Racing Career

Racing!

John Bartlett racing driver photo Hi, my name is John Bartlett. I’m an ex racing driver and now author of 2 books: Dark Horse and Chequered Justice. That’s a picture of me back in the 80s, in the days when I was young, fit and had hair.An old English proverb says: Childhood never ends… the games just get bigger. Well, below is a selection of my old toys from way back… the days when I thought I was invincible, and we all trusted that our banks, MP’s and police officers were honest. It’s a very sad day when we’re forced to finally grow up!

The poet, writer and broadcaster, Sir John Betjeman once said: “Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. My dark hour of reason dawned back in January 1993…

Formula Ford November 1979 and my first go in a Royale RP26 FF1600 racing car at the Brands Hatch Racing Stables.  I’d dreamed of this day since I was a 7 year old boy.This was the day that my life changed forever and I discovered something that was almost as much fun as sex!
Lotus 61 After the thrill of the Brands Hatch School, I packed in the day job and decided to go pro! That was my first mistake; my second was to buy this ten-year-old Lotus 61 with an equally old engine and tyres, then try to take on Ayrton Senna and all the other big boys with their brand new toys and super fast engines!

I spent most of the year crashing into anything that moved and most things that didn’t.

RP24 Late in 1980 I sold the old Lotus and decided to upgrade to something a little newer: with the help of Comark Electronics and the Sussex T-Shirt Company I brought this 1978 Royale RP24.  It was only 3 years old… and so were the tyres!It was around this time that I meet the New Avengers actor, Gareth Hunt and he agreed to help me find enough backing to move up to FF2000, the next level up.
T82 FF2000 In 1983, with the backing of Gareth Hunt, I managed to persuade a chain of hairdressers to buy me this Delta T82, FF2000 car.  In my first race at Brands Hatch I got it into 4th place before spinning at Druids and getting T-boned!The car was a wreck and I woke up in hospital with internal bleeding and various broken and burned bits!
Van Diemen RF82 Finally working out which end of the grid I should be on… My first pole position at Oulton Park in my Van Diemen RF82, sponsored by Cavendish Finance.I crashed heavily on the second lap!
Lola T610 Oh, the arrogance of youth… if I can stick a Formula Ford on pole in the Northern Championship, it must be time to move into the World Championship… what could possibly go wrong (read Dark Horse, if you’d like to find out)!  This was my Lola T610 Group C car that I raced in 1984.  It was fitted with a 450bhp Cosworth DFL engine.  We ran the car in the British Thundersports series and selected World Sportscar races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Sandown Park World Sportscar race in Australia.
Racing-3-TN_Le_Mans-1985-06-16-100 This car was my big hope for the 1985 season.  It’s the Chevron B62 Group C2 car that I commissioned for the 85 World Championship with sponsorship from Goodmans Loudspeakers and Skoal Bandit. Unfortunately the whole project became mired in pointless litigation that prevented the project from ever reaching its full potential.
Racing-4-car This was the Bardon… The car was originally called the Arundel and had been commissioned by “Eddie Arundel”, the Earl of Arundel.  I took over the project in 1986 after the Chevron B62 project finally collapsed.We ran the Bardon throughout the full 86 and 87 World Championships with backing from Goodmans Loudspeakers and DRG Croxley Script.  It was fitted with a 450bhp Cosworth DFL engine.
Racing-6-TN_Brands_Hatch-1988-04-04-070 I raced this Group 6 Harrier LR7 throughout 1988 in the National Championship with Dave Mercer.  It was built by Lester Ray and was fitted with a Cosworth BDA engine.  It was very light, extremely quick and probably the best Harrier ever built.  With the backing of Goodmans and Saunier Duval, we secured 3 wins, 2 seconds and 5 lap records!
Brands Hatch 1988 This was the “Pink Panther” Tiga run by the Roy Baker Team.  Roy very kindly invited me to drive for him in the World Championship races at Brands Hatch and Sandown Park in Australia in 1988.  After seeing my results in the National Series he commented… “You really are a bit of a dark horse, John.  I had no idea you were that quick!” Unfortunately, in the Brands Hatch race my co-driver managed to wipe out the entire Mercedes Works Team!
Tiga GC286 Cosworth BDT Same car, other side of the planet.  After the embarrassment at Brands Hatch, Roy Baker very kindly offered me a drive at the 1988 Sandown Park World Championship race in Australia.The Hilton Hotel in Melbourne sponsored me with the penthouse suite of the Melbourne Hilton. Very nice!

Unfortunately, it was after this race, when returning to the UK via Malaysia, I fell off a racehorse, unwittingly breaking my back in two places.  It took almost 3 years before a specialist diagnosed what I’d done.

