Ultimately, I wanted to be a fashion designer—a very feminine thing to do—so from school that’s what I did. I was brought up with my father and brother both racing and, yes, as soon as I was 17 years old I wanted to get my driving license, but driving at that time was purely a means of transport. It was a friend, Delphine Bigger, who first cajoled me into rallying as her navigator. We competed in her Mini. On our first event we got hopelessly lost and in a fit of temper Delphine asked me to drive and she navigated. Just prior to the finish, she suggested we swap places so she could drive across the line—I think we finished 3rd in class. We entered other national events like this where Delphine would drive from the start, we’d swap over and I’d drive to just before the finish and we’d swap back. I loved the freedom and exhilaration of driving. After about 18 months of doing this, an incident occurred that led me to having a serious talk with Delphine, and I took on the driving duties from the outset. We won many trophies together, but all came to an end when Delphine was seriously injured while we were rallying. From there, I swapped the cutting room for the freedom of driving around the countryside.
I was offered a drive with the Rootes Group driving a Sunbeam Rapier and then an Alpine. I had a number of co-drivers, or navigators in events such as the Monte Carlo Rally, the Tour de France, the Tulip Rally and the like. With the success of the Mini, Rootes wanted to capture some of the small car market and produced the car that I’ve become synonymous with—the Hillman Imp. The Imp was just a fun car to drive, it was designed not only to take on the Mini, but also the VW Beetle and the Fiat 500 in competition. As the car was rear-engined, all the weight was at the back and although lightweight compared to other engines, the car would oversteer a little and keep me, as a driver, on my toes. I had one of my greatest successes in the Imp, winning the 1965 Tulip Rally, overall, with Valerie Domleo as my navigator. I also had one of my biggest disappointments in the car too, being disqualified for a technical infringement on the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally. The car was fitted with halogens, which were approved until just before the rally commenced. The team wasn’t aware that the French authorities had a last-minute change of heart about the use of halogen bulbs, declaring them illegal. Subsequently, we were disqualified for using them. It was so very disappointing and caused a great deal of unnecessary heartache. On the bright side of things, I drove the Imp in 24 international rallies of which I finished in 21 of them.
I got into circuit racing after someone passed a comment, “Any fool can rally. Racing is the real test.” I was a little upset by this and entered the British Saloon Car Championship, now the BTCC. It was the time of the Super Saloons, big engines in small cars, anything goes. I did all this at my own expense, as I didn’t get paid start money. I drove the Imp and also had an ex-Chris Meek Ford Escort that ran really well too. I won quite a few races. Circuit racing bored me though. I couldn’t get used to going around and around in the same circle lap after lap—yes, it totally bored me.