Roger Jenkins - Fast On Water 2017

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Roger Jenkins

Circuit > Hall of Fame
Born: 8.8.40
Started racing: 1965
Retired: 1984
1973 – SE Class winner at Rouen 24 hours and Embassy Grand Prix, Bristol
1974 – F3 World Sprint Champion; F3 winner Paris six-hour
1975 – F3 World Sprint Champion
1978 – 2nd in Canon Trophy (European F1 Championships)
1981 – 2nd in European F1 World Sprint Championship; 5th in JPS World Series
1982 – F1 World Champion (JPS World Series)
1983 – 4th= overall in F1 World Series; 4th overall in Benson and Hedges Gold Series
1984 – Retired after Liege Grand Prix; 5th = overall in F1 World Series.
 
Check out Roger's website at www.rogerjenkinsracing.co.uk
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Roger racing Guitar Man, a Levi hull 
with a Mercury 100hp.Oulton Broad 1969.
 Roger commented what a great boat this was. 
He won everything he entered her in.
Roger in his Clerici SE, Bristol 1973
Roger, Cardiff 1975
Below, Roger's flip at Minneapolis
Roger recently reflected on his time in Formula One Racing For the Fast On water Magazine (Dec 2015).
 
‘My break into F1 Racing came with the retirement of James Beard. As he was retiring Clive Curtis offered me the drive.
We had a Mercury 3 carb V6 on a powerhead that Billy Seebold would not have stirred his coffee with.’
 
‘These were factory injection, 6 carb, and the 3carb. To Gary Garbrecht it was fodder. These were just to make the numbers up. But that Season I managed to take 4 second places with the 3 carb engine.'

‘With the introduction of OMC s V8, Cees van der Velden offered me a drive, as long as I used his boat. It was OK, but only just OK, slow and not the best at the turn pins.’
 
‘I convinced Jack Leek that I needed my own boat having won 2 World Championships with boats designed and built by David Burgess. That was my next move.’

‘The first race was Leon in Spain. Renato Molinari turned up in his aluminium boat with no centre section, as it was built into the boat, a great engineering feat. But it didn’t last long and took in a lot of water.’ 
                               
‘My Carlsberg No 9 Burgess boat did well and won the race. A fantastic race andoff to a flying start. We knew Renato would not be out of the running for long and it took me until the last race of the Season to wrap up enough points to
win the Formula World Championship in Italy, Renato’s home ground.’
 
‘The greatest feeling about racing was to beat the Maestro, and when you realise that I beat him in every class we entered together from SE through every class to Formula One says it all. It’s a pity that nobody taught him to drive in a straight line, then I might never had had my big accident 
in Minneapolis.’

‘I was lucky enough to pick up several excellent sponsors, including Embassy cigarettes, Vladivar Vodka, Gordons Gin, and finally Carlsberg Lager (probably the best lager in the World!!).’
 
‘I think that after my final season, there were too many fatalities, and I believe that my sponsors did not want to be associated with death. Hence the safety cells some time later.’
 
‘I had a great career, complete with great mechanics, Dean, Terry and Dr Geb as well as a great hospitality team of our girls entertaining the sponsors. 
And I loved every moment of it...’

        
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Roger in his Embassy sponsored Johnson
Burgess OE. Cardiff 1975
Peter Thorneywork and Roger at Bristol
Roger in the Pits, Bristol 1977
The 1979 Amsterdam 3 Hour race.
Photo Rene Schultz
1980 Amsterdam 3 Hour race, with
 Bob Spalding in Background.
Photo Rene Schultz
Roger with Tony Williams and Bill Ormiston
at the Fast On Water, Bristol 25 event,
June 2015
Roger catching up in his reading 
with Tom percival in Background.
Bristol 1979. Photo Rene Schultz.
Bristol 1979
The following article is taken from Powerboat 83 Yearbook.       
 
‘Racing is about touch, about finesse and about winning. And that’s bloody hard!’ the smile of satisfaction  spreads over the cocky Welshman’s face showing just how much he prizes his new world title, and how hard he had to  fight for it.
 
For Roger Jenkins, the 1982 Formula 1 World Champion, success was sweet at the age of 42, with some sixteen years in the sport behind him. Some might call him lucky, claiming that only a broken propeller on Molinari’s boat robbed the Italian of  his second successive title. But luck – good and bad – play a major role in most high speed sports. Few could really begrudge the ebullient ‘Jenks’ his moment of glory. It was his first Formula 1 World Championship; a long  time since the day he bought his first boat.
 
‘I always used to water-ski until I broke my leg. Then I went to the London Boat Show in 1966 and bought a Bristol monohull for a class that used to be called EU.
 
I just put my ski racing engine on the back and started racing at Fairford; I didn’t win anything for two years! But paul Moxey gave me plenty of good  advice – I owe a lot to him.’
 
