Racing as a “hobby”

In many interviews Mike claimed that for him being a racing driver was only a “hobby”, his real work being that as a development engineer.  In a literal sense, this was clearly untrue, especially from 1961 onwards, considering how much of his time it took up and the fact that it became an important source of income.  He was undoubtedly anything but an amateur in the way he prepared for racing: besides knowing everything about the car he was driving and memorizing the details of the racetracks, he also tried to keep fit, limiting his weight and cycling to and from work.   Possibly what he really meant was that he saw himself as a descendant of the so-called “gentleman drivers“ who in the 1940s and 50s  had raced for fun, not for gain or in order to promote a particular brand of car.   For him the joy of racing lay in trying to get the best possible performance out of a car and in competing against other drivers.

He also felt that his racing was complementary to his work as an engineer.  In one of his interviews he commented: “It is significant, I think, that many of the world’s greatest motor cars have been the products of organizations in which the designers have been competent sports drivers: engineer Rudy Ulenhaut of Daimler Benz, for instance, is a fine driver in his own right – and his influence is apparent in the Mercedes.  Alec Issigonis built his own specials, and raced them successfully before the last war. … Colin Chapman competed in the sport before he developed his Lotus”.

In his book about racing drivers “Piloti che gente” Enzo Ferrari says: “There are two kinds of racing driver: those who are driven by passion and those who are driven by ambition”.  There is no doubt that Mike fell into the first of these two categories.   He felt a fierce loyalty to his racing team, whether it was Equipe Endeavour, Maranello Concessionaires or SEFAC Ferrari.  He also accepted that the works cars had to operate as a team, under the authority of the Sports Director, even when this meant that in some races he was not allowed to go all out for first place.  He referred to Mark Kahn a conversation he once had with John Surtees when they were both at Maranello.  Surtees said that ideally he would like to drive in a works team with one car, just for him, on the grounds that he would not be in competition with other works drivers and because the car would get the full attention of the mechanics.  Mike saw it differently: “It is not my attitude.  I never considered myself as anything more or less than an employee of the company.  I was employed to do a job of work as a member of a team.”

Next: The English gentleman and his lifestyle