Nick Swift: Profile

How long have you been involved in A Series engines? How did you start?
My father Glyn started Swiftune in 1965 when the Mini was ‘the’ car to race. And so I have been involved with motor racing all my life, always being around the workshop and race circuits with my father. I can remember being told off for ‘trying to jack up a customer’s car’ with a trolley jack at the age of four, also learning to strip down engines wearing an overall coat four times bigger than me at around six years old.
Why has Swiftune stayed with A Series engines?
We have stayed with ‘A’ SERIES engines because the demand has never diminished, Mini racing is as popular as ever and the tremendous interest in Formula Junior single seaters has been great because many of these cars are powered by the BMC 1 litre. By concentrating on one engine we have been able to build a great reputation. Our determination is as strong as ever and we always strive to make every new engine to make it better than the last one!
What are the Swiftune achievements you are most proud of?
In terms of winning I am very proud to have Swiftune engines win the Mini Miglia championship for six years in succession with three different drivers. Having our engines power the top three cars at the Goodwood Revival all Mini race for FIA cars was brilliant. And hidden away under the engine we produce the best Mini racing gearbox in the world!!
When did you do your first Mini race? How many mini races have you competed in?
I competed in my first event in 1986, it was Autocross in Devon when I was 16, in an 850 Minicross car that we had built, it was well outclassed but I somehow managed to gain a win in class, at one point I was 3rd FTD (fastest time of day) overall! I can’t recall how many races I have competed in but over 23 years it must be several hundred.

Like father, like son

I’ve always known that Swiftune was to be my future. It was a natural progression that I should move into the ‘driving seat’ which I did in 1995.
Mini hero?
The man who put the Mini on the map John Cooper, I would have loved to have worked in his team in that era. I felt very privileged to have got to know him in his later life when supplying John Cooper Group (JCG) with engines. John Rhodes, with that super flamboyant style, has to be every Cooper “S” drivers’ hero!
What is your favourite Mini category?
I am very passionate about the historic racing scene. Racing a Mini in this category has the ‘ David and Goliath’ element. All the cars racing on the same tyre is a great leveller, there is something about the nostalgia of recreating the glory days of motor sport. Winning the 2009 Goodwood Revival all Mini race with Oliver Gavin was very special, great racing and a huge crowd so it doesn’t get any better than that.
Most memorable Mini race?
I have had so many great races it is hard to pick the best one but probably the one that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, would be when we raced in the ICS Classic Touring car championship in the TOCA package in 1996. As the race at Oulton Park unfolded it became very close with the first six cars being covered by just 2 or 3 seconds! The track had become quite slippery in places after an Imp’s engine blow up! At one point I had my hands so full holding off Graham Churchill in his Mini coming up towards Druids corner that I hadn’t noticed the lead Camaro had slowed for the oil ahead I threw the car into the corner early to avoid hitting him and also not let my Mini slow to much! I passed him about two feet in the air, knocking of his door mirror as I went on the grass inside! This now meant that I led the race (normally it would need to be wet to win outright in a Mini!) I blocked the Camaro into the last corner just so I could lead as we went passed the pit wall, I could not resist opening the window and giving the victory salute as we did, the pit wall erupted! It was then I noticed that my wife, who was on the pit board for me, seemed to have a few more helpers? As we circulated further the pace got more frantic with overtaking every corner between the six cars. I then realised that my wife’s helpers were a heap of the Italian works Alfa touring car mechanics that had come out to cheer on the Mini!! The mad pace carried on until the final run to the line. Our Mini was just no match for the Detroit Muscle but I was very happy to be on the podium. So were the Italians mind you!!
What about some of the Minis you have been invited to drive over the years?
I have been privileged to be asked by numerous customers and associates to drive their cars from 2000 onwards. Here are some of my most memorable ‘guest’ drives. It started with Norman Grimshaw by sharing one of his many Cooper “S” s with Warwick Banks at Silverstone…a great honour! I went on to drive Norman’s cars with Barrie “Whizzo” Williams at Brands and Spa. This has got be one my best races after fighting tooth and nail for 40 minutes ending in a “last of the late brakers” duel at the Bus Stop! (also one of Barrie’s memorable races as quoted in Motorsport magazine’s ‘Hot Seat’ article in 2006) 2001 The 24 hour Nurburgring race with German N&F Mini race team.

This was the craziest race I’ve ever been in, 200 cars started the race! Unfortunately the Gp “A” Mini crashed out when my friend David Wong’s team Petronus Malaysian driver was at the wheel after 20 hours. So near yet so far!! 2002 I did the full FIA European Historic touring car championship with Swedish crack team “Keeper Motorsport”.

Great experience gained on the European circuits. Battled hard with Europe’s finest but missed out on the overall championship title by just 1 point!! 2004 raced with Jason Stanley at the Pau street circuit historic race, fantastic experience darting through the tight Armco circuit. It was the normal one hour race but Jason had managed to damage the car colliding with a Mustang early in the race. At the restart we were dead last and yet managed to come through the field to win. I passed the lead Lotus Cortina by throwing the best dummy I’ve ever done three laps from the end. 2005 I was very privileged to race for Sanwa Trading in their Japanese Mini Cup car.

It was a mind blowing experience racing in Japan, also the hottest race I’ve ever done!! Obviously Tsukuba (two hours’ drive from Tokyo) was a new circuit to me and with only 10 minutes qualifying I was very pleased to be on the front row! The race started well and had the making of a cracker but devastatingly I picked up a front puncture and retired after five laps. Quite a long way to go for such a short run! 2006 The long haul races continued with a once in a life time opportunity to compete in the Monterey historic event at Laguna Seca. The “Cooper” marque was celebrated this year so Mini’s were invited into the “Sedan” race. Don Racine from Mini Mania very kindly invited me over to race his “Monte” replica. Again not much time to learn the demanding track but pleased with 2nd placed Mini after qualifying, Just 0.4 second covering the first three cars. Had a terrific race with plenty of overtaking going on and came home a close second.

The cork screw is just ridiculously steep! Pictures don’t do it justice. Amazing circuit! Great bunch of guys! Rounded off 2006 with the Spa 6 hour’s historic race. A late call in the week before from Jonathan Hartop, one of our Swiss customers, offered me the drive. There is a real “buzzing” atmosphere at this event and 80 plus predominantly sports cars start the race at 4PM. The main aim was to get the Mini to the finish of this notorious car killing event. The Mini run faultlessly the whole race and we finished a credible 39th overall. Spa in the dark is whole new ball game!! Definitely do it again.

Throw in a heap of Top Hat events with pole positions, fastest laps, plenty of podium finishes outright. HSCC racing, historic support for the WTCC at Brands 2nd overall finish and a one off Mini Miglia race finishing 2nd not bad for a historic driver in this super competitive championship!

Favourite race circuit?
Spa has to be the ultimate driver’s circuit… The Ring is just mental, 25km a lap, 178 corners to remember, the ultimate challenge!… Laguna Seca circuit with plenty of undulation, the cork screw is real roller coaster!……….Top UK circuit Oulton Park nice flowing with a bit of everything, very rewarding lap… One of the best experiences has to be the Pau street circuit where the Armco plays tricks on your mind until you master it! In truth I love all the circuits I’ve raced on because each one has their own different challenges!

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