Track to road: Tom Onslow-Cole
When you look at the exotic machinery that racing drivers get to play with on track, it’s little surprise that the general perception is that they drive something equally sporty away from the circuit.
A look around the BTCC paddock would suggest that perception is right to an extent, although one car in the competitors car park goes some way towards showing that it isn’t always the case…
While fellow eBay Motors men Rob Collard and Nick Foster both drive BMWs, Tom Onslow-Cole gets to and from work behind the wheel of something altogether less exotic – an old Rover that cost him less than it will cost either of his team-mates to fill their fuel tanks!
“I really shatter the illusion of rich racing drivers as I’ve got my Rover 25 when I’m not on track,” he says. “My money all goes into my racing so to have a nice car would be a luxury. I did have a Range Rover, although I picked that up at a decent price and converted it to LPG, which meant that I didn’t lose any money when I then sold it on.
“I got the Rover when it came into a family business with head gasket failure. The old lady who owned it didn’t want to pay for the repairs so I bought it off her for £50 and then got some of the guys to sort it for me.”
However, while his Rover may have more character than some more modern and luxurious machinery, Tom admits it isn’t the kind of car he would drive through choice.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it’s fantastic, and I’m not going to say that I enjoy driving it, but it does the job and gets me from A to B,” he says. “It is quite comfortable and it’s cheap motoring, especially as it was converted to run on LPG by my sponsors when I raced the gas-powered Ford for Team Aon back in 2010.
“Running on LPG doesn’t cause any problems for me as I think you are never more than twelve miles from a garage where you can get it – although I can’t remember the exact figures. Even if I’m running low on LPG though and can’t fill up, I can always put some petrol in it to keep me going.”
Keeping going is one thing the Rover has been good at so far, with only one breakdown to cause Tom a headache despite the car being very much used and abused.
“It does rattle a bit and vibrates at speed, but it keeps on going,” he said. “If it had been a complete heap then I would have got rid of it as I’m self-employed and I need to be able to get to work if I’m going to earn any money; I couldn’t do that if my car was breaking down all the time.
“To be honest, I’ve probably not looked after the Rover as much as I should have done and it has taken some abuse, but it’s kept going and has only broken down once. The alternator failed and I had to call the AA and when the guy opened the bonnet to get it sorted, it needed three litres of oil and four litres of water!
“However, as long as it keeps going, then I’ll keep running it, unless I suddenly get a sudden boost to my budget!”