First published April 2016.
LISTEN TO ALASTAIR – by Nigel Raeburn
I recently enjoyed listening to a podcast on the website of my favourite motoring magazine, Motor Sport (after Old Stager of course!). It’s at www.motorsportmagazine.com. Although mostly focused on racing, I find Motor Sport an excellent read with some fine and intelligent writing by people such as Nigel Roebuck (sadly taken ill recently), Mark Hughes (with perceptive technical insights – I sometimes wonder if they are all correct though?), Simon Arron (who originates in the North West) and Simon Taylor with whom I was in my university motor club way back. This particular podcast though had strong rallying connections, as it was a round table interview by some of the Motor Sport staff with Alastair Caldwell, team manager of McLaren in the James Hunt days and nowadays a leading competitor in long-distance historic rallies.
I met Alastair when I was competing in the Flying Scotsman rally a few years ago – and he is clearly quite a character. He was driving his gorgeous 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C – surely one of the most beautiful cars ever and it must have been years ahead of its time with its aerodynamic shape. His navigator was the ever-smiling Catriona Rings – and they won. He sometimes rallies with his mother Dorothy who at the age of 94 did the Transamerica Rally with him – some 8000 miles and they won their class. Alastair is one of those people who is always full of life – and his driving is in a similar ‘press-on’ style (I witnessed it)! He has a website, www.alastaircaldwell.com , where you can read more about him and see a gallery of his wonderful collection of cars. Since his racing days he started a storage company which must have prospered to allow him to build up such a fine collection and now go rallying all round the world.
Back to the podcast interview – it lasts well over an hour and is well worth a listen – and a recent innovation is video to accompany it – you might think a group of men sitting round a table might be a bit boring but it really adds to the audio when you can see who is speaking and their facial expressions. On this particular broadcast journalist Rob Widdows asked most of the questions – but Alastair Caldwell is such a ready talker that he only needed a few questions to get him going – and it was very entertaining. Outspoken, opinionated, humorous – all of these! He was at McLaren when Bruce was still running it (they are both New Zealanders) so he covered a lot of interesting aspects of those early McLaren years. He covered the sad testing accident which cost Bruce his life – Alastair was there – and then on to the glory years when James Hunt won the World Championship. If you want insights into what Mr Caldwell thinks of Messrs Dennis and Ecclestone and various F1 drivers – it’s all here. He has a phrase for the era prior to the Ron Dennis era – ‘BD’ (like ‘BC’) – which says a lot although I don’t think he meant it respectfully! One driver he had a lot of respect for was Nelson Piquet – who never seems to have many other fans despite his great success.
So, I hope I have whetted your appetite to go and listen to the podcast. There is another podcast there which is good too, with Pat Symonds of Williams previewing the coming F1 season. It’s just a shame Motor Sport does not cover rallying a bit more.