-nosed businessman as he was a racer, with a keen eye for a deal. Happy to play number two to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in exchange for the handsome pay.
But in the 1980s, Irvine was a promising Formula Ford driver who rarely had the means to allow his talent full rein – and his pace brought him to Ralph Firman. A long-standing sponsorship deal with Duckhams enabled Firman to offer subsidised drives to those he regarded as stars of the future.
“I can’t recall how much a factory FFord seat was worth in 1987,” Firman says, “but it was significantly more than the £10,000 I’d asked. When the time came to pay, Eddie gave me a cheque for £2000 and promised to make up the shortfall when he could. That didn’t happen, of course…”
Irvine won eight of the 12 British FF1600 rounds on his way to the title, then added the Festival win. It was a springboard to a plum drive with Marlboro-backed West Surrey Racing in British F3. He would make his F1 debut with Jordan late in 1993.
“Some years after, I met Eddie at the Autosport Show and, as we were chatting, he leaned over and slipped a bit of paper into my pocket – a cheque for the £8000 he still owed,” says Firman. “I was very touched, though you can imagine his reply when I asked if he’d included the interest…
“One year, Eddie was also asked to present Autosport’s John Bolster Award for Technical Achievement. He’s no fan of gala ceremonies, so he said he wouldn’t do it… unless they gave it to me. But in 2003 they did and he did, which I thought was very nice. It underlined his appreciation for what we’d done for him.”
Armstrong Siddeley History — Readers Provide a Postscript
Sir, Your history of the Armstrong Siddeley Car brings to mind my own slight association with them. Going into the motor trade as an apprentice mechanic at the age of…
"B.H.P." AND HOW IT IS FOUND
" B•H.P. AND HOW IT IS FOUND TYPICAL EQUIPMENT OF THE TEST SHOP IN the complicated and intricate process of automobile production there is, perhaps, no more interesting or essential…