The racing bug first bit me in the summer of 1997 as a seven year old boy, when I went with my Dad to a meeting that his Company was sponsoring at our local track - Standlake Arena. After a chat with the event organiser, the meeting interval saw me sitting in with one of the racers doing my first laps of a race track. I don’t know how fast we went - not very is my guess but that was it for me – from that day I wanted to race and my tenth birthday and a Mini couldn’t come quickly enough!
My first driving experienced followed shortly after this. It was a Saturday afternoon and my Grandfather, my Dad and I took the mile trip between our yard and my Grandfather’s farm in our work van, a petrol Transit, that ironically caught fire and burnt out whilst doing this same trip a few years later! I pestered my Dad constantly all the way there and begged him to let me drive the van down the farm driveway. Reluctantly he gave in. The seat was moved as far forward as it would go and Dad “ran through the basics” with me, and then with a lot of jerking and stalling we were off. The driving had begun!
As my tenth birthday loomed a smashed Mini was bought and sat in the yard ready for racing prep to begin. Meanwhile my other Grandad lent us a Mini that was driveable and we headed off to an old airfield so I could get some practice. Dad and I spent many Saturday afternoons driving round and round at varying speeds, practising gear changes, spinning the wheels, and generally having a blast ‘learning to drive’ ! Looking back it was more akin to rallycross than oval racing!
The Mini was built over the winter of 1999/2000 and painted in bright yellow with black arches and my name and numbers big and bold for all to see. That was it we were ready to go racing - or so I thought! We had the van all loaded and the trailer hitched up and the only job remaining was to load the car. I got in, started the engine, pressed the clutch and crunch no first gear! I thought the end of the world had come and I was never going to race. Dad however had other ideas and the engine was quickly out of the other mini and bolted into the race car ready for the Sunday.
This time we really were ready and off we went racing. I’ll add now that a mini at Standlake might as well have been F1 at
to a ten year old! The novices all had to have passengers sitting with them at first while they got used to racing so my Dad got strapped in besides me and the first race got underway. Dad always says he loved sitting in the car with me and I wonder if he would say the same after sitting in the passenger side though a hard fought National Hot Rod final at Monaco Ipswich or the likes. It’s a long time ago now and I don’t clearly remember what happened in the race but I wasn’t the bravest of ten year olds and it can’t have been too awful or I would have loaded up and never wanted to race again.
From this point on racing became my life and I had six fantastic years racing minis around the south of the country. I made some brilliant friends, a lot of who I’m still in contact with now and I won several championships. I’m sure to talk and reminisce a lot more about my Mini racing days over the coming weeks - I could literally spend hours talking about them.
So there we go - that’s how it all started for me. I’ll be back soon with another instalment where I’ll bring you right up to date with what’s happening in the workshop at the moment.
Thanks for readingMikey