A personal post –
I know exactly where I was 20 years ago today, Snetterton Paddock, with a group of very good friends pretending to be mechanics.
It was my second race in the Renault Clio Championship supporting the British Touring Cars.
I had promised my new girlfriend that motor racing was exciting, glamorous and I would be Touring Car champion within a couple of years.
Her reality check (and mine) was that during the test session the day before, I rolled the car at Riches, and so instead of a day off on the Sunday, we were all working out how to replace rear axles and align wheels. In the afternoon she came back with refreshments, tears streaming down her face and the news that Ayrton Senna was dead.
The whole paddock was quiet.
The next day as the Clio qualifying session started, I was still being strapped into the car as they bled the brakes. We qualified 9th.
Jill, now my wife, talks of hating my friends on that day for putting the car together so I could go back out on track, and only in the last year revealed just how terrified she was everytime I raced.
As we remember a hero, Senna’s family will still be mourning a loss, and Corinna Schumacher, who must have thought her days of worrying were over, will be praying for Michael.
(ayrtonsennadasilvaforever.blogspot.com – Foto: AFP)
Very good friends Jill Barton, Simon Duerden, Ian Astley, Kevin Rice, Tony Pettman, Robin Lock
Never heard of it or even worse never been!? You’ve heard of designer nights, well this is nothing like those. Why? because it is held when you are getting over a hangover not when you are preparing for one!
We gather at Goodwood Racing Circuit, usually around pit garage No. 15, on the same days as their Breakfast Club meets – usually the first Sunday of the month.
We meet as car enthusiasts who happen to be designers, and the talk can be of design, classic cars or the quality of the bacon rolls (not provided). There is no pre registering, no membership fee or card, there are no companies promoting their wares, just like minded individuals having a laugh.
Turn up and if no one is in the garage, wander around look at the cars and I am sure you will see someone you know.
We look forward to bumping into you there.
Continuing with our designer insights series from the Geneva Motor Show, Maximilian Missoni, Exterior Design Chief for Volvo Cars, explains the new design direction Volvo are taking with their Concept Estate.
Massimo Tamburini, 70, who died earlier this week, will be remembered as one of the most influential motorcycle designers of all time, if not the most, having designed two of the most beautiful machines ever made.
The Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta 750 F4, were both penned by Tamburini and were the bench mark for other marques and a large influence on designers of motorcycles that followed. As anyone involved motorcycle design knows, you cannot style a successful bike, you have to design it and Tamburini was well known for his innovation in motorcycle chassis design, as he said “When the designer doesn’t have a good understanding of the mechanical side of things he can never design a good product.”
It was this inbuilt awareness of the relationship between performance, handling and appearance that was his greatest strength. His obsession of motorcycles from an early age, his in depth knowledge from fabricating his early frame designs, and his enjoyment from being a enthusiastic rider all came together for him to understand how to engineer a bike. His commercial awareness, from being one of the founders of Bimota, meant he realised the importance of form to sell bikes in the market place.
His passion for motorcycles, is probably best summed up in his quote about working on his favourite creation the MV Agusta 750 4F, “I was so scared I would die without designing the bike.”
The 72nd Goodwood Members Meeting at the weekend was enjoyable for all the usual reasons associated with this famous venue, getting close to exotic and rare cars, interesting characters both behind the wheel and on the banks at Lavant, and very expensive cars being pushed to their limits.
But the sight of the Group One Touring Cars in the paddock raced me back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, when I used to spend every second weekend at a circuit around Britain. As my brother Martin pursued his favoured career, design being a fall back, racing a Formula Ford in various championships; Donnington Park, Brands Hatch and Silverstone were as familiar to me as my parents’ garden.
The likes of Richard Longman, Tony Dron and Win Percy, were names that meant more to me then than James Hunt, and still do. The sight of Richard in his Mini hassling and embarrassing the larger more powerful cars was re-enacted at each round, and once again brought to life at Goodwood in the Gerry Marshall Trophy.
But as a youngster it was the paddock in the evenings, meeting drivers and sitting in the cars as mechanics worked on them, “as you’re in there, make yourself useful, push the brake”, where I got the most enjoyment. Listening in on their banter about ‘if only’, ‘the lack of sponsorship’ and from the mechanics “he couldn’t drive a nail in a plank” was fascinating and intoxicating.
Seeing the TWR logo on the Mazda RX-7 at Goodwood reminded me of those conversations because more often than not, talk would eventually make reference to Tom Walkinshaw, who was a pretty quick driver and quite a character by all accounts too. Stories of intrigue about his racing exploits accompanied hot cups of tea and bacon butties. How he would find a ‘special’ limited production model made for the sand dunes in the desert, its particularly large wheel arch inners allowing the touring car to run unfeasibly close to the ground, and moving a number of cars from one warehouse to another ‘doubling’ production numbers for compliance with championship entry requirements. Now the stories of folklore.
But the success of the man was unquestionable, setting up Tom Walkinshaw Racing in 1975, to build and run his race cars for the touring car championship. It went on to become an incredibly successful racing outfit, including winning Le Mans in partnership with Jaguar with a car designed by Ross Brawn, and even racing Volvo estates – although not a racing success certainly a PR one!
The spin off from the racing was production of performance aftermarket parts for road cars such as the Mazda RX7 and more famously the Jaguar XJR-S, at which point Walkinshaw realised the potential for this service and started TWR Design. This new design consultancy, with Peter Stevens, attracted one Ian Callum from Ford as designer, and clients such as Volvo, Mazda and HSV all benefitting from their input, with the Aston Martin DB7 being the most prolific project. In the early 90’s I was able to see from the inside the work they were doing, as I provided alias modelling expertise. The close knit, efficient and boistorous team of designers and modellers outputting an incredible range of concepts and production models.
It is only now as I reflect on the weekend at Goodwood, and review my own experiences as Drive Design goes into its 18th year, that I fully appreciate what Tom Walkinshaw achieved, and how driven, motivating and business savvy he must have been to build a race team into a company peaking at around 1500 employees worldwide, that went on to design what is one of the most beautiful production cars ever.