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Phil's Racing Career

After 27 years and 263 saloon car races I stopped racing at the end of the 2000 season.

In the early years I can remember hiding mechanics in the boot to get them in for nothing, racing round Silverstone track in the tow car and trailer laden with the race car after the meeting had finished, arriving at brands scrutineering bay in a Sinclair C5 and being told to go away, getting a 'bollocking' for racing on after my windscreen popped out. But its all too serious now and certainly far too commercialised.

Austin A35My love of racing probably started when I was a small boy, having make believe races on the carpet with my dinky toys. As a teenager a small group of us with cars had fun racing round the Watford one-way system until the police told us off. A young Steve Soper was one of these lads and when he started track racing in the late sixties I went along to help him for a few years. My first race was in 1974 at Thruxton which was being run at that time by my uncle (the late Sidney Offord).

My first three race cars were special saloon Minis, which proved unreliable and too expensive to run, so they were sold. I was driving a black Austin A35 when I had my first win in 1978, I loved its sideways driving style and spent three years racing it. One day in 1979 there were twenty three A35's on the grid at Mallory, this must have be an omen to go one make racing, because after having a successful year in 1980 in the C.S.C.C championship I went on to compete in the Renault 5TS challenge for the next three years. 1981 was probably the cheapest year of my racing career, including all running costs, entry fees, hotel bills, prize money and start money I spent less than a grand in total. What good fun we had, especially the night before the races ( I can't print what Malcolm Holmes or Dave Cox used to get up to ). I remember at the start of one race at Oulton Park there were 39 cars side by side going forwards towards the first corner and one unlucky driver in the middle of the pack going backwards. He got spat out into the barriers but still got his start money.

Renault 5Renault stopped paying the bills at the end of 1981 and after a couple more seasons I decided to race something quicker, so during the winter of 1983/84 helped by a good friend Simon Holland we race prepared a mark one Lotus Cortina from a fire damaged write off. It was finally finished at 6 am on the morning of the first race of that season , after a lot of last minute problems. I ended up having to drive it on trade plates to Silverstone, but the lucky win made it all worth while. Whilst racing the Lotus in the pre '65 CSCC Some of us approached the BRSCC and formed the Historic Racing Saloons to give us more freedom to use larger engines and display our sponsors names. It was a busy time, often having two meetings in one weekend. After four years and a fair amount of success in the Lotus, including winning the international trophy on Brands GP circuit, I bought a VW 16v GTi Golf to compete in the 1988 Uniroyal saloons. I got the most sponsorship backing of my whole career that year, had some early success, wrote the car off in front of my sponsors hospitality tent at Silverstone, finished the 24 hour Willhire and even had a one off race in the one make Honda CRX challenge.

Ford MustangThat year I also drove the Steve Warrior owned Anglia in the Historic Racing Saloon series and in 1989 Steve let me drive his 500 bhp Ford Mustang. This was the best car I ever drove, you could power slide it sideways for 20 or 30 yards on full throttle out of the corners and reach over 160 mph on the back straight at Snetterton, but you had to brake a lot earlier than a modern car. After racing another GTi Golf in 1989 for my local VW garage, an old friend of mine, Roger Bunting, phoned me to say his dealership wanted to sponsor me in the 1990 Suzuki Swift Challenge. So for three very enjoyable years of very close hard racing, Suzuki paid out some good prize money, and I competed successfully against some real characters, especially the Birmingham 'Mafia', shared the car with my brother, Michael, at the two driver races, beat Tiff Needell at Thruxton, and was presented with a winners garland by Murray Walker at Silverstone.

Fiat AbarthIn the mid nineties I had some races in an historic Mini, a disastrous few races in a Sierra Cosworth and then I decided to build another Lotus Cortina to race in the then named 'ICS' historic saloons. Unfortunately the rules kept changing to suit a few wealthy ex-touring car drivers and the rest of us didn't have enough money to keep up, so I sold the car in disgust for a big loss. In 1996 I enjoyed racing a lovely little Fiat Abarth for Middle Barton garage, at some historic meetings including the Coys Festival at Silverstone. I then bought what was to be my last race car in 1997, a Mk1 GTi Golf, to compete in the Road Saloon Championship. Slowly developing the car with the right bits, it was getting very frustrating nearly always coming second or third, but towards the end of 1999 my luck changed. In fact I won the last four races of my career, the final one being at Mallory park in 2000.

During all this time I married Christine, had two lovely daughters, and started a successful cars sales business all of which are still going strong. I am very lucky to have raced so many cars and made so many good friends during those 27 years and I would like to thank all the marshals, scrutineers, club officials, mechanics, engine builders, pit crews, reporters, commentators, sponsors, drivers and everyone else, (especially Trevor Humphreys, Dave Stanton, Melvyn Johnson, Frank Woods and Paul Heeley) for putting up with me for so long.

The only thing is now, what shall I do on a Sunday, I could go shopping with my wife or I could go down the pub, hmmm, or maybe I might see if my old dinky toys are still in the loft?

Phil's Racing Career Gallery

Austin A35
Russell Bend - Snetterton 1980

1977 - 1980
Austin A35
Classic Saloon Car Championship

Overall championship winner 1980 - also in winning team in 1978 Birkett 6 hour relay race.

1981 - 1983
Renault 5TS
One make Saloon Car Championship

Highest placed private entry trophy and 3rd overall (out of 40 drivers) in 1981.

Renault 5TS
Oulton Park 1981
Leading Sir John Whitmore in the Lotus Cortina
Leading Sir John Whitmore - Mallory 1987
1984 - 1987
Lotus Cortina MKI
CSCC Pre 65 Saloon Car Championship, BRSCC Sixties/Historic Racing Saloon Championship

Winning two championships overall in 1986 and 1987 - bad crash in August 1986 Riches Corner, Snetterton, writing off a newly shelled car.

1989
Mustang 4.7 litre
Historic Racing Saloon Championship

Quickest car Phil ever raced - overall Class Winner that year.

Mustang 4.7 litre
Snetterton 1989
Golf GTi 16valve
Silverstone 1989
1988 - 1989
Golf 16V GTi MK2
Uniroyal Saloon Car Championship

Wrote car off in front of my sponsors' hospitality tent at Silverstone after being on pole.

1990 - 1992
Suzuki Swift GTi
Suzuki Swift Challenge / Firestone Saloon Car Championship

Good job we had a friendly body repair shop!

Suzuki Swift Gti
Brands Hatch 1990
Swift Gti upside down!
Thruxton 1990
1990 - 1992
Suzuki Swift GTi
Suzuki Swift Challenge / Firestone Saloon Car Championship


Not the best way to end a good season. Phil finished 3rd overall in the 1990 Suzuki Swift Challenge One Make Championship.

1991
Mini Cooper S
Historic Racing Saloon Championship

Briefly led championship but only raced twice.

Mini Cooper S
Brands Hatch 1991
1966 Fiat Arbarth owned by Middle Barton Garage
1966 Fiat Abarth
1996
Fiat Abarth
Historic Saloon Championship

Raced in the Historic Saloon Car Championship, including the "Coy's International Historic Meeting" at Silverstone.

1997 - 2000
Golf GTi MKI
Road Saloons Championship

Slowly developing the car with the right bits - winning the last four races he finished.

Golf GTi  MK1 won the last four races it finished.
Snetterton 1999
Hot Rod
Essex Arena 1996

During 27 years of racing saloons, Phil drove 20 different cars in 263 races, with over 50 wins to his credit.

Winning 3 saloon car championships.

Runner up in 4 saloon car championships.

Third in 2 saloon car championships.

 

He hung up his helmet at the end of the 2000 season.

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