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My Motorsport, 1957 to 2016, by Geoffrey Cowell

A very polite email to Rachel told us that for personal reasons Geoffrey Cowell would not be re-joining this year. We felt the occassion should not pass unmarked, so asked him for his motorsport story.

Castle Howard, 1975. A 6 year old Andrew Cowell prepares the Terrapin This book has led many to the joys of motorsport.

I went to University in London in 1956 and got persuaded to buy a Cambridge bodied Austin 7 special, which I raced at Brands Hatch and Silverstone in 750 MC events, for about 2 years, before the money ran out. It was used as a road car as well and was too heavy to be very competitive but I did meet Colin Chapman who gave me advice on squeezing out as much power as possible and improving the handling. Apart from getting the odd, infrequent drive in other peoples cars and some activity in 12 car Rallies, things went quiet until I was a spectator at a sprint, when over the tannoy came an announcement about Allan Staniforth's book "High Speed Low Cost", encouraging people to build their own, mini component based, single seater, "The Terrapin".

It took me some 18 months to build one which I first ran in 1975 with a bog standard 998 mini engine, eventually replaced with a 1072 Cooper S one. I still have photographs of my son, Andrew, sat in this car when he was about 6 years old and possibly the start of his interest in motorsport. I competed in this car until it was totally outclassed by motor biked engined cars. Work stopped me having the time to build a new car and so I bought a Suzuki engined, Mk1 Jedi.

Jedi at Aintree Team Cowell at 3 Sisters, just after Andrew had made the Jedi Mk5.
HiTech at 3 Sisters Jedi at Silverstone

In this both Andrew and I competed in sprints and hillclimbs gaining considerable success. Andrew then built the first Mk 5 Jedi in the Corbyns' workshop and he suggested I sell my car and share his. He soon decided that he would drive it in Formula Jedi and I bought Rob Barksfield's Hitech to carry on doing sprints and hillclimbs. My daughter, Hazel, decided that she would like to get involved and drove both her brother's and my car in sprints. The three of us as "Team Cowell" were regularly at events together for about two years with two cars.

Andrew decided to concentrate on circuits and I was persuaded to go back to circuits as well and bought a mark 4 Jedi with Suzuki engine and competed in Formula Jedi and then with the Monoposto Club, sometimes driving with both Clubs at the same circuit over a weekend. It was at this time that the Jedi Club gave me number 50 when they discovered that it was 50 years since I had started in Motorsport and I carried over this number into Monoposto.

Speed event and race-spec HiTech At Anglesey with trophy for best self built car. (Geoff said "Home Made", but that sounds a bit too rustic for such an immaculate creation.)

I always felt that my Hitech was quicker than the Jedi but it would have need butchering to fit a bigger fuel tank and extinguisher system plus electric reverse, so I decided that I would build my own version using spare bodywork and suspension bits as a starting point. This was completed and named a "Cowell Hitech". first appearing in 2008. I had the usual "shake down" problems but it eventually settled down to be a reliable drive and I suspect, was a lot quicker than the driver.

Sadly now, my wife's health problems mean that I need to bring my racing days to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed my membership of the Monoposto Club and will try to attend some meetings as a spectator.

Geoffrey Cowell

Editor's note: Geoffrey mentions son Andrew in this piece. Most readers of Startline will be aware that Andrew is MD of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd.