Q and A: historic racing ace Martin O’Connell

Historic Racing

Former F3 ace Martin O’Connell has carved a niche as one of the leading preparers and racers of historic cars. He’s enjoyed a tremendous 2015 season, capped by a fabulous hat-trick of wins at the Silverstone Classic that earned him the Motor Sport magazine ‘driver of the weekend’ award.

 How good has the season been?
“I can’t complain really; it’s been very good. It has been one of those seasons where we’ve either won or not finished. They can be difficult seasons because sometimes it’s nice to just finish. We’ve had a couple of issues and I’ve made a couple of mistakes. All in all it’s been good, but it’s been a hard season.”

Which cars have you been racing?
“The prime cars have been the Jaguar E-type, the Chevron B8 and the Chevron B19. We’ve done a lot of races in a lot of cars and it has been a challenge to keep up with it all and stay with the pace; everything just keeps going faster. It wouldn’t half help a bit if they’d all just go a little bit slower!”

You also prepare the cars…
“The biggest challenge is to keep the cars reliable and because I do the preparation, I can’t blame anyone else when it doesn’t work. We’re always trying to make the cars go faster, particularly with the E-type. That’s been a challenge for five years to try and understand the car and make it go faster to compete with the Cobras and TVRs with the extra horsepower they have. But we’ve won some races and never been too far away.”

Who is behind the team?
“I’m very fortunate that Sandy Watson has been a supporter of mine for a long time and we got to do a lot of races. Now with Andrew Kirkaldy racing with us as well he is fast and he keeps me on my toes. We’re never too far apart on times. I’m just lucky to get to do a lot of racing as I should probably have stopped by my age!”

How good was the Silverstone Classic?
“The Classic was one of those weekends that you couldn’t script. It was a difficult weekend for everybody, especially the organisers. We had a fabulous race in the E-type and in the B19. The B8 race was just difficult because of the weather. In the Pre ’66 GT race, the Cobras are very quick and have more power, but all the cars have their own individual problems. It was a pretty special weekend because it’s Silverstone and it is definitely the biggest classic meeting of the season in Europe. The ‘driver of the weekend’ award is something that you don’t expect.”

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