Any top-level racer from back in’t day will have an extensive reel of hire car stories, and James Whitham is no different. After incriminating himself on numerous occasions, Whit settled on an expensive night at Donington Park involving his own car – or rather Honda’s car – and a few rentals…
“I was racing Superbike support races at the British Grand Prix in the 90’s. All the big names were out drinking after the race. I knew Kevin Schwantz, and obviously Niall Mackenzie and Rob Mac who were all in 500 GPs at the time, as were Rainey, Lawson, Spencer and Gardner. I somehow got invited to Rainey’s motorhome and we were all absolutely leathered. Somebody, not me, decided it was a good idea to get everyone’s hire cars and do a few laps (a race) of Donington at about 2am.
“So we broke into one of the garages and broke out the other side to the pit-lane. I didn’t have a hire car though – I had a Honda Prelude provided by Honda as I was racing for them that year. I’m not sure at what point I thought it’d be a good idea to do a few laps…
“I somehow was first onto the track – that was the first mistake. There was a big chain leading across the pit exit and I didn’t see it, so went under/through it and did every fucking panel on my car. That spoilt it for me because I knew I’d wrecked it.
“It got worse from there. The security couldn’t do anything as they were all going round and round, lights going everywhere, cars upside-down – I think Mackenzie wrecked one at the chicane.
“Anyway, the police turned up. It was Vauxhall Carlton if I remember rightly, and they had a pissed-up Eddie Lawson in the back of the car. As I walked out of pit-lane with my head down trying not to be noticed, wondering what I was going to do with this bent car I’d just smashed, I looked through the window and saw Lawson leaning through the front of the police car shouting ‘let’s go, let’s go!’ He was trying to get the coppers to do another lap.
“Them boys were mad. It was at that point I realised I couldn’t afford to keep up with them. They could afford to wreck things and pay for them, and I certainly couldn’t”
44T rating: 10/10