Alastair's Blog

Revisiting The Scene of the Crime on the Pirelli Classic

- Friday, June 21, 2013

It’s still hot - but in more ways than one!

The route has been fun these past couple of days and it's been getting hotter and more humid. We wanted to 'develop' our air conditioning so adapted the modification to add some more oomph - not pretty and not to our standard of fit or finish - but it wroked! Judge for yourself:

Ferrri air con mods

Ferrari Air-Con modifications Mark II capitalising on the slip streaming from Ferrari and Space Station logos.

When we arrived in the Dolomites we took a chance to grab some sun, overlooking a glorious vista. The Dolomites are a wonderful range of mountains and when the weather is like this you can literally see for miles from this vantage point:

The Dolomites - glorious views and glorious weather. Ferrari looking cool. 

So at the beginning of this post I mentioned that it was hot in more ways than one. Well there we were minding our own business with the latest regularity when right out of nowhere we were attacked by a.... concrete post! At the time we just couldn't stop because of the regularity so we pushed on and then came back to revisit the 'scene of the crime' and snap a few shots. Not as bad as it looks but bad nonetheless. Not sure if the Ferrari or the post came off worst!

Hateful looks from the Ferrari as it eyes the 'downed' post!

By the time you read this we'll be on our last day - wish us luck!

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Pirelli Classic - Moving Ahead

- Thursday, June 20, 2013

It’s HOT!

I know that the UK weather isn’t a glowing summer at the moment but over here it is just so, so hot and at times humid.

It’s been 3 days now on the Pirelli Marathon, we’ve had lots of dramas with the car but nothing that has stopped us – we wouldn’t let it!
  • On the first day Catriona had a stop watch failure which cost us time
  • The rally trip meter has given us lots of grief - first it wasn’t working at all then once we got it going again it failed to operate.
  • On one occasion it stopped during an extremely difficult navigation test but Catriona still found the correct route! Amazing what you can do under intense pressure
  • We have also had prop shaft problems but we’ve got those under control. But that’s meant for the last day we have had to impose a speed limit of exactly 62 MPH because at any speed over that the propshaft hits the floor hard!

Rally is really good. We have been driving on great roads in France and now Switzerland, steaming hot for everybody but especially for us as the Ferrari is set up as the original 250 specification with very little heat or sound insulation so we are suffering with lots of both inside the car.

Did I mention it was hot without air con?

Did I mention it was hot? Ferrari Air-Con modifications with extra slip streaming from Ferrari and Space Station logos.

Everybody outside the car loves it, telling us how great it looks and sounds. This, after spending so much time, effort and, not to mention money, getting the car to its current state is really satisfying.

We ended the first day at 9th overall and after three days we had moved up to 7th place. Not good by our standards - but a good result bearing in mind all the equipment failures.

Stayed in a lovely setting on Lake Luzern having crossed over the lake by car ferry. Lovely day if just too HOT – did I mention it was too hot?

Keep following here and on my social media channels – updates coming when I can get time.

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Here we go again! Time for another rally

- Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just back from Croatia and thought things were a bit quiet so we (once again joined by Catriona Rings my faithful navigator) started the Pirelli Classic Marathon 2013 on Saturday! Never a dull moment round here. 

This is another great rally and what better way to join and run it than in the glorious GTO. It took ages to build and convert this replica Ferrari 250 GTO from my original Ferrari 330GT with a proper V12 4 litre engine. So I've been chomping at the bit to get a Space Station Self Storage rallying sticker on the body and have a real run out with it.

This will be the first time the GTO has been driven in anger so I'm really looking forward to seeing how it performs in its new guise. The rally started in Ypres, the Belgian capital of rallying with scrutineering on Saturday followed by the welcoming dinner in the evening. Then on Saturday morning we were off to Cortina d’Ampezzo via overnight stops in Luxembourg, Mulhouse, Engelberg and Bormio.

