Why I Love...

... the pi­ano and the Nür­bur­gring. Christa­bel Carlisle re­veals the syn­ergy be­tween her life­long love for mu­sic and her pas­sion for mo­tor rac­ing

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

Christa­bel Carlisle muses on the con­nec­tions be­tween cars and mu­sic

Ilove both play­ing the pi­ano and mo­tor rac­ing be­cause there is a strong sim­i­lar­ity be­tween learn­ing an in­tri­cate pas­sage of mu­sic and me­moris­ing the bends of a de­mand­ing cir­cuit,’ says Christa­bel. ‘Read­ing bars of mu­sic as they lead from one phrase to an­other is like watch­ing a cir­cuit un­fold ahead. I at­tended the Royal Academy of Mu­sic, qual­i­fied as a pi­ano teacher and by bizarre cir­cum­stances was lured into rac­ing.’

Christa­bel was 21 when she got a Mini and friends took her to watch them race at Brands Hatch. ‘Soon I was bored watch­ing cars go­ing round and round. I said I would only go again if took part. I ap­plied for a com­pe­ti­tion li­cence and en­tered a race at Sil­ver­stone. I bought a crash hat from a mo­tor­cy­cle shop and asked whether it was suit­able for mo­tor rac­ing. The as­sis­tant replied, “Who do you think you are – Stir­ling Moss?”’

Christa­bel started hav­ing dreams that she was en­ter­ing Pad­dock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch but had no idea what hap­pened next. ‘It must have de­vel­oped from watch­ing the cars en­ter­ing the cor­ner. They then dis­ap­peared and were hid­den from view un­til emerg­ing at the bot­tom of the hill. Only tak­ing part would re­veal the an­swer.’

Be­fore rac­ing she went to a Sil­ver­stone test day. ‘The only other car there was an Austin-healey driven by Jack Sears, su­per­vised by BMC com­pe­ti­tions man­ager Mar­cus Cham­bers. Mar­cus was im­pressed by my de­creas­ing lap times and sug­gested that Jack might like to show me around the cir­cuit, pin­point­ing the cor­rect line through the cor­ners.’ Then, after read­ing Piero Taruffi’s book

The Tech­nique of Mo­tor Rac­ing, she was ready for her first race. From then on Christa­bel was to­tally com­mit­ted. ‘There was never any time to ac­tu­ally en­joy rac­ing; the sat­is­fac­tion came from learn­ing the cir­cuits and im­prov­ing the whole time. It was just like learn­ing a piece of mu­sic – only with per­se­ver­ance could I hope to achieve suc­cess.’

By 1961 Christa­bel had the sup­port of BMC’S com­pe­ti­tions de­part­ment. ‘I en­joyed the long-dis­tance races most of all,’ she re­calls. ‘The Nür­bur­gring was a huge chal­lenge – 22.8km long with 84 right-hand and 88 left-hand bends, the track ris­ing and fall­ing by al­most 1000ft. After two days of prac­tice I was able to think my way round the com­plete cir­cuit. Me­moris­ing mu­sic came to my aid. And therein lies the link be­tween my love of the pi­ano and the in­tri­ca­cies of mo­tor rac­ing.’

‘I en­tered for a race at Sil­ver­stone and bought a crash hat from a mo­tor­cy­cle shop, ask­ing whether it was suit­able for mo­tor rac­ing. The as­sis­tant replied, “Who do you think you are – Stir­ling Moss?”’

Christa­bel masters ‘the huge chal­lenge’ of the Nür­bur­gring in 1963

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