Sid Taylor Racing
One of the great surprises of the meeting was the appearance of Sidney Taylor. This is a name probably not familiar to younger readers but this 80 year old Irishman, a former motorcycle and car racer turned team owner and manager, not to mention the owner of Legs Eleven, a lap-dancing club in Birmingham, was instrumental in getting Denny Hulme on the road to success in Britain. In his own words, “I helped launch Denny and Denny helped launch me!”
Sid’s start in motorsport was riding an Ariel in trials and scrambling in 53. A road accident on his bike in 1953 landed him in hospital for two years and when he recovered from his injuries he decided four wheels might be safer and bought a Lotus Elite and took up sports car racing. Next door to Sid’s workshop was another race team, Team Elite and when they went into liquidation, Taylor could sense an opportunity and he approached Firestone and Esso to see if they would finance him into taking over the team. The response was positive, with the proviso that he took on a young Kiwi driver, one Denis Clive Hulme.
Denny was the first driver Sid paid to drive his cars and he immediately rewarded Sid by winning at his first outing, the International Tourist Trophy in the Team Elite Brabham BT8 Climax. Between 1965 and 69 Hulme drove 29 races for Sid and won 14 of them, including 3 TTs (the same race he returned to win in the TWR Rover in 1986). In the Sid Taylor Racing Lola T70, Denny broke Jack Brabham’s Formula One lap record at Silverstone and Sid Taylor Racing is still one of the most successful private (non-works supported) teams in British Motor racing history.
Still a racer at heart, the pay drivers would do the big events while Sid would drive is cars in lesser events, until a puncture in the Lola at Brands Hatch and the resulting accident helped make the decision to hang up his helmet and keep the racing for the professionals.
Moving to Formula 5000 Sid Taylor racing ran a works built McLaren M10 for Peter Gethin and Sid was more than delighted when arriving at Hampton Downs to see that actual car in the pits having just completed a massive rebuild by owner Poul Christie. Gethin won 13 races in a single season for Sid, his most successful driver. Yet when I asked whom his fastest driver ever was, he came back with an answer immediately, South African Jody Scheckter.
Arriving in New York, the Irishman spent $400.00 on a station wagon and another $150.00 for a basic trailer, loaded their Formula 5000 car on the back and he and Scheckter began the 3500 trek across America to win the championship at their first attempt. When the Penske team pull up in their motorhomes and the crews flew to the circuits by helicopter, Sid Taylor Racing would pull up in their dusty old wagon and push the car off the trailer. Series victory would never feel so good.
In 1975 Sid met Hong Kong based Teddy Yip and formed a relationship that would take both men to Formula One and beyond. Taylor was running Australian Vern Schuppan in F5000 with Yip providing sponsorship. In 1976 Yip and Taylor made the jump to Formula One, entering an Ensign for Patrick Tambay. 1978 was not a good year for the team and Yip commissioned Ron Tauranac to build him a car. Apart from a freak victory when Keke Rosberg won the non-championship International Trophy at a very wet Silverstone, the Theodore TR1 was not a success and was abandoned mid-season.
Taylor and Yip’s association with the Formula Three grand prix at Macau was far more successful. Theodore Racing would “adopt” a team for the event and they picked well, with 11 wins on the tiny Portuguese enclave on the Chinese coast, including one by Ayrton Senna. Running Finnish hotshot Mika Hakkinen, Sid Taylor hung out a pit board with a dollar sign on it. A win at Macau would give Hakkinen the record of the most F3 wins in a season. All he needed to do was pass a German by the name of Schumacher! Mika got alongside when to Sid’s horror and a sign of things to come, Schumacher slowly and deliberately moved over and drove Hakkinen into the wall and out of the race. Sid Taylor is not a Schumacher fan.
His appearance at Hampton Downs came after several months of intense pressure from Howden Ganley who felt that as one of the men responsible for Denny’s early success, it would be most appropriate for Sid to appear. Only a couple of days before the event and accompanied by British journalist Tony Gallagher who has almost completed Sid’s biography, he finally weakened and decided to make the journey. When I spoke to him, he was having the time of his life!