If success in motorsport is as much about talent as it is about being in the right car at the right time, the story of Tony Trimmer’s career would certainly underscore this.

Had circumstances been different, Trimmer might have enjoyed a lucrative Formula 1 World Championship career given the promise he showed in Formula Ford and Formula 3, but instead uncompetitive machinery – and some dastardly political maneuvering by the F1 hierarchy – put paid to his chances.

After a short stint in the Merchant Navy, Trimmer’s pathway to motorsport began as a mechanic working for the likes of Frank Williams.

He built his own Formula Ford racer from scrap parts and took it to multiple victories before graduating to the British Shellsport Formula 3 Championship title in 1970.

Tony Trimmer

Tony Trimmer

Against opposition that included future F1 racers such as James Hunt, Mike Beuttler and Dave Walker, Trimmer’s smooth driving style and prowess in the wet took him to the Drivers’ Championship title.

He was signed up by Team Lotus and should have been on the pathway to Formula 1, but promises of a graduation to the World Championship never materialised. Team boss Colin Chapman was fully focused on the efforts of his new rising star, Emerson Fittipaldi, with the efforts of Team Manager Peter Warr leaving Trimmer largely shunned from the limelight and decent machinery.

He quit Team Lotus after two largely fruitless years that had a handful of non-championship outings – still no opportunities came his way.

The door to the World Championship finally opened in 1975 but it was with the inexperienced Japanese Maki team whose fragile car had all but ended Howden Ganley’s racing career the year before when the New Zealander was left with badly injured legs.

If this was to be his one and only shot in F1, then Trimmer was determined to make it count. Predictably the car was not up to the task and suffered countless frightening failures in his three unsuccessful attempts to qualify for the German, Austrian and Italian Grands Prix.

Tony Trimmer, Melchester Racing McLaren Ford Cosworth M23 - 1978 British Grand Prix

Tony Trimmer – 1978 British Grand Prix

Political wrangling by other team bosses conspired to ensure he would never make an F1 starting grid over the next three years where he had three one-off appearances.

The most shameful was the totally uncompetitive tyres supplied to ensure that Trimmer would fail to qualify his privateer Surtees and McLaren entries for his home Grands Prix in 1977 and 1978 (pictured right) respectively.

He won the inaugural British F1 Championship that year in a McLaren M23, and earned call-ups from the likes of Williams and Brabham to shake down and test their F1 cars. Yet the all-important phone call never came.

Now in his seventies, Trimmer remains a popular figure in historic racing scenes where he continues to show the speed that few teams were able to recognise and reward. He sat down and spoke at length to us about the highs and lows of a truly incredible life in racing.


