A MAN who was a top racing driver has died at the age of 82.
John Mitchell, of Farnley Hey, Farnley Tyas, was a founder member of the Huddersfield Racing Team in the 1950s and went on to win dozens of titles.
He was also employed as a test driver along with the likes of Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren and was paid the princely sum of £600 a week - a fortune back in 1960.
Mr Mitchell was born in Sheffield but brought up in Huddersfield where his father founded the Brockholes Motor Company in the town centre.
He was married to Audrie for 28 years and he leaves four children – David, Tim, Peter and Cressida – and eight grandchildren.
In an interview two years ago, he was asked about today’s highly-paid Formula 1 stars.
He said: “You can’t compare driving now to what it was then, the health and safety is so much tighter.
“Once we raced at Oulton Park and it was only when there was an accident we discovered the ambulance had no battery.
“The demands of the machine has taken away so much skill.
“I think my driving was a bit more like Jensen Button’s, you have to feel part of the car.”
He grew up around cars, his father Laurie Mitchell being one of Ford’s first agents in the UK. The young John would make trips to Dagenham to collect parts and bring them back to Brockholes Motor Company at the bottom of East Parade.
Aged 18 in 1948, he went to Ford for a five year course, immersing himself in every aspect of the work and returning to Brockholes as a manager and eventual sales director.
His first racing car was a Lotus that cost him £400.
He raced at events all over Britain and his career records include 150 first places, in an age when indulging in competitive driving was to take your life in your hands.
He was also one of the early test drivers of the new Ford Anglia. He said: “We had to drive it for 10,000 miles and Graham Hill flipped it – he later confessed to nodding off.”
In July 1959 with Tony Lanfranchi, 24 and John Heppenstall, of Elland, the Huddersfield Racing Team enjoyed an exceptional year of 54 awards, driving Marcuses and his favourite, The Ace Bristol.
He gave up racing at the age of 40 and set up John Mitchell’s Honley Ltd and selling the business before moving as a director to Appleyards.
He also took up sailing and had a boat at Whitby.
His funeral takes place at Farnley Tyas Church on Thursday, November 29, at 12noon.