Win Percy - the most
successful Wessex racing driver ever? No - that must be former
world champion Nigel Mansell.
The most successful Jaguar racing driver ever?
Win says he's won at least 25 races in Jaguars, but thinks
Sir Stirling Moss or Graham Hill might have won more.
The most world's successful driver in Touring Cars? Probably.
Whichever way you look at it, Win is an exceptionally successful
racing driver who also happens
to be a great ambassador for motor sport.
Winston Percy was born in
September, 1943, near Tolpuddle in Dorset and today lives
not far away on the outskirts of Weymouth. He began his working
life as an apprentice mechanic at Tolpuddle Motors and looked
set for a motor trade career.
"I never dreamt of being a professional racing
driver. It all started when I went to Weymouth Stock Car Stadium
one evening in the summer of 1964, with my wife Rosemary (then
my fiancee). They gave out a public address announcement:
'Would anyone like to put their car against the clock for
two laps for a small trophy? "I looked at Rosemary and
she said, 'Don't be silly!' I said, 'I've got to do that'
and I took out my little Anglia 1200, went round, beat all
the Jags and things and got the trophy. And I said, 'Rosemary,
I've got to join a motor club'. I joined Woolbridge Motor
Club the following week.
His motor sport 'apprenticeship' was typical
of the time, the Anglia (above) being used in every conceivable
type of event from oval racing to sprints, autocross, rallies
and so on, including winning the South of England Rally special
stage championship in 1966. He continued with a 1650cc Anglia
over the next two seasons, with 19 wins in 1968, During 1969-70
the 1650 Anglia was seen regularly on televised Rallycross.
He began circuit racing in 1971 with a modified
MG Midget (pictured below). A change to Datsuns saw him winning
all three televised World of Sport rallycross events at Cadwell
Park, Lincolnshire, in 1972 and winning the sports car classes
at both Wiscombe and Gurston Down hill climbs in 1973 (Datsun
In 1974 he got into circuit racing seriously with a Datsun
240Z known as 'Big Sam', entered by Samuri Racing, winning
British Modified Sports Car Championship class.
Win takes up the story: "'Big Sam' was a wonderful
introduction to proper racing. Bob Gathercole and Spike Anderson
(who were Samuri Racing) decided they wanted to do something
else and they wanted me to drive. They spoke to Toyota, whose
Celica Twin-Cam hadn't done very well in '74, and did a deal
to race it in the '75 British Touring Car Championship.
"The first race was at Mallory Park and I had
a tremendous dice for the whole race with a 2-litre Escort
in the next class up. It was the first time Toyota had won
their class and after the race we were standing around in
a happy little group when this rather stocky, square bloke
pushed in and said to me, 'I understand this is your first
Touring Car race". I said, 'Yes, it is - am I in trouble or
something?' He said, 'Well, I have to say you're very good.
One day I'll have my own racing team and I'll want you to
be the driver.' And he shook hands and walked away!
"I was told it was Tom Walkinshaw. He was running
the Escort for London Sports Car Centre. That was the first
time I'd met him and we've been friends ever since. I stayed
with Toyota for several years, but Tom was as good as his
word and took me on in 1980 to contest the British Touring
Car Championship in a Mazda RX7 and I was fortunate enough
to win the championship".
He won the championship for Mazda the following
season, too, when Walkinshaw's possibly off-beat sense of
humour caused a change of teams. "We were at the last race
of the season and I'd just won the championship and was all
cock-a-hoop and he said, 'I don't know what I am going to
do with you next season, because I've got all my drivers for
the Rover, so I haven't got a drive for you'.
"I thought 'Hell, this is ridiculous!' I thought
he was serious. I walked down the pit lane and Mike Copeland
from Toyota was there. He said, 'Well done, mate - we didn't
want to lose you, but that's two championships on the trot'.
'Yes', I said. 'But Tom's just told me he hasn't got a drive
for me next year'. Mike said, 'Well, we'll take you back!
Definitely - you're on - for the championship''.
"I shook his hand and walked back up the pit
lane. And Tom said, 'You've cheered up'. I said, 'Yes, I just
got a drive for next year'. 'Oh, very funny', said Tom. 'No',
I said, 'I've just shook hands with Mike Copeland - he'll
take me back if you don't want me'. ''Of course I want
you, you idiot! Go and tell him you can't do it'. I said,
'But I shook hands on it!' He said, 'Go and unshake'.
"I said, 'No, I'd never do that. Once you've shook hands,
that's it'. I stuck to that and what pleased me was that I
went and won the championship again for Toyota and beat Tom!"
He stayed with Toyota for 1983 and started work
on racing development of the 2.8-litre non-turbo Supra coupe,
but he also drove for Walkinshaw occasionally in the Jaguar
"I did love the Jags and I felt that, if I wanted
to go and see the rest of the world with racing, it had to
be with someone like Tom Walkinshaw Racing. In 1984 I had
a year with Tom and that was the year his team won the European
Touring Car Championship".
