"And Bollox to you too......."

 I first met Les in about 1990 or thereabouts when he came to talk to the local Mini club about the possibility of organising a trackday for them. I am sorry to say that mainly due to his carefree attitude, nobody, myself included took him seriously and it was a couple more years before I got know him. Then in his early seventies, having had by-pass surgery, he was not your average pensioner. I had not then and still do not know anyone who enjoyed driving a car with rust repaired with masking tape, wall paper and white emulsion paint and neither had my neighbours. Les regularly instructed at Brands Hatch as he had for most of the previous twenty years. At one point he was chief instructor there, until he upset John Webb who fired him many times!

In 1995 we organised a trackday at Goodwood (his favourite circuit). I used the first generation of Scruffy and he did about 100 laps in my diesel Astra 1.7 (L445FKL).  I ended up writing the car off (there is a picture of the crash here) and it was only then at a London & Surrey Mini Club trackday that I had some serious

Instruction from him. The club would not let me go out in any of the sessions as I was driving a turbo diesel Astra by then and it was a Mini day.  One thing about Les was that he knew everybody in the motor racing world and it seemed, everybody else as well. During the lunchbreak he asked the Chief Marshal (Ted) if he could do some one to one instruction with me.

Well if the poor old Astra (M609DGH) was tired after 24 laps, it had nothing on me.  As I turned into Magwick, an arm reached across and grabbed the steering wheel and the timeless legend - “what line do you call that you c**t”echoed across the cabin. 

In the above photo on the right, you can Les with Sir Stirling Moss. I would love to recount the story as to how Les upset Stirling - it wasn’t the time that he met Les coming the other way around Silverstone whilst at racing speed but that would have been reason enough.......

"We were expecting you Mr Bond......"

In the photo on the left, you can see Les in the background next to the 962 Porsche that he loved to drive right up until a year before he died. The photo ought to be titled ‘lovely days’.

There is not enough space to recount all the Les stories that I have in the short while that I knew him. Such as the time we were at the Penshurst classic car show and he went up to a proud Model T Ford owner and started showing interest. Just at the moment this bloke was at his most vulnerable, Les pounched asking him “ do you get through a lot of Rentakil with that” implying that this immaculate car was suffering from woodworm in its wooden wheels. Or the time when Stormonts had a promotion giving away free tickets for Brands if you test drove a car. I had already got my set from the branch at Sevenoaks and Les arranged to test drive a Mondeo at Tunbridge Wells. The salesman started making small talk (I was sitting in the back) and asked what he used to do for a living - “I was in gobbling” the salesman looked embarassed “lot of money in Turkeys said Les”.

Les in fact had a carpet shop in Grays which he frequently closed when he used to go out on the circuits and rubbed shoulders with Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and of course Perry McCarthy. I remember watching a grand prix with him and Sir Frank Williams was interviewed and Les pipes up “snot gobbling bastard he is! Wouldn’t give my Perry a drive”. Other arch enemies included Bernie Eclestone and Sir Jackie Stewart even though there was some fraternisation. Even Mike Smith (he who later married Sarah Green from Blue Peter) came under some abuse being referred to as “Snow Drop”. Les crossed swords with him at some corporate day.

Perry McCarthy was Les’s greatest find although he was the F1 driver who never really was. He started one GP but Les knew him from the ‘Grays’ days. He was a driver who was quick straight away but lacked sponsorship hence never making it into the big time.

There are so many Les stories - one in his last few months when he spent 3 weeks out of hospital having convinced all and sundry he was on the mend. Les being Les sneaked off to Brands despite having strict instructions not to go near the place.A corporate day was happening for some organisation (this was before they were known as ‘Trackdays’. Les got a ride in a Ferrari 308GTB in the passenger seat making out he was a


doddery old man. After a few laps he started giving instruction to this bloke but not in the conventional way. It started with you could go a bit quicker here and then he started his usual trick of grabbing the wheel and barking orders. Anyway the poor driver arrived back in the pit lane soaked in sweat absolutely knackered.

Or the Ferrari day a few years before when he managed to borrow a V6 Ford Galaxy MPV and took people for hot laps in it and whilst approaching the left right Surtees/McLaren corner took a bit of kerb looked over his shoulder at his six passengers and said’ now brake in a straight line’.whilst fast approaching the medical centre and tyre wall.

Or the stories when he spent time with Paul (one of his daughter’s Dianne’s early boyfriends) in his tuned Mk1 Mini Cooper S when they would don wigs and knitting making out they were old ladies and racing unsuspecting boy racers away from the traffic lights......

Les I hope you are enjoying yourself - I often think you are watching over me when I am on circuit. I know what you would say if you could see me now - something to do with curtain catalogues................


Bollox to the top!