Ferrari on teh starting line ready to goThe rally commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the original Classic Marathon in 1988. Then they had a target of driving across Europe to Cortina and all the way back again to the RAC Club in Pall Mall, London. This time though the rally ends in Cortina, no driving back just staying on to celebrate in Italian style.

I'll be posting updates here and on my twitter and facebook pages, so if you don't follow me click on the links below and join me to read and see the latest news and gossip en route.

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Happy rallying!

Vintage Paris-Madrid Rally and the winner is....

- Monday, June 03, 2013

Just a couple of weeks after the London to Lisbon rally I was on the road again at the Paris to Madrid Vintage car rally. This time with the lovely Alfa adorned as usual with my lucky elephant Space Station sticker. 4th place in class and 13th overall in the London to Lisbon rally was good based on all the mechanical problems we had - but I hate not winning (!) so I was determined to do better on this rally.

I thought everything was going to come undone before we'd even started when we discovered a water leak the night before.  So radiator out of the Alfa and into the repair shop overnight and fixed - but it wasn't done until late in the morning! So a late push to the starting line in Paris.  Fortunately for once we had planned to arrive a day early so we had time in hand and arrived in Versailles with plenty to spare and ready for dinner. We even managed a bit of tourist activity walking the Palace Gardens of Versaille which are really beautiful especially at this time of year. Great trees and old statues and some brilliant bronzes all on a theme of full size trees. Well worth a visit and free to enter!

The 52 pre-war cars were flagged away to start the rally from Versailles to commemorate the incredible 1903 Paris-Madrid race - 110 years to the day.  Our rally started well but we had poor brakes to start with, but a bit more fiddling saw them feeling and working better and we finished the day in the lead. A good omen for the days ahead.

The field was full of some fantastic cars that had entered this year's rally. Some really interesting early vintage classic ones. The rally follows the original 1903 route wherever the organisers can arrange. The three day 1300km (815 mile) event reflects the society of the period with the drivers and passengers having fun by dressing up in appropriate clothing for the pre-war period!

To reflect the mix of vehicles the organisers had sorted the field into classes for four, three and two wheeled motor, steam or electric driven vehicles:

 -     Veteran in two classes: Up to 1905 and 1906 to 1919.
 -     Vintage from 1920 to 1929
 -     Pre-war from 1930 to 1940

As with the original schedule the event is made up of three legs, with our first stop Angouleme (instead of Bordeaux in the original rally). Here we were met with locally produced fortified wine and some delicate pastry’s organised by Club Charentals de Belles Voitures.

We left Angouleme on the second day heading south via Saint Emilion (a lovely wine region!) and the Pyrenees Mountains to our overnight stop at Pamplona, famous for its bull run - not just yet though! In Pamploma we were greeted by local classic car enthusiasts, lots of kindred spirits and reveling in the fun of the day. We did well again today and in the top three. After arriving we all enjoyed a marvelous cocktail party and local celebrations.

The third leg takes roads that are much more fun, less traveled across to Navarra and Rioja - it's a wine fest every time we do this run. There was a regularity set on gravel on this last day, which was very hard to do on time. We did well but the chasing Italian driven Aston did slightly better. But any chance of them winning went out the window when they threw it all away with a wrong test which dropped them right down the field. Sad for them but good for us! A really good day today and we were feeling really confident when we arrived in Madrid to take the chequered flag.

And with a major effort and finishing in style the winner is... Us!

Great feeling to going across the finishing line in first place. The evening was rounded off with a a gala dinner and prize giving. I drove the car to the Gala Prize giving at the Madrid Ritz where it was on display for the evening looking both grand and resplendent with it's winners rosette across the bonnet. Catriona Rings my faithful navigator on many events gave a nice speech. At the end of the evening the Alfa stayed at the Ritz... I was in no shape to drive the car back after the dinner and celebrations!

Oh, and I nearly forgot, we met up with Michael Portillo celebrating his 60th birthday. So a good evening was had by all!

There’s more photos on my facebook page. For those of you that don’t already follow, might be an idea to more photos on my facebook page like my page now as there are more rallies coming, you can also see instant comments on my twitter channel so you can follow me there as well.

