Interview with Tony Trimmer

Tony Trimmer is an ex-Grand Prix driver who entered six races in the 1970s through 1975 to 1978. He was a star in Formula 3 early in his career and was champion in the British-based Shellsport F1 Series in 1978. He talks to us about his career using questions submitted by members of our forum.

Q. How did you become involved in motorsport?
TT: My Father took me to a motor race meeting at Goodwood and I got hooked watching Stirling Moss. Unfortunately it was the meeting that he had his big accident. I then joined a small motor club and did some hill climbs in a 500cc Cooper Jap. I was working as a car mechanic and applied for a job as a race mechanic with the Willment racing team in SW London and was accepted.

Q. You won the British F3 championship in 1970, beating such names as James Hunt and Carlos Pace. How easy a win was it for you?
It was the final year of the 1000cc engined F3 cars and I was racing for a small private team based in North London and we were against several big works teams. There was up to 70 cars entered for some meetings with two heats and a final. A very tough year but gratifying.

Q. How did the drive for Maki come about?
The Maki had just ended the career of Howden Ganley and I was racing successfully in F. Atlantic so caught the eye of the Maki team.

Q. What are your recollections of your time at Maki? What were they like as a team? Was there a language barrier?
They were a great little team but under funded. Broken English was spoken and they said yes to everything.

Q. Tell us about the death-trap known as the Maki F102C, which you attempted to qualify for the 1976 Japanese GP. Was that the first time you had driven the car?
The new car was not finished when I arrived at Fuji and the team managers of all the F.1 teams decided that it was to dangerous to race . I managed one lap in practice and it broke down and that was that.

Q. What was it like to drive at the old Nürburgring, old Oesterreichring and the old Silverstone?
I went to the old 14 mile Nurburgring to qualify for the GP having never seen it before. It was probably the craziest thing I have ever done. The Maki of course broke and so no race but what an experience and I had qualified. The old Oesterreichring again was a fantastic circuit but again the Maki broke in qualifying. The old Silverstone was amazing, flat out at Abbey and nearly at Woodcote.

Q. What was the inspiration behind your helmet design?
I started racing in a plain white helmet but ended up with a black and red design. I drew many designs before deciding. It just looked balanced.

Q. What was the secret of your dominance in the 1977 Shellsport and 1978 Aurora F1 series?
Good preparation which I was also involved in and my instinct regarding setup which many other teams have used. After that a smooth driving style.

Q. How did the McLaren M23 compare to the Maki that you had driven several years earlier?
The M23 is probably the best race car I have driven. It remained at the top in F1 for 5 or 6 years. The Maki was too fragile.

Q. Why “Melchester” Racing?
A combination of two addresses Melbourne Close and Chester Place which were connected to the team manager.

Q. Despite winning many races in Shellsport & Aurora series, do you consider the 1978 BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone as the best race in your career? Did you enjoy driving in wet conditions in general, or do you think it was a case of pure luck?
Practice for the International Trophy was the first time that I had sat in the M23. The heavy rain on race day certainly helped me as so many big names fell off and I do like the rain. Abbey was flooded and only after the race I discovered the leading two had cut across the grass to avoid the flooded track !!! I think the best race of my career was winning the F3 race at Monaco.

Q. If you’d had a choice, what would have been your ideal car and team-mate back in your F1 days?
I would liked to have been in a GP team with Emerson Fittipaldi in a McLaren M23.

Q. You were the last ever person to contemporaneously race a BRM, at the British Open at Oulton Park in April 1983. Could you tell us your impressions of the car? Did it ever stand a chance of being competitive? Was it just down to low-budget preparation / poor development, or was the car possibly fundamentally outdated when launched in 1977?
The car was very nice to drive with good ride and grip. The downside was engine reliability. It was the smoothest engine ever with no vibration at all but unreliable due to lack of development and funds.

Q. In July 1986, you drove a few laps around the Birmingham Superprix street circuit as part of a track rehearsal. Could you explain more about your laps around the circuit with your Formula 5000 Lola T330 and what was your experience like at the time?
I like some street circuits but this was not one of them. It was not well thought out with an uninteresting layout and very bumpy.

Q. How did you end up driving in the British F3000 championship in 1989?
A friend of mine bought some unloved March F3000 cars and spares and I put one of them together to race a couple of times as reward.

Q. You also tested a Brabham BT58 prior to the start of the 1989 Formula 1 season. How did that come about and how did the car differ to the F1 cars of the 1970s?
It was still the time that I was being used by various teams for test work. This was just a shakedown test of the two new cars and they felt excellent but I was having problems with fitting in the car regarding leg length. Certainly the grip was better than 70s cars.

Q. You were the first driver to lap Castle Combe at over 120mph. Do you have any special memories of that day or of that track in general?
A great feeling to set a new record at the Combe in the Lola F5000 car which was softly sprung and so rode the bumps very well. A really good circuit.

Q. Did you have any personal on- or off-track rivalries with any drivers during your career?
Plenty of good and bad but that is normal. The parties afterwards were great.

Q. What were the best and the worst moments of your career?
Winning at Monaco and the career still ain’t over (just)

Q. Do you follow any modern racing series? Which current drivers do you support?
I am mainly interested in Formula racing and watch GP, GP2, Champ cars etc and support any driver with smooth style and good track discipline.

Q. Do you feel that the over emphasis on safety has emasculated the sport?
No but I do think the racing has been spoilt by the overemphasis in aerodynamics.

Q. Finally, your business card states that you are a Motorsport Consultant. What does this job entail?
All aspects of the sport. Engineering,testing,managing,driving and fast rides etc etc…..