Wil Arif racing in the ex-Fangio C-Type Jaguar

A Few Laps With Wil Arif by Stephen Goodwin

A few laps with Wil

Sometimes I am thinking of creative ways to advertise water filters, on other occasions I will be illustrating articles about IT in accountancy. My clients also sell guns, fit saddles, fix teeth, organise literary forays, cut down trees and tile walls among many other things. A job is what you make it and they can all be interesting in their own ways. I have several clients, however, whose work holds a special interest for me as they either prepare race cars or drive them for a living. When these clients want to meet it is usually at a race circuit, often during a race weekend and sometimes at a track or test day. I recently started working with Wil Arif, a driver some of you may have heard of. Wil has raced professionally for the best part of 50 years. He is a former Formula Ford champion and recently took part in his 800th race. He is asked to drive some wonderful and extremely valuable cars not least the ex-Fangio Jaguar C-Type  and Big Sam, Win Percy’s  Datson 240Z. Wil took part in and won FTD at one of our Brands Hatch Sprints many years ago and remembers Roy Edwards and Rod Chapman well – who wouldn’t! When Wil is not racing he is usually driver coaching or giving hot laps to potential clients for car manufacturers. One day when Wil and another of my clients were at Brands Hatch I got a call to say they were instructing on the full Grand Prix circuit and if I fancied it one of them would give me a ride around. I was not going to turn an offer like that down so nipped over to Brands for my first experience including the Grand Prix loop. As I sat in the car Wil said “you’re going to enjoy this”, which I interpreted as tighten the belts, this is going to get hairy! And it did, as he told me he had never sat in this car before either, we sped out the pit exit, his right foot on the throttle and left foot on the brake. Everything was nicely warmed up and ready for action. Almost everything! It was a bit of a culture shock for me at first as my mind scrabbled to understand how the road-going Alfa Romeo could possibly go around corners this quick. Wil’s confidence soon started to rub off on me and I began to really enjoy  watching this masterclass of car control from a very privileged position.

“you’re going to enjoy this”, which I interpreted as tighten the belts, this is going to get hairy!

He talked me through everything he was doing, talking all the time explaining his actions and of those around us on the track. He explained the technique of trail braking, his racing lines, where the best grip is. He waved a tooted his horn at marshals he knew, but at no point did I feel that he was anything but in total control and very much at home in a car, even one he had never driven before. His commentary extended to the cars around us most of which should have been much quicker but just could not live with the speed Wil could carry around the corners even with a passenger and in a road going car. Our high octane laps finished when the brakes did. An understated “oops” as we entered Druids, a tug on the handbrake and Wil confessed the brake fluid had boiled! He had felt the brakes were going and was prepared for their eventual demised. He said he was determined that I should enjoy my trip and he didn’t hold back, boy did I enjoy it.

Steve Goodwin