Alastair's Blog

Behind the Wheel - Student Radio Documentary

- Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earlier this year I had a visit from two students, Sean Terry and Richard Anderson, who are attending Sunderland University. As part of their final year thesis they were producing a radio documentary on F1 and came over to my house to interview me and get words direct from the horse's mouth - so to speak!

Great production and includes interviews with a host of people in F1 across the years. Interesting approach that they took looking not just at the rigours of F1 but the effect on personal and family life.

You can hear it by clicking below and go to their SoundCloud page by clicking on the link below the image.


 Read the background for this project by clicking here

Social media links updated

You can now post on Facebook or Twitter by clicking on the social media icons on the left of the page and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by clicking on the social media icons at the top right of the page (these are all at the base of the page on tablets & mobile phones). If you want to share on other social media channels just click the '+' icon on the left and select another social media channel

Thanks to Maureen at Insight Group Marketing for arranging and coordinating the interview and to Sean and Richard for coming along and including me in their radio documentary - good luck with your final year exams! 


The Road to Mandalay

- Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Well, just a week after we started the The Road to Mandalay rally and I got my first mention of the rally in the Daily Telegraph yesterday - I must be slipping! Normally my antics get me much more press coverage. Still it was good to read and see that mum got the headlines!:

"...the ever-determined Alastair Caldwell, navigated by his formidable 96-year-old mother, Dorothy."


So a quick recap of the first week:

On 23rd, all started well with mum at the start line and the car being blessed by a Monk - hence garland on the grill

The following evening, saw Mother with 60ft long dugout canoe 400 years old Racing canoe and waiting for a coconut to drop! Not too much pressure at this time.

There were lots of sugar cane trucks on the side of the road, waiting to sell their loads. They tried to get us to buy - they figured that Rolls Royce drivers must be able to buy the odd load of sugar cane, not really essential fodder for a rally.

Scenery is beautiful and the rally has been good so far and Burma is just great, everything is good, roads, people, scenery, food, weather. For me Rudyard Kipling, in his Mandalay poem summed it up:

   But them spicy garlic smells,
   An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
   On the road to Mandalay...

Mother is also fantastic and coping with everything, alert, interested and doing great at the navigation. Other rallyists are suggesting that she should be in the Guinness book of records as the oldest rally nav! Will try to keep updates coming but  Internet tends to be very poor so far everywhere.

We are staying two nights in a hotel on Inle lake. It is just fantastic, lovely hotel and lovely long boats that whisk you through wonderful scenes that are from a travel brochure but they are real. The Burmese are just so nice and sweet it is almost too much, they have great reverence for age so treat Mother with great respect and tender care.

Just a marvelous rally so far - bit off the leadership pace, but plenty of time to go yet and as The Telegraph said 'ever-determined'!!

Can't get away from the Space Station elephant logo - as expected in Mandalay elephants are everywhere!





Round the horn to finish 2nd

- Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It is so good to be back in Argentina for the Cape Horn Rally in November. Brought back some great memories and we created a few more!  As always I wanted to win and cross the line to see the chequered flag but sadly just pipped into 2nd place by Paul and Sandra Merryweather in their 1974 - Mercedes 450 SL - well done to them after a hard fought drive.

I was joined by Laurel Smith in my 1968 Mercedes 280SL Sports, gleaming red under the beautiful Argentinian sky at the start line. That look didn't last long however as no sooner had we started than the head gasket blew! But I'll come back to that in a minute.

Before the rally started we arrived into Buenos Aires in good time so had a couple of days looking round and doing a few visits to old haunts from my days coming here with McLaren in the 70s. The Grand Prix in '74 win was a memorable one for me as we won after local hero Carlos Reutman led the race and Juan Peron, the President of Argentina at that time, flew his helicopter to the track late in the race to view this triumph. The army used tear gas and gunfire to control the crowd and then Reutman's car failed and Peron left swiftly as Hulme won the race. It wasn't a friendly end to the race and and we had to be guarded from the crowd.

Anyway, after reliving some of those great memories the rally, as I said, got off to a very bad start when the cylinder head gasket failed on the very first test! So we finished the day in a cloud of steam but actually leading the rally. With the help of the rally mechanics I changed the gasket that evening and the car ran very well after that - although it proved very hard to start when hot which is an old problem.

The next two days were very good. The second day test was cancelled and we won both tests on the third day so finished off after three days still leading and still smiling.

17th November saw us crossing the desert - what a scorcher it was! Sadly Laurel's navigation duties were suspended as she went down with a tummy bug from the day before. So combined with car action, stress and heat she had a horrid day. The following day we had a rest day in Mendoza so a chance to recover for all of us.

The following few days saw a lot of activity with Paul & Sandra just 8 seconds behind us, a Chevy, a few dinks here and there and some clouds of steam from cars in our rear view mirror. There's never a dull moment on these rallies!

The last week of the rally went relatively smoothly driving through and visiting some great places with some majestic sites.  Glorious weather and a great drive over the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago - great drive over the Andes up to 11000 feet and down again with such beautiful views.  When we arrived in Santiago, Chile after the day's test, we had a second day as a rest day and ended up sitting by the fantastic pool of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  At this stage all was still going well on the rally, car running well and still leading - but Paul & Sandra closing the gap.

I spent a lot of time as we travelled trying to locate another head gasket to replace the one I used on the first day - not tempting fate just like to make sure we had one in reserve in case the rally took its toll again.

Sunday 24th was a rest day in Bariloche, Argentina and still all going well and the car still leading the rally - just! We stayed in a fantastic hotel - Resort LLAO LLAO - which they tell us is the leading hotel in the World. I can believe it. Perched on top of a hill surrounded by lakes and snowy mountains. It was probably the best place to discover that we were no longer leading the rally, my good friends Paul & Sandra finally overtook us, which is fine with me.

We finished the rally in Ushuaia, Argentina second to Paul & Sandra, with the 1966 Ford Mustang GT 289 Cabrio of
Christian Dumolin and Regine Dumolin-Petillion third behind us. Felt really happy for Sandra as not only did they win it was also her birthday so a double celebration for them.

Great drive, great rally, some marvellous sites, great racing and good times with some great friends in wonderful hotels en route. Can't wait until the next rally!!

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



And the results are in.. Pirelli Classic Marathon 2013

- Sunday, June 23, 2013

2nd in Class -- 12th overall

Well here we are all over, we've already moved on and traveling around but taken some time to sum up the rally as:

"Great roads, great views, good competition. So very tired and very hot crew were very happy at the end! Car a bit battered but running well and sounding great."

Not as high in the rankings as we wanted and are used to, but for the first real outing of the GTO it was a good test and we overcame some 'challenges'!


At this stage there's not a lot more to add than that it was a great rally and thank you all for following and for your messages of support and of course at time the ribbing! We had some great times, some great weather (and some awful rain), got inventive with the air conditioning and cooling system and met a troublesome concrete post. The crew were marvelous and you can see below just how much the GTO inspired this bloodthirsty Swiss mechanic after cutting away our propshaft problem!

One of the more interesting challenges was the propshaft problems that we had, which ended up in needing to cut away the coupling so that we could get going again and run fast - proudly displayed on the wing:

Propshaft coupling price cut from car, now we could run fast againMy beloved Space Station sticker still hanging in there after all the heat and rain!

That's it for the Pirelli Classic - but watch this space, I don't like coming in down the rankings so I feel another rally stirring and next time.... we'll be right up there!

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

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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.

FACEBOOK: like my page on facebook

TWITTER: follow me on twitter



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!

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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