Transcript of an interview with Nick Mason, conducted by Motor Racing Journalist/Pink Floyd enthusiast John Oreovicz . The interview was originally published in the Vintage Racecar Journal magazine, and is used with permission.
JO: What’s on your vintage racing program for 1999?
NM: It kicks off in about 3 weeks time with the Tour Auto, what used to be called the Tour de France. It’s road sections, but then you stop off at various race tracks which include this year I think Spa and the Nurburgring. Have a race and then carry on. So my intention is to do that with the GTO, and my daughters are doing that in an AC Ace. Then there’s various sorts of club meetings running the pre-war Astons, and the Birdcage Maserati. then we get to the Goodwood Fetival of Speed. I’m going to try and run probably run the Ferrari – the T3, the GTO, and we might try and get my Indy car out. I’ve got a 1986 March – the Michael Andretti car – and I don’t think we can get it competition-prepped, but we might demonstrate it, which would be nice.
JO: What do you base your schedule on? The car you want to drive, or the track?
NM: A lot of these vintage meetings now have an opportunity to run a lot of different cars. So in a way, it’s more to do with which fit in best with the calendar, school holidays and what conflicts with what. But certainly if there’s a particular car that I want to run… I’m certainly always looking for the Birdcage perhaps rather than some of the other cars. Also as with most motor racing calendars, they sort of get locked in. You tend to find that everything is always the same weekend year after year, be it LeMans, the Grands Prix, and then finally on down to the club racing. So you sort of get stuck in a groove almost. You’ll try and do the Vintage Sports Car Club meetings, and there will be the Coy’s Festival in the middle of the year and so on and so forth. So you just sort of gear up for that I think.
JO: What made you start want to start driving in competition in the first place?
NM: I was taken to Silverstone as a very small boy by my father, who used to club race with a vintage Bentley. I suppose my goal in terms of that seemed like the best possible way of enjoying old cars. I was brought up to enjoy old cars, and the ultimate thing was of course to race them.
JO: Your first official event was the 1979 24 Hours of LeMans, correct?
NM: That was the first sort of really serious, big one, but I started club racing in ’73.
JO: Between your more strenuous touring commitments in those days…?
JO: Once you started racing professionally, did you get any hassles from the so-called serious professionals as “just a rock an roll drummer?”
NM: Not really, because by the time I went to LeMans, I had been driving for 7 or 8 years. Actually most of the professionals are in fact very gracious. The shared experience is being out there in a racing car. The fact of the matter is whether you happen to be Elvis Presley or the milkman, it doesn’treally make much odds. Great lines like ‘When the flag drops, the bullshit stops.’ So ti’s that sort of thing, You’ll be judged absolutely on how well you drive and how fast you are or just how safe you are. Professionals are mainly interested whether you watch your mirrors. As long as you move over for them occasionally, they’ll treat you well.
JO: I think a neat thing about you is the way you make racing your cars not just a business, but a family affair. Can you expand upon that a little bit?
NM: Well it makes it very expensive of course because you’re running a sort of 4-car team whereas most people manage with one. First of all I suppose I want my children to have the opportunities I had. And certainly if I’m going to enjoy the other aspects of motoring – the rallies and some of the rest of it – it’s going to be a lot more fun if my wife enjoys it rather than comes home to suffer it. So in a way, although I’d like to be thought of as a new man encouraging all these woman-folk to go motor racing, it’s also entirely selfish, and designed to allow me to do what I really want to do.
JO: I read in the book that your life isn’t complete unless you have at least one car completely torn apart in a major rebuild…
NM: I have a very very complete life you’ll be pleased to hear, with a number of cars generally…
JO: What projects do you have working right now that might soon see the light of day?
NM: I have the equivilent of three projects. One is the BRM, which has been a project ever since I bought it, and will be I think probably will be one of those things one hands on through generations. It’s just never ending trying to get it right. That’s always the major one. We just finished a Type 35 Bugatti that I’ve had for 10 or 12 years and has finally see the light of day. It’s wonderful when they do, actually. Try and imagine being preganant for 10 years…it’s really exciting when these cars do get rolled out. I haven’t got much more in the way of major retorations on now, but I think it’s nice to do the sort of overhaul of some of the racing cars. My wife Nettie had an accident at Goodwood last year in one of the Birdcages. It looked terrible at the time, both car and driver, but she’s fine. The car looked terrible, but that’ss back together now as well. It actually wasn’t an enormous drama to repair it , but there’s something really nice about rolling out a car that the last time you saw it was being craned up onto a trailer.
JO: After purchasing and restoring and driving and racing all thee wonderful cars for 25 years or so, do you get more satisfaction out of the owning or the driving aspect?
NM: I suppose it’s slightly difficult to answer that or perhaps it’s very simple to answer. The answer is it’s a combination. I enjoy driving my cars. I would not be particularly enthusiastic to race someone else’s car. There’s a sense of responsibility and everything else. To me, that’s the way of enjoying the car – to drive it. I think some of these cars are gorgeous. It’s great to look at them, but it’s not the same. The great thing is to actually have them running.
JO: Do you get out to any modern races, the British Grand Prix for example?
NM: Yes I do. I try to get to a couple of the other ones. Last year I went to Imola. I think it’s terrific. I love Formula 1, the really sharp end of motor racing. Having said that, I really enjoyed Indy when I was there in ’88, and I hope that I’ll get to one of the Champ Car races this year.
JO: They seem to always close the interviews in the magazine with the same question, and that’s what is the one car out there you covet the most, that you could have if money were no object?
NM: That I haven’t got? Because if I didn’t have one it would still be the GTO. It would almost certainly be a Grand Prix Mercedes. Probably almost any of them really. It could be one of the ones from the 30s or it could be one of the 50s cars. It would have to be something that just felt totally unique. It’s interesting…I’m not filled with a great need to own anything elseparticularly, but it would be nice to perhaps have one thing that was a truly uniwue motorsport item.
JO: We should probably try to get a plug in for the book…
NM: Oh yes please…always useful!
JO: I was disappointed to see that the version with the CD wasn’t for sale in America.
NM: We tried to persuade Motorbooks to try to take it, but they didn’t think it was a good idea. But I have to say in Europe it’s been fantastic. We’re doing a special limited edition of it with the CD with aluminium slip case that’s made with the same rivets that are used in the 250F Maseriati. It’s leather bound, it comes with a chassis plate with your name on it. I can’t tell you exactly what it costs in dollars – it’s about 250 quid. Anyone with more money than sense should not miss out on this.
JO: Did you come up with that idea?
NM: Yeah, and what’s really funny in Europe is to find the way that people use these CDs. They don’t only play them at home in order to upset their wives and children, they also play them in the car at the traffic light and punch the button when they leave the traffic light!
JO: Anything you’d like to add for the readers of VRJ?
NM: They’re probably familiar with the Goodwood circuit revival? They’re going to do that again and that was fantastic. I know the people read about it, but they also suggested that in order to get free admittance to the paddock you should come in period dress. It looked fantastic. It just looked like the scene from the Tourist Trophy in 1959.