John Price, who sadly passed away earlier this week, contested a remarkable total of 859 rallies.
The 12 time Asphalt Rally Champion also drove some of the world’s most exotic, and difficult to tame, rally cars during that incredible 50 year career – including Porsche 911s, Renault 5 Maxi Turbos, BMW M3s and Metro 6R4s, each immaculately prepared by his John Price Rallying business.
Dozens of co-drivers had the honour to navigate for John – and you had to be invited to join him, as applications were rarely accepted. But there was a hard core of top co-drivers who John trusted for the bigger events – including the likes of Derrick Davies, Mike Bowen, Nigel Evans and John’s wife Caroline.
And here one of those top co-drivers gives us some of his personal memories of what it was like to navigate for ‘The Boss’.
Born in Carmarthen, Nigel worked as a rally journalist for Motoring News between 1984-’86 before becoming Co-ordinator of the National Tarmac Rally Championship – which is today called the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship. He managed the series right up until 1995, elevating the Championship from restricted to national status and overseeing some of John’s greatest rally victories and title triumphs. Since then, Nigel has continued to organise events, designing and developing rally-style customer experiences for Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati (and others) over the last 20 years. Whilst Nigel has long-since filed his pace notes for the last night, his fond memories of co-driving for JP will always remain. Here are some of them:
‘With the sad passing of one of Britain’s most successful rally drivers ever, I thought it would be fun to reflect on my experience sitting alongside John Price, the Tarmac master. As has been evident from the reaction across social media since the announcement, John made a considerable impression on many people and brought a lot of colour to everything that he did. I was grateful to be involved in some of it.
My first experience of sitting alongside John as a co-driver was in his home-built, canary yellow, Renault 5 Maxi 5 Turbo. We’d travelled to Sligo in the middle of the summer in 1988 (or thereabouts) for a national championship event. As we headed out to the first stage, John had some advice. “You won’t be used to this type of car, boy,” he said with characteristic Hereford drawl. “It tends to jump around a lot from one side of the road to another.” This erratic behaviour soon became evident, and graphically so as we hurtled down a road that was hardly wider than the car. All of a sudden, we hit a bump, and the driver lost the wheel. The car pirouetted down the road at unabated speed, and we must have made two full 360° revolutions before it came to a halt. Unbelievably, the only damage was to the front spoiler, and we were able to continue right away. Better tighten those belts, though.
Different Kettle of Fish
John was loyal to the Renault brand for many years and usually with a derivative of the 5 Turbo. However, for reasons unknown, he took possession of a Group N 21 Turbo and this was a completely different animal. I can remember sitting in with him on a stage rally at Pembrey and was amazed at how quick the thing was off the line. However, it did not want to go around corners very efficiently and in any case, the turbo let go later on in that first stage.
Most people will remember JP in the later years for his exploits in the mighty Metro 6R4. This machine was formidable, and I had the pleasure of co-driving on several occasions, including an outright win on the Winter Stages over Otterburn. We decided to try and do the same thing twelve months later in an upgraded version of the car, and all was going well until the last stage. For reasons I can’t remember, there had been a delay, and we sat on the start line for what seemed like an age while the skies darkened. By the time we finally started, it was pitch black, and as I recall, we didn’t have any spotlights fitted. Nevertheless, things were going okay until we arrived at what I now know to be the notorious farmyard. The resident farmer had been very active earlier in the day, and his sterling efforts had managed to spread a thick layer of slurry all across the road. By the time we came over the approaching crest at full speed on slick tyres, the result was inevitable. I can tell you that it isn’t much fun scrambling to loosen your belts when you’re upside down in a ditch, and petrol is coming into the car!
My favourite rally of all with John was the 1990 Donegal International. Most pundits consider this to be the finest Tarmac rally in Ireland, and there was, as usual, a stellar entry. Without doubt, it was certainly a fabulous experience to sit in that car over those iconic stages for three days. Despite some issues and a lot of time lost with a spin, we managed to finish fifth behind the Irish icons McHale, Fisher, Cullen and McKinstry. Not a bad result at all.
Far and Wide
I also remember numerous trips to Ireland, the Isle of Man and Europe with the John Price Rallying team. They were always entertaining with never a dull moment, and undoubtedly some of the best times of my life.
Thanks for all the memories, John.’