…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Cars I’ve known

I’ve been involved with cars pretty much all my life.  I had my first shunt in my Dad’s Sunbeam Talbot (I was a babe at the time, and cracked my forehead on the rear-vision mirror when my Mum was obliged to brake suddenly) and I was changing gear, and throwing our Morris Cowley around on dirt roads in Australia, at the age of about seven.  Before I worked for the AARC in Sydney I pumped petrol at a filling station in West Ryde (aged 14).  I’ve lost count of the number of cars I’ve since owned or looked after.  As a journalist in the 1970s and 80s I was lucky enough to run a different long-term test car virtually every year.  I’ve also been very fortunate to have driven some excellent racing cars and to have raced a wide variety of cars for about a decade.  The results weren’t spectacular but then I did operate on a shoe-string and had very little time for testing or preparation.  Driving highlights include laps of Zandvoort in David McLaughlin’s ex-Jim Clark Lotus 49 and a Ricard test with a Toyota TF109B V10; and on the racing side I guess I’d list my second place at Macau in the Jackie Chan Trophy Race, a third at Lydden in a Formula Vee and a second at Silverstone in a Caterham (in the wet).  On the other side of the coin, I had a big shunt testing at Silverstone when a front hub broke on my Metro Challenge car and I was sitting next to Tom Walkinshaw when a similar thing happened to his Capri at Copse Corner.  Add Sir Frank Williams’ very unfortunate accident in the Ford Sierra and whacking the tyre wall hard at Blanchimont, Spa, in a Mini Challenge car and I guess you could say that I’ve seen the motoring and motor racing world from all angles.  Here’s the first part of some the highlights:

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9 thoughts on “Cars I’ve known

  1. Ted Leis on said:

    Great historic pictures! I never got to the big smoke to see the GT40 at the motor show as a child but I think I saw it at Surfers one year. I remember a GT40 write-up in Motor Manual (about 1965 or 1966) and can still remember a part of the text describing the engine as ‘a symphony of moving parts’. There was more about high lift cams and such but I can’t remember it after all these years.
    Can’t wait for the next installment.

  2. Thanks Ted. That GT40 only raced once in Australia – at Surfers’ in ’66. I did get to see a couple of GT40s racing at Silverstone in ’67 but otherwise, like you, I just had to read about them in magazines like your Motor Manual, Modern Motor and Sports Car World.

  3. Pingback: Cars I’ve known | HolaQueretaro

  4. Joe Armour on said:

    Speaking of GT.40s, 250LMs and Warwick Farm I have a request for your comments. Did you meet Englishman Warwick Banks who was an assistant to Geoff Sykes at the ‘Farm? He said one of his duties was to drive Graham Hill around Sydney in a Morris 1100! Also he co-drove my ex-works 1965 Healey 3000 in the Sebring 12 Hour with Paul Hawkins. Paul was also at Surfers with a GT.40 one year and he also owned the P.4 after David McKay

  5. Awesome page! Have always loved/idolized your writing as a youngster, and love your work now!

  6. Many thanks!

  7. Jon Saltinstall on said:

    Hi Peter – I have just come across this article and am fascinated by your account of the Brazilian GP Pro-Am race from 1985 that seems to have been otherwise largely unreported. For the past decade I’ve been attempting to compile a comprehensive account of all the races in which Niki Lauda competed; I’ve established this was a 5-lap event in Ford Escort XR3s involving a pit-stop and a driver change, but is there any more flesh you’re able to add to the bones regarding the Rio race please? Many thanks for your continued fascinating blog, and kind regards.

  8. George Harris on said:

    Hi Peter,

    I fondly remember your Autocar articles and wonder if you had any plans to re-publish them. Ones that stand out are Michele Alboreto’s gear changing prowess, Carlos Reutemann with a FIAT 131 Mirafiori Sport at Brands, hitching a lift with Gilles and Jody in a Ferrari 400i and the little Fiat X1/9 you ran (with the Ferrari decals).


  9. Matt Porter on said:

    I asked Peter a similar question following a talk by Brian Redman at the Brooklands Members club some years ago. I particularly recalled his report on Carlos Reutemann’s victory at Brands in 1978. Peter suggested that Autocar were planning to publish his GP reports in the near future but on reflection I think he was just giving me the ‘brush-off’. Redman was understandably a much more interesting person to talk to than me!

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