Charles Graham, Daytona CEO, shares some insights into Daytona, racing and life in general.
10.12.09 – Nineteen Years On!
I originally set the business up with my cousin Rob Graham (more about that soon) and Rob was always late everywhere. We opened in December 1990
And had the most amazing Christmas party, where we got thrown out of everywhere we went and as usual Rob was late. When he eventually turned up he explained that he was driving to the party when some Chekoslavakian guy had stepped off the kerb in front of him and had gone over the bonnet of Rob’s Renault 5 turbo and that he had taken the guy to hospital.
To the best of my knowledge that is the only time that Daytona has ever bounced a check!
18.11.09 – Strictly weekend
Bit of a weekend, went to Wood Lane to watch Strictly, which has to be the hottest ticket right now, bit of a struggle explain to my daughter that 6 year olds aren’t allowed in the audience. Amazing how the technicians can set up a whole interview arrangement, with camera lights and autocue, in seconds. I’m sure that we could learn a thing or two from those guys. Laila got the sympathy vote so Anton’s happy. Then I was invited to a party on Sunday afternoon by Don Wales – Don is nephew and grandson to the two Campbells respectively and has just broken a world land speed record in a steam powered car! Go Don! I am not sure that steam is the future but perhaps Dons next project, electric, is.
Dons partner in the caper, and co driver is a guy called Charles Burnett iii. When you arrive at Charles’ mansion in Lymington, the first thing you come across is a chieftain tank, fully operational I’m told.
A buddy of mine went down there for a party last year, got drunk and was then given the keys to the chieftain in order to have a blast around the estate, sublime! I guess i go to the wrong parties.
01.11.09 – Technology Rules
Went to see my Doc yesterday, nothing serious, but I was amused to notice that he had a Psion organiser. I had one of those, probably nearly 20 years ago.
So I was giving him a bit of a hard time about it and was intrigued to know how he had kept the thing running all this time and he told me that he had bought a shed load of them as Psion was going down in 2000 and when one breaks he just bins it and opens the box and takes out a new one.
12.10.09 – Whats in a name?
We’ve always had a bit of ag from the France family, who own Daytona International Speedway, over the use of the name and they have threatened legals many times. I always call their bluff.
So we had a table at the Autosport Awards and I had a little too much of the vino. As I was leaving I bumped into this old guy and knocked him flat on his butt. I picked him up and dusted him off and then my brother said “congratulations, that was Bill France!” Ooops
07.09.09 – What’s with Luca?
I raced against Luca Badoer in the Monaco Cup some years ago and boy was he quick. Also racing were a number of legends including Michele Alboreto who just wasn’t on it at all. The track was superb, being the lower half of the Monaco f1 street circuit, blasting round the swimming pool in a 125cc gold kart was a highlight, Badoer would come past, sideways, leaning up the mixture with one hand (which we were forbidden from doing) and steering with the other, just making it all look so easy.
Alboreto, on the other hand, kept coming in to corners way too hot, all out of shape and failing to learn from this lap after lap.
Alboreto finished second to Prost in the 88 world championship and yet Badoer spent the last couple of weeks peddling round a second off the back of the penultimate car, go figure!
Haven’t posted in a while so I thought I would share some memories over the next few weeks that have made me chuckle over the years:
Daytona was conceived in a small studio just off the Lower Richmond Road in Putney and our first fleet of karts was stored there for a while. One night in November 1990 my cousin Rob and I were sitting in the studio, around 11p.m. eyeing the karts and we decided it might be an idea to take a couple for a spin. So we carried a couple outside, started them up and took off down the road. These karts had been delivered with a 69 tooth rear sprocket, which meant that they were geared for about 60mph!
So we decided to do a circuit, down Lower Richmond Road, left into Thames Place, along the Embankment and left again into Festing Road. I was leading as we sped along the embankment, under cover of Darkness and we as arrived at the left into Festing Road I saw a jam sandwich with two bobbies sitting there, they used to hang out down there to stop all the George Michaels! I booted it and slung the kart into the left hander that is Festing, bounced off a few parked cars and got my kart manhandled through the door of the studio and then turned the lights off.
Rob saw the bill and dived in behind behind one of those big trailers that they use to lug the rowing eights about. Apparently he pulled a big green tarpaulin over him and the kart and sat there with the exhaust suffocating him. After a minute or so a car pulled up next to the trailer and Rob heard a window going down, then a hand appeared and lifted the tarpaulin and Rob was face to face with the fuzz. Apparently the copper said “be careful”, dropped the tarpaulin and they drove off!
22.01.09 – It’s Wembley Jim, but not as we know it!
They say that things come to you if you wish for and visualise them and for many years it has been an ambition of mine to hold a race inside Wembley Stadium. Previously we have held events in the city of London and in the West End so I am very proud to have completed a trio.
Posts on the web have branded the Daytona 24 Hours at Wembley Stadium the best Karting event ever and if you will forgive my immodesty but I would tend to agree. The setting, the facility, the circuit, the karts and the team are hard if not impossible to beat.
The atmosphere was like nothing I have ever experienced but I guess you might expect that of Wembley Stadium. Each team had a couple of boxes, one lounge and one dormitory, with beamed in timing information.
My team was decimated with the noro virus and as consequence we were pulling people in from the venues (which were also operational) and at any point probably had at least half a dozen of the team sick back at the Plaza , we even had a couple of ex employees turn up to help as they heard we were having issues.
I ended up doing a twenty hour shift which ended up on the fuel bowser at 4a.m. but had previously spent about four hours in race control during which time I had made derogatory comments about a couple of drivers who had come off turn seven too hot and had caught the wall on the main straight resulting in a big airborne off in both cases and from memory the comment went something like”how the **** did he manage that!” At 4a.m. I got my head down on the floor of the event organisers office and was woken at 9 a.m. to be told that all of the drivers on the press team were shattered and could I go out and do a stint, yes I could!
So I jumped in the shower, got my kit on and jumped in the kart. Hit turn seven, exited too hot clipped the wall and ended up airborn. Oh well, my lesson in humility I guess!
Thanks to Jim Richard and the rest of my team and to Jim F and Andy S and everyone else who made it so special.
If you have any comments about your experiences at any Daytona venue, I would like to hear about them. Good or bad – let me know by clicking here: firstname.lastname@example.org