The London to Lisbon Rally – 2013

- Thursday, May 09, 2013

Just back from the glorious London to Lisbon Rally, managed to achieve a Blue Riband and finish 4th in class and 13th overall out of a field of 50 so not a bad result after a few problems before and during the event!

This was the 6th edition of this Rally and having competed before I was keen to do well and decided to take the Mercedes 280SL Sports with me after it served so well in India. But timescales were against me and word arrived that the Mercedes wouldn’t get back in time due to all manner of shipping controls, so I opted  to take the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud llI which I used for the TransAmerica trip last year.  Easy decision for me, but Joe had a lot of work to do to get it ready in time! 

After seven years, the epic London-Lisbon Reliability Trial and Tour 6th edition finally arrived. It's open to all cars up to end of 1983 and the 2,000-mile Classic Trial features ‘Tulip’ regularities, handling and manoeuvrability tests. Starting in the UK we were destined to travel through France and Spain arriving at the finishing line in Portugal 10 days later. 

The rally was long and eventful – but then what else would you expect from me!

The route included some of the best scenery in England, France, Spain and Portugal.  Here’s a rundown of the event and my ‘memorable moments. There’s more detail on my facebook page. For those of you that don’t already follow, might be an idea to follow now as there are more rallies coming, you can also see instant comments on my twitter channel so you can follow me there as well.

I've just started a youtube channel as well so you can also see  some 'interesting videos from the rally on there'!

Day 1: Saturday 27th April – Greenwich to Portsmouth

Laurel Smith, my co-driver, and I left Greenwich after being flagged off the starting line by João de Vallera, the Portuguese Ambassador to the UK, and were among 50 classic cars. The first day is always a challenge getting to grips with the route, trials and of course coaxing the Rolls along. We had a few problems with battery charging and some penalties on regularities and tests, but finished the day in a respectable 4th in class position and 23rd overall.

Day 2: Sunday 28th April – Saint Malo to Poitiers (France)

The car ferry was a sight to behold with 50 classic cars crammed nose to tail in rows – onlookers were abundant! The Rolls got a lot of admiring glances and a worthy mention in the press release from the organisers, Hero.  We had a pretty uneventful day, made good progress and ended up two positions, 2nd in class and 16th in the field. Going well! We went to Nogaro circuit for some more tests. I think the last time I was there was with McLarens testing with Tambay for Monaco 72.

Day 3: Monday 29th April – Poitiers to Pau (France)

Weather today was marvellous, cloudless sky and sunny and by the end of the day we had kept pace at 2nd position in  class and increased our overall standing by 1 to 15th. We had split into two groups last night in different hotels and convened at a local classic car enthusiast’s garage as the starting point. The route to Pau was split into two session with lunch at the posh Château de Mirambeau with a code board section and unscheduled  French roadworks (!) which extended the days timing. 

Day 4: Tuesday 30th April – Pau to Burgos (Spain)

A few cars had retired over the few days and we started down to 42 crews in torrential rain – just like being at home in the UK! Our goal today was to pass into Spain and there were some fears that the rain might change into snow across the pass, but in the end unfounded and our way was clear – but wet! The test at Miranda Kart was great fun and saw us just drop to 3rd in class as we reviewed the days trials (and tribulations!) over dinner at the Hotel Palacio de la Merced and found out that another crew had pulled out due to clutch failure on their Mustang. 

Day 5: Wednesday 1st May – Burgos to Leon (Spain)

Half way through the event as we got up today, day 5. The roads ahead of us were completely empty on a bank 
holiday Monday. Made the driving today great fun as we just had to concentrate on the trials and each other. Clear streets gave us good views and spotted this ‘car art’ along the way: 

Thought it was going to be a good viewing day, but early mist that gave way to sun was soon replaced by torrential rain – very challenging driving for the whole field. But managed to increase our position in class to 3rd and move two further up the field into 13th overall.  

