Click on the image above to see an excerpt from an interview I had with the Brighton Arts Magazine, about me, my father, Arthur Brown and my book Damaged Goods.
Off. Just me and Mr Moore, trucking down to Newhaven in the Moore Racing leviathan truck. It isn’t like a normal truck, it’s got a hydraulic platform in the back that can take two cars, a fully kitted out workshop, a kitchen and a 4 bed bedroom/front room, with a TV and a mirrored ceiling. Nice. This time, we had a pair of Lotus Cortinas in the back with us, waiting to conquer the Masters Historic Racing weekend at Dijon.
It’s the first time I’ve crossed from that port and it’s tiny compared with Dover or Portsmouth, but that makes it quicker to get on and the boats are still enormous. There’s a funny little old train station right next to it, still in service but a relic from past glory days I think. The whole place was surrounded by reams of razor wire and we were glad to get on board. We had a meal in the trucker’s restaurant, then off to our cabin. It was a twin, in case you’re worried – I mean we’re fond of each other but…There was even a power shower, which was handy, after it had been checked for cleanliness, as we had no idea what the facilities would be like down at Dijon. Looking out of the porthole, the sea was flat calm as we edged out of the harbour and we fell asleep almost straight away.
When we awoke land was in sight, and we went and breakfasted just before we docked at Dieppe, another small port. The lady behind the reception desk looked fed up, so we thought we’d have some fun whilst she made her final announcements. We got the giggles real bad and we had her laughing so much that she had to stop mid announcement. Nice at that time of the morning and a good start to a day’s driving.
Cruising across France was different than the journey down from Calais, not as flat and endless looking. The peripherique around Paris was not the expected nightmare and we made good time, stopping for the night in a big, well specced truck stop, just past Orleans. The last time I slept in that truck in France was in February, on the way down to Guadix Circuit in Spain. We had stopped the night just outside Rouen, sleeping in my clothes and two sleeping bags, as the temperature dropped to minus 14. There had been me and three mechanics sharing the room back then, but not this time – it was just me, with Mr Moore sleeping in the double bunk in the driving cab. It was warm and quiet and I slept real good.
Finally nearing Dijon, we had the usual disagreement between the sat nav, the map and the road signs, not made any easier by the 7.5 ton weight limit on most of the roads. Having played this game before, we stopped and asked a cyclist the way. He was fully kitted out and looked like he’d taken a wrong turn from the Tour de France, but drew us a little map and off we went. We followed a single track road through the forest in our thirty ton truck and came across two swarms of bees. The first encounter was not very successful as we had the windows open, but after chasing them out of the cab, they were closed by the time the second one hit us. Nature versus truck. Just before the map’s luck ran out and it was heading out the window to fight the bees, it turned out that the cyclist had been right and we arrived at the gates.
The circuit at Dijon is enormous, snaking its way around a forested hillside, a few miles out of town. We needn’t have worried about the facilities, they are bigger and better than Silverstone and there were no portaloos or damp temporary structures here – all purpose built buildings fitted out with top line stuff, even the handsoap was posh.
After hooking up the truck’s electric, the rest of the team arrived from the airport in their hire cars and we sat outside on deck chairs drinking tea, sorting things out for the morning. All those flocks of sparrows that used to spend their summers in England seemed to have ended up here, darting around looking for crumbs. Maybe they enjoyed the racing too. Mr Moore cooked us a meal and we ate to the accompaniment of the sound of crickets chirping away, as the sun went down over the distant, wooded views.
Another good night’s sleep and I awoke to the sound of engines. All unsilenced. There was the scream of V4′s, V6′s and flat plane cranks, the roar of V8′s and V12′s all accompanied by the clinking of spanners. Not at all like Formula 1 racing.
Speaking of which however, they were there too. Klass, a friend of the man who owns Guadix Circuit in Spain, was there to race his 2004 Jaguar Formula 1 and I wandered over to his pit garage with Phil, one of our drivers, to see it up on ramps. It looked like a Frankenstein’s monster, with cables all over the place connecting it up to all sorts of laptops and stuff. Alongside were racks of tyres in their sleeping bag like tyre warmers. The noise of that engine is just so loud close up, it hurts your ears – something you just don’t appreciate watching F1 on the tele. I watched him racing that weekend and he stormed it round the track like a madman, screaming through the forest. A fast, fearless driver.