TONY TRIMMER
Full Name Nationality Born
Tony Trimmer British 24 January 1943, Maidenhead (GBR)
FORMULA 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CAREER
First Grand Prix Entry Last Grand Prix Entry
1975 German Grand Prix 1978 British Grand Prix
Year Result
1975 Maki Engineering Ford Cosworth V8 F101C, 3 entries, 3 DNQ, Not Classified
1976 Maki Engineering Ford Cosworth V8 F102A, 1 entry, 1 DNQ, Not Classified
1976 MelchesterRacing Surtees Ford Cosworth V8 TS19, 1 entry, 1 DNQ, Not Classified
1976 MelchesterRacing McLaren Ford Cosworth V8 M23, 1 entry, 1 DNQ, Not Classified
Entries Races Non-Starts Wins Podiums Poles FLs Points DNFs
6 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 0
FORMULA 1 NON-CHAMPIONSHIP CAREER
Year Result
1971 Team Lotus Ford Cosworth V8 72 / 49C, 2 races
Frank Williams Racing Cars March Ford Cosworth DFV V8 701, 1 race
1973 Frank Williams Racing Cars Iso-Marlboro Ford Cosworth V8 FX3, 1 race, 4th in Race of Champions
1975 Safir Engineering Ford Cosworth V8 RJ02, 2 races, 14th in International Trophy
Maki Engineering Ford Cosworth V8 F101C, 1 race, 13th in Swiss Grand Prix
1977 Melchester Racing Surtees Ford Cosworth V8 TS19, 1 race, 9th in Race of Champions
1978 Melchester Racing McLaren Ford Cosworth V8 M23, 1 race, 3rd in International Trophy
Entries Races Non-Starts Wins Podiums Poles FLs NC DNFs
9 9 0 0 1 0 0 2 2
SHELLSPORT INTERNATIONAL SERIES CAREER
Year Result
1976 Melchester Racing Lola Ford Swindon L4 T460, 1 race, 0 points, Not Classified
1977 Melchester Racing Surtees Ford Cosworth V8 TS19, 14 races, 5 wins, 9 podiums, 1st overall
Entries Races Non-Starts Wins Podiums Poles FLs Points DNFs
15 15 0 5 9 6 8 181 4
BRITISH FORMULA ONE CHAMPIONSHIP CAREER
Year Result
1978 Melchester Racing McLaren Ford Cosworth V8 M23, 8 races, 5 wins, 8 podiums, 1st overall
1980 Jordan BRM V12 P207, 4 races, Not Classified
1982 Team Sanada Fittipaldi Ford Cosworth V8 F8, 3 races, 1 win, 2 podiums, 2nd overall
Entries Races Non-Starts Wins Podiums Poles FLs Points DNFs
17 15 2 6 9 5 2 165 5
24 HOURS OF LE MANS CAREER
Year Result
1979 Dome Co. Ltd Zero RL Ford Coswrth (S+2.0 Class), DNF with Bob Evans
1980 Ian Bracey Ibec P6 Ford cosworth (S+2.0 Class), DNQ with Tiff Needell
1981 Ian Bracey Ibec Hesketh 308LM Ford Cosworth, DNF with Tiff Needell
OTHER RACING
Year Result
1969 European Formula Ford Championship, Titan Lucas Mk4, 2nd overall
1970 European Formula Ford Championship, Lola T200, 3rd overall
BRSCC Lombank British Formula 3 Championship, 2nd overall
BRSCC Shell British Formula 3 Championship, 1st overall
1971 British Formula 5000 Championship, Surtees TS5A / Lola T190, 18th overall
1972 BARC British Formula 3 Championship, Team Lotus Ford 73, 9th overall
1973 British Formula 5000 Championship, McLaren M18 / Lola T330, 24th overall
1974 British Formula Atlantic Championship, Graham Eden Brabham Ford BT40, 12th overall
1975 British Formula Atlantic Series, Astor Club McLaren Ford M21, 28th overall
1989 British Formula 3000 Championship, March Cosworth 88B, 7th overall

STARTING OUT

What inspired your interest in motorsport?

When I left school I joined the merchant Navy as I loved the sea and travel. After training and then a 3-month sailing as a seaman, with one month in Australia then the Midle East and onto Russia, I requested a tranfser to sail to other parts of the world but was told that I would have to do at least one more of the same trips.

When I got home I had already become interested in cars and took a job at a local garage as an apprentice mechanic. My father, who was keen on motorsport, suggested we go to a race at Brands Hatch. At my work I was told of a better race meeting at Goodwood, so we decided to go there instead as we lived in East Sussex. It was the meeting where Stirling Moss had his huge accident, but it was watching Moss unlap himself because he had made a brief pit stop that triggered something in me and I knew that I had to try racing.

You worked as a mechanic and then raced for Frank Williams in Formula Ford. Few would anticipate the level of success he would ultimately go on to enjoy in Formula 1 in the 1980s and 1990s, but what were your early impressions?

I applied for a race mechanic role at the Wilment race team in South West London and got the job. I had no money so I thought that this would get me into the racing scene. I became the mechanic for the Australian Frank Gardner who was driving their Lotus Cortina.

Whilst working at Willment I joined a racing school at Brands Hatch and became very fast at driving their single-seater cars. They put together a big test for their top seven drivers which, on a cold winter’s morning, was to drive three laps the opposite way round Brands Hatch against a lap set by a top instructor, within one second of the instructor’s time. I was the only driver to succeed and in fact to beat the instructors time. That was it, I knew what I wanted to do, but how could I with no money?

I was then offered a job as a mechanic for a Formula 3 driver, and as I loved single seaters I took the job and my driver Harry Stiller won two championships.

