THE LUTHER BLISSETT INTERVIEW


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Motorsport has always been one of Luther's passions. Photo: Gary Hawkins

Older competitors with a sound knowledge of football may well have done a double take if they happened to be in and around Race Control at our Brands Hatch meeting earlier this month. For performing the Safety Car duties on behalf of the BRSCC South Eastern Centre was none other than former England striker of the early 80’s, Luther Blissett.

Luther is something of an iconic figure in the football world. His playing career spanned almost 20 years, most notably with Watford when they were serious challengers in the old first division before a big money move to one of the most prestigious clubs in world football, AC Milan. In total Luther scored 213 goals including a hat-trick on his England debut in 1982.

Putting football matters aside for a minute I took the opportunity during the lunch break at the Brands Hatch meeting to ask Luther about the other passion in his life – motorsport!

“I’ve had an interest in cars and how they work from around the age of 9 or 10. I grew up in Willesden, North London and my father owned two Morris Minors. Cars in those days needed a lot of maintenance so I used to help my Dad when he fixed them. I also used to drive them up and down the alley way at the back of our house!

My early heroes were Jim Clark and Graham Hill and I used to collect motorsport magazines & model cars back in those days. In the 70s and 80’s I started to follow the Touring Car Championship. I loved Gerry Marshall’s Droop Snoot Baby Bertha – I’m a member of the Droop Snoot Group and I’ve got one garaged up in Scotland.

Once my playing and coaching days were over it was time to get behind the wheel myself. I first raced a Ginetta up at Oulton Park and it was there that I realised the lack of ethnic participation in motorsport. Together with John Barnes and Les Ferdinand I set up Team 48 with the aim of helping to give young Afro-Caribbeans a chance, not just as drivers but across all roles within motor racing. It is still my ambition to race with the team at Le Mans.”

Referring back to football, I asked Luther how the feeling of scoring a last minute winner compared to that of pulling off a last ditch over-taking move? “The feeling of exhilaration is very similar. The satisfaction of a great passing manoeuvre or beating your closest rival is identical to the buzz I used to get from scoring. For me it may be even stronger, particularly as racing is my second sport and I’m up against drivers who have been competing for years.”

As the Safety Car driver at the Brands meeting Luther spent a lot of the time sitting in the pit-lane waiting to be called into action so I enquired if he saw that as the mundane side of the sport? “Not at all – I really enjoyed performing the Safety Car duties. It gives you a different perspective on what goes on behind the scenes and the teamwork involved. A lot of drivers & spectators probably don’t appreciate the work that goes on by officials and marshals to run a race meeting.”

Finally, almost two weeks on from the Brands Hatch meeting when checking a couple of facts for this piece I couldn’t let Luther go without getting his thoughts on the World Cup in South Africa. “The pundits and fans are too quick to write off England. The important thing in tournament football is to get through to the next stage – the teams that start the best don’t always go on to win it. Argentina looked world beaters in their group games in 2006 as they have done this time, but they went out in the quarters. Teams need to grow into a tournament. As for probable winners, I’d go for Brazil or possibly the winners of Sunday’s match between Germany and England.”