Hard to believe, but I actually came first at Brands Hatch in 1979

I don’t remember the weather that day I was in Manchester City centre, I don’t think it was raining because I remember hearing the sound coming from a pair of speakers placed just outside the front doors of Lasky’s the hifi shop on St Marys Gate.

Why I was where I was that day I can’t remember, but the year was 1979 and I would have been 18 years of age. I do remember it was in the morning.

I remember hearing the familiar voice of a radio DJ from Piccadilly Radio, encouraging people to walk in and take part in time trials using a racing car set called Aurora. Much smaller than Scalextrix, the cars kind of gripped the track, but were fast!

Aurora race track similar to the set up I raced on.

I wondered in past all the Hifi’s, TVs and speakers to the rear of the store where a small crowd had gathered.

“Would you like to put your name down for a go?” a young girl asked.

To be honest I wasn’t confident, but said yes.

As I stood there for a good half hour watching others racing around the large track with bends, sharp turns and a great deal of frustration as cars flew off the track, I started to realise that many of those participating seemed to just go too fast into bends.

Times were placed on a blackboard with names so that the leaders time could be used to gauge success or failure.

The event was being sponsored by Fuji Tapes, the cassette tape manufacturer.

Finally it was my go and I was told it was the best of three. I can’t remember how many times I had to race around the track, but it was multiple times.

I found after my first go that racing and slowing down at the bends, kept the car on the track, but my time was appalling, way down the pack.

Finally I had my last go and I changed tactics completely.

The Aurora cars have magnets under them which helps them stay on the track, but too fast and they will fly off on the bends.

On this go I literally pumped the trigger to the controller with my hand continuously so the car was able to race and slow all around the track, it worked, the car remained on the bends and longer stretches I gave a longer squeeze before pulsating the trigger around corners.

To my complete surprise I was suddenly at the top of the leader board. My name and details were taken and I was told that if I was lucky enough to win they would be in touch… but there was the rest of the day ahead.

About two days later I received a call. “Congratulations! You won in Manchester with the fastest time.”

I don’t remember at what point I received this winners trophy, but it was likely a few days later and I remember also receiving a load of blank Fuji cassette tapes.

Well I was shocked, but not as much as when they said “All the winners from around the country will now be taken with a plus one all expenses paid to Brands hatch for the Grand Final.”

So in 1979, my brother and I made our way to Brands Hatch.

Here, in one of the corporate rooms, overlooking the race circuit they had set up a huge Aurora track.

I was clearly the youngest there.

Once again I studied the techniques people were using to race around the track.

I remember thinking surely I can’t win this using the same technique as Manchester?

But as I watched cars flying off the track at various challenging bends, I realised I had nothing to lose by using my pulsating trigger technique as no one else appeared to be doing the same thing.

Low and behold … I won! I won the fecking trophy! I won loads of Fuji blank tapes and huge Aurora race car set complete with cars, loads of track, gantry, etc.

I was presented with a fruit bowl trophy by none other than Desiré Wilson.

Desiré Wilson

Since 1978, Desiré Wilson has been recognised as the most accomplished female racing driver in the world. To date, she is the only woman to have been licensed to drive in a CART Indycars event, as well as holding a FIA Super Licence, which enabled her to race at the highest level, FIA Formula One World Championship. In 1980, she won both the Monza 1000km and the Silverstone 6 Hours World Championship for Makes races, thereby becoming the first female to have outright victories in any FIA World Championship race. You can read more about Desiré Wilsons career here on Wikipedia.

Brands Hatch even named a stand after her. Her racing career included in 1979 the Aurora AFX F1 Championship. The year I won.

The trophies having sat in a cupboard for over 40 years were now taking up space and so I finally succumbed to selling them in 2023 to Vintage Cash Cow.