I then started racing in Formul4 in 1984 and won the British Championship that year, sponsored by Peter Zivvy. I continued in F4 winning the Championship in 1987 driving for Yamaha under Tony Hall. I had a fantastic F4 Burgess Boat and a very good engine, but when we went to World Championship level, we were totally off the pace. Much of the Scandinavian drivers had done some very clever modifications to their engines – no more to be said on this topic!
Another career highlight was winning the Formula 4 class at the Paris 6 hour race, teamed with Andrew Elliot. We drove a very small F4 boat powered by a 60hp Yamaha. We won the Index of Performance and was only a few laps behind the F1 boats. The French wanted to disqualify us because they felt the boat was not long enough! But it was.
I had a big break in 1990, when I raced the first enclosed cockpit F3 Burgess Boat at Nottingham, finishing in the top ten and sponsored by OMC.
In 1990, I made my first trip to South Africa, racing F1, under the Lindenberg team. I drove in South Africa on 3 more occasions in F1. A lovely place to race and great people. Each year I would always meet up with Craig Baily from Australia who also raced F1.
Back in the UK (1991) I teamed up with Danny Bertels to race World F3, sponsored by Valvoline. I won in Nottingham and finished 3rd in the World Championship. After beating Danny in Nottingham, it was clear my future as his team mate was limited!
I then teamed up with Guido Bolendrine and continued in world F3 – not a good season but still managed to finish in the top ten. I raced with Guido for 2 seasons.
Following this I moved to Chambers & Cook, racing with Paul Blackburn. Again I was now with a team which looked and felt very professional. Paul was that little bit quicker but he had good money behind him to invest in new propellers and engine development. We had around 5 years together before Paul moved to F1. During my time in F3 I also acted as the drivers representative which involved attending many UIM meetings but I managed to make some changes in F3 which helped all drivers.
I continued racing with Chambers & Cook before moving to race with Jamey Stallard. This was a very good partnership, Jamey had just moved into F3 and between us we proved to be very professional and attracted some more sponsorship. I continued with Jamey / JDS Racing until I retired.
In 1998 I won the F3 World Championship – What can I say, this was the best moment in my racing career wining that World Championship. I had been so close in the past but this was the year.
In between racing F4 & F3 I drove in Rouen for Yamaha, OMC and Mercury. I was drafted into these teams to race with French drivers. Never really had much luck racing in Rouen, boats breaking, engine failures or French Drivers barrel rolling within half a lap of starting the race! This was really annoying as Mercury had put a lot of effort into this team. Another early trip back home!
I retired from racing in 2001, just as F3 was starting to finish due to lack of investment into more race venues and the lack of engine’s etc.
In closing, powerboat racing has and always will be a big part of my life. I managed to race all over the world and meet many people on the way, some of whom have become very close friends. I also had to experience some very dark times seeing fellow drivers losing their lives; the hardest one for me being Mick Chick. I will never forget that day, it was so awful. The previous weeks he had raced in Bristol, then he lost his life in a club race. This just proved to me racing at all levels can and still is dangerous but we all knew the risks we took.
For me another part of racing was to be very presentable to my sponsors etc, I always prided myself on the approach I took in always having a boat presented in the best possible way and the way my crew looked in ensuring we always where dressed in a very smart and professional manner. A lot of this way of thinking came from my career with BMW. I still believe a number of drivers would think I had huge amount of sponsorship which was totally not true, I had to watch every penny I spent and most years I would use my own money to support my racing.
After Paul Blackburn moved into Formula 1, I was still driving for Chambers & Cook. Part of the deal which I had no idea of was, Pat Blackburn gave me the use of a brand new Iveco truck with a box trailer to transport myself and the new team around. The truck and trailer was painted in the Chambers & Cook colours and really looked good. Just before the break up with Paul, I had the offer of help / crew for Shaun Coleman and Paul Underwood aka Fly! This partnership proved to be one of the best in Formula 3!
During the closed season Shaun would take the boat back to his workshop and completely strip it down then spend hours rewiring the boat and generally re-rigging. I can honestly say due to Shaun’s ‘attention to detail’ I never had any failures due to poor rigging of the boat; the rigging was just so neat and tidy. Then at the race meetings all three of us gelled into a very strong working team, changing a powerhead or gearcase was like clockwork, each of us had a specific task – you know when you have a good working partnership, you just get on and do your bit without having to ask what to do next. If and when we had problems Shaun’s diagnostic skills were faultless; he would look at the issue then think very logically. Fly had great boat handling skills and worked so well with Shaun. At the final race in 1998 Campione, Italy, Shaun had asked Mark Wilson to come along and help with propeller tuning! Mark had worked with Phil Rolla for a number of years and certainly knew how to tune a propeller. I was told to go out and do a few laps then come back and feedback rpm, handling and the acceleration out of the turns to Mark, who then did some amazing adjustments to the prop, which certainly helped me in becoming the World Champion on that day. Andrew Elliott was also part of the crew on that day, again giving good advice and lots of encouragement.
At home I have a picture which hangs above my desk, of me standing on the boat waving a Union Jack flag with Shaun and Andrew driving the boat, each time I look at the picture it just brings back such wonderful memories. Another great memory was standing on the podium and with National Anthem playing, with some tears rolling down my face. One of my biggest regrets was that Fly was not able to attend the race in Campione, where I won the world championship, he was very much missed by Shaun and me, we were a real ‘dream team’.
When I got home it was amazing with lots of calls to congratulant me and the team. Another memorable moment was at our BMW Christmas lunch. I had been asked by a number of colleagues if I would be attending which I found a bit odd. As the lunch progressed the MD of BMW gave a little speech about how well the company had performed over the past year then he started to talk about an individual who had done something no one else in the history of BMW UK had ever done, then he looked over to where I was sitting and asked to me come forward. I was speechless; the company knew about my racing but I had always tried to keep it low key! I was presented with an engraved wrist watch which is beautiful and means so much to me. I was then asked to display my boat in our main showroom for a month. So many people viewed the boat over that month; many had no idea that I raced but they did now! The following year BMW got a bit more involved with my racing.
Over the years since I finished racing, the team have all stayed good mates, with Shaun now living in Kitzbhuel, Austria, we now have an annual get together in Kitzbuhel during February half term for a week’s skiing with our respective families, over the past few years we have also met up with Jamey Stallard, Paul Blackburn, Jonathan Swarbrick and just recently with Aruther Mostert.
The friendship is still strong between Shaun, Fly and me, which hopefully will last for many years to come.
Now we have the memories from racing via Face Book and the Fast On Water website. I never wanted to join FB but since joining I have been able to see racing again and at times have the pleasure of seeing pictures of my boat(s) on FB.