Interview with 144 Tim Foxlow by Rob Hughes
Interview with Classic Hot Rod driver 144 Tim Foxlow. Northampton International Raceway 6/10/12.
RH : Rob Hughes
TF : Tim Foxlow
RH : To begin with Tim I’d like to briefly introduce you as a driver by taking you back. 20 Years ago you were an establised driver in the Super Rod formula. Could you please give us the story behind your retirement from Super Rods 19 years ago and now your return to racing in Classic Hot Rods.
TF : Thanks Rob, yeah as you may be aware I was involved in Super Rod racing for a good many years. I won several titles in the formula including the Points and the National Title on a couple of occasions. I retired after seventeen years of racing in the early nineties due to a neck injury. Thought it was the sensible thing to do. Of course once you are a race car driver it never really leaves your system. I carried on wanting to be involved. I was a steward of Incarace for a few seasons. With a driver’s eye for things I was very exacting with my decision making which sometimes didn’t prove to be too popular with drivers affected by those decisions I made – shall we say! So afer a while I packed that up and family life and commitments took over….but of course I always kept in touch with what was going on race wise. The main reason why I decided that I could make a return to racing was the technological improvements to driver safety. The introduction of the Hanns device which secures your body and neck so securely. The other type of technology which helped make things happen was the internet and the use of social networking sites. It’s allowed me to keeps in touch with my old sparring partners like Pete Winston, Stu Donald, Wilson Hamilton and Gordon Bland. Literally, it was a bit of banter on facebook at the end of last season which egged me into making a return to racing.
RH : And you chose Classic Hot Rods. Why?
TF : Well, obviously I had a few Rod formulae to consider. I briefly considered a return to Super Rods but regrettably it’s not what it was in my day. The changes it went through with the eurocar impact in the early nineties and changes in regulations, promotion, organisation and racing outlets has sadly marginalised the class which meant it was no longer a formula that was, for me, going anywhere. Dick Hillard tried to encourage me into National Hot Rods but with the lightening reactions that class requires and the high level of commitment, it’s clear to see that Nationals is a young man’s sport and not something that you try and get into when you are already into your fifties! Really it became an obvious choice in the end. Classic Hot Rods. With the generation that I am, these are cars that I can relate to – reliving my youth so to speak! The cars looked fantastic. Their style and presentation was something that appealed to me and it was a formula that to me struck the right balance between seriousness and fun. I wanted to do something properly and I knew that Classic Hot Rods would not be a cheap sport. After all they are simply National Hot Rods of yesteryear! But balanced with that was a fixtures commitment that was balanced and reasonable for me and I could choose to race when I wanted to without feeling over committed. The fun side of it was there too. The other drivers are a great bunch of guys who are a good laugh in the pits but by and large know what they are doing out on track. A good many drivers in Classic Hot Rods have a wealth of experience behind them and when I race them I know what they are capable of. There is respect out there. This is why the racing we offer is clean but fast and extremely competitive. At the end of the day you are out there to win, but in Classic Hot Rods, well, you can be mindful of your age and respect for other drivers and respect for the cars as well. It takes a hell of a lot of work to repair once of these after a prang I can tell you! So there can be situations that say years ago you would have gone for, but perhaps these days you may back out from. Close fast racing it what it is all about but to be able to take the cars home in once piece at the end of the day.
RH : So tell us about your Classic Hot Rod.
TF : Well I got to know Daz Owen through the other drivers I talk to. He’s been involved with Classic Hot Rods for quite a few years now. Through Daz I was lucky enough to acquire the ex Colin Hall (ex66) Sonny Howard built MKII Ford Escort racer that I have today. It came complete with a MASS built 1700cc Crossflow engine. Took a little bit of time to strip it back and prepare it for myself. Seat in the right position for myself and to paint it up in the traditional Foxlow livery, that sort of thing….but yeah, it’s been a brilliant first season. Missed a few meetings early on but started from the May Bank Holiday session at Hednesford and with the exception of a few meets like Yarmouth, I’ve been there through the season and feel delighted to have finish third in the Classic Hot Rod points.
RH : What does it take to successfully race a Classic Hot Rod?
TF : The first thing is presentation. I always want to turn out a very smart car. I did it in Super Rods years ago and I do it today in Classic Hot Rods. I believe its important for the formula. It makes a statement for the standard of presentation expected for the class. If you turn out in a tidy car, your are less likely to want to damage it. Other drivers do the same which means you respect their machines as well as your own. Damage limitation is important. These cars are old girls! Replacement parts can be hard to come by and expensive. Bubble wheels arches for a Mk1 for example are like hens teeth and drivers have to fabricate their own by modifying standard arches that are imported from China! A Classic Hot Rod is a traditional all metal bodyshell. The bonnet and boot lid can be fibre glass to save weight but the doors have to be metal. There is no space frame in a Classic Hot Rod to which you can mount Kevlar panels which are easy to replace or repair. Classic Hot Rods needs good old fashioned metal bashing to repair them!
