Wheels Of Fortune

Crispian Besley

After a short but eventful career as a racing driver in his youth, Crispian Besley went into the City and worked as an investment banker for 30 years. 
But his passion for the sport never died and he is still racing cars today.
As a client of the Bank, he has kindly agreed to share his experiences of racing and his considerable knowledge about the sport, the cars and the investment perspective in a series of articles.
This is the first one.

My passion for cars and motorsport dates back to my early childhood playing with toy cars and "racing" them around the nursery floor and in that respect I've probably never really grown up! My father was an influence too and whilst not a fanatic, he did take me to several races and had what one might call "good taste" in cars.


Crispian Besley


I was at school with two of James Hunt's younger brothers and James won the 1976 Formula 1 World Championship at the time we started racing Karts together, helped by a small amount of sponsorship that we attracted after an an article which appeared in the Daily Express trading on James's name and success. I paid a team to allow me to try out a Formula Ford single seater racing car which amazingly both my parents and my house master at Wellington allowed me to do despite the fact that the test was in the middle of my A level exams. It was so exciting that I immediately decided that being a racing driver was what I wanted to do and so gave up my chance of going to university to pursue my aspirations.  My parents weren't at all happy but allowed me to stay living at home after I left school and my only financial lifeline was their telephone, which I took full advantage of, to cold call companies trying to raise sponsorship. As a result, their next quarterly phone bill soared to £675 which was a great deal of money in 1977! 

I eventually had to borrow money from Lloyds bank (using my mother's account as security but without her knowledge). The team I'd previously tested for was called MRL and the kindly bank manager liked the photos of me in a car which fortuitously bore his own initials! So, having secured finance for my first race, I had stickers made for two of the very few companies who'd expressed an interest in backing me (but who understandably wanted to see me race first) and hired a team to run me with their company logos prominently displayed. 

The first event was at Brands Hatch and I was completely out of my depth, in more ways than one, as the race was held in very difficult conditions and torrential rain so it was a baptism of fire. The race was won by a certain Nigel Mansell, who went on to do rather well and became F1 World Champion in 1992, whereas I just managed to avoid being lapped and finished near the back of the field. However I had done enough to secure the backing of the two companies whose logos I carried and they agreed to sponsor me for the following 1978 season.

Unfortunately, in the first race of the '78 season I had a major accident, damaging both myself and the car. At least this led to some (mainly) media coverage and I built on that momentum to attract a portfolio of other companies keen to sponsor me who wanted to capitalise on the publicity that I managed to generate. I thus achieved my childhood ambition of becoming a professional racing driver for a couple of years. Then I decided that it was time for me to progress up the next rung of the ladder to Formula 3 and for this I needed to raise a budget three times greater than I had been operating on. Each of the companies who'd backed me were keen to stay with me, but none of them could justify the higher budget, as collectively (and probably correctly) they didn't feel that they'd get the incremental three times the level of publicity. The combination of this and parental pressure meant that my days as a professional were over and I found a job in the city.  This was the start of a 30 year career in Investment Banking; my only qualification for which was that, as my first employer commented, "you've shown a great skill at procuring large amounts of money out of institutions at a very young age, so you'll fit in with us perfectly..!"

Whilst my racing career may have paused, I had sold the cars and equipment and bought some classic cars, which were a good investment.

I'll tell you about that next time.

Crispian Besley



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