Sid Tay­lor Rac­ing

Classic Driver - - FRONT PAGE -

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!

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