An Olympic Journey
There are certain events and occasions that happen in one’s life that get imprinted in your memory and affect your outlook and perceptions. Things like the birth of your first child, the perfect holiday, the loss of a loved one, the list goes on. One of mine was a 10-minute ride home in a 1.1L Mk2 Ford Fiesta.
Back in 1984 I was a 5th year middle school pupil (year 6 in new money) with dreams of becoming a car designer, I had a talent for art that was recognised by my class teacher who just happened to be the England Hockey team goalkeeper, Ian Taylor. Our class got to learn he was on his way to LA for the Olympics’ in the summer that year, and like all of us, I was proud to be his pupil.
Rewind to an end of season football fixture with a local school around 10 miles away. Mr Taylor had agreed to drive me and two team mates back to school. I noticed, for some reason, he was visibly irritated and there was a sense of urgency as our kit was thrown in the boot of the Red Mk2 Fiesta. We were then bundled into the car, me riding shotgun. As we sped off down a windy country lane it started to become apparent that Mr Taylor was in a real hurry to get back. The car quickly became deadly silent with a tense atmosphere that was made up of concentration from behind the wheel and real fear from his passengers. Like a scene out of “The Professionals” the tyres were squealing in protest as each bend was entered faster and faster as he skillfully thread the car through the leafy back route to school. One of the boys in the back started whimpering which made no difference to his qualifying lap speed pushing the limits of this base model Ford, flying over crests and not lifting over blind summits.
I had never experienced what a car could do when pushed hard, even a 1177cc 54bhp Kent engine Ford Fiesta. As we slowed towards he school’s main road I got over my fear of being close to a fatal accident and my feelings turned into respect for his car control and driving ability delivering us to our destination, shaken but alive. Not only was he a cool guy who believed in me and that was going to be on T.V., playing sport for our country. He was also a skilled wheel man. Now, to be clear, dangerous driving with other people’s children in the car is not something to be proud of and it shouldn’t be copied or glorified. But, rightly or wrongly it did leave a lasting impression on me and became the catalyst that fed my addition to cars and driving.
Pushing a car to it capabilities should only be for the race track and track days have become more popular in the last decade. It is the safest place to get your speed hit and to feed your driving addiction. If you are searching desperateseller.co.uk for a second or fun car remember you don’t have to start with something wearing a Stuttgart crest or an M badge. A close friend has recently bought a Mk2 Toyota MR2 for under £2,000. Fitted with a set of stickier tyres its great fun on track and an excellent way to explore the art of car control. There are plenty of cheap and cheerful cars that would serve you well as a fun car because the actual fun lies in how you operate the machine, what you can make it do within its limits. I still occasionally drive the route that took me back to school that day in late spring, not with such steely determination or enthusiasm as Mr Taylor, but with an inner smile of content and fond memories of a great year that shaped my appetite for speed and competition that lead me to win my first race championship some 15 years later.