Keith Vaughan Williams explains his surprise decision to quite mid season….
A few people have contacted me asking why on earth I had quit the season midway, sitting third in the table and still in with a good shout at the championship title too!
Firstly I have to say that it was a very difficult decision and those close to me know I’d been agonising earlier in the season (pre-Brands Hatch) as to whether or not I should continue racing.
I’d probably had my best racing ever this season, I’d really taken the Tuscan by the scruff of the neck having spent time and money getting the car spot on, nicely set up and it certainly suited me; a big thanks go to Dan Taylor at TaylorTVR for that. Dan knows the Challenge cars well having worked for several teams in the championship’s halcyon days in the 90’s.
Close racing with Andy Race in his Class B Tuscan at both Snetterton & Donington and with Cliff Jobson and the T350R at Brands, as well as some of the Class A cars (Perry Wadhams & Darren Smith particularly) was something I really enjoyed and the adrenaline was certainly pumping, especially at Brands Hatch on both days there. Saturday was memorable as I was only a tenth of the fastest lap of leader Hugh Marshall’s Class A Tuscan; on my home track too which gave the local support something to cheer about!
So why give it at all up? In short – money! Running a competitive Challenge car without any sponsorship and most importantly keeping it reliable and properly shod is not cheap! I’d skimped on rubber the previous season and the loss of grip and the deterioration in handling was very noticeable, especially at Oulton in the last races of the season where all I had to do was finish Race 1 to secure the Class championship and the tyres gave me a couple of moments I didn’t want to repeat! I was into 5 figure costs racing and improving the car each year and the continuing renovation of our house, something had to give. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, my partner Tracey has always been very supportive of me racing. She came to most meets, was a willing helper and known to many in the paddock. However, it just got to the stage where the cost of tearing down walls and fitting numerous RSJs was eating into any spare cash I had. Tracey had also introduced me to sailing and as anyone who’s got bitten by that bug will know it’s likened to standing in the shower flushing £50 notes down the drain! I couldn’t do it all and made the tough decision to sell the race car.
The stark realisation hit me that if I binned the car myself or was punted off in a racing incident, then all the money I’d invested in the car would be literally written off and that was something I just couldn’t afford given everything else that was going on so I had to call a halt. Race insurance wasn’t an option either, as around £500 a meeting in premiums was more than I could bear.
Race Tuscans do not tend to sell quickly, there are cars still on the market that have been there for certainly a couple of years. However I was lucky that my Happy Endings teammate; Tim Davis was itching to get back into racing having pulled out himself at the end of last year. He’d had a mare of a season in the hybrid S3erbera which was plagued with reliability issues until they were finally sorted for Oulton. He’d then sold the car on to Jason at Str8six who was also itching to get out on track whilst his own road Tuscan race conversion was in build. Tim had done a deal which saw him towing an immaculate black Griffith 500 road car away from Jason’s workshops. A year later I’ve done a similar deal with Tim who now has the Tuscan Challenge car and I’m driving that immaculate black Griffith but on the road and with a healthier wallet!
Will I race again? Almost certainly. I do intend to try and get out next season, and perhaps will buy a drive or two and hopefully at Brands Hatch!