In 1985 he competed with the works-backed TWR
team in the 3.5-litre Rover Vitesse and won outright in the
500-kilometre European Touring Car Championship races at Donington
and Silverstone, at the Italian Monza and Vallelunga rounds,
at Nagaro in France and the Austrian races at the Ostereichring
and Salzburgring. This was also the year that he began realising
his ambition to 'see the rest of the world with racing', sharing
an XJS with Walkinshaw in the James Hardy 1000-kilometres
at Bathurst in Australia and, in a Rover Vitesse, the Pukekohe
500-kilometres in New Zealand, taking third place in each.
Things looked even better for 1986, with a drive
in the Le Man 24-hour race in the tremendously fast TWR Jaguar
C1 car as well as the European Touring Car Championship with
the Rover Vitesse.
The Le Mans experience ended after 10 hours of racing with
a drive-shaft failure while lying second and in the Touring
Car series he was thought to be champion, only to have the
title snatched away by the last minute imposition of an obscure
regulation - something which rankles to this day.
The following season was his 'year of the big
crash' at Le Mans. While he was driving down the Mulsanne
Straight, a rear tyre exploded at 240mph, taking off the rear
bodywork and rear wing.
"The car just went up backwards like a leaf in the wind. I
thought 'Well, that's it - that's me gone!' It went up above
the trees, literally into the night sky, then it started crashing
and it crashed for 600 metres. The crash started at the 300
metres mark before the corner and it ended up 300 metres round
the 'kink'. And I walked away! It wore through my helmet.
It tore off all the doors and windows - everything except
the capsule I was sitting in".
By then well established as a driver of great
skill, Win concluded the 'Eighties with 'works' drives for
Ford and Nissan in Europe
and Japan, with Pontiac in the USA and with Holden in Australia.
For the new decade came a complete change of
direction. Walkinshaw asked him to move to Australia in January
1990 to take charge of a racing programme for General Motors
- to build, run and drive in a Holden factory team of Commodore
V8s, competing in the Australian Touring Car Championship.
Successes included winning the Bathurst 1000-kilometre endurance
race with his car and team, partnered by Alan Grice.
He returned to Australia in 1991 to compete in the Touring
Car Championship and the Bathurst 1000K race, finishing second,
and doing the same in the Adelaide Grand Prix support race.
He began to 'commute' regularly, year after year,
between Europe and Australia, throughout much of the 'Nineties.
Highlights included giving the Jaguar XJ 220 its first victory
at the 1993 Silverstone GT race, becoming Mazda's UK motorsport
manager for the British Touring Car Championship with the
Xedos 6 in 1994, carrying out a test programme with the Harrier
car and winning numerous races outright with it in 1995 to
1997, by which time he was also managing the team in the British
Racing Drivers Club GT Championship. "By then, I'd met Don
Law and in 1998 he asked if I would liketo drive for his customers
and he got me involved in things like the Coys meeting
(classic and historic cars at Silverstone) and the Goodwood
Revival meeting and I started to enjoy those cars more and
"Last year, 2000, I can hardly believe it. They
started a revival series for Group 'C' cars of the 'Eighties
- cars that I honestly
loved and respected, It's a respect so strong that you don't
play with them - they can bite you! "Don had a customer
with a Jaguar XJR11, which is the 1989 twin-turbo V6. I've
had the use of that car this year and, of the five races we've
done in this 'revival' series, I won at Donington Park, Brands
Hatch, Silverstone and the Nurburgring and the only one I
didn't win was at Spa when a rear tyre blew and took the bodywork
off at 185mph. Luckily it didn't take off - it just went up
the escape road. My luck!
"In the 'Intermarque' series, with the Jaguar
220, again I've won
at Donington, Spa, Silverstone and Brands. We've also had
a Lotus 15, with Coventry-Climax 2-litre engine, in the BRDC
'Fifties Sports Cars series, and I've won five of those, so
that's given me the class championship. "We did the Tour de
France in Justin's (Don Law's son) Cobra and finished eighth
out of over 200 entries, with Justin doing most of the driving.
"I can't believe it! I'm 57 now and I never dreamt
it could go on like this. I don't get paid a lot of money
for it, but I do get a salary from Don, who organises the
drives. He makes his money by preparing the cars for racing,
so he looks after me.
it's not the money that is the worthwhile part of it.
It's the chance to drive all these cars,
to be part of the social affairs,
to get the opportunity to travel.
In this photograph Win (on the left) is with fellow
racers Don Law, Roy Salvadori, Justin Law and Sir Jack
Summarising his racing
career, he says, "I went through that original 10-year cycle
of running my own car, working as a mechanic locally, coming
home in the evening and preparing my own car for the weekend.
Then spending all the weekend travelling, say, to Croft
in Yorkshire to compete in a rallycross, coming all the
way home again and getting ready to go to work next morning.
"Then I had all the years of 'works' drives.
"But now it's probably the nicest part of all. That's because
people trust you, thankfully, and they respect you. You
get some beautiful, expensive cars to drive and although
they want you to do well, nobody is actually pressuring
you into winning. They would rather you showed off the car
properly and represented them and did it politely and sensibly,
rather than go out and stuff the car and fall out with people".
Now there's a true enthusiast for
Percy was interviewed by Graham Macbeth
to Current Features