It was only after I had taken early retirement that I finally had the chance to realise that early ambition to get involved in motor sport. Tim Allen, a BBC friend, suggested we join the Bristol Motor Club and that kick-started it all. After a season taking part in 12-car rallies (and making Tim all but throw up!) and marshalling at every event I could get to, I bought a Westfield so that I could ‘have a go’ at doing some sprints myself.
But it wasn’t that straightforward. I bought the car from Matt Rumney in September 96, and spent the winter getting the car just as I wanted it. In the Spring of 97, I booked a half day’s practice session at Castle Combe along with Dave Potts in his Westfield.
Unfortunately the fun only lasted about three laps – the cooling system wasn’t up to this treatment, a piston melted and the car expired ignominiously in a cloud of smoke! A complete engine rebuild followed, but on the day I got it home it suffered spontaneous self-combustion on only its second outing. I decided that I was probably destined not to be a Westfield owner!
Fortunately I was able to claim the market value of the car from my insurance. I sold the remains of the car to Nick Rainbow, who refurbished and disposed of the chassis, whilst the engine found its way into his brother Julian’s Fury sports car.
I had spent a lot of time and effort trying to make a used kit-car conform to my idea of what a kit-car should be – all ultimately to no avail! Now I felt the only way was to build my own from scratch. So after a few months researching the market, I had a test drive in a C C Cyclone. I was impressed by the nimbleness and relative sophistication of this Vauxhall-based, mid-engined design and duly placed my order. I started construction in January 98. It was an absorbing and rewarding project, and it was built ready for SVA testing and licensing in August that year.
I enjoyed using it on the road for the rest of the year, and over the winter undertook a comprehensive engine rebuild. I also fitted an SBD induction and engine management system, which increased the quoted power output to 208bhp. By Spring ‘99 it was ready for a few competitive events.
First competitive outing of 1999 was the Wessex Sprint at Colerne in May. This produced a class 2nd for co-driver Robin Isaac and class 3rd for me. Not bad – although there were only five in the class! However, for the next event – Castle Combe sprint – I had some real competition. Not only that – I lost my first practice to a misfire, and a dragging clutch left me unable to change gear except in the most leisurely way. Result? A slightly embarrassing 12th in class (out of 15). The Two Clubs Sprint at Colerne on August bank holiday went a bit better. With the clutch and misfire problems sorted out, I managed class 5th (out of 7).
A chance encounter at a barbecue with a friend from my BBC days, Graham Wild, led to me inviting him to share the car with me sprinting on a regular basis. Graham responded enthusiastically so we booked a couple of entertaining afternoons at Haynes test track for Graham to get used to the car. I found him a nearly-new race suit owned by Adam Ford, David Potts’s cousin, and Graham bought himself a new Bieffe helmet to complete the safety equipment.
Our first event together was the BAC Pegasus Sprint at Castle Combe, where we managed 6th (me) and 9th in a large class of 20. Excellent result for Graham on his first outing, and his enthusiasm was fired to compete in a few more events in 2000. Graham proved to be the perfect sprint-mate; gently competitive, but also supportive and considerate; it was the start of an enduring partnership.