At scrutineering, there were lots of spoilt little boys with their million pound toys, having screaming fits of their own, when their car was refused for some or other mechanical misdemeanour.
They weren’t all like that of course and one that we met, was the man who started the ‘York’ dumbbell and sport equipment company, though he had sold it and retired a few years ago. A quietly spoken, friendly American gentleman who was driving his monster Corvette, we sat and had breakfast with him in the Masters catering area.
It was a trailer about the same size as we had, but done out as a kitchen inside, with full length awnings either side and across the end, all tables and chairs and napkins inside, with a floor, just like a proper restaurant. After eating, they went went over to the garage to inspect his Corvette and had a long chat about technical stuff. Lovely guy.
Later in the day, the marshalls came round telling everyone to take down all their tents and awnings, as 140kph winds had been forecast overnight, so everyone got busy packing away what had taken them a day to put up. After the team had departed for their hotel, we sat in the truck eating supper and watched a Cheech and Chong film on the DVD, before going to bed. It was great to be there. I love race meets.
The wind never arrived in the end and we awoke to the sound of engines once again. Outside, loads more people had arrived and there were all sorts of pitbikes zipping about, as well as golf buggies and white haired gentlemen cruising about in their Bentley Speed Sixes, complete with picnic hampers on the back, that they had ‘popped down from England’ in, along with countless other million pound classics. Even the paddock shop stands were expensive – the BRM stand was selling 38k euro watches and one of the Gulf Racing stands was selling its polo shirts for 60…
The noise was all around as all sorts of cars revved up, edging off of trailers, or having their carbs fettled. The sparrows seemed either immune to the racket or to be enjoying it, as they hopped between the trailers in their search for snacks.
Glamorous wives, girlfriends, mistresses and daughters mingled with the hospitality girls, as gangs of Cobras, E Types and Lotus’ crawled around, growling at the European Exotics. That was all just in the paddock and I thought I’d venture out into the public areas and the endless car parks. I’m glad I did. I have never, even if I put all my past copies of Classic and Sports Car magazine together, seen so much gleaming classic metal.
There was miles of it. Literally every make, year and model of car ever made, that was worth even a passing glance, from every country, was there. Rows and rows of them – I could list them all, but it would take ages and pages – Astons, Bentleys, Ferraris, Rolls, Vauxhall, Alfas, Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs, De Tomasos, Renaults, Citroens, Peugeots, Lotus’, Mustangs, Willis, Porsches, Jensens, Caddy’s – you get the picture… As well as the cars, there were local food stands from Burgundy, the rest of France and Spain, Clothing stalls and memorabilia that stretched away down the hillsides. It was kind of like Glastonbury, but richer and tidier, the smell of money filling the atmosphere with a buzz that I’d never felt before, along with the petrol fumes and the ever present noise of engines.
There were loads of different classes of classic cars racing, from formula junior up to Formula 1, race after race after race. You could get dizzy watching, but finally our turn arrived and it was race time. Mike and Phil, the drivers, were as revved up as the gleaming Cortina. They were off. Lap after lap flew by, with the pit stops for fuel and changing drivers halfway, seeming to blur with the cars as they sped past where we were standing, on the pit wall.
There were a few cars that spun off, or just straight into the gravel traps, and even into each other, but Mike and Phil kept it going, both of them relentless, top class drivers, picking up valuable seconds with every lap. Towards the end, the computer tracker that gave the places in the race was playing up and I ran up to the timekeepers office with Mike, to explain that the placing for our car was wrong. This was when my French came in handy and they adjusted the listings just in time for Phil to scream home into 2nd place, which gave them 1st overall in class for the weekend. Excellent result!
As soon as the race was finished and the trophies and photos had been collected, we packed up and set off. The journey home back across France went without a hitch, though the sea wasn’t quite as calm and by the time we got back to Moore Racing, it already felt like a dream, all too quickly over, again. Blimey, ain’t I lucky!
I was up early the next morning and off to start my job as Duty Manager for LOCOG, at the Olympics, which is turning out to be another whole different kind of adventure…
My thanks to Mr Moore, Mike, Phil, Pete and Ben, for another wonderful trip into the alternate world that is Moore Racing. Fan-bleedin’-tastic!
