Roger Fowler will be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky when he competes at Chateau Impney later this year. The Midlands-based driver is one of just a handful of returning competitors who raced in the Chateau’s original Hill Climb events, back in the 1960s. By his own admission, Roger didn’t fare too well back then, but he’s got his sights set on success this time, as he returns to the historic venue in his fully restored, breathtaking Lotus T60.
Roger’s love affair with motorsport began when he was just a schoolboy, encouraged by his father who was also a keen car enthusiast. Growing up in Stourbridge, Roger was very familiar with Chateau Impney, and so it was fitting that one of his very first competition outings took place at this local venue. He entered the Chateau’s Hill Climb in 1964 in his Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite, and returned to compete again in 1965, this time in a Lotus SII BMC. Recalling his first experiences of racing at Chateau Impney, Roger said: “It was thrilling for me as a young man, stepping out for the first time amidst a big selection of exotic cars. To be involved with it all was both exciting and nerve-racking!”
By 1965, Roger was also fulfilling his passion for cars by working as a junior mechanic for the Midland Racing Partnership. It was here that he first came into contact with the Lola-Cosworth SCA T60 Formula 2: an internationally renowned vehicle that was raced throughout Europe by a star-studded line-up including Chris Amon, Richard (Dickie) Attwood, Jo Bonnier and Frank Gardner. Roger considered himself lucky to have the opportunity to work on the Lola back then, and he watched with awe as the MRP raced the Lola to success in the Gold Cup at Oulton Park, the Rome Grand Prix and Solitude, amongst many others.
In 1966 the car changed hands and began its adventures overseas – first in Northern Ireland, then to New Zealand and Australia, where it continued to race with some success until 1989, when it was retired into storage by its then-owner, Don Black of New South Wales. It was discovered as a ‘barn find’ some twelve years later and featured in Classic Cars Magazine in 2001, and once again caught Roger’s eye.
Fast-forward 15 years and the Lola T60 is now Roger’s pride and joy. He secured the car at auction in 2013, shipped it back over from Australia, and has just completed a painstaking rebuild to return it to its former glory. Roger and the Lola had their first non-competitive outing at Castle Combe in April, and are soon to feature in Vintage Racecar magazine. As one of only two of its kind in the country, the car is already creating quite a buzz as it’s welcomed back to the UK circuit.
Chateau Impney’s 2016 Hill Climb will be the duo’s first competitive race together, and it marks significant milestones for both car and driver: Roger himself hasn’t driven competitively since 1989, and it will be the Lola’s first race in England for 50 years! Of course, it’s only right that this first outing is taking place at the Chateau – the setting of Roger’s very first competitive season all those years ago. It would have happened sooner if Roger had had his way:
“I did put an entry in for the 2015 Chateau Impney Hill Climb, but I was much too optimistic about how long the restoration was going to take, so unfortunately the car was nowhere near ready. I came along though and I thought the event was very good indeed. I think resurrecting the Hill Climb is a marvellous thing, and I’m sure it’s going to become quite a landmark event in the Midlands.”