After that I was head-hunted by Frank Williams, who was just starting out. He was buying crashed F3 Brabham cars from Europe and Britain, and I rebuilt them into updated ‘like new’ racers which he could sell for a lot less than a new car. All this I did from the single lockup garage behind his notorious flat at Pinner, which I also lived in during the week. After a while he had enough funds to rent a workshop near Slough.

I continued building cars at the new workshop and it was here in one corner that I started to build my Formula Ford from a wrecked F3 chassis I found rotting away.

Tony Trimmer - 1969 Formula Ford

Tony Trimmer put his engineering skills to great use by building and racing a Formula Ford car from a wrecked F3 chassis. Here he is pictured in 1969 before a race in the works Titan at the Zandvoort circuit.

You shot to prominence by winning the 1970 British Shellsport Formula 3 Championship title – the last of the series’ seasons under one-litre engine regulations. In a highly competitive field, you won the Monaco Grand Prix F3 race and beat the likes of James Hunt, Dave Walker, Mike Beuttler and Gerry Birrell to overall title honours – what are your recollections of that time?

In January 1968 I laboured for 3 months gradually building a Formula Ford racer from this BT21 F3 chassis, making many of the parts myself and also building the engine. This was all done in my own time at weekends and all nights. Frank let me use the workshop and lights for which I was very grateful.

Tony Trimmer, 1970 Monaco F3

Trimmer celebrates victory at the 1970 Monaco F3 race.

When I finished the car, I had spent all my money and had to buy a van for £20 and borrow a trailer to get it to Brands Hatch for my first race. It was now April so I had missed a quarter of the Formula Ford championship already. I finished fourth in my maiden race and got fastest lap – I was hooked.

Tim Schenken was winning all the races up to that point but by the end of the season I was winning and finished second in the championship to Schenken, despite missing so many of the early rounds. Frank let me use his Transit van to tow with which was great.

In 1969 Frank did a deal with his old friend Charles Lucas to develop and sell his Titan Formula Fords and I did the testing and racing which was a huge step up for me. I took on two championships so missed rounds in both, so finished second in both championships.

Then came an offer of a Formula 3 drive in 1970 from a small private set-up, Race Cars International owned by Brendan McInerny.

I had to say goodbye to Frank who was now moving up the Formulas with his expert wheeling and dealing. I was sad to go but my dream was to race.

My F3 car was a Brabham BT28 and my first job was to strip and rebuild it, as it had been rolled by the previous driver. This was the final year of 1000cc F3 which had been running for six years and it was now at its most competitive. This was the 1970 Shell Motorsport International Championship, which I won with the most wins including the famous Monaco race backing the Grand Prix. What a night after that, everything was free throughout the town and I was upgraded to a suite overlooking the sea in the small hotel I was staying at! So I ended the year as the 1970 British F3 Champion, which sounded good to me – surely Formula 2 was to come.


The (Long) Road to F1

Team Lotus boss Colin Chapman signed you as a ‘third driver’ with his Formula 1 team. How did the opportunity come about and what were your initial – and subsequent – impressions of Mr Chapman?

An offer came from Gold Leaf Team Lotus to race their F3 car in Brazil in a four-race series during the month of January 1971. I took the offer, which later turned out to be a mistake as I was away from home when Formula 2 Championship deals were being completed. Commercial advertising of all types was now allowed on racing cars, so buying drives was becoming the norm. I had six teams talking to me when I returned home, and they all had offers from drivers with sponsorship deals – I had no experience in this, so missed out big time.

I very much wish that I could have worked more closely with Colin Chapman as we got on well. He was a quite brilliant designer, but I was kept away by his manager.

You were entered in a third car in the 1971 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch where teammate Emerson Fittipaldi was piloting the experimental gas-turbine car (Lotus 56B) while you would be racing a ‘de-tuned’ car. You qualified 14th in a 15-car field and your car retired with a fuel pump failure after just five laps. What are your recollections of your first race outing in F1-spec machinery?

I had a bit of a lean year in 1971. I turned down an offer from Lotus to do F3 again, and ended up racing various cars in one off races including a short- lived outing in a F1-spec Team Lotus 72 at the Race of Champions. A fuel pump drive belt broke after a fantastic start from the back of the grid where I was alongside Ronnie Peterson. We had both missed most of practise. By the second corner Druids I was fifth, but then the pump belt broke. I carried on for a few laps on the electric pump but of course it would not rev so retired.

