Silverstone, July 21 and 22 – Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy
Treacherous conditions along with old and undersize wets put pay to any chance of a realistic... Read more
Silverstone, June 23, MG Live Weekend with Legends Group 2 Series
Qualified second in the Zakspeed against the big Jaguars, Rovers and Capri’s. At the start of... Read more
SEE YOU AGAIN IN 2013!
THE THEN... AND THE NOW
Born in the early 60s, Mark’s curiosity with cars started before his teenage years.
At weekends he’d go to work with his dad and wash tankers to earn pocket money. On the same site was a garage where a modified RS Mexico was being repaired – a car which fascinated him. The car belonged to Jim Mensley, and Mark would use every opportunity to help with the work and learn about the car. Jim and Mark became, and still are, great friends.
Mark’s first car, though, was a Ford Popular – he was 12 years old when he bought it, for £5. He stripped it down to see how it all worked and then re-built it, before selling it a year later for £15.
He started driving at the same age – one of his dad’s friends gave him a Ford Thames van to drive around in the yard. And so it began!
It was Jim who got Mark interested in motorsport. Back then, Mark was 15 and Jim 23. Between them, they built and developed their own cars – and Jim raced them. They were a successful team.
In 1974, Jim bought a Mini for grass-track racing, which Mark helped him to build. They won their class in the Midlands Championships in their first year.
Their next car was a Ford Anglia which they built from scratch in 1976 to race on shale ovals. By the end of the season they had it all worked out, and were winning regularly.
Moving onto tarmac in 1977, they built a Ford Escort MK1 and moved into National Hot Rod Racing. This was a learning season and, determined to compete at the highest level, during the next winter they built a new MK2 Escort with a competitive engine.
In 1978, the new car was runner-up in both the English and European Championship races and won the prestigious National Championship outright.
1979 saw the team enter the first Toyota Hot Rod for short circuit racing. As well as coming second in the British Championships, this was the only non-Ford-powered car to win a Hot Rod Grand Prix. It finished fourth in the series, the only car that wasn’t a Ford Escort to finish in the top 15 places.
In the latter half of 1980 they decided to start circuit racing and entered a Chevrolet Camaro in the last few races of the British ASCAR (American Saloon Car Automobile Racing) series. The next season saw the same car come out but the team had re-designed the suspension, fitted lightweight panels and water-cooled brakes. They now had a car that would stop and go round corners as well as have good straight-line speed. The car went on to win the Anglo-American Challenge series. 1982 saw the team build another Camaro, based on an IROC car that had been imported from the States. This car led the championship into the last round where a well-timed nudge from behind put it out of the race and into second place in the Championship.
1983 and 1984 saw the team enter a Tiga in the Sports 2000 series. This slightly dated model was never a winning car, but the team managed a number of creditable performances and gained significant knowledge of setting up ‘single-seater’ type cars.
1985 the team built the first of two Rover Vitesse cars for the modified Saloon car championships; this was a successful season with many race wins and lap records. The second car was more highly modified, fitted with a 3.9 litre engine. In 1986/7 it was entered in both Modified Saloon and ‘Thundersaloon’ races. It was another successful car, taking lap records, Modified Saloon Wins and a number of good places in the Thundersaloon series. This car achieved what is believed to be the first 100mph lap by a saloon car around Mallory Park and was six seconds quicker than any other saloon at the 1986 ‘Birmingham Superprix’.
At the end of 1987 the team were given a Honda Legend shell by Honda UK to use for a new Thundersaloon car. The team re-modelled the body in Kevlar and Fibreglass, installed an ex-F1 transaxle, front suspension from an ex-Le Mans car and a 600BHP alloy V8. The car achieved six placings in 1988, its development season, and was runner-up in the Championship the next season to the Works Vauxhall Carlton, after achieving the most pole positions, fastest laps and five wins.
Jim had a serious workshop accident in 1990 and stopped driving. They ran the car for a couple of years after that, for a number of other drivers. The car was always a front-running car, but the team disbanded at the end of 1992 and the car was sold.
Between 1991 and 1992, Mark started racing Formula 2, 500cc Hovercrafts. He soon got into the swing of racing on land and water in race events up and down the country and went on to win the Novice Championship. But, after two accidents which put him in hospital and, with his wedding coming up, his wife put a stop to it. So it was back to motor-racing.
From 1994, Mark started to restore E-Type Jaguars – one of his all-time much-loved cars. He was 19 when he bought his first road car, a V12 Coupe. His first race car, though, was a Zelia E-Type. It was a project car – he bought in bits, built and developed it and then raced it.
He first raced the Zelia in the Jaguar Car Club and then the Anglo-American series. This was the series to be in at the time where Jaguar E-types, Aston Martins, Sunbeam Tigers and other British variants raced against American muscle cars such as the Ford Mustang Boss and Corvettes. The Zelia, though, wasn’t quick enough for the series so he found an old E-Type mod sports car in a barn and decided to build the quickest and lightest car with limited funds to challenge the American muscle cars. This car was great for smaller twisty tracks which dominate the British circuits, for which the muscle cars were much less-suited. This car became the one to beat. He won various races and championships over 10 years. This same car took pole position when it was entered in the 40th E-Type anniversary at Donington with the likes of Stirling Moss and other fantastic 60s racers.
Mark successfully raced in the Anglo-American Championships until 2004.
In between racing his E-Type, Mark built and raced a Sports GT Piper for two years too.
He’s still not sure why…but he bought a Group C2 Argo from Austria. He couldn’t afford to race it, so he swapped it for another E-Type. This one came in boxes and, once again he built it up and raced it in various championships until he sold it – the proceeds of this sale went towards a major house project!
With depleted funds, he decided to build a replica MK1 Ford Zakspeed Escort with great success. He then sold that to fund his now current MK2 Ford ZakSpeed winning Group 2 car which has many fastest laps and overall wins to date.
The highlight of 2009 was driving a Chevrolet Corvette owned by Bernie Chodosh at Daytona. The HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing) invited British race cars and drivers to race with their American counterparts. Mark had a podium finish – first in class and third overall.
2011 and the biggest historic race event of the year – the 6-hour SPA race. Mark was invited to form part of a three-driver line-up with Chris Scragg and Dave Coyne – in a 3.8 E-Type roadster owned by Chris. There were 106 cars in that year’s historic top race in Europe. The team achieved a class win and a 3rd overall. The HSCC awarded Chris, Dave and Mark the Best GT Performance of 2011 at its annual dinner and awards.
When it comes to competition cars, Mark builds, develops, races and wins in them. It’s been said many times that he doesn’t just race cars – he entertains the crowds watching from the trackside. He makes a race worth watching and winning.
Mark runs his own successful Group 2 MK2 Ford Zakspeed Escort from their base near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. Mark has prepared and run cars in a variety of championships, including European GT1 series, historic touring cars, SPA 6-hour, Historic LeMans, Masters and Legends Group 2 and 5, and Goodwood Revival.