HIS­TORIC RAC­ING’S UN­SUNG HERO

CHRIS WARD PRO­FILED

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Paul Lawrence

The first half of the Chris Ward rac­ing story is not un­usual. Clearly very tal­ented from the start, he was a win­ner in For­mula Ford 1600 be­fore strug­gling to raise the finance to move up to For­mula Vaux­hall in the mid1990s. He was quick in what he did, but an F3 bud­get was never likely to ma­te­ri­alise.

In­stead, he switched fo­cus to sportscars, ini­tially in pro­to­types in the Na­tional Su­per­sports Cup and then the V de V se­ries be­fore get­ting some GT drives. Win­ning GT4 in the 2011 Blanc­pain En­durance Se­ries with Nis­san was a ca­reer high­light but it was then a case of what to do next, and an un­ex­pected door opened.

A chance in­vi­ta­tion to race in his­torics came along and sud­denly a whole new ca­reer op­por­tu­nity devel­oped. Of course, the pa­tron­age of Derek Hood at JD Clas­sics has made a huge dif­fer­ence and Ward is now rac­ing, win­ning and mak­ing a per­ma­nent liv­ing as part of the JD team. It’s a mo­tor rac­ing feel good story and proves that the good guys can pros­per.

Promis­ing start

It all started in Cham­pion of Oul­ton FF1600 where the young Ward was a win­ner in short or­der while still a teenager. For­mula Vaux­hall came next but the Bill Dur­rant-tended car was run on a typ­i­cal shoe­string in the cat­e­gory’s Class B. Ward duly won the class ti­tle in 1997, but there was no money to progress any fur­ther up the sin­gle-seater lad­der.

Mike Swin­ner­ton, then chair­man of the Club­mans Reg­is­ter and a fel­low in­struc­tor at Sil­ver­stone, recog­nised Ward’s tal­ent and opened a door to some drives in what was to be­come the Na­tional Su­per­sports Cup. At least Ward was still rac­ing and the ti­tle fol­lowed in 1999. Some Bri­tish GT and then a V de V ti­tle kept him match fit while he rose to be­come chief in­struc­tor at Sil­ver­stone.

“I started in­struct­ing at Sil­ver­stone in 1994 and be­came chief in­struc­tor in ’99 and then the role devel­oped from there,” says Ward. “Lat­terly, it was more about over­see­ing the cir­cuit on an op­er­a­tional ba­sis.”

His­toric chance

At the same time, he got the chance to race with Nis­san and bagged the 2011 GT4 Blanc­pain ti­tle. The Nis­san drive also led, in­di­rectly, to the next phase of his ca­reer. “I started rac­ing his­torics in the 1990s with a Ger­man fam­ily and they then de­cided to go off and do some sail­ing so the chance went away,” ex­plains Ward. “When I was driv­ing for Nis­san with Alex Bun­combe, Alex was rac­ing for JD Clas­sics at the time and that led to a chance to try some of the his­toric cars. I had my first drive with JD in 2012 and it has been fan­tas­tic.”

Over the next cou­ple of years he did more and more rac­ing for the JD squad and that led to the offer of a role in the clas­sic car op­er­a­tion: “I’m now with JD Clas­sics full time, co-or­di­nat­ing the var­i­ous de­part­ments and li­ais­ing with the cus­tomers in an over­all man­age­ment role. I thor­oughly en­joy it and I’m very proud to be part of the JD team. The guys are so pas­sion­ate about what they do. Derek Hood has built the busi­ness up from scratch and he has a pas­sion for clas­sic cars.”

Rac­ing va­ri­ety

Now 41, Chris and his wife Gill moved to Es­sex with the new job. “The pre­dom­i­nance of the rac­ing I do now is his­toric and I thor­oughly en­joy it, prob­a­bly be­cause there is more in­put from a driver’s point of view,” says Ward. “You don’t have trac­tion con­trol, anti-lock brakes and so on. The car moves about a lot more and that suits my way of driv­ing.

“I’d love to have an­other go at mod­ern rac­ing and I still think I’ve got the abil­ity to drive a mod­ern car very well. So if the op­por­tu­nity was there, we’d have a go.”

Clearly a front-line GT drive would be seized with both hands, but right now Ward is carv­ing an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion in his­toric rac­ing.

In­evitably, given the com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion in the Jaguar field, rac­ing Lis­ters, C-types, D-types and E-types has been at the core of Ward’s rac­ing over the last cou­ple of sea­sons. But there is con­sid­er­able va­ri­ety to his pro­gramme. Ward: “It’s not all about Jaguars, al­though from the rac­ing side we tend to have mainly Jaguars. In restora­tion and sales it is Fer­rari that is the busiest. We’re also start­ing to di­ver­sify in the rac­ing. We take the Cologne Capri out a lot and we’ve got the Bas­tos Rover so we’re mov­ing into dif­fer­ent fields. I’m very lucky with the type of cars we have to race. We go from XK120S to C-types, D-types, light­weight E-types and more mod­ern tour­ing cars.”

Last year Paul Gib­son asked Chris to share his Lola T70 MK3B in twodriver events. “That was fan­tas­tic. We’ve raced against each other for many years and Paul was a real ri­val in the days of Na­tional Su­per­sports,” says Ward.

“I’d like to try my hand at some his­toric sin­gle-seaters, maybe For­mula 2 or For­mula 1,” he adds. They are the cars I grew up with.”

This sea­son

At this year’s Good­wood Mem­bers’ Meet­ing, he raced the team’s ex-pa­trick Mo­tors Rover Vitesse in the Gerry Mar­shall Tro­phy race and, part­nered by Gor­don Shed­den, they fin­ished se­cond.

“The boys have done a great job to get the Rover go­ing well and we had a good re­sult this year,” he says. “It’s about team work and that’s what I like about his­torics and mod­ern en­durance rac­ing.”

The 2016 pro­gramme has been based around the ma­jor his­toric rac­ing fes­ti­vals in­clud­ing Monaco with the C-type, the Mille Miglia, the Brands Hatch Leg­ends, Le Mans Clas­sic, Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic, Good­wood Re­vival and the Spa 6 Hours. It’s a sched­ule that many driv­ers would love to have.

“I’ve got a lot to thank Derek at JD Clas­sics for,” agrees Ward. “His­toric rac­ing is fan­tas­tic; it’s what rac­ing is all about. There are lots of dif­fer­ent types of cars and it is a spec­ta­cle, which is re­ally im­por­tant.”

Ward has al­ready shown he is more than ca­pa­ble of ad­ding to that spec­ta­cle. ■

“I have been lucky with the cars I have raced” CHRIS WARD

Pho­tos: Paul Lawrence, Jakob Ebrey

Ward has gelled with the JD Clas­sic Rover SD1

Ward says he en­joys the chal­lenge of tam­ing a his­toric car For­mer sin­gle-seater man has had plenty of suc­cess in Jaguars

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