Emerson Fittipaldi, who I first raced in Formula Ford and I knew well said to me ‘You should be in F1 but I’m glad you’re not.’ He was being ‘tongue in cheek’, of course.

Tony Trimmer, Lotus 72 - 1971 Race of Champions

Signed to Team Lotus’ reserve line-up, Trimmer had a handful of non-championship F1 outings but was largely ignored by team management.

You had a second outing with the team at the non-championship International Trophy race at Oulton Park, taking an elderly Lotus 49C to sixth place. Was the gap to the frontrunners – almost 10 seconds off pole in qualifying and nine laps down in the race – a reflection on your equipment and a lack of focus by Chapman on your own racing progression? Was this the precursor to you and Lotus parting ways?

That Lotus 49 was hauled out of a display exhibition at the last minute and was totally unprepared for racing. It was a waste of time, plus I was supposed to race a Lotus 72 at the Jochen Rindt Trophy race at Hockemheim but Dave Walker blew up the turbine car right in front of me in practise and was then given my car for him to race. Grrrrr!

By the end of 1971, with no secure drive, John Player Team Lotus offered me a drive in 1972 in their new F3 car plus three F1 races and the role of third (reserve) driver in their F1 team. This was from Colin Chapman through his team manager Peter Warr, who did not like me much because I had beaten their two works F3 drivers in 1970.

I took the drive as it was better than nothing. The new car was extraordinary. It was originaly a Formula 2 chassis for Jim Clark but after his tragic accident it had been shelved. It was a monocoque which finished just behind the driver. Then a space frame rear end was stitched on to finish it. With rising rate front suspension and static rate rear suspension and front inboard brakes it, was a rare beast.

It was very uncompetitive and several races into the season, and I was not getting along at all with Mr Warr. I wanted to make a big change to the set-up and was told in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t change anything, and they walked off at the lunch break at the Mallory park meeting. I grabbed some tools and set to work and the result was a win from near the back of the grid.

Tony Trimmer - 1972 Monaco F3

Trimmer finished second in the the rain-hit 1972 Monaco F3 race after a superb recovery drive.

I pleaded to keep this set-up for the next race but it was put back to their settings and was again uncompetitive. A big row ensued and also I had not had any F1 races yet.

At Monaco I struggled to qualify but just managed it after another row. On race day it poured with rain and Colin Chapman asked if I would try some front F1 wet tyres all round. I said definitely as it was going to rain all race.

I got up to about fifth place when a French driver tried to stop me passing and we tangled – I came to a stop undamaged but our cars were locked together.

All the cars that I had passed were then repassing until one of them locked up and slid into my rear wheel and pushed me clear. I bump-started the engine. I think I had dropped back to about 18th, so set off again and finished a close second to Patrick Depailler by about one second. I was catching at two seconds per lap, so just needed one more lap to have won two Monaco F3 races.

I got on very well with Colin Chapman but he was fully occupied with Fittipaldi in F1 so I had to deal with the team manager which was impossible, and the promised F1 drives were not forthcoming so I left and the F3 team was disbanded.

With limited opportunities to race in 1972 that you mentioned, you had sporadic outings in the European Formula 5000 Championship over the next two seasons as well as being reunited with Williams with a one-off outing at the 1973 Race of Champions in an Iso-Marlboro FX3 in which you finished fourth (pictured below). Did the shift between different disciplines – Formula 3, F5000 and F1 – have a disruptive effect?

The 1973-4 period was pretty lean, although John Webb – the MD of Brands Hatch – did a deal with Frank Williams to run me in the Race of Champions in one of his F1 Iso Marlboro FX3B cars. With very little running in practise in a car I had never sat in before, I started from near the back of the grid. I gradually got to grips with it in the race and finished fourth, about 20 seconds behind the winner and lapping at the same pace.

I was asked by the Brabham team to shake down and demonstrate their new F3 BT41 car at Vallelunga Italy. I broke the Italian F3 record and orders for the car flowed in…

A number of one-off outings also occurred in F5000 in various cars – including a McLaren M18 which I had to strip and rebuild myself, I also rebuilt the engine. Other outings were in a Lola T190, a Surtees TS5A, a McLaren M19A, a Connew PC1, and a Lola T330 – all on a zero budget. I would test and help set up many cars for their drivers through this period.

