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08 June 2009

Mike Caine TVR Tuscan Champion.
2009 - 20th Anniversary of the TVR Racing. Mike reminisces

During my several years of TVR ownership and a couple of decades following TVR Racing, I have been fortunate in meeting and getting to know several of my heroes. TVR racers are a very grounded bunch. Like the cars, their roots are generally blue collar, street level and hairy-chested (please excuse the last one ladies) and have always been popular with grass roots racing fans. Even now in the current TVR Challenge, they tend to put our second race at the end of the day to keep those attending the meetings there till the end.

Foremost of my TVR heroes is Mike Caine. TVR Tuscan Champion in 2000, runner up 1999 (equal points on points it came down to race wins), Le Mans veteran in 2002/3, Speed 12 pilot in British GT and the only ever TVR works driver. Mike has TVR through him like a stick of Blackpool rock and his memories of TVR racing are still his fondest.

“My abiding memory of TVR is fun,” Mike told me. “These were my first years in proper big budget motor sport and they were great times. Most of the drivers were in their 20’s and after a few beers at the end of a hard days racing there was often mischief afoot. “I remember Ian Mckellar and the guys putting a young Jamie Campbell-Walter in the back of a Griff and donut-ing him around the car park several times just minutes before being called to the holding area to race. He didn’t look very well when he got out I can tell you but he did OK. On another occasion at Promotasport, we had a faulty generator and we all got carbon-monoxide poisoning over the weekend. We still raced through it, though we were all dizzy and throwing up. We won…I think…I can’t really remember, yeah I’m pretty sure.”

I asked Mike more about the spirit of the Paddock.
“It was all good” he said “Great in fact. Looking back, it was like those old films about the Second World War where the pilots all run to their planes and head off for a dog-fight in the sun. Now I’m not saying we faced the same dangers as those guys, but we were genuinely pleased to make it through the race let alone to finish placed. It was a contact sport back then, though the contact was generally very fair and born out of speed and competitiveness. It was encouraged to some extend as the crowd and the TV loved it. I just remember smiling a lot. All weekend in fact and if you did well and got a placing…fantastic. Good times.”

Anything in particular spring to mind in the races?
“Well there was one time at Snett (Snetterton in Norfolk, Mike’s favourite track and one where he always does well) where we dominated in Qualy and I had an eye on the lap record. We pulled a 1:07 in qualifying and were leading in the race on 108:8s; I was in front by several seconds and was flying. I had mentioned to Giles (Cooper) before the race what was on my mind and had said that if it was on, I’d flash my lights when passing the pits. He just told me to focus on the race not the times. Anyway, I was flying and felt I could go for it. (To give you an idea of the pace, the front-runners at our last Challenge race at Snett were on 1:11:8s in the race) I had a terrific run out of Sears corner on to the back Revitt straight and toed it as soon as I could. I saw the rev limiter flash in 5th for the first time so I knew I was faster than ever and was so pleased that I missed by braking point a completely and shot straight over the first Esses corner pirouetting frantically. It must have been a 720 degree spin across the grass and I rejoined, horrendously embarrassed as I passed the pit wall in 7th. The adrenalin was really pumping though and I managed to regain the lead and take the race, but it was a serious wake up call.”

Tuscans were the biggest, fastest and loudest racing in the UK at that time, the biggest single make series with big rubber and even bigger V8s and they often outshined BTCC as the best of British Motorsport. “We acheived massive global audiences on TV & Sky with up to 20,000+ people at the races themselves (I can vouch for that as I was one of them,) yet it was all like a big boys outing for us. Yes the racing was ultra competitive, but it was more like club racing, more like the “Challenge” is now than the modern equivalent which I guess is Porsche Cup. Mike currently races in Porsche Carrera Cup GB – currently the UKs biggest single make series and is again vying for the Championship on the BTCC Tour and also in Britcar with privateer Keith Kent as well as the Racesport SagarisGT3  with Richard Stanton

So, if it was possible to race in Tuscan again would you? The current series is growing all the time and the pace is rising steadily. If a pro-team got a package together would you like to be involved? “Ofcourse…” Mike said “In a second”

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