All Thanks To A Man of Wall Industries

It’s been a good six months since I’ve had the opportunity to take the Fiesta back on to the Dirt tracks of Great Britain’s Amateur rallying scene…

But, now that I’ve had a break from the scene, I’m ready to jump back into the fray – I just have to make sure that the old Ford doesn’t kill me in the process.

I’ve spoken before about my journey from racing obsessed kid to sports journalist – but the journey from Sunday Driver to amateur Racer is a story worth telling in itself. If you’re considering getting into some Amateur racing, then you will no doubt discover soon enough that it is the community spirit of the racers and teams that really make this a sport worth getting involved in.

The first connection that I forged within the community of the amateur rally racing scene was with an American man, on holiday with his son. It was one of the first of a handful of events that I’d entered into with the Fiesta back in 2012. For some reason, I was worried that I’d make a terrible fool of myself, as a result I’d failed to inform any of my friends, family or colleagues at work about my race. I had the thought in my head of entering into the race alone, a one-man driving and maintenance team, I would then go on to claim a podium position and take the trophy into the office the following morning.

This didn’t happen.

Despite my years of spectating Motorsport at both amateur and professional events, I’d somehow managed to forget that when entering a car, you need more than one member of a team, for Health and Safety reasons at the very least. Although amateur events in the UK are governed by strict safety regulations requiring Emergency Vehicles and Medical Staff on hand at all times, all drivers are still required to be accompanied by supporting members in case of accidents or breakdowns.

Luckily, I met Richard Croshaw and his son, Michael. Travelling the UK for a summer, this Electrical Engineer (from a well established Engineering company, Wall Industries) turned out to be my saving grace that day. They had stumbled upon the event that day purely accidentally and were just wandering into the Drivers’ Area when I came across the first hurdle of the day. Halfway through registration, an exasperated man with a clipboard was confused as to why I’d thought that I could attempt an all day race by myself and I was slowly growing more embarrassed and angry as a result.

Thankfully, Rich and Michael were there to help. Over hearing my troubles and seeing the opportunity to be a part of a Cinderella story of sorts, these plucky Americans offered to stand in for the day and support me through the race. Both Father and Son had race-day experience and being avid fans of Top Gear (at a time when it was still good) were both more than eager to be a part of a genuine scrap heap challenge. Although my saviours that day had come a long way to save my racing dream, they were two people who remain symbolic of the Motorsport scene throughout the world – generous, passionate and helpful.

That day I managed to finish in one piece, around halfway down the pecking order. I wouldn’t have finished at all if it wasn’t for my generous helpers – they shall always remain on my Christmas Card list.

The One Time I Nearly Bought A Porsche

Most men usually wait until their mid-forties to buy their first sports car – I was sorely tempted at the age of 29.

There’s a good reason why most men leave these kinds of investments until they’re much older.

First of all these things cost money and I mean a lot of money. We’re talking at least £10,000 for an undesirable, unfashionable model in OK shape. For one of the flasher, well looked after older models, you could be looking at spending anywhere from £100,000 all the way up to £300,000. This isn’t the kind of money that most men in their mid-late twenties have just lying around. This is the kind of money reserved for retired hedge fund bankers or millionaire playboys.

When you discuss spending several thousands of pounds in one sitting with any ‘normal’ person, you’ll usually be considering an important life decision, one that has taken years of planning and is absolutely the correct financial decision for you to make. Unfortunately, regardless of how much money you have, spending several if not hundreds of thousands of pounds on a high-powered vehicle produced in the 70s will almost never be a wise decision.

There in lies the draw.

I’ve always had a slightly self-destructive streak. Anything from antagonising (now) ex-girlfriends with memories of past arguments to simply drinking too much on a Sunday evening before work. It doesn’t matter how difficult or damaging the task is, I will almost always go out of the way to somehow take myself financially, professionally or romantically.

This Porsche 911 2.7 MFI Carrera Targa was one such example of a small distraction that might well have spelt doom for my future finances and life plan.

I was on a visit to Liverpool to check out the team and cars over at Tech-9. Since 1993 this small team of local boys have been preparing Porsche race cars, servicing clients vehicles and selling gorgeous examples of German Engineering. They first appeared on my radar all the way back in the mid-nineties.

