Guy Edwards: career memories

The heroes of my youth were the 60's Formula One drivers Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.

I had a passion to race, but didn't have the where-with-all to do it. When I finished Durham University I went straight to Brand Hatch Racing School which was run by a guy called Geoff Clarke at the time. I badgered him into letting me do some secretarial work in return for 10 free laps a week in the circuit cars.

I got a taste for racing and eventually was able to buy a Mini Cooper S, which was pretty much the cheapest race car to have at the time, but was of course quite competitive and great fun to drive. I was still strapped for cash, so I just raced occasional races, however I was fortunate enough to eventually find myself with a sponsor, who bought me a Chevron V8, which was a lovely car.

Racing the Chevron led me into then getting to race Formula 5000 which ran alongside Formula One. They were very tricky cars to drive at the best of times but I was lucky enough to win a couple of good races just before the end of the 1973 season, which brought me in touch with Graham Hill.

It was a difficult time for Formula One when I drove, there was little safety precautions, which meant if you did have an accident, it was often nasty and many at that time proved fatal.

My Formula 5000 car was a Lola. I went into the factory one day and spotted they were building some kind of a new car in the corner of the workshop. I went across and asked what it was and they said it was a Formula One car for Graham Hill. So I gave him a call. I'd never met him and to the best of my knowledge he hadn't actually seen me race, but i guess that because I'd won those last two races of the '73 season, he probably reckoned I had a reasonable chance in Formula One, so he signed me up.

It was a new car and new team. It was certainly an interesting season. Working with Graham was always quite challenging shall we say. Graham was coming towards the end of his career, which he didn't like. He was a wonderful man but very single minded. He would carry a book around with him and was a stickler for using the old settings that he had noted down in that book. He'd always insist on how the car was set up, which weren't always to my liking! He knew what he wanted and he really went for it. He was that sort of driver.

My time with the 76 season with the Penthouse Rizla Racing Hesketh-Ford didn't have many highlights, if any at all really as the car was just not competitive. The weekend routine was very similar to nowadays, Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and Sunday race day but if you didn't make the grade in qualifying, it was weekend over.

Out of all the places we raced one of my favourite circuits at the time was probably Brands Hatch, having recorded several victories there in other race series including Formula 5000. There aren't much finer feelings in motorsport than top step of the podium there, not that I can remember anyway!

I shall of course always remember the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. I was driving for Hesketh-Ford, with Harald Ertl as my team mate.

It was a wet start to the race but as the race progressed, the circuit began to dry out. Nicki Lauda stopped to change tyres. Following the pit-stop I was catching him, but as he headed toward the right hand curve called Bergwerk he had an enormous accident. His Ferrari hit a grass bank and rebounded back across the circuit. I managed to avoid him but was clipped by one of his wheels. The cars following me were not so lucky. Lauda's car immediately burst into flames. I went to help him, along with Ertl and two other drivers and two marshals and we just did our best. Fortunately he survived and of course went on to race again very shortly after.

I was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for my actions that day.

All these years later, my son Sean has helped out in the making of a movie (Rush by Ron Howard) about the accident. It's quite amazing really as I used to take Sean along to the Daventry Museum as a little boy to go see the car his dad raced in and now he's in a film driving it!

Sean has always been interested in motorsport, ever since I took him karting as a 6 year old. He's having a great season and he's proving to be a hell of a good driver. I love speaking with him after each race and was immensely proud of him when he won in Monaco earlier this year. He drove at the Le Mans 24 hour this year for the first time, which is a race I really loved competing in.

The whole build up and atmosphere is just so special, it's a magical place and race. Night time practice was so much fun, plus we always stayed in a nice hotel. I just loved the whole thing about Le Mans

Of course when I competed, the Mulsanne was one great long straight, with just a kink toward the end, which was probably the biggest challenge. We'd hit 220mph heading down there and you just about take the kink flat if you used all the road and a bit more. It was quite an experience!

Without a doubt the cars I drove there over the years that stand out were the Porsche 956 and 962 which were just brilliant. You just knew that when you started the car, if you kept it on the circuit and your co-drivers did the same, you would finish. They were so utterly reliable, I really enjoyed driving them.

Le Mans was the only 24 hour endurance race I competed in, I did a number of 3 hour races over in South Africa in the Springbok series. These were in 2 litre cars. The race that remains in my mind from that era was when my co-driver opted to retire before the race, leaving me to drive the whole 3 hours on my own!

I competed for two seasons in the British Touring Car Championship in 1998 and 1999 in a Sierra Cosworth RS500 along with Andy Rouse. It was a very quick car and Andy was the master of it, I was his team mate and there were some very very good races, I enjoyed it a lot. There was a fair bit of contact between cars, you'd go into some corners and there would be drivers who were still going flat out and hit you.

Murray Walker used to commentate on the series for TV and he ensured he was well prepared to do so. He made a point of getting to know all the drivers, so I was very lucky enough to meet him on several occasions. I loved him, as did everyone in the paddock, his enthusiasm for motorsport was immense and no doubt still is.

Guy Edwards QGM

Sean Edwards tragically died in an accident at Queensland Raceway on the 15th October 2013. Rest in Peace


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Memory added on September 25, 2012


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