Tony Trimmer, Frank Williams Racing cars Iso-Marlboro FX3 - 1973 Race of Champions

Trimmer would reunite with his old boss Frank Williams, taking an Iso-Marlboro FX3 to a fine fourth place in the 1973 Race of Champions.


Into F1

Your pathway to the Formula 1 World Championship came through an obscure route in the form of the Japanese Maki team – the first Far East outfit to enter F1 since Honda shut its factory team down at the end of 1968. How did the opportunity come about?

In 1975 I was given a drive in the Safir RJ02 F1 at the Race of Champions and the International Trophy . This was originally the Token and then Ray Jessop re-jigged it to become the Safir. On a zero budget with many troubles, I managed one 14th place finish.

This attracted the Japanese Maki Fi team to invite me to race their car in the German Grand Prix the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The car had been rebuilt after Howden Ganley’s big crash which ended his racing career.

I knew the car was dangerous but – hey! – I had made it to Grand Prix racing.

Your first Grand Prix appearance was at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, which I can’t imagine would be high on the list of places where a driver would want to make their F1 debut. On reflection was there ever any expectation that you would be able to qualify?

My first outing was at the notorious Nordschleife circuit, and it was the first time I was driving this 14-mile monster track – was I crazy or what?

Anyway things kept breaking and falling off the car but I was determined to go for it but with many pit stops for fixes it cut into my time to learn this daunting track. I started to get to grips and was knocking off 10 to 15 seconds a lap.

I was putting together a great lap when suddenly there was a loud noise and the car went crazy, but I finally managed to save it and ended up in the famous Karussell banked corner with my whole left rear suspension up on top of the engine! It had just broken off the car at high speed!

Standing on the inside of that bend was Denny Hulme and he came over to me and said ‘Tony, don’t ever drive that (heap of) shit again’. Then along came someone on a motorbike with part of the rear wing that had fallen off about 2 miles before. Of course there were no spares so that was it for my first Grand Prix.

The lap that I was on when the breakage occurred would have been good enough to see me qualify but it probably saved my life that I didn’t.

Tony Trimmer, Maki Engineering Ford Cosworth F101C - 1975 German Grand Prix

The Maki Engineering F101C will be ranked among the most dangerous cars to have ever entered Grand Prix racing. On his debut outing at the 1975 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, Trimmer’s fragile car shed its rear wing before suffering a rear suspension failure through the Karussel. It would be the first of his six failures to qualify for a World Championship Grand Prix.

Your next World Champion appearances were at the equally daunting Österreichring and Monza circuits where you failed to qualify for both.

Two more Grands Prix at at Austria and Italy resulted in very serious breakages during in qualifying, meaning I didn’t make the grid. Of the 20-plus breakages there were broken front stub-axles, breakages to wheels and wings, driveshafts, suspension pick-ups pulling out of the monocoque etc., and I never once left the circuit and had an accident. Was I lucky or what – again.

Between the Austrian and Italian Grands Prix came the non-championship Swiss Grand Prix at Dijon where you made the grid – admittedly 16th and last – and finished thirteenth, although you were six laps adrift of race-winner Clay Regazzoni and four laps down on twelfth-placed Rolf Stommelen ahead of you. In the context of the difficulties you and the Maki team had faced to this point, what did the result mean for you and the team?

Another front stub-axle sheared in the pre-race warm-up. The only thing holding the wheel on when this happens is the disc in the caliper. With one stub left, it was fitted to the car just in time for the start and I ran a very cautious race fearing the worst, but finished 13th and last, several laps adrift. This was the only time ever that the Maki F101 had finished a Grand Prix. Maki had little knowledge of the loads put through the car in cornering and the correct materials required.

The team returned to Japan, only to re-emerge a year later with you behind the wheel of a new car (the F102A) at the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix of 1976 which was famous as the title-decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Was the new car any significant improvement to its predecessor, or was this an attempt by a Japanese team to make up the numbers at its home race?

