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GP Week : Issue 123
Neither of them won a world title over the next two years. After that, DAP was nobbled by a ‘political’ formula change which made Ayrton’s one-off returns from Formula Ford to try and finish unfinished business with them almost a waste of time. But, both had come excruciatingly close in the meantime ... In ’79 (at Estoril) Senna tied with Dutchman Peter Koene after the three finals, but lost out on a bizarre once-only count- back system, which rewarded qualifying heat performance rather than the third final as the tie-breaker. Any other year, he’d have won. And he lost it because, in the qualifying heat where he and Fullerton met, they were nose to tail, up front, locked in a huge dog- fight, when Fullerton’s engine seized, taking them both out ... After getting to the front and winning the third, and deciding, final, Senna really thought he’d won the championship ... there were tears of frustration when it was explained that he hadn’t. In ’80, Fullerton was on fire, back at Nivelles, where he’d won in ’73. He dominated the first final and was literally cruising away to the title in the second, when the engine failed ... After a couple of ‘incidents’ in that first race, Senna burst back through the second final, then won the third, to finish ... second again. A glimpse of the future came at one point when young Brit Alan Gates had the temerity to edge alongside the yellow helmet along the main straight. Ayrton glanced slowly across, then squeezed and squeezed Gates so far that the Englishman went off the road, hit the fence, and cartwheeled out of the race. Nigel and Alain might get a laugh out of that ... After his race -two engine failure, TF put on another of his great drives through that last race to end up third over-all. That was pretty much the end of the ‘Da Silva’/Fullerton era. Ayrton moved on to cars. Terry stayed put. Why? As he told me in a lengthy ‘Kart & Superkart’ interview the following year: “I did give it a lot of thought after I won the world championship in 1973, but the combination of my brother’s death and my interest in being a professional kart driver decided me against it.. “ The momey part of it doesn’t worry me – if I’d gone into it for that, I wouldn’t have got anywhere.. "I enjoy being in karting as I am. I can go to a big meeting, be a bit of a hero, then come home, go into London and just be one of the crowd. Niki Lauda could never do that ... “But when I do think about it less seriously, I get quite an ego boost seeing guys I know I can out-drive winning F1 races ...” Would he have been as good in cars? Had he wanted to, and had someone pushed him earlier, I’m certain he would have been. He had a bit of a drive in an acquaintance of mine’s Formula Ford some years later during a holiday out in New Zealand and it was pretty bloody okay, they told me ... He stayed on in karting as a driver for several years, before quitting, ran his own kart business for a while, but is primarily best-known these days for his ability to mentor young drivers through karting. He is remarkably good as a teacher – remember his Dad was – but even so it’s a surprise, bearing in mind the prickly individual he could be when he wanted to be back then! I remember the day he told Zip’ Kart’s biggest agent in the world to ‘eff off’ when he popped in to our pit for a chat at the wrong moment ... After some time mentoring abroad, he’s living back in England now and, after a very long and occasionally interesting single life, is happily married to the beautiful Nilda, with a 7 year-old daughter he dotes on. I did tell him about Senna’s startling endorsement quite a few years ago, which he found rather amusing at the time, but there’s no doubt the movie has thrust that moment, and Terry Fullerton, into a belated limelight he’d never anticipated. If nothing else, I hope it brings him some deserved recognition, and further mentoring opportunity – if you’re going to try and be the best, you might as well be taught by the best. And Ayrton Senna would endorse that. F1 FEATURE >> “I get quite an ego boost seeing guys I know I can out-drive winning F1 races ... 35