At the time I was having a minor love affair with Porsche vehicles. The nineties were a time when those that had money, wasted no time in flaunting it. Interest was low and hundreds of yuppies and television actors were making the most of it by purchasing their brand new vehicles on incredible credit deals, that they might well have lived to regret.

It felt like everywhere I looked, I saw another gorgeous car. Porsches were everywhere back then and the nineties were a wonderful time to admire and look out for them. On top of the reams of brand new models that the company was pumping out at the time, there were many models from the classic 60s and 70s era knocking around the streets of England – in my eyes they were all beautiful.

Arriving at Tech-9 on that one day in the late nineties, I recall my jaw hitting the floor somewhat when I saw this one particular model. With a bright red paint show, silkier than I’d ever seen before, it felt as if the Carrera was almost calling out to me. After a test drive and a quick discussion of the price (well over £100,000) I knew that such a vehicle would be well beyond my purchasing power for probably my whole life. With a heavy heart, I handed the keys back to the owner who (if truth be told) looked relieved that I would not be considering buying it today – thank you,

Since then, I’ve settled for many affordable banger and have still yet to make the upgrade a full blown sports car…one can always wait, I suppose!

My Own Racing Story

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’m gearing myself up for a new racing season of my own.

My racing career began all the way back when I was a small, snot-nosed kid wandering around the scenic grounds of Beaulieu.

I’d been taken out for the day by my Father, who had clearly enjoyed being surrounded by pieces of Automotive history, and had absolutely loved every single minute of it. Still – although I’d marvelled at all the iconic vehicles and soaked up the heritage, I found my young legs wandering towards the sight and sound of racing cars.

As the go-karts, driven by other young tykes, whizzed around the track. I felt in me a thrill of competitive spirit – something that I had not experienced before. My Father had always commented on my being a rather placid, laid back child. A boy that was always happy just to take part, perfectly content with not winning. That all changed as soon as I stepped into a go-kart for the first time. My foot on the acceleration pedal and the roar of the engines combined with my own fantasies of race car driving to create an experience that was not only thrilling, but also life affirming.

I don’t remember where I placed that day, truth be told I don’t think anyone was even keeping track, but it took a good few hours for the adrenaline rush of that feeling to fade. All the way home in the car, my mind exploded with the possibilities of my future as a race car driver.

In my mind I saw myself lifting my first Juniors trophy, after narrowly edging out a bitter rival that I had met the previous season. After a rocky ride up through the amateur ranks, I would suffer a minor setback and injury, allowing my Italian rival (for some reason, I felt that the bad guys in Motorsports were always Italian – blame my parents!) to surpass me in skills.

The first year, however, racing for the unsung construction legends of Lotus, I would make a miraculous debut, stunning critics and fans alike. What would follow then would be your typical arc of consistent winning, followed by a brief lull in form, then followed by a grand return to the podium that would set the internet on fire and cement myself as a true legend of the sport.

Of course, my world view at the time was woefully limited to my own small successes as a driver. In my young, poorly educated mind – I had all that I needed to become the next Kimi Raikkonen. I was lacking somewhat, however, when it came to the other key ingredients needed to start a successful career as a race-car driver. Things such as good reactions, a decent nearby track to practice on and money. So much money

With three other siblings, all of whom had their own hobbies and fantasies to follow, there was little or no chance of me developing my racing skills further beyond the Go Karting track.

Thankfully, despite years of watching my own personal racing dream fall through my fingers, I finally found a way to race ‘professionally’ when I was much older. Thanks to a stable income (and no kids to support) I finally scratched together the cash for a vehicle of my own. This little Fiesta was a worthy old banger. Just about fit for it’s MOT each time it came round, I was always thankful for the rock solid engine it hid under it’s hood – despite the fact that I was forever being forced to replace the cooling fans inside the vehicle itself on hot sunny days.

I may not have made it to that fateful grudge match for the Juniors trophy when I was 15, but I’ve still managed to beat dozens of other like-minded drivers, with a bit of a luck one of them was Italian.