In 1976 I was invited to race in Formula Atlantic – renamed ‘Indylantic’ – and I won all the races entered until the money ran out. A good friend Brian Morris then raised some sponsorship which allowed the purchase of a Lola T460 Formula Atlantic car in which I had further wins including the big Phoenix Park race in Dublin. When the money ran out we stopped racing in Formula Atlantic.

At the end of the year I got a call from Maki to race their new car at the final Grand Prix at Fuji in Japan. This sounded good to me – surely they must have learned how to build a strong car by now.

Off to Japan I went only to find the car (now named Maki F102) was not finished and they were still building the engine. I was too tall for the car so they beat the panel behind the seat with a hammer so that I could fit. Eventually they bolted it all together and got it to the circuit late. I managed one lap in practice before it broke down. It was towed back to the paddock where all the rival team managers huddled round it to look it over.

Tony Trimmer, Maki Engineering Ford Cosworth F102A - 1976 Japanese Grand Prix

Trimmer and Maki Engineering reunited at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix in the team’s new F102A. He couldn’t fit in the hastily-built car and after managing just one lap in qualifying before it broke down, rival team bosses successfully lobbied for the Japanese team’s exclusion on safety grounds.

Shortly after I was told that the car would not be allowed to race as it was too fragile and dangerous and would risk the other drivers as well as myself. They gave me two tongue in cheek awards: one for being the bravest driver and the other for being the silliest.

The team owner of the Shadow F1 team, Don Nichols, offered me their third car to race. This could be my big breakthrough – the Shadow was very competitive and I fitted into the car perfectly. At last my big chance had come.

Then the Maki sponsors came over to me and said, ‘We’re very, very sorry Tony, but all the publicity had been with you and Maki’, and because of Japan’s honorific culture they would not let me race a different car because it would be a major loss of face to them.

They offered me extra money and I pleaded with them to pay me nothing and let me race the Shadow, but to no avail. I had to watch the race from the sidelines. One of the Shadows driven by Tom Pryce led at one stage but later broke down, so I felt I would have had a real chance as I’m extra good in the wet conditions.

In 1977 you joined the Melchester Racing outfit which entered you full-time in the Shellsport International Series – a Formula Libre championship open to F1, F2, F5000 and Formula Atlantic cars – and you swept to the title in a Surtees TS19. How did it feel to be back behind the wheel of competitive machinery and winning again?

Back home again Brian negotiated a bigger sponsorship deal for 1977 which enabled the purchase of a Surtees TS19 F1 car to enter the Shellsport International Series for F1, F5000 and F2 cars. Brian named the team Melchester Racing and we set up base at the Brands Hatch pit garages.

After a few reliability issues in the early part of the season it ended with five wins, three seconds places, one third and a fifth, with a few retirements. Of course the Championship win and also ninth at the Race of Champions were the highlights.

Melchester Racing entered you at your home Grand Prix at Silverstone that year, but in a 36-entry field, you qualified 34th-fastest. What happened?

An attempt to enter the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was thwarted by joke tyres they issued to us, which left us completely uncompetitive.

The Shellsport International Series became the new British Formula One Championship in 1978 and Melchester Racing acquired a McLaren M23 for you to race that year. Victories in the opening three races were the springboard to another championship title. You also placed third in the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone. How did the M23 compare with the Surtees you drove the year prior?

With the money earned and the remainder of the sponsorship money, an ex-Brett Lunger F1 McLaren M23 was purchased for the 1978 season for the new Aurora British F1 Championship. I claimed five wins, three seconds and importantly another Championship title.

Third place in the pouring rain at the International Trophy at Silverstone, behind Keke Rosberg and Emerson Fittipaldi and ahead of Brett Lunger, was a great result.

Tony Trimmer, Melchester Racing McLaren Ford Cosworth M23 - 1978 British Grand Prix

A championship frontrunner in the British Formula 1 Championship, Trimmer was entered by Melchester Racing into the 1978 British Grand Prix. Despite his talents and the pedigree of the McLaren M23 chassis, politics conspired to ensure he wouldn’t make the grid.

Melchester again put you forward for the 1978 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch and you were the slowest qualifier in a 30-car field. It would land up being your sixth and final attempt to get onto a Grand Prix grid – how do you reconcile your success in the Formula Libre and British F1 series’ when the odds were stacked against you in a handful of Grand Prix outings?