In the evening we enjoyed some local tapas, a favourite of mine, and saw the splendid cathedral, a sight to behold, before retiring to the hotel for some well earned rest ready to start again in the morning as we head further across Spain with some more bad weather forecast. 

Day 6: Thursday 2nd May – Leon to Ourense (Spain)

Today we saw the best of Spain spectacular scenery under clear blue skies and warming sunshine (a welcome change from the rain and snow we had experienced on the last few days). Two speed test tables today instead of the normal Jogularity style. Ending up at the Cabanas Kart circuit under the watchful eye of a local TV crew. Mirrors and make up to the ready as we got ready to complete the kart trial. After solid morning and afternoon events we ended the day at the same position, ready for a good meal and a well earned rest.

Day 7: Friday 3rd May – Ourense to Vila Real (Portugal)

Today saw us aiming to cross the border and a different challenge for the organisers today. The café next to the Spanish/Portuguese customs had shut down! So the planned coffee break after crossing into Portugal saw members of Hero fetching a generator to have coffee and cakes ready and waiting for us as if nothing was untoward.  We had two kart circuits today and at lunch we thought we were in for some trouble as he local police arrived in numbers – only to discover that they were just car enthusiasts like everyone else. No trouble just genuine admiration. The rally remained on Spanish time even though we were crossing time zones – so that made it easier to manage throughout the day, moving up one place to 12th overall.

Day 8: Saturday 4th May – Vila Real to Caramulo (Portugal)

We went to a race track today and were greeted by a photo of me and Cat in the Alfa taken at the first London to Lisbon rally. Talk about Déjà vu! 

Saturday and Sunday rolled into one as it was the roll into the finishing line. We did the Caramulo hill-climb which was supported by more police activity as they shut over 2.5km of public road so that we could run the event unhindered. 

Not sure we’d see this level of cooperation in every country! We two runs at the hill climb looping back after the first run to tee up for the second hill climb. Dinner was held at the Caramulo Museum across the road from tonight’s hotel. 

The museum houses a collection of classic and historic cars of all types, including some iconic Formula 1 cars. We had free access after dinner to see the cars which included: 

 » The oldest car in Portugal, still in running condition, an 1899 Peugeot;
 » The Bugatti 35B that in 1931 established the speed record in Lehrfeld at more than 200 km/h;

And of course
 » The Rolls-Royce that was used by Queen Elizabeth II, President Eisenhower, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II during their state visits to Portugal

Day 9: Sunday 5th May – Caramulo to Lisbon (Portugal)

Hardly seems like yesterday that we left Greenwich, yet here we are ready for the final day of the rally. Today we had a real spot of bother as we came to a halt on the hill climb test completely. I had to get Laurel out and over to the Armco in case the next car hit us - they go at one minute intervals. We were there for more than a minute but eventually the car improved and we did the hill but with lots of penalties. The car seems to be able to tell when it's on a test - behaves fine then as soon as a test comes up it misbehaves!

By the end of today we’ll have travelled 2,386 miles, across 4 countries and had 25 regularities and 14 tests. Hot today, 27 deg C. Lots of spectators as we approached the final stretches of the rally. 

The police were there again paving the way for us. We stopped in the historic square Praca do Comercio then late afternoon, flanked by police motorcycle outriders who stopped the traffic at all junctions and allowed us to go through all the red lights to the finish line. At the finishing line we were flagged across by Her Excellency Gill Gallard the British Ambassador to Portugal together with city councillor Mr Manuel Brito. A very prestigious finish.

And, here we are, across the finishing line with the Rolls sporting my ever trusty Space Station windscreen sticker. We  finished 4th in class and 13th overall with a Blue Riband. A great rally with some superb people. Good fun all round. Roll on the next one!

On the Road Again at Gleneagles

- Monday, April 22, 2013

The 5th Flying Scotsman 2013 rally took place this weekend and along with Catriona Rings in my gorgeous 1938 Alfa 6C we had a great time over 3 fun packed days.

