After 27 years and 263 saloon car races, Phil stopped racing at the end of the 2000 season.
His love of racing probably started when he was a small boy, having make believe races on the carpet with his dinky toys. As a teenager he had fun with his like minded friend who had cars, racing round the Watford one-way system until the police told them off. A young Steve Soper was one of these lads and when he started track racing in the late sixties Phil went along to help him for a few years.
Phil’s first race was in 1974 at Thruxton which was being run at that time by his uncle (the late Sidney Offord). His first three race cars were special saloon Minis, which proved unreliable and too expensive to run, so they were sold. He was driving a black Austin A35 when he had his first win in 1978, he loved its sideways driving style and spent three years racing it. One day in 1979 there were twenty three A35’s on the grid at Mallory, this must have be an omen to go one make racing, because after having a successful year in 1980 in the C.S.C.C championship he went on to compete in the Renault 5TS challenge for the next three years. 1981 was probably the cheapest year of his racing career, including all running costs, entry fees, hotel bills, prize money and start money he spent less than a grand in total. What good fun he had, especially the night before the races ( he can’t print what Malcolm Holmes or Dave Cox used to get up to ). He remembers at the start of one race at Oulton Park there were 39 cars side by side going forwards towards the first corner and one unlucky driver in the middle of the pack going backwards. He got spat out into the barriers but still got his start money.
Renault stopped paying the bills at the end of 1981 and after a couple more seasons Phil decided to race something quicker, so during the winter of 1983/84 helped by a good friend Simon Holland they race prepared a mark one Lotus Cortina from a fire damaged write off. It was finally finished at 6 am on the morning of the first race of that season , after a lot of last minute problems. He ended up having to drive it on trade plates to Silverstone, but the lucky win made it all worth while. Whilst racing the Lotus in the pre ’65 CSCC a few of the drivers (including Phil) approached the BRSCC and formed the Historic Racing Saloons to give them more freedom to use larger engines and display their sponsors names. It was a busy time, often having two meetings in one weekend. After four years and a good amount of success in the Lotus, including winning the international trophy on Brands GP circuit, he bought a VW 16v GTi Golf to compete in the 1988 Uniroyal saloons. He got the most sponsorship backing of his whole career that year, had some early success, wrote the car off in front of my sponsors hospitality tent at Silverstone, finished the 24 hour Willhire and even had a one off race in the one make Honda CRX challenge.
That year he also drove the Steve Warrior owned Anglia in the Historic Racing Saloon series and in 1989 Steve let him drive his 500 bhp Ford Mustang. This was the best car he ever drove, you could power slide it sideways for 20 or 30 yards on full throttle out of the corners and reach over 160 mph on the back straight at Snetterton, but you had to brake a lot earlier than a modern car. After racing another GTi Golf in 1989 for his local VW garage, an old friend, Roger Bunting, phoned him to say his dealership wanted to sponsor him in the 1990 Suzuki Swift Challenge. So for three very enjoyable years of very close hard racing, Suzuki paid out some good prize money, and he competed successfully against some real characters, especially the Birmingham ‘Mafia’, shared the car with his brother, Michael, at the two driver races, beat Tiff Needell at Thruxton, and was presented with a winners garland by Murray Walker at Silverstone.
In the mid nineties he had some races in an historic Mini, a disastrous few races in a Sierra Cosworth and then decided to build another Lotus Cortina to race in the then named ‘ICS’ Historic Saloons. Unfortunately the rules kept changing to suit a few wealthy ex-touring car drivers and a lot of the drivers didn’t have enough money to keep up, so he sold the car in disgust for a big loss. In 1996 he enjoyed racing a lovely little Fiat Abarth for Middle Barton garage, at some historic meetings including the Coys Festival at Silverstone. Phil then bought what was to be his last race car in 1997, a Mk1 GTi Golf, to compete in the Road Saloon Championship. Slowly developing the car with the right bits, he was getting very frustrating nearly always coming second or third, but towards the end of 1999 his luck changed. In fact he won the last four races of his career, the final one being at Mallory park in 2000.
During all this time he married Christine, had two lovely daughters, and started a successful business all of which are still going strong. Phil feels very lucky to have raced so many cars and made so many good friends during those 27 years and he would like to thank all the marshals, scrutineers, club officials, mechanics, engine builders, pit crews, reporters, commentators, sponsors, drivers and everyone else, (especially Trevor Humphreys, Dave Stanton, Melvyn Johnson, Frank Woods and Paul Heeley) for putting up with him for so long.