Racing-8-TN_Donington-1989-05-21-002 In an attempt to build on the impressive results in the LR7, despite chronic pain, and unaware I’d broken two vertebra, I agreed a two-year deal to race the new LR8 Group C Chevrolet for 89 and 90 in the National series…  It was a disaster… all the same problems I’d had with the Chevron B62 only now with a different manufacturer…  The car was finished late and due to a miscalculation in length of the gearbox input shaft, it blew three 500bhp Chevrolet engines!  We did however secure one win at Thruxton.
Thruxton 1990 Same car as above, different livery, but all same problems! JJ Properties were my co-drivers sponsor and went bust on me owing around £20K!

The following year, the same co-driver, with Henley Sports Cars as backer, signed a deal for the full 89 season… Henley Sports Cars also then went bust owing me another £20K!

The recession of the late 80s was beginning to bite and my team was now teetering on the brink….

Mid Ohio 1990 With the UK sliding into recession I entered the US IMSA Series for a few rather unsuccessful races in a Spice car.
Sierra Cosworth Probably my best ever race. This was the Roger Nevet prepared Sky TV/Cavendish Finance sponsored Sierra Cosworth I drove with Dave Mercer.After an incident early in the race, we were running last, around 30 laps behind the last car… we won Class A and in doing so, I not only closed the 30 lap deficit but also set the fastest lap in the race and in the wet.
Porsche 966 This is a shot of me testing the 966 for the Interserie event at Brands Hatch in 1992. The car is the 1000bhp Porsche 966 prototype that won more money in a single event than any other in sportscar racing history!The car won a price indemnity for $250,000 for a 5th place at Zolder. Basically, it was a bet with an insurance company.
Indy Car At home, with one of the prizes bought from the Zolder jackpot!One of two day-glo red Lola T89 Indy Cars destined for the 1993 Interserie Championship.
Indy Cars The new Star Union Team with the two Lola’s, a T88 and a T89 plus the Harrier C2 car… ready to take on the world!  What could possibly go wrong now? A new odyssey was about to begin (read Chequered Justice)…

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9 comments on “Racing Career

    • Thanks Tim, pity it wasn’t properly visible to everyone when your interview first went live… typical of my luck! If you liked the photos, I hope you’ll also like the video I’ve just loaded onto the home page. It covers the era I was racing in the World Sportscar Championship and for me, is very evocative.

  1. I think I still have the sign writing pounces for the Bardon…Goodmans etc

    Interesting to see what happened in 90s to you…didn’t realise you and David did so well…and even in Lester’s machinery!

  2. Good to hear from you after all this time, Chris. That particular Harrier (LR7) was really good, chiefly due to Dave Mercer’s development the previous year… a totally different design/setup to the earlier DB/RD Harrier Cosworth you had, I think in 87? I think Dave’s LR7 was built around an F3 Ralt suspension and upright set up. Unfortunately Dave sold it the following year (1989)… I did one race in it in 89 with a new, different team but sadly it was a totally changed car by then… horrendous, soft, sloppy set up with a poor engine! There will be some video of the LR7, Bardon & Sky Sierra Cosworth on this page in a week or so.
    Anyway, what are you up to nowadays?…. just curious, as having no idea what “pounces” were, I looked it up in my wife’s dictionary, but being rather dyslexic I missed out the “U”, to discover: “a man who lives off prostititute’s earnings!”…. somewhat confused, I turned to the internet… thank goodness Google copes with dyslexia!

  3. Hi John,
    Great to see all the cars you drove on your website.
    You might be surprised but I’m writing a one page article about the Arundel/Bardon car for Dutch magazine “RTLGP Magazine”. We’re planning to run the article in the april issue.
    Although I have consulted books, magazines and the internet, I am still trying to figure out where the car has been since it’s rebuilt and last appearance at the Silverstone classic in 2007.
    Do you have any information?

  4. Hi Erik

    Interesting to hear that you are writing an article about the old Bardon! Any chance of sending me a copy once it’s out? I don’t know too much about who has it currently or when it last ran at Silverstone in 2007 but if I can help you with any other background information please contact me at john@chequeredjustice.com or call my office on 01622 754280 and we can have a chat. You might also like to read Dark Horse where the Bardon features.

    Regards

    John

  5. Hi John happy memories of the Lola T610 my brother sponsored you and Steve and the car was launched at World of Leather Reading. My son Harry has been racing karts since he was 8 moved onto Ginetta Junior now in the FunCup as endurance racing is his passion. All best wishes to you Nick Mailer

    • Hi Nick, good to hear from you after all these years. They were great times. I still have a few photos of that launch. The story behind the Lola is in my book, Dark Horse. Have you read it… or Chequered Justice? If you’re ever at the track with your son and happen to have the odd pass, do give me a call and I’ll pop down for a chat and a beer!

  6. Hi John, I will get your books would be great to meet up, Harry’s next FunCup race is Snetterton practice Friday 6 hour race Saturday next week. If you would like to come along of course have a pass for you, my mobile is **** ******. I know the guys who run the team would love to meet you lots to catch up on!

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