Here’s an interview about the book ‘Damaged Goods’ and the author, Julian Wolfendale. It’s in this month’s ‘The Vine Leighton Buzzard’ magazine and can be found on pages 4 – 6. Just click on the image to read it.
The Power of Music
In the musical world of today, it’s easy to forget that the protest song once had real bite, to the extent that its singers were ostracised, relentlessly hounded by the establishment and jailed, or forced to live abroad.
On occasion the government would be clever and let the mood rise, until the ensuing violence that boiled over became the focus of attention, rather than the initial subject of the protest.
Have we forgotten because we have, as perhaps was planned, become immune to and lazy about conflict, or is it that the governments have realised that the best way to dilute protest in music is to ignore it, and to give numbing overkill coverage in the media? It must also be said More >
I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks with my old mechanic friend and his race team, at the race track up in the hills near Granada, Spain. What a babe of a place. Set on a high plateau (1300m) surrounded by mountains on all sides, it is beautiful. They were there to test two of their Historic race cars, to ready them for this years season. Couldn’t have found a better place.
I travelled down with 2 of them in the truck, which, apart from room for the cars, had workshop, kitchen and front room/bedroom facilities. Having travelled through the channel tunnel, once we had cleared the flatlands of Northern France, the countryside got more interesting as the temperature dropped. Our first night was spent at a truckstop near Rouen, where the temperature fell to -14. There was nowhere to plug in the truck’s power point, which meant no heaters. I woke at two in the morning to put my hat on, as though I was inside 2 sleeping bags, with my thermals on, my face was freezing cold.
Up at 5 the next morning, after a first, fitful night’s sleep, we trundled off through the dawn, woodsmoke trailing straight up into the clear sky from the chimneys of the farmhouses alongside the motorway. All the houses seemed to have log piles outside, coppiced from nearby woodland, and seemed well used to the weather and set for any amount of time. It’s only when you travel on motorways in France and Spain that you realise how bad our roads in the UK really are. Our progress was watched by More >
I was down at the Circuito Guadix race track, up in the hills near Granada, Spain the other week and bumped into PP Arnold at a party. She has that aura about her that all real stars have, without trying. What a lovely lady.
Damaged Goods is FREE on Kindle today
(28th Jan 2012) so if you haven’t got your copy yet,
grab it today for free!
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Damaged Goods is a true story. It will make you laugh and cry and the musical references alone will take you on a trip down memory lane. See what other readers think here
Mum and Dad never watched TV in our house. We only had a little 7 inch Black and White portable TV, limited to an hour a day’s viewing, except when they were out or I was at my friend Jam’s house. We never watched the soaps, Corrie and Crossroads, still don’t, so here is a list of magical shows that filled the screen when I was little. Wasn’t kids TV great?
Blue Peter and Magpie. CrackerJack and Doctor Who. The Clangers, Mister Ben, Mary Mungo and Midge, Pipkin’s, Hector’s House and Pogles Wood. Vision On and Out of Town. Tales of the Riverbank and The Magic Roundabout. Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet. Marine Boy and Scooby Doo. The Osmonds, The Jackson Five, The Harlem Globetrotters and Top Cat. Looney Tunes and Walt Disney. The Banana Splits, Double Deckers, Tiswas and Tarzan. High Chapparal, Bonanza and The Virginian. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. The Flashing Blade and Belle and Sebastian. Follyfoot, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Happy Days. The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu and Tomorrow’s World. Star Trek and Space 1999. Kojak, Ironsides, Starsky and Hutch, Columbo, Canon and The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five 0 and The Sweeney. Some Mothers Do ‘ave ‘em, Mike Yarwood, Dave allen, Dick Emery and Morecombe and Wise. Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Carry On, Westerns and War Films. Top of the Pops, The Eurovision Song Contest, The Old Grey Whistle Test and The late night double bill of Hammer Horror films. Speaking of which, wasn’t The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film just a nightmare version of every Scooby Doo script? The kids, the van, an old house and a masked monster?
Any I missed? More >
I miss this band…I was very lucky to have seen and met them so many times…x