Started racing: 1980
The following is based on an article in Powerboat 83 Yearbook.
Rick and his wife, Shirley, had been avid fans of powerboat racing for many years and Rick always knew that someday he would get a chance to do more than just watch. ‘We spectated for about ten years and only ever missed one Bristol Grand Prix. We used to rush down there and back again on Sunday night to get back to work. I desperately wanted to give it a go but I wasn’t going to lower our standard of living just so I could go racing. I had to wait until the opportunity came.’
The opportunity came when Tony William’s Formula 4 Burgess catamaran was up for sale. Frost’s plant hire and earth moving business that he started in 1972 was doing well enough for him to toy with the idea of racing and he bought the boat, ‘just to try.’ Needless to say, he loved it. In only his second year of racing, Rick captured the European SE Sprint Champion title, won on the Wannsee, Berlin. But the following year was a very mixed season. He and his sponsors, Trimite Paints, had already made the decision to race Formula 3 but it was July before Rick could obtain an engine. With no hope, therefore, of winning the Aspen Series, he used the year for experimentation. Not only did he take part in Formula 3 events but also took up a few offers of Formula 1 drives going spare at some races.
‘My first apprentice race in Formula 1 was in Kierkdriel, Holland, the World Sprint Championships!’ grins Rick. ‘Cees van der Velden lent me his second Beneteau rig and I had the Johnson 2.5 litre engine from the back of the press boat. I wasn’t exactly competitive against the OMC 3.5 litre V8’s so I just kept out of the way. But it was all good experience.’ Frost enjoyed those races so much he was keen to go straight into Formula 1 in 1982. But Trimite still wanted Rick to do a further season in Formula 3 before making the transition; so he stayed with the 850cc powered class and aimed his sights high. ‘I always go out to win. I don’t know how to race any other way. I knew that my main competition was Lasse Strom, so I aimed for the World Title.’ And despite five or six engine rebuilds – and not even starting two of the six races – Rick won three rounds to complete the series a clear six points ahead of Strom.
It was now definitely time to move on and Dave Burgess had an order for the champion’s first Formula 1 boat in October ’82. ‘I’ve always driven a Burgess because I happen to think he’s the best. Just to watch his boats go! They’re stable, level…beautiful. And I’ve had a guarantee from Dave that I’ll get the same as Roger (Jenkins – the 1982 F1 World Champion). People like Molinari and van der Velden could race a plank with an outboard on the back and still win so I have to get the best equipment to give me any chance of winning.’
He may prefer to back off to avoid an argument on land but that is not his policy on water. ‘I’ll need a season to get my act together but, if I’m not up with the top boys in two or three years, I’ll pack it in. I don't intend to spend Trimite’s money at the back of the pack – they deserve all the wins I can give them. They have been the best sponsors any driver could wish for over the last three years.’
Wife Shirley is his staunchest ally but there is a slight gulp of dismay at the speeds Formula 1 boats are now reaching. As she says, ‘If you flip or nose-
Rick racing at the Seville Grand Prix, 1985. (Photo credit needed).