Introducing our own Paul Frère, Dickie Meaden. Racing driver-journalist
As this is the place where Motor Sport’s editorial team gets closest to its readers, I thought as the new boy around here I ought to say hello.
Firstly, I’d like to think I’m already one of you. That’s to say someone who spends more of my time than is strictly healthy reading about, talking about, watching and participating in as much racing as I can. I’m also a long standing Motor Sport reader, though being a man of a certain age means while I love the immediacy and scope of online media I still have a lingering attachment to the analogue pleasures of old-school ink and paper.
Work-wise I’ve been a motoring journalist since the early ’90s, writing about fast road cars (and a few competition cars) in magazines such as Performance Car and Evo. It was soon after starting as a journo I got my race licence. I can’t quite believe it, but this year marks my 25th race season, making me rather old and extremely lucky.
Apart from a few seasons of sprinting and hill-climbing in a shared, self-funded Peugeot 205 GTI, the bulk of this racing has come in the course of work (I use the term loosely!) with many one-off appearances in all kinds of modern one-make kit, from VW Vento and Vauxhall Vectra tin-tops, Caterham, Renault Spider and Ginetta sports cars to Formula Palmer Audi single-seaters and Carrera Cup Porsches. Between 2006 and 2014 I took part in nine consecutive N24s (one with Maserati, the other eight with Aston Martin), plus three Silverstone 24H and a trio of Dubai 24H outings. I also dabbled with rallying, though rolling a Ford Ka on the Manx National made me conclude I was probably better suited to driving round in circles than tearing between the trees and hedges with someone shouting at me from the passenger seat.
Two highlights away from circuit or stage have been Bonneville Speed Week and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb; the former driving Skoda UK’s ’10 years of VRS’ Octavia to a class record speed of 227.080mph; the latter buying myself a drive in a ridiculous methanol-burning open-wheel monster with barn door wings and 750bhp. This was back when the course was half dirt, half paved, so the car was also running knobbly rear tyres. My fireproof underwear was never quite the same after that particular adventure, though I did bag myself a class podium so the laundry bill was worth it.
In the last four years or so I’ve fallen head over heels in love with historic racing. As my wife and friends will attest, the only thing I love more than racing a Lotus Cortina is telling them about it. If you’re lucky I might share some in-car footage with you. If you’re unlucky I might share all of it with you…
Seriously, I’ve never found quite such a reliable and limitless source of enjoyment than at the wheel of a historic race car. Be it a Cortina, Lola T70 Mk3B, Cologne Capri, AC Cobra, GT40 or the Lotus Elan 26R I’ve written about in the latest issue of Motor Sport magazine. If you’re interested I’ll have a rummage through my GoPro footage and post few clips up here with some thoughts on the cars.
This season I’m returning to a few old flames (the aforementioned Capri, Elan and GT40) and making some new friends. The most exciting of which is a 1978 Chevron B42 Formula 2 car. It’s a fabulous-looking machine. Fabulous sounding too, courtesy of its barely silenced BMW M12 engine. I’m due to test it in a few weeks, so I’ll be sure to put some thoughts, pics and video clips up here. If it goes as well as it looks I’m in for a treat.
F2 car aside there’s tons to look forward to this season. Spa Six Hour and Goodwood Revival are uppermost in my plans (watch this space for some announcements) and Peter Auto has some brilliant events on the calendar, including the Hungaroring – a first for me. And then there’s assignments for Motor Sport. I’ve got a few lined-up already, but I can’t spill the beans. Spoilers are best suited to racing cars.
Suffice to say they involve some stunning cars and fascinating people. We’re planning to shoot a few videos, too, which will hopefully add another dimension to your enjoyment. I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences and discussing them with you here over the coming months.