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Archive 17- Win Percy

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.

inston 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 240Z).
In 1974 he got into circuit racing seriously with a Datsun 240Z known as 'Big Sam', entered by Samuri Racing, winning the
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 XJS coupe.

   "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 Park
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 LR9C GT/Sports
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 more.

   "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.

  "But 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 Brabham.

   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 you!   

          Win Percy was interviewed by Graham Macbeth    

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