From 1976 to ’81 I was hosting the Track Torque programme on Radio Victory in Portsmouth, just half an hour down the road from what had become a little enclave of motor racing folk.
In those days the famous drivers weren’t all sheltering from the taxman in Monaco. John Watson and Derek Bell lived in Pagham. David Purley, whose Formula 1 cars were built at his Father's LEC fridge factory, lived in Itchenor. Tucked away in Littlehampton was Mike Earle’s Onyx Race Engineering F3000 team whose driver Stefano Modena rented a flat nearby.
Hardly Monte Carlo, but still a sunny place by the sea away from the rigours of racing, and rich pickings for our radio show which was starting to get some national coverage.
Wattie, ‘Dinger’ Bell and Purley, three contrasting characters, all at the top of their game, all helped along the way by Mike Earle, a highly respected team manager and racing guru. Mike had run Church Farm Racing for Bell, named after Derek’s family farm at Pagham, before Derek caught the eye of Enzo Ferrari. He’d also taken Purley to a Formula 5000 championship with LEC in 1976 and given Watson a roof over his head before he won his first Grand Prix with Penske and hit the big time with Brabham and McLaren.
These four ‘local heroes’ became regular guests on our increasingly popular radio show, Bell and Purley coming to the studio after setting another ‘record run’ from Pagham to Portsmouth in David’s Range Rover.