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Be prepared! - much of this is sensational
The truth behind the Mini's Monte Carlo disqualification in 1966
Never before published photos and internal memos and documents
An insight to the politics of BMC and its movers and shakers
Details of planned prototypes

For the London to Sydney Marathon, team instructions included the recommendation that a firearm be carried by the crew of each car ... "A small pistol which can conveniently be located under cover in the car is what we have in mind" ...

The revealing and surprising inside story of the legendary BMC Works Competitions Department told by the three Competition Managers of the highly successful BMC/British Leyland race and rally teams based at Abingdon. The book reveals the inner workings and machinations of one of the most successful motor sport teams Britain has ever seen. Based on previously unpublished internal memos and documents, and the recollections of the prime movers, the book describes the ups and downs, and the politics of big time competition in an exciting era. An excellent and entertaining read and an important factual documentation, no motor sport enthusiast should be without this book.
Independent Reviews

‘BMC Competitions Department Secrets’ is a very descriptive title of a book written by the three men who knew what was involved to obtain the memorable successes that such a small department at Abingdon achieved in Motorsport, even beyond Europe. Philip Young well deserves the credit for pulling together the very interesting documentary evidence that makes this book such a compulsive read. The three managers describe their involvement, satisfaction and frustrations in less than one third of the book whilst the remainder comprises letters, internal memoranda and particularly interesting and previously unseen photographs.

Marcus Chambers started the long train of events when John Thornley invited him to head up the newly created BMC Competitions Department in December 1954. He describes how the Ecurie Safety Fast badge came to be created and how he needed to replace John Thornley’s chosen MGCC drivers for people with more snow and ice experience than auto-test events. Young navigator Willy Cave was identified as an exception. Having been given a budget equivalent to over £1.5 million in today’s terms, Marcus looked for some experienced, hungry-to-win drivers to form his own squad without poaching people from other established teams. An early appointment of John Gott as team leader and Dougie Watts as the Workshop Foreman both helped set up the basis of the all-conquering team. After a brief historical resumé, Marcus follows with 45 pages of mainly un-seen documents and equally rare photographs in the period 1955 to 1961. He then took on a more relaxed role at Appleyards of Leeds allowing him more home life after recommending Stuart Turner to John Thornley as the man to take over the reins.

Stuart writes an excellent resumé of his period, the ‘Middle Years’ as he calls them, from 1961 to 1967. He recounts how he drafted the agenda for the annual Competitions Committee meetings and then had discussions with fellow members John Cooper, Donald Healey and John Thornley to ensure they were on his side when facing Chairman George Harriman and Alec Issigonis. He then wrote up the minutes over John Thornley’s name and was left to get on with the decisions. His development of comprehensive pace notes is probably one of the most important actions taken during his period, alongside getting Board level agreement to use Scandinavian drivers brought up amongst roads covered in snow and ice for long periods. Unlike an engineering mind Stuart claims “Pace notes are like sheds in that they should be cleared out every so often, otherwise they become unnecessarily complicated”.

In November 1966 Committee minutes indicate that Special Tuning should be instructed not to advertise in the Technical Press and that ‘warm’ work should be given to Downton whilst ‘hot’ work tuning which would invalidate warranties would be done by Special Tuning. I was never made aware of this and the fact that Lester Suffield was anxious to avoid any suggestion of direct retail selling by BMC. When the new building was built for me in ‘C’ block long after the closure of Competitions it incorporated a showroom and a retail counter. Early minutes also indicate that Marcos Cars were to be loaned two rally tuned 1275 engines for Le Mans ’67, this after the success of private French owner Jean Louis-Marnat in the 1966 event.

In 1967 Stuart sought to move into the media side of things but Raymond Baxter got the job so an offer from Walter Hayes of Ford was tempting. In those days such a move to a competitor was not the done thing so Castrol became the beneficiaries of all that masterful clear-thinking. After enjoying some organisational work on the London to Sydney Marathon which whetted his appetite for more motorsport he accepted another offer from Ford to realise rather abruptly that financial control was to be their strongpoint.

Peter Browning had long had a close association with the Competitions Department through his experience as a senior RAC timekeeper and the fact that John Thornley had set up an Austin Healey Club within the factory alongside the MG Car Club with Peter being invited to run it. This role was later translated to cover Competitions Press Officer so this almost ‘apprenticeship’ made him the ideal choice even though he was doubtful of his capability to follow Stuart. Special Tuning responsibilities were removed from his remit, meaning I reported direct to the Plant Director, before a later reorganisation had me reporting direct to the BL Publicity Director.

Peter also relates that in October 1968 my journalist friend, the late Gerry Phillips, recorded an interview with Peter that tried to put the record straight about the impending reduction at least in competition activities. The three main rally crews were regrettably to be released from their verbal agreements having been probably the strongest team any manufacturer has ever had. Having tried to justify to Gerry the BL policy in print, the Press Office declined to release it but all is revealed here.

There are several oblique references to Special Tuning and the support it gave to the Competitions Department and their finances but so little detail that there is obviously another book waiting to be written. The example printed of one of the price lists of Special Tuning parts only shows one side of the Mini sheet, but at least the printing is bold enough to be read easily. Some of the other documents are very honest copies including some with hand-written annotations but these seem to have suffered in the reproduction process by often being over-reduced to fit the page layout and/or being too faint to read. That said, the book is a mine of new information and a ‘must’ for every BMC enthusiast’s Christm

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