Chris comes from a family with a history of motorsport, his mother and father both being very keen competitors in autocross and rallycross in the days of Roger and Stan Clark. Chris remembers being taken to local venues such as Croft to watch his father’s Austin 1100. No surprise, then, when Chris decided upon is school leaving prospects.
After a spell competing in motorcycle trials, though not yet old enough to hold a driving license, he had already decided his career lay on four wheels rather than two. As a fan of the late Tony Pond, he leapt at the chance to buy SJW 533S, the ex-works TR7 V8.With no previous competition experience, he entered the local ‘Christmas Stages’ event and won best novice. Further sucesses followed, before a touch of over enthusiasm and the scent of an overall victory resulted in one of those accidents people talk about for years.
Despite cartwheeling the tough old TR7, he repaired it and uprated the car to a better spec than before the accident. However, he realised that modern front wheel drive rally cars were the way to go for recognition as a professional and he began his front wheel drive career in the Vauxhall Nova Junior Cup.
The rest is history, as winning the championship gave him the prize of a free car for the 24 Hours of Ypres in Belgium, his first foreign event. Further works supported campaigns followed as Chris established the rally team you see today. The company was founded in 1988, whilst his competition career was in full swing, the company initially worked on Vauxhall, Peugeot, Opel and Mitsubishi cars, before switching to Ford in the mid 1990’s.
His early success as a team operator came while running the Simmonite sisters, Stephanie and co-driver Rachel for Peugeot. The Simmonites signed for Ford in 1996 and responsibility for their brand new Escort was handed to Chris. They acheived a 100% finishing record to clinch the British Ladies title and finished fourth overall in the British Championship. For 1997, the sisters upgraded to an Escort Super Rally car, kept their 100% finishing record and scored maximum points on all six events to claim the British Ladies two years in a row.
Chris is a great believer in the value of one-make rally championship for beginners, having first made his mark by winning the Vauxhall Nova Challenge in 1985. In the U.K., Chris now has over four years experience supporting Ford’s Ka on-make championship as the official on-events parts supplier and source of engineering advice and support.
In 2003 / 04 the company ran Guy Wilks and Barry Clarks’ Junior Team Pumas in the JWRC and BRC; both drivers having progressed from the Ka and Puma on-make championships. In recent years, Birkbeck RallySport has ran the most successful Pumas in the Super 1600 Championship - in 2001 with Norway’s Martin Stenshorne. In 2002 the team claimed it’s first major win with Francois Duval’s Puma in Monte Carlo - and had superb third places in Finland and Turkey with Guy Wilks in 2003 on the JWRC.
Today, Chris is more likely to be found on his mobile phone arranging the infrastucture of a modern rally team. That doesn’t mean he’s retired officially, just waiting for the right moment……… The arrival in mid 2008 of an Opel Kadet rally car for restoration has fired Chris up and he’ll probably soon be seen competing again, as the cars he built as contemporary machines in their day return to be restored as historics! As Chris says, he’s built plenty of historic rally cars, it’s just that they weren’t historic when he built them….. Now where did he put that TR8 advert……