The attempt at the British GP was again thwarted by being issued just four tyres. They were so hard and completely destroyed the great handling of the M23 whilst the regular Grand Prix teams had six much softer sets to run, us privateers were forced to use this single set of four dangerous tyres. The reason was to get rid of privateer entries in Grand Prix racing. I was threatened if I changed them… What were they scared of? It was pure F1 politics.

You had two more part-seasons of British Formula One Championship racing in 1980 and 1982, driving the wide and unreliable BRM P207 in the former and a ground-effect Fittipaldi F8 in the latter which took you to second in the championship.

With two championship titles in two years but no funds to continue, I accepted a job in Los Angeles for 1979 and returned once to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the futuristic-looking Japanese Dome Zero RL. Unfortunately the race ended in early retirement with a major oil leak whilst we were running fifth.

This was really the end now for my Grand Prix racing dreams. By trying to race probably the most dangerous F1 car ever (Maki) and then being stuffed by being forced to use joke tyres when I had good cars (Surtees and McLaren), I had to look around for other drives, but I had proved on the same tyres as the others (such as the Race of Champions and International Trophy) that I could be very competitive on a very small budget.

By 1980 I was back home but confined to one-off races, yet still full of enthusiasm. I raced the F1 BRM P207 for John Jordan, the nicest guy you could ever meet. This was in Formula Libre races but the BRM engine was very unreliable so we only had non-finishes.

I had another try at Le Mans in 1981 in the low-budget IBEC team but our race ended after 18 hours with gearbox troubles. I later accepted an invitation to race at the Suzuka 1000-kilometre sports car race in a works Mazda RX-7 with its famous rotary engine alongside my good friend Nico Nicole. After a great race of nearly 7 hours in blistering heat we finised a very close second to the Porsche of Bob Wollek and Henri Pescarolo, having led a lot of the second half of the race. In the years that followed I continued testing cars, and dabbling in one-off races while also instructing at the racing school at Brands Hatch.

In 1982 I was racing again in the British F1 Championship driving a F1 Fittipaldi F8 Cosworth for the Sanada team. I took a win at Oulton Park and second at Brands Hatch, but the series was running out of steam and was soon concluded.

You have driven a huge range of F1 cars spanning over three decades of Formula 1 history and technology. What is the best F1 car you’ve driven?

My favourite cars I have driven were the McLaren M23 I raced in 1978 and the Williams FW07B I had the opportunity to demonstrate.

Tony Trimmer, Dome Co. Ltd Zero RL - 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans

Trimmer dabbled in a variety of other motorsport championships, including three entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Here he is pictured piloting the radical Dome Zero RL in 1979, which was capable of a blistering top speed of almost 220mph.


After F1

Your post-F1 racing record shows a handful of endurance racing and Formula 3000 outings in the years that followed. What do you continue to enjoy when racing?

It’s been a huge mixture. I won the 1987 British Open Libre Championship driving John Jordan’s Lola T330/332 F5000 car. Over the years I won over 30 races in this car.

I ran a race preparation workshop, raced in Thundersports, British F3000, testing F1 cars for Williams and Brabham, team manager for an ASCAR driver and a single-seater driver, and done countless high-speed lap rides for clients at Brands Hatch.

I still race in the occasional F5000 race, winning as recently as 2016 in Frank Lyons’ McRae GM1 in the pouring rain at Brands Hatch. I still love it…

How would you summarize your motorsport career and how would you like to be remembered?

With every step I tried to make into Grand Prix racing there was always an obstacle in my way.However, I have had very few accidents throughout my racing career and remained injury-free. I still enjoy racing when the opportunity arises. I have many wonderful memories of my time racing and I’m still happy when I get back behind the wheel.

What is your opinion of the Formula 1 World Championship championship today?

Today’s F1 cars and circuits are so much safer today, which is good as there were some terrible accidents during the 1970s when I was driving some very dangerous cars.

I hate this addiction to aerodynamics, which to me has spoiled wheel-to-wheel racing, but I still follow Grand Prix races closely.

All images kindly provided by Tony Trimmer

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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