Friday 19th

The rally started on Friday 19th in Hertfordshire heading off into new rally territory, a change from 2012, through Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. We drove past Castle Ashby which was built to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and stopped off for lunch in the village of Market Bosworth. That afternoon we were back on familiar territory driving around the battlefield of Bosworth Field. Then off north through the Peak District skirting past Buxton ending up for a well earned 'watering' rest near Macclesfield. We ended the first day in a respectable 9th position out of a field of 106 cars.

1938 Alfa 6C on Rally DutySaturday 20th

Off to an early start in the 'fresh' morning air with the sun beating down and continuing north, passing through Glossop before a wonderful jaunt. I'm sure the locals loved over 100 classic cars flying along these country lanes! We then went through the lovely towns on the Lancashire / Yorkshire border and onto the beautiful scenery of Widdop Moor and The Forest of Trawden.

The stunning Yorkshire Dales saw our route for the afternoon through the Ribblehead Viaduct then heading north into Cumbria. A quick break and then we were at it again off to the Lake District National Park and onwards to the Scottish Borders and a well earned overnight rest in Gretna Green.

A great run today as we finished equal 3rd with my good friends David Thomson and Gareth Holding in their Talbot 105 Alpine. I knew there would be some 'friendly' competitive driving on the Sunday as we both had our eyes on making that third spot our own!

Sunday 21st

The final day saw us driving away from Gretna with a long day ahead to reach the finish line at the Gleneagles Hotel. Off to Dumfries and Galloway and the East Stewartry Coast then an early lunch at Drumlanrig Castle, an imposing building standing in 90,000 acres of stunning Scottish countryside, home to the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.

After lunch we headed north again over the Lowther Hills to the final test sections of the event. The first test section was at the Kames Motorsport Complex and the second at Forrestburn Hillclimb circuit.

The run in to Gleneagles and the finish line took us past Bannockburn the site of Robert Bruce's famous battle. We arrived at Gleneagles Hotel which is set amongst the wonderful scenery around the Scottish town of Auchterader - if you haven't been you should take the time to visit as it's a glorious venue.

And the result?

We finished FIRST in our C4 class!

Try as we could we didn't manage to grab that third place from David and Gareth but finished 4th overall.

So another good result for the Alfa. And as always on to the next event.


You can read more about the rally on the organisers website

A Few of my Favourite Things - Mike Read - BBC Radio interview

- Thursday, February 28, 2013

I had a great time yesterday when I visited BBC Radio Berkshire and chatted with the DJ Mike Read on his feature 'A Few of my Favourite Things'. You can listen to the interview on BBC iPlayer (the interview starts about 2 hours and 6 minutes in, straight after The Electric Light Orchestra's Livin' Thing).

Mike obviously knows his stuff when it comes to music but he also has a keen interest in cars which came out as we discussed my F1 career, McLaren and James Hunt - who Mike had met several times in James' heyday and we recalled his 'lively approach'!

It was also good to reminisce about music, books and TV shows as we ran through some of my favourite things:

» my favourite song - The Beatles, Yesterday, and my memories of George Harrison, a motor enthusiast
» my favourite TV show - Fawlty Towers - John Cleese, a genius,  playing it straight and still funny after all these years
» my favourite film, Pulp Fiction - a great film with all the emotions and action in one place
» my favourite book - Catch 22, a great book - the last line made me laugh for weeks - read it to find out why!

Mike also quizzed me about the release of Rush in September this year. Can't wait to see the final film and watch Chris Hemsworth playing James Hunt and of course Stephen Mangan who is playing me in the film. But as I talk about what I've done and achieved it's still great to know that I was the first person to see the importance of self storage in the UK when I started Space Station Self Storage all those years ago. Now with storage locations along the M4 corridor it still fills me with pride when I look at the success we've had.


Listen to the full BBC interview with Mike Read here.
The interview starts about 2 hours and 6 minutes in, straight after The Electric Light Orchestra's Livin' Thing.



Back from India

- Thursday, February 28, 2013

I had a great time in India on the ROARR Classic India 2013 rally. My faithful red Mercedes 280SL kept going (most of the time!) and experienced some great scenery. The driving was wonderful, exciting and entertaining (you'll need to watch the videos to fully understand what I mean). And I met some very entertaining and really interesting people - a great time.

