I had the good fortune to bump into race driver Anthony Reid recently. The location – Bournemouth beach. I recognised Anthony and have to admit I was a little awe-struck. For anyone in the know he was at the upper echelons of the BTCC during its heyday; racing Nissan Primeras, Ford Mondeos and MG ZRs. He was runner-up twice – in 1998 and 2000. Outside of British Touring Car Championship he has had a varied career racing single seaters, Le Mans prototypes, classic race cars, GTs and touring cars around the world.
Antony was born in Glasgow in 1957. His driving career started at the age of twenty when he attended the Jim Russell racing school. Contacts made at the school led to a full season in Formula Ford. The sponsorship money only covered one year’s racing so, recognising he had the talent but not the funds to make it as a race driver, he worked in the oil industry for three years. During this time he made sporadic appearances in Formula Ford before graduating to Formula 3 in 1985 at the ripe old age of twenty eight. After a season in Formula Vauxhall Lotus, Anthony’s career took another step forward. He contested Le Mans in a Porsche 962 and then left the comforts of his home country and moved to Japan. He was not alone in making this move. His contemporaries included none other than Jacque Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine whom he raced, and beat on many occasions, in a variety of machinery including Formula 3, F3000 and sports cars. In 1992 Anthony won the Japanese F3 championship, beating Jacques Villeneuve to second place.
I’m speculating here but Eddie Irvine said in an interview, back when he was driving for Ferrari in F1, that he came back from his career in Japan a millionaire. It would be impolite to have asked Anthony the same question but his time in Japan most certainly raised his profile, and it probably did no harm to his bank balance.
In the mid-90’s Anthony moved back to the UK where his career flourished. 1996 saw him racing in the German Super Touring Cup in a Nissan Primera whilst 1997 saw his move to the BTCC. This was in an era of big-budgets, technologically advanced cars and the top drivers at the top of their game. There were Playstation games featuring all the cars and all the circuits, all the races attracted big crowds but the races at Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Donington were the really big draws.
Speaking to Anthony on the beach, I told him I remembered when Nigel Mansell joined the field in a Ford Mondeo in 1998. I told him the race at Donington was one of the best I had ever seen, with Charlie Cox commenting and the entire BTCC grid gunning for the former F1 and Cart champion. Anthony’s face beamed as he remembered the race. The sprint race was won by John Cleland in his Vauxhall Vectra. When it was time for the feature race the skies darkened and the heavens opened shortly after the start. The race has gone down in history; hard racing, cars spinning, lead changes and the prospect of Mansell winning. Unfortunately, Anthony told me, he was on the wrong tyres at the wrong time. He could have won (as he told me this the pain was clearly etched on his face) but his tyres were overwhelmed by the conditions and he aquaplaned off. Not the best result but his name had been made. Hard graft and hard racing gets you known in racing circles but to have been a major player in an event such as this gave him wider fame.
Anthony won seven races and the runner-up place in the championship that year. The next year saw a move to the Ford team and another runner-up place in 2000. In 2001 he moved to the fledgling works MG outfit. The first season was a development year with sporadic race appearances but 2002 saw a return to full time BTCC with a win in the first race, as well as a drive at Le Mans in the prototype MG. He ran as high as third before the car retired with mechanical problems.
Since then, whilst he has been unable to gain a full-time race long seat Anthony is still in great demand. His talents have rewarded him with drives at Goodwood (in his old Primera), classic races all over the world, regular GT drives and a regular slot in the TC2000 touring car championship in Argentina. Only last year he was brought back into the BTCC field as a third driver in the WSR MG, acting as a rear-gunner for Colin Turkington’s title defence.
Not many people can make a full-time career driving race cars. His skill behind the wheel is a given but what separates Anthony from the myriad other race drivers whose careers peter out is his spirit. He is an absolute gentleman. A family man with a passion for racing. At 53 years old he is still making a living from the sport he loves. He told me he was soon off to Argentina for a stint in the TC2000 series.
We also discussed the modern BTCC. I had to admit I don’t follow the series as much now as I once did. Anthony told me the series went into decline when the racing became too expensive and the worlds motor manufacturers started to gobble each other up. Just think back to when Renault fielded the Laguna against Nissan’s Primera. Each was spending hundreds of thousands per season but now Renault owns Nissan, so why bother? Today it costs at least £300,000 to run a car in the BTCC and not one of the top drivers is paid for their work, indeed most pay to drive.
Anthony Reid has achieved what most can only dream of, but even he must have regrets about not making the break into Formula 1. What most people don’t know is that he did have the opportunity; but not the budget. On the wall of his bathroom at home Anthony has a framed letter. It is from Eddie Jordan, who wrote to Anthony telling him he would love to give him a place in his F1 team; but that he had to bring a budget.
It was a pleasure to have met Anthony Reid. He is taller than I imagined, well spoken and extremely polite. The consummate gentleman driver. Long may his career continue.
Here is a YouTube Link to one of the best Touring Car Races with Anthony and Nigel Mansell
Anthony Reid on Wikipedia