The irrepressible Jenkins moved into Formula 4 and soon changed his habit of not winning – his fiercely competitive spirit made sure of that. Yet he has only ever had one bad accident (That was until the famous flip at Minneapolis in 1983), at Chasewater when he flipped his Cougar catamaran, a surprisingly contradictory statistic considering the aggressive driving style of the Welshman. ‘I suppose I have been lucky, someone up there must be looking after me! But I love racing. When I stop enjoying it I’ll stop racing and if I start feeling afraid I’ll never sit in another boat.’

1974 for was an excellent year for ‘Jenks’. He claimed his and Britain’s first ever world circuit racing title, beating Renato Molinari and the late Cesare Scotti at Pavia in the Formula 3 World Championship. To add to his trophies that year, the Welsh wizard took third place in the European SE Championships at Evians, France. Formula 3 World Champion again in 1975 in his Embassy sponsored rig, Jenkins then experimented with Volvo Penta and Konig in a Cougar and only lost the 1976  world title due to a faulty fuel system, much to his intense frustration.
 
‘I raced with Cougars for two years and I thought we could never beat the factory teams. The chosen few received superior equipment and unlimited back-up from the factory – it seems I have been competing against factory teams all my racing  life and could never race on equal terms. It’s taken pure determination but at least we’ve shown it can be done.’
 
Roger’s protest is that, despite all divers having equal 3.5 litre V8 engines on the Formula 1 circuit, Renato Molinari and Cees van der Velden, OMC’s two contracted drivers, still have the mechanical and technological back-up from the factory.  ‘Yes, the engines are more equal than they have ever been but even for a well-sponsored privateer it is difficult to beat the professionals. It has to be a professional job for all of us now, we must ensure that we have the same pit facilities:  mechanics, engineers, technicians. The only way we can possibly beat people like Renato and Cees is to race on their level – and that’s full time. There is no such thing as a competitive amateur in Formula 1 anymore.’
 
The chain of music shops that Roger and his wife, Denise, have set up over the last twenty years in Wales are now sufficiently established to give the astute businessman the time to find the professionalism he seeks. And to see the sight of the assembled Carlsberg crew in the pits is a clear indication of how seriously Jenkins takes his racing. ‘I need everyone one of my crew. Terry (Big ‘T’) looks after the fuelling and the boat with Dave Burgess. Dr. Jeb looks after the engine and Dean (my son) looks after me. I went 30 percent over my budget last year but there is no cheap way to race and win. People said I didn’t need the lorry (the transporter in which the boat is housed at all times whilst out of the water) but it has  proved so useful and enabled us to work in complete privacy. I’d certainly spend the money again tomorrow.’
 
Jenkins had a good reason to prize his privacy; the hull that he was hiding from prying eyes was the first of its kind on the formula 1 circuit – a Burgess. The English boat designer has been building performance rigs for twenty one years and with the Formula 1 triumph has now won every single class there is to win. In Jenkins’ words, ‘Burgess is probably the most underrated boat builder in the world.’ Certainly no one expected the rig to win the World Championship but the first race of the season set a few people thinking. ‘We spent a lot of time before the season getting the whole set-up right and that first race we caught the other drivers cold.’ Lying low in the water and almost cumbersome, the Burgess  astounded all who watched the Leon Grand Prix with its impressive acceleration and effortless cornering.
 
‘The hull is very, very good. I’ve raced other designs in Formula 1 but I wanted to be able to alter the rig week by week, experiment with it, and with designers who are supplying half a dozen other drivers that is impossible, so I went to David. I won the Formula 3 World Championship in a Burgess and I always knew he was good. For the first three races we were fairly quick but for the last six we came off the bank like a rocket and turned corners without losing any speed – and  that is purely boat design. It seems to take me through a speed barrier.’
 
‘One disadvantage we have is that we never get flat water to test on. Last year Molinari had speed on us at the top end and we never had the chance to improve on ours. But we certainly have a better rough water set-up and not many races were in  calm conditions anyway.’
 
So, of course, Jenkins was ideally prepared for the rough Bristol Docks course and was oozing confidence in the days building up to the Embassy Grand Prix. Burgess had built a marathon rig, which proved to be a second a lap quicker than the sprint rig in testing, but it was not the hull that let the Welshman down on home waters. ‘I blew Saturday when I threw a blade off my prop. But Sunday was the most frustrating not only for me but for half the other drivers as well. The power trim couldn't cope with the rough water and the engine kept folding under. I changed mine on Saturday evening but it was even worse on Sunday and there is no way you can drive fast on that course if you have to keep jacking the engine out.’
 
It seems debatable whether Jenkins will be able to maintain the same relationship this year with Burgess as interest increases in the World Series-winning design. The British designer has already accepted further orders for the new Formula 1 rigs, amongst  them Rick Frost, the 1982 Formula 3 World Champion and one for Lasse Strom, and has guaranteed that all rigs will be identical. Will Jenkins inherit the problem which frustrated him in previous years, and become just one customer of many for the boat  designer?  Whatever the case, Jenkins has lost none of that ferociously competitive spirit which won him the 1982 title and it will take more than just a good boat for his rivals to keep him down. ‘My competition this year, as always, will come from Molinari and van der Velden but it’s going to be a tough one.’ The grin of anticipation shows just how much the Welsh ace relishes the battle to come.
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The following article, by Anna O'Brien is taken from Powerboat 85 Yearbook.
 
He has probably been the centre of controversy since the day he was born (if you can discover the date!). But love him or hate him, no-one can deny that Formula 1 powerboat racing will be a much poorer place without the influence of that mercurial jack-in-the-box from South Wales, Roger Jenkins. The exuberant, effervescent little driver has graced the sport for nineteen years – “nineteen good years” – as he is the first to point out. Nineteen years which culminated in his Formula 1 World Championship in 1982, when he pipped Molinari to the title by a single point.
 
Memories abound. Memories of ‘Jenks’ whooping with glee in the Milan funfair the night after his world championship win; of ‘Jenks in tears of pain and frustration after his Minneapolis accident in 1983; of ‘Jenks’ fists thrust deep into his overall pockets, stomping the pits in sulky silence when his new hull proved disastrous in Lyon at the start of the 1984 season.
 
Now there is a new ‘Jenks’. Retired. With ten years’ furrows removed from his brow and an immaculate set of ten unbitten fingernails – “the first time in twenty years,” he confesses. Retired the Welsh wizard may be. But he has lost none of his pithy perception and outspokenness. Never one to mince words, he gave Powerboat 85 his own inimitable observations on his retirement, the future of Formula One, and his arch rival Renato Molinari.
 
‘The writing was on the wall for me six weeks before Tom Percival died. It was no secret that my sponsor Carlsberg had become disenchanted with the sport. Another death or serious injury, I was told, and they were out. Then Tom died. I still can't believe it. After his death, personally, I had run out of excuses. I don’t think a driver should have to pay with is life for making one mistake in any sport. In Tom’s case he didn’t even make a mistake. We had reached the situation in Formula One boats that if you made one single mistake there was a 90 percent chance you would be dead. The same thing happened in car racing ten years ago. They corrected it. All we had done in Formula One boat racing was to make the engines bigger and bigger and the boats lighter. No-one had been willing to accept the fact that we had a major problem within the sport and tried to correct it – and that included the drivers.’
 
‘I think Formula One racing is in helluva mess at present. For the last 18 months we’ve been running to these modified OMC Formula One rules, then in London we went back to OZ rules allowing the T4s in, allowing fuel injection and methanol, allowing the new twin engine rig. Next year the new OMC engines will be fuel injected and have a new low-line mid section and re-modified gearbox which means everybody’s equipment will be outdated. And the hulls will also have to be designed to take the safety cell. So now not only are you going to need a six figure budget to go racing but you are going to need a six figure budget to prepare a rig. And who is going to come up with that sort of money for an untried product?’
 
‘I have heard rumours that Renato (Molinari) is retiring from the sport to become a team manager next year. Well, he is undoubtedly the best driver of the lot, head and shoulders above the rest. He’s a hard driver, not fair, in fact I would say he is very, very unfair. Uncompromising. I’ve seen him make moves no-one else would get away with. Not that I blame him for what happened in Minneapolis last year. Not at all. If I’d been in that same position I would have done the same thing. He’s always been the one I’ve had to look out for – and I’ve beaten him in Formula Three, Formula Two and Formula One – most satisfying. He’s damn good – but I would never call him a sportsman. People say he has difficulty with the language but I know he can handle that, he’s difficult to interview, there’s no charisma about the man. He’s bland. But you can never underestimate that middle-aged sulky Italian. Those so-called defeats by Barry Woods last season didn’t mean a thing. Renato’s not stupid. Far from it. He had seen how dangerous Formula One had become like most other drivers. Once he’d sewn up his world title he just made sure he finished up the season  in one piece himself. Never, never underestimate him. he’s quite simply the best there has ever been. The ultimate professional in a world of good amateurs.’
 
‘I don’t regret my decision to retire. Of course, it’s hard to watch a beautiful hull running at full chat and to know you aren’t going to be out there again. But I’m not going to change my mind. I don’t want to die in a boat and I think that is the way a lot of drivers feel. At least I know I retired at the top, still winning Grands Prix. And I must admit if I hadn’t still been winning I would have hung up my jack plug long before now!’
Roger at the Pits Turn, Bristol 1980
Roger at the Pits Turn, Bristol 1982
Jenks, Pittsburgh 1982. Photo Tim Schroer
Roger on the start line. London Victoria Docks, 1983
 
 
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