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GP Week : Issue 185
25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: What’s your first race memory? My father raced motorcycles, but not very well. This was before the War, because when he married my mother she told him to stop! But he still had racing blood, the smell of motor oil in his nose, so he pretty much insisted that his sons were going to experience Goodwood. I come from the south coast, and it was our local track. The first race that I went to was the race that Stirling Moss in a UDT Laystall Lotus crashed and had the accident that ended his career. It was right in front of me; there was a slight hill and even with the guard rail in those days you could get really close. He went into the wall right below us, and that was my first memory of racing. You could look into the drivers’ helmets, we were so close, and I swear I saw Stirling’s eyes go white, the impact was so huge. I never forgot that moment. I love the passion and the danger of it all, you know? Young boys grow up either wanting to be fighter pilots or racing drivers, and I wanted to be a racing driver. I love the hero element to Formula One drivers – they were iconic. I used to do paintings of Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, and my real hero, Jim Clark. Racing was in my blood. I remember once running away from home and hitching a ride on a really cheap old tanker to Zandvoort, to see the race there. That was amazing, because it was one of the last races with Jackie Stewart in a Tyrrell. When I was around 15 I remember Jim Clark was racing Lotus Cortinas. In Worthing, Tony Rudd of Ruddspeed had a garage and Jim Clark was going to be coming to the garage one Saturday morning during the season. On the Saturday in question it was pissing down with rain, and everyone must have thought they would cancel it because I was the only one who turned up. Jim took me under his wing, and said ‘come on, laddie – come and have a photograph’, or something, and I ended up sitting with him for a few minutes before someone came up to me and said “right lad, it’s time to move on.” Jim said “no, no – keep him here, we’re having a nice conversation,” so I sat and talked with Jim Clark for about three-quarters of an hour! Actually connecting with one of your heroes, having him tell you “when you tip into the corner we pull these great lateral forces – we call it G-force ...” – he was educating me about Formula One, about his techniques. “What I try and do, laddie, is try and get the balance of the car so I can get it to go soft on the inside – now I’ll tell you what that is; I get the guys to take some pressure out of the tyre. They all think I’m mad, but I’ve got to feel the car. So when I come back I give them some information, and they might be able to give me some advice ...” It was wonderful. And they say you should never meet your heroes! Well I do have another story, with Graham Hill ... He was driving a Cooper Maserati, I believe, at Brands Hatch. Maybe it was a Brabham. But he went off at Brands, right at Dingle Dell. I was up there, watching – by this time I was 18, 19 years old. He crashed right at the bottom of the hill and then came up the hill. I was amazed. I was determined not to move, as I had a good spot, overlooking everybody. There were some cars parked behind me, and I didn’t realise that the car behind me was Graham’s Ford Zodiac. He opened the door and threw his helmet in. I thought ‘I’m not going to get another opportunity’, so I said “Mr Hill! Mr Hill! Can I please have your autograph?” . His reply? “F*** off!” Years later, when I was with Damon, I told him the story about his dad and he thought it was wicked. He got hold of his mum, Betty, and had me tell her the story. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but it is funny ...” What other F1 stories do you have? I was following the early versions of the Brabham team, when a young Gordon Murray was there under Ron Tauranac. Anyway, I was off to tour in South Africa, and the race was on there the next week. I asked my manager if he knew the race was on, and he said “I know you love Formula One, so I asked Bernie to come down.” Anyway, I get on the plane and who is sitting on it but James Hunt and John Hogan, of Marlboro. So we just talked for the entire trip, and James asked if I was coming to the race. I said “I hope so,” and he said “be my guest” and gave me some details. James came to my show in Sun City two days later, and said to me “Leo, I promised that I would do something for you with the ticket, but I think I’ve done better than that,” and he pulled Bernie out from behind him. That was the first time I met him, and we got on like a house on fire. PEOPLE yOu buMP INTO AT THE RACEs #1 ... LEO sAyER The singer has been a genuine life-long F1 freak, as he explained to KATe WALKeR Leo Sayer poses in front of a Sutton-Images print of his first hero – Leo was on the spot when Stirling crashed at Goodwood in 1961 ... >>> F1 FEATUrE