In the recent posting I did on Blunter I referred to two guys who helped me enormously in those early Cellnet days, C on PR and J our motorsport consultant. J caught sight of the Blunter blog late last week and has reminded of two more incidents as a postscript to the day and soon afterwards.
I’d completely forgotten this but J recalls that as the Blunter day was unfolding, I’d caught up with him in the deserted pedestrian tunnel under the track where we’d had a full and frank discussion about ensuring the day went without further hitches following Bill’s technology fix. By all accounts I’d promised J that if the showcase demonstration which was now in the hands of the Gods and Bill’s heath robinson gizmo subsequently went tits up because of some problem with the car, then I’d ensure his career in motorsport would follow my own descent into mobile obscurity.
I was obviously a man of considerable influence and foresight because J didn’t become a screwdriver monkey; he has gone on to carve out a brilliant career on the commercial side for many years at Williams F1 and now as a major player in Scuderia Toro Rosso. C meanwhile is now the MD of a hugely successful marketing solutions company. I’m tempted to think that part of their subsequent success was down to learning some very important lessons from me that day at Brands Hatch: like how not to do it! Of course I knew that all along…
Anyway I mentioned a second recollection from J. He reminded me that our Sales and Marketing Director as well as the MD referred to in the Blunter blog both fancied themselves a bit at the racing stuff. Of course this was plainly crazy as both guys were into their 40/50s at the time and P our S&M guys was packing a few timbers whilst C our MD sported a lumber yard round his middle. The MD struggled to get into a single-seater and it took 6 brave men to extricate him later. Neither of them were about to do a Lewis Hamilton and take F1 by storm but you couldn’t tell them. I’ve another story involving PW’s vanity about his racing prowess and a celebrity chef but that’s for a later posting.
But as far as the MD was concerned, by far the biggest hurdle he faced to fulfilling his racing destiny was finding a helmet to fit his head. He had a big one – in fact he looked a bit like Desperate Dan with a large jutting jaw. Nice enough guy but they just didn’t make headwear in his size. As motorsport consultant J was tasked with finding a helmet to fit. Poor guy scoured the world supplies of Bell, Arai and Shoei. They did S, M, L, XL, even XXL versions but nobody did Fridge size. Somehow J managed to find a big bugger lurking in the bowels of Brands Hatch. He brought it back to our HG building in Borough to show C and I. It was like one of those big shiny astronaut’s helmets you see when they’re on the moon. If this didn’t fit we’d never get him out on the circuit to see whether he was anywhere close to Nigel Mansell (apart from in the size of head department). J was tasked with doing the fitting session. It went on and just got over the chin but the problem was the neck strap which couldn’t do up. J got Blunter to rig up an extension to the strap which we think came from some horse reins. The total weight of the helmet and straps was probably about the same as Lewis Hamilton and combined with the MD’s own weight we’re probably talking 20 stone squeezing into a Formula First car.
Needless to say, when we next got him onto the track, the MD didn’t challenge Mansell’s lap record nor did his F1 career take off. Funny that, but we had a smile watching him enjoying life in the slow lane. There was one memento of the day I cherished for long afterwards. There was always a photographer on cue to snap our guests as they got in the car. In the MD’s case he’d taken the picture before any of us had come over to pull the helmet over the MD’s jaw. He must have thought he’s just sat there but he’s the MD – I ought to take the shot. But of course the picture was of the helmet with just his forehead showing where the eyes ought to have been, with the base of the helmet resting on a big lantern jaw. We never gave it to the MD. It stayed in my drawer so that I could look at it whenever the old bugger was doing my head in. We should have nicknamed him Eddie Jaw-Dan.