Driving and enjoying the energy of India
My Mercedes 280SL ROARRing Very welcome in India

A big thank you to everyone that followed my Twitter and Facebook posts, it wasn't always possible to get a good internet connection but I managed to upload lots of photos and a few videos. Check them out on my facebook channel.

There were so many experiences it's hard to rate them, but I'm currently sorting through all my pictures and videos so watch this space and my facebook channel to see more.

I just wish that I was eligible for my Space Station photography competition! With these shots of my Space Station banner I think I might have been in with a chance this month:

Space Station on a busy road At the docks - banner gets attention Space Station banner gets pride of place

You can enter the photo competition on the Space Station Facebook channel - just Like the page and upload your images. Good luck!

Rush The Movie, James Hunt and Me

- Thursday, February 07, 2013

The January 24th edition of Autosport ran a series of features on James Hunt, F1, McLaren, Ron Howard's movie, Rush, which is released in the UK September 2013 and a full page feature on me and 'The Race of my Life'. All of these features  gave me a chance to revisit some glorious, funny and outrageous moments during my career. Head over to Autosport to read more.

The article on James bought back many outrageous memories - because when James and I were together it often got out of hand!. It gave me a chance to share a couple of the more amusing moments with James being James! It also reminded me about the hard work required to recall and draft a recollection of memories. I'm just in the middle of producing a book about my motor racing career, which of course will include a lot more stories about James. Make sure you post a comment at the bottom of this article with your details and when we have more news I'll let you know. It will be a great read full of lots of 'can't miss' stories!

And finally when you pick up your digital or newstand edition of Autosport don't miss the full page article on page 90 'Final Drive - Race of my Life'. It's all about the Japanese GP at Fuji on October 24th 1976 where James needed to finish third to win the F1 championship. It was run in appalling conditions and James' refusal to read the race boards caused endless amounts of 'Pit Rage'!


Back with the Oily Rags at Fressingfield

- Thursday, February 07, 2013

The FROC poster announcing my chatJust before I went off to India to take part in ROARR Classic India 2013 touring event I was fortunate enough to be invited to  speak at the FORC (Fressingfield Oily Rag Club). 

I started my motoring carer as an 'oily rag' (mechanic) much against my father's wishes, but eventually with his help! During my career I have had various mechanic roles most intended and others essential when I needed to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty as a race mechanic as, I did for the 1968 CanAm.

I know - against Emerson I look like Peter Fonda!So it was great to be among such a glorious group of historic racing enthusiasts at FORC meeting everyone on the evening was marvellous and I had a great evening regaling my time managing the McLaren F1 team, sharing lots of stories from the 70s about the characters - James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and of course some amusing gems about Bernie Ecclestone.

It was also good to share my experiences as a 'consultant' on Ron Howard's new movie RUSH - which I might also appear in, if I don't end up on the cutting room floor!

Rush is a gWith James Hunt - good memories for Ron Howard's RUSHreat film covering the period in Formula 1 when champion driver Niki Lauda had his terrible crash in 1976 in which he almost died. And the incredible story of how just weeks after the accident, his competitive spirit had him right back behind the wheel to challenge my driver, James Hunt. A brilliant time of my career and one of the most exciting seasons I have experienced. Look out for the UK release in September 2013.

I had the opportunity to share a lot of my visual memories as well. having recently sorted through my vast collection of photographs I was able to use many of these with the FORC folks. This one with James and one of our 'discussions' about how the race should be run. I don't remember the exact details of this discussion but knowing James he did what he wanted anyway!

My thanks to Steve Wyatt, Chairman and Organiser, who kindly invited me and now includes me on his roll of honour. Also thanks to everyone that came along, listened and laughed along with me - it was a great night!


  Strange but F1 won't let you smoke in the cars today!     'Space Station Self Storage' my pride and joy - try it out!     James Hunt and me discussing tactics - again!  




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