Slightly Less Early Days
Peter Venn continues his story which we left at the end of 1983. He'd had some success in the March 708, but the best was yet to come.....
For 1984 we bought the Lyncar – an ex-karter called Geoff Maddox had bought it from Tony Broster at the end of his championship winning 1981 season, ran it for two years and gave me first refusal on buying it – he knew I had always wanted the car, it was light and beautifully engineered. It seems crazy to run a chassis which was built as a Formula Atlantic car with a kent engine but it worked. Martin Slater of Lyncar had planned the car to take a twin cam or a BDA/BDG and a Mk9 or FT200 so equipped with a mk 9 it was OK for a kent engine and was running on 8”s and 10”s. It weighed all up 396kg so well under the 454kg F3 limit at the time.
I stayed in Kent for a while before deciding to graduate to A class. I bought Jon Bradshaw’s Raffo which as most leading cars of the time was a copy of a modern F3, in his case an Argo (George Whitehead’s WRA was March 813 based, Godfrey Hall’s Lynx was based on a Ralt RT3. Asst ed tells me that it appeared in speed events as an RT3 and Ron Tauranac spotted instantly that it wasn't.). I drove the Raffo for the first time in a libre race at Silverstone at the end of the season. To be precise, I drove in qualifying only as John was racing in the Mono race. I missed a gear and over-revved and in his race it blew up so I didn’t get to race. But I’d been quick in the wet in qualifying and the car felt good so I bought it.
What followed was the worst time of my racing life! The Raffo was quick but recalcitrant and seemed to swallow copious amounts of money. Racing became stress instead of fun. In the end I bailed out of it, selling it to a guy in Somerset (sorry but I’ve forgotten your name! But it was 20 years ago) who was had been running the rapid ex-Brian Mee Royale RP26 in Kent but wanted to move up to A class. We agreed a p-ex deal and I turned up at the next round at Cadwell in the RP26. The car was a bit slow in a straight line compared to the Chris Fox run Lolas and Kevin Pope’s quick Reynard but it was very forgiving and a lot of fun to drive. I rediscovered my enthusiasm for racing in the space of one session around Cadwell. The throttle cable broke in the race but it didn’t matter – I was back. At that same meeting, George Whitehead’s daughter Sharon crashed the Lola T642 which she was racing in Kent and it was decided that Sharon would take time out of racing and so I did a deal with George to buy the Lola. What a beautiful car! Fitted with the US spec long tail with built in wing/lip it looked great. And drove so too.
Then came the only accident where I’ve been hurt in a racing car. A slipstreaming race at Castle Combe in October 1990 – the 13th (!) but a Saturday not a Friday - in a 3 car scrap for the lead with me 3rd. The leaders went side by side into Old Paddock and one spun. I had nowhere to go and hit him mid-ships, flat in top. Fortunately for him, I hit his rear wheel on the side and tore the engine and box off the back of the car but he was uninjured. I had a broken ankle, friction burns from the belts, a sprained wrist and a cut on my leg where a piece of his wheel had hit it. We never found the radiator…
I sold the wreck to Dave McVerry who rebuilt it over the winter. I decided to take a year off to recover financially. This decision lasted through the winter until just before the start of the season when, unbeknown to him, my local Barclays manager funded the purchase of a Royale RP36 from Chris Fox. The car was quick and cheap. Cheap because it had not been going very quickly in Kent but Chris swore it was a good car which just needed a quicker driver. We were on pole by 2 seconds at the opening round of the 1991 season at Silverstone – helped by the fact that Mono had introduced a control tyre (amazing but true - yes they did) which was rock hard. I twigged that the way to go was to drive hard immediately to work some temperature into them. Roger Algar, who won the championship that year, was much gentler and smoother and didn’t get any temperature into them.
Having rarely led and certainly never dominated a race before I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by charging off into the distance then easing off far too much, allowing Roger to catch up and pass and was then thwarted by yellow flags preventing me from re-passing. Roger could not believe his luck. At Combe we had a great scrap which he thought he had won, collecting the garland on the line but the results gave me a win by 2/100ths of a second. That was very satisfying as it was the scene of my accident 6months earlier so it felt particularly good to win my next race there. At Mallory I had another scrap for the entire race, finishing 2nd behind Peter Cocks, this time losing by the same margin of just 2/100ths. Also had a scrap with Dave McVerry in the now repaired Lola at Snetterton – fighting for the lead we both went off at the esses, gifting Roger the win – I think I recovered to finish 2nd or 3rd.
Then commonsense in the form of the bank manager caught up with me and I had to sell the car part way into a season and I was out of Mono for almost 20 years, apart from a one-off hire drive with Richard Purcell at Spa (when was that Richard? 2002 maybe?).
I did not stop racing – I went on to race Champion of Oulton FF1600, European FF1600, TVR Tuscans, Caterhams, several one-offs (FVL in the TOCA package, Pro- Sport3000, F Renault 2000, Historic Touring cars) and have spent most of the last 15 years racing on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in the endurance series there – have over 20 class wins there now in 10 different cars. But that’s a story for another day….(yes, please - ed)
It is fun to have come back to Mono. Having spent years in mainly front wheel drive touring cars, I wanted to get back to real racing cars. Some of the faces are still the same – Francis Phillips, Jeremy Goodman, Jim Blockley and Dave Cox. I seem to be the only one who has not got any older – must be my healthy, monastic lifestyle. I wouldn’t be there without Duds – 30 years ago, I only got involved due to him and it is thanks to his work with the Anson that I can just turn up and drive – quite a luxury compared with 30 years ago. I now get into a car which is the best looking, best turned out and best engineered in the paddock. Not that I’m biased of course. However, it is not just about Duds – with Ken Winning and Matt Addis we have a great crew and it makes it fun to go racing.
Look forward to seeing you in 2011 when we intend doing the full championship
Pictures with captions by Peter:
The Lyncar in 1984
In the Royale RP26, assembly area Mallory Park 1989. Stood at the back of the car is Martin Slater of Lyncar fame - he was helping us out that weekend. Just beside Martin with his back to the camera is George Whitehead. The car in the background on the left is that of David Wall
The RP26 (Castle Coombe?-ed)
In the Lola, assembly area at Cadwell, 1990. Beside the car my then mechanic Graeme, crouched by the car talking to me is Chris Fox Assembly area of Silverstone 1991 waiting for the first race in the Royale, behind me in the queue is Roger Algar