A dream came true for Rustington garage owner Dave Clarke when he bought his Pontiac Grand Prix ‘by accident’ – and to top it off, he has now completed the training needed to pass his motor racing licence.
Dave, 54, from Autopics Garage Services has put in hours of graft at Lanes Health Club with his personal trainer Caroline Hodgson, in order to reach the peak fitness required for a full racing licence.
He was already a regular at the gym and earlier this year asked for personal training to improve his fitness in readiness for the medical exam.
Dave said: “Caroline did a great job improving my strength, stamina and flexibility. You have to get into a NASCAR through the window, so you have to be pretty bendy.
“Motor racing at any level can by punishing on the body with g-forces and enduring extreme heat in firesuits and helmets. I’m glad to say I passed the medical with flying colours.
“I am very grateful to Lanes for their excellent personal training and I continue to attend classes several times a week.”
Dave says he bought his car ‘by accident’ a couple of years ago, having got chatting to a fellow car enthusiast after they drove some children to a charity prom event in classic Corvettes.
He explained: “He mentioned his son Paul had a NASCAR for sale. I swiftly arranged to go and have a look at it, as there are only a handful in the UK.
“I’ve always been interested in cars and motor racing, especially the colourful and loud American NASCARS, my favourite being the green no.18 driven by 2000 champion Bobby Labonte. I just liked the colours and the look of it.
“In that same year, I decided to compete in the Monte Carlo Historic Rally to mark the millennium, which was great fun in a 1959 MGA with my best friend Richard.
“Another big passion of mine is science fiction and superhero movies, especially Marvel heroes like Iron Man and The Hulk.
“To my total amazement, it was a green no.18 Pontiac Grand Prix with The Hulk on the bonnet and sides. I’m a big believer in fate, and this was just meant to be.
“I wasn’t planning to buy a NASCAR, a racing car, or having any more to do with participating in motor racing but why not? We agreed a price and I was given a timeframe to find some way to sell my soul and find the cash.
“The car cost twice as much as I have ever spent on a car before and I can’t even drive it on the road. My wife Gillian thought I’d lost the plot but agreed this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Being involved in the UK NASCAR scene has opened lots of doors for Dave and Gillian, including great new friends, racing the car and meeting famous racing drivers at circuits like Brands Hatch, Goodwood, Brooklands and Dunsfold.
Dave gets invitations to display at events around the UK and took a trip to the last NASCAR event of the season in Florida this year.
He said: “When I’m suited up, I really feel like a celebrity.
“You never know what might be around the corner to change your life forever. It really pays to keep fit and healthy, dream big, and work and play hard.”
There are even more events for the car expected for next year and for Dave, it is all worth it to see the faces of the children when they see the car and want photos and autographs.
Listen out for the engine, which has just been rebuilt to over 500hp.