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NOTICE OF DEATH - PETER BALDWIN (1941-2023)

It is with great sadness that we must inform Members of the passing of Peter Baldwin whose battle with COVID19 reached its conclusion last Saturday evening. He was 82 years old and had been a Full Member of the BRDC since 1986. Fellow Member Martin Short, a close and long-standing friend of Peter, has sent us this Tribute:

Peter Baldwin   A Tribute to a Legend

In a world where the world ‘legend' is used a bit too much, there are very few who really are. Peter is, and now - was - a Legend. Sadly he died last Saturday night, peacefully, surrounded by family. I just wanted to say a few words about the great man.

Peter helped me massively in my first years of racing cars. He tuned up my Formula First, and I think he even did my Martlet kit car at the Marshalls of Cambridge rolling road that was his second home. We always got on really well, he loved my English Bull Terrier ‘Noggin' who featured in the Marshalls magazine, with him sat in my race car at the wheel. He took a particular interest in me, and came and watched me race my Formula First at Brands Hatch in the Winter Series, and saw me roll it into a ball at Paddock Hill bend! After that he said I needed to get out of single seaters and get into saloon cars. And with that he offered me his spare MG Metro Turbo! This was an extraordinary gesture, as it meant that he would in effect be helping to run a second car with his own guys Wattie and Kevin. He didn’t want any money from me for the car, or for his troops. But he helped and guided me, and we ended up with identical cars racing at the front. He just lost out on the championship, and I ended up as Rookie of the Year. We had spectacular times together, including me wrecking the car in qually at Oulton at old Knickerbrook up against the railway sleepers. He put his arm round me as I was totally devastated, and he said “It's only a piece of tin Martin, you’re alright and that’s all that matters”. I went on to finish third with that beat up car that day. Peter taught me so much over those two years, and then we went on to Rover GTis, followed by Rover Turbos. But the real love of his life - apart from his wonderful wife June - was Minis. He won the Mini Miglia title a record 7 times. And in his 70s! And I’m proud to say that I built the space frame roll cage that went into his Miglia, and is still there today, must be 20 years later and still competitive. 

He was an extraordinarily talented competitor. He never left anything to chance, his mantra really was 'Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance’ and he not only built his own cars, but developed them as well, and kept many young men behind him with his innovations. He was so good he was often called in to the scrutineers to have his engine stripped, or his chassis checked over. In fact, many regulations were brought out to specifically slow him down, including ultimately banning the Ohlins dampers that he developed to win him his multiple championships. He was also very famous, before my time with him, for the famous orange mini that was in the TV series Driving Ambition where he had to race wearing a ginger wig, as the star was a woman driver! 

Peter always took an interest in up-and-coming drivers, his first I think was Steve Soper, another Mini racer, and of course me, and then Rob Huff was very much on his radar when he was racing MGBs, and then of course the fabulous Deegan brothers, Shayne and Lee. He certainly helped me out for no reward other than seeing me do well. 

He was a rolling road guy, the best with old cars that needed a ‘dizzy’ swinging or a carb re-jetting. The sight of him with his leather- gloved hands swinging a distributor whilst the car was screaming its head off on the rollers at high speed was a sight to be believed in a cotton wool bound modern world of health and safety. He wasn’t a wealthy guy throwing money at racing, he was a true garagiste, doing everything himself, with a lovely nature, with friends in all corners, willing to help on the car, or with some sponsorship now and then. He was a natural philanthropist. His first thought was always of how to help somebody, yet on track he was as fierce and calculated as they come, but always fair.

He set me on my path, which ended up with me as an entrant and driver at the Le Mans 24 Hours. He looked after me in almost a fatherly way. He loved what we went on to do, including now our boys and their racing exploits. He was always up for a party, and in December came suited and booted to my son Morgan's 21st birthday party in full black tie - a very happy memory that lots of close friends shared.

Just before he died, I was able to talk to Peter, and tell him how much he meant to us, and how much he helped a very rough round the edges angry young man produce his own story in the motor sport world. I will be forever grateful to his son Gareth, a close family friend, for thinking of us and making that happen. 

And June. His rock. She has nursed him these last few months. A love that was a true love. What amazing partners you have been together. Our thoughts are so much with you both, and the rest of the family.

We still had so much to do Peter. It’s going to be a very different world without you. Goodbye Pete. X

Martin

Peter was hugely proud of his BRDC Membership which he earned as the result of winning the MG Metro European Championship. He and June were regular visitors to the Clubhouse over the years, always cheerful and happy to be enjoying the company and the ambience. In a racing career, which began in 1967 and never missed a year until he turned 80 a couple of years ago, Peter won hundreds of races and numerous championships including seven Mini Miglia titles. His Ford BDA-powered Mini BB4 was one of the most successful special saloon cars of the 1970s. In the 1980s he moved into less outlandish machinery with other Rover products – the Austin then Metro Challenge series, Rover 216GTis and the 220 Turbo Coupe, the celebrated Tomcat Turbo. Later he teamed up with fellow Member Graham Churchill to compete in the European Historic Touring Car series with an Appendix K Mini-Cooper S – Peter and Graham won their class more often than not. Peter rarely raced a car with the driven wheels behind him. One notable occasion which he could not walk away from was a ShellSport Escort Mexico race for which drivers qualified by winning a race earlier in the day. It was at Mallory Park and Peter acquitted himself well but it was not an experience to which he hastened to return. A resume of Peter’s career published in 1981 concluded by saying that he could probably claim to have forgotten more about the famous little British car than almost anyone else will ever know. And that was before he had won the first of his seven Mini Miglia championships.

To his wife June, son Gareth, daughter Jacqui and grandchildren Eve and Olivia, the BRDC joins Martin Short in sending its most sincere condolences to a true motor racing legend.

Funeral details will be posted on the website when known.

The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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