Peter Hardman's; The day I beat... Mika Häkkinen

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Formula Vauxhall Lotus, Mallory Park, May 1988

I wasn’t planning to do Formula Vauxhall Lotus; I was looking at F3 or even F3000 — but it’s a question of dosh isn’t it? Racing for Britain approached me and offered a drive in a car funded by Vauxhall. Swindon, the engine tuner, set up a good team, but there wasn’t much money.

Dragon Motorsport did have the money and ran Mika Häkkinen and Alan McNish, who were young and talented. They dominated the first three races. But I was right there on pace.

At Mallory I led from pole, but the race was stopped when Eugene O’Brien crashed. My second start wasn’t so good, but Mika missed a gear. Then it was a case of keeping it clean.

Years before, I’d spoken to Ayrton Senna about Mallory and he said to use third gear into Gerards and take fourth gear two-thirds through. Mika must have been in top all the way because he was sliding around losing speed. So I was better through Gerards; we were even through the Esses; he was better into the hairpin; but I was a bit quicker through Devil’s Elbow. It was stalemate.

I won again at Thruxton, but Swindon’s cash ran out and I switched to Richard Dutton’s team. It didn’t work out. With a budget at Swindon I would have won the British Championship.

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