RH : And the engine and running gear?
TF : Of course the cars are very fast. They are powered either by the Crossflow unit that I’m using or the 2 litre Pinto which the formula regulations allow. My engine will need a rebuild over the winter and there will be a significant outlay for doing so. The tyres too can be a significant expense. They provide tremendous grip but they can ware…..a little faster than they used to! Maybe Avon don’t put the depth of rubber into the race tyre that they once did! (laughter!) The rest of the running gear is actually similar to what you get in National Hot Rods. I run a TranX 3 speed race gearbox. The suspension set up is similar to a National. They are, as I’ve said before, a Yesteryear National Hot Rod and the cost reflects this. One of this mis-conceptions of Classic Hot Rod racing is that it is a cheap budget formula. It is not. It is National Hot Rod racing in the bodyshells of yesteryear. Of course we want to continually encourage more drivers to partake in this great formula but it’s important that they enter the class with their eyes open. It is not cheap. But what you get in return is the fun fulfilment of competing in a serious class that’s appreciated by drivers and fans alike.
RH : So these cars are as they were in the Halcyon days of Hot Rod racing?
TF : Yeah, pretty close. We actually reckon they we are running Classics faster now than the Nationals actually were at the end of the seventies. This is down to technological advancement and the advancement in the ability to apply that technical knowledge in car set up. But my car, with it’s crossflow engine, is pretty much a faithful example of a top spec National that the likes of Barry Lee and Mick Duffy Collard would have raced in say 1979. The improvements in engine parts and the race gearbox probably makes mine a tad quicker than they were, but all in all pretty accurate to what they were.
RH : Moving on from the car to the racing. What’s been your opinion of your first season back?
TF : Oh it’s been a great season back. Just want to enjoy some good close racing again tonight here at Northamption without damage. Get some more points on the board and I’ll go home tonight feeling very happy. It’s just been great to get back into racing and I couldn’t have chosen a better formula. Nineteen years away and then to get back into it this year, do most but not all of the meetings, achieve red top and finish third overall in the points is very satisfying. And it not all about learning about how well you can do yourself but also learning about the other drivers out on track, reading their track craft and trying to better and beat them, but all within this concept of respect which results of close fast competitive racing. I would say that this year has gone to script for me. I’m delighted. One of my strengths years ago was consistency if not winning every race. Hopefully next year with that consistency I’ll challenge Dave Fry and Stu Donald for the points. This year was a success. I can only think that it will be even better next year.
RH : And as part of that continued building of success for the Classic Hot Rod scene, you’ve been very keen to sell the sport this year.
TF : Oh yeah, social networking playing a big part in getting me back into racing and into this formula particularly. Away from racing my job is in sales and marketing so selling the good news through network sites like facebook comes almost like second nature to me. The more people we can encourage to partake in Classic Hot Rods the better the racing and the more the fans will want to see us. I think I’ve encouraged at least three drivers to join CHRs this year – my old sparring partner from Super Rods Stu Donald amongst them and I believe that more will follow over the close season. Next year if the momentum continues I believe that the Classic Hot Rods will be out at some meetings with enough numbers to warrant two thirds format heats to qualify for the meeting final.
RH : And you’ve had good feedback from the fans too?
TF : Definetley. I’ve read and heard great remarks from the fans. That National Hot Rod fans appreciate the quality racing we put in front of them. The nostaligia is a great appeal. We all put a wiff of Castrol ‘R’ in the fuel too to that they can smell us too and that takes some of the older fans back to the good ol’ days! (Laughter!) We even had some great comments from the BriSCA Stockcar fans who remarked quite favourably when we raced with the Chey powered monsters in Birmingham back in June.
RH : Therefore the promotors pick up on this.
TF : Classic Hot Rods is a Spedeworth formula. Deane Wood is a shrewd business man, he knows what gets bums on seats so to speak. He hears and reads what people say. I believe with the momentum that the formula is picking up now that he will again see Classic Hot Rod racing as the perfect support formula for the Nationals at more meetings next year. I feel we would be a worthy support class for the Nationals at their World Final weekend at Ipswich in July and we should be looking at a National Title race at Hednesford in the August.
RH : Its great to see the strides the formula has made this year. Any other predictions for next year?
TF : I think close season so further improvements will be made to the regulations. I think for safety aspect CHRs should introduce the intercom ear pieces in the drivers helmet so that they can hear the stewards intructions like they do in Nationals. Just the old taking advantage of the new really… and we’ve got a few other ideas for the formula that hopefully will be hammered out over the close season. So the sport is not going to stand still. The image and the presentation is what it’s all about and any technical revision will only enhance the clean fast competitive racing that we already enjoy. I think 2013 will be a cracking year for Classic Hot Rod racing.
RH : What a high to end the interview on. Thanks very much for your time Tim and god luck for next season.
TF : Thank you Rob. It’s been a pleasure.