333 LEE WOOD
RH: so tell us something about yourself Lee, and how you got into racing Classic Hot Rods.
LW: well I’ve been racing Classic Hot Rods since 2006. I started off helping out a friend of mine Gary Witcombe, who was the prime mover behind the introduction of the formula originally. At the time I was racing motorbikes, Ducati’s etc. I hadn’t had any previous oval racing experience so 2006 was when it all started for me behind the wheel in my original black Anglia.
RH: so what was the attraction to CHRs besides helping out Gary?
LW: brought up on oval racing. Used to live as a kid in Torquay. Every Wednesday and Bank Holiday Monday I went with my mum and dad to Newton Abbot, watching the BriSCA F2 stockcars, Bangers, and of course the National Hot Rods. My dad worked for Blydenstein Racing. He sold specialist race parts to race teams. So motor racing has always been in the blood.
We moved to Shepworth in Cambridgeshire as I grew up because of my dad’s work. Cambridgeshire has always been a hot bed for all avenues of motorsport and he continued to supply Vauxhall race parts to many Rally Teams. Of course we carried on watching Hot Rod racing at the likes of Wisbech and Alwarton near Peterborough.
RH: so the attraction to you of the Classic Hot Rods has been your connection with short oval racing, and your dad’s role in production car and rally car racing…..and because you therefore grew upon a diet of seeing racing Fords and Vauxhalls. Hence those are the cars you like and you relate to.
LW: You got it!
RH: So motorsport in leisure time, and motorsport for a living, you and your dad alike! Tell us about what you do for a living Lee……
LW: I work for Red Bull Racing Formula One Team. My job is I paint the race car. But there is a hell of a lot more to it than that! I essentially am involved in the paint design and ‘wrap’ of the car. There are seven painters in the paint shop, three wrappers. Everything has to be designed ‘in house’, and we are responsible in organising the completed corporate image of every Red Bull race car. From the drawing board to what the sponsors want and to visually portray that onto the car so that it is visually perfect for the benefit of the TV viewers! Sizing, shaping and blend of logos, colours etc can prove critical and that is what I have to do to meet the demands of designers and corporate sponsors. Sometimes we even have to change the colours of the race cars and their logos for each circuit. Racing under the lights in Singapore is a good example of that because a car looks different under the lights in a night race. A lot more goes into it than people think. Engine covers are of different configuration to meet different cooling options. They are of different shape. But when they go on the car, they must configure exactly to the chassis, and visually look identical to the alternatives so that a consistent accurate professional corporate image of the race car is maintained. So that’s what I do. And of course this often does require attending to the cars at particular Grand Prix……
RH: So you attend most of the GPs throughout the year…..
LW: No…..I want to go Hot Rod racing! But work’s work and sometimes I have to go!
RH: Aww no! Such a shame! You have to be dragged away to a Grand Prix half the way across the world, live the life of Riley and drink champagne when Red Bull win!
LW: I no! It’s a bloody nuisance isn’t it!!??
RH: so away from the demands of work, it’s Classic Hot Rods all the way?
LW; It certainly is. I just love it. In my time racing, I’ve had an Anglia, which I won a lot with and an Escort, but ultimately it was a HB Viva that I had always wanted to race. This obviously was because of my dad working for Blydensteins who dealt with racing Vauxhalls. The car is a complete homage to the race cars associated with Blydensteins, the Gerry Marshall colours and the DTV paintwork. Essentially, the car is a tribute to my dad.
RH: It a fantastic car Lee and a great tribute to your family.
LW: Yeah, we’ve had a few ups and down with it. It’s a bit different to a MkII Escort. Visually, I always wanted a race car to look different from the others. Handling wise it’s completely different to an Escort too .It has a standard configuration. As for suspension, it’s on wishbones instead of struts. It has a slightly different wheelbase and a few other things as well. It affects the whole balance of the car and therefore the set up for the application of the engine power to be an entirely different proposition to that of a Ford.
RH: Close season preparation?
LW: Essentially cosmetic. Full tidy up to maintain the high standard of the cars in this class. It’s had a few suspension tweaks. The engine is a John Toovey race prepared 2 litre Pinto. Now I’ve had a few race engines in my time to put it mildly! I love the crossflow, but with the introduction of the Pinto with the big valve head…it’s a little more affordable…a lot better on the availability front too…so if we’ve got an engine there that will attract new competitors into the sport it’s gotta be a good thing. There is not much in it between Crossflows and Pintos and this banter that Tim Foxlow has got going with the Spankers….well it’s all a good laugh innit?! The Pinto has the grunt to power out the corners, were as a Crossflow will sing all the way round. I was flying last September at Birmingham and won the Final. A short track with a Pinto…..so at the end of the day it’s down to handling. If you can’t apply the power in the right way to the tarmac, you aint gonna get to the front.
RH: Favourite tracks?
LW: It has to be Northampton and Birmingham. The tracks that don’t tend to do quite so well with crowd attendance. So I win there and no one notices! (Laughter!)
RH: So what’s the story behind the Barry Lee replica car?
LW: I was either 3 or 4 and I was at the Hot Rod English Championship at Newton Abbot. All the local top drivers were there like Batten and Higman….but Barry Lee turns up for the first time. He was already a legend…..and I had my photograph taken with him! I was an instant fan! Something like that just stands by you for life really. He was a great personality. Still is. And a fantastic showman. So many drivers today could do well from learning from his character as the sport needs personalities. And that’s why I’ve always tried to emulate him and make time for fans that come up and talk to me, particularly youngsters. If I win and give a young kid a trophy, they’ll remember and want to come back. The young fans are the sports future and we can’t afford to forget that.
RH: So that’s the background what about the car itself and how it now seems to have its own role as a promotional feature in its own right?
LW: Well I turned up at the May Hednesford last year, and well, since then it’s just snowballed! It’s just turned into this massive promotional thing for the Classic Hot Rods. It just seems to have re-ignited the interest in the formula like a tin of Red Bull! (Laughter!) The interest the car has generated just seems phenomenal. I raced the car; Barry Lee himself has raced it. It’s got people talking. This year, Barry is going to take it on a 2 seater day and a track day at Brands Hatch to promote the formula. Maybe be going to Ireland too this year…..
RH: Classic Hot Rods really does seem to have a real buzz surrounding it now doesn’t?
LW: Doesn’t it just! There is a real momentum now. People’s interest in the Retro racing scene in general has co-in sided with the Classic Hot Rod scene. Ben Morley at Retro Ford Magazine has been fantastic with his interest and now we are going to get features in Motorsport news too. There is a real credibility in the formula that people appreciate. They can relate to the race cars because, “I had one like that” or “My dad had a car like that.” People know what they are, seeing them gives folk evocative feelings. They love seeing the cars….and they love seeing the cars race!
RH: Enjoyable for fans and drivers alike.
LW: Absolutely. Look, I raced National Hot Rods for three years. Great formula, great bunch of people, but it’s really hard work. If you want to win in that class, you really have to be on the top of your game. Every extra hundredth of a second lap time has to been earned by absolute attention to detail off the track. Classic Hot Rods though….yes, you do have to set the car up right, but not to the millionth degree. Is about how the cars look, putting on a great show, meeting and greeting and having a good laugh with the fellow drivers. As long as that attitude is maintained, everyone remembers what this sport is about, it will continue to grow and be a great success.
RH: thanks Lee for a tremendous interview.
LW : been a pleasure Rob.