Absent Friend: David Scotney

We lost David in March of this year. A week before a few of us popped in to the Royal Marsden hospital, straight off the plane from the Sebring 12 Hours. He was on ‘the last lap’ but still wanted to know everything that had happened in Florida. David was one of the most genuine, hard-working, skilled of ‘racers’ I have ever met and he is sorely missed.

Since March we have celebrated his action packed life often, just by sharing anecdotes and stories of times past. Laughter always ensues. That is the way we all remember David.

David Scotney at Goodwood 2011 trying Sir Jackie Stewart’s 1966 Indy helmet on for size – Photo by Sam Smith

In April, I submitted the following article to Dailysportscar.com  . After speaking to his delightful widow – Alison at a Christmas party a few weeks ago, she gave her blessing for it to be repeated here and for us all to celebrate him at this special time of year. Cheers David…..mon ami.

Old School – that is an adequate and affectionate phrase to remember David Scotney by. But it is also a little bit of a paradox because David was as familiar with the latest Lola LMP1 machinery as he was with the Lola T500 USAC car, the 1986 T86/50 F3000 car and so on. He was a naturally talented mechanic.

“He was the best chief mechanic I ever worked with,” said David Price last week when he learned of David’s passing. Price managed David at the Nissan Group C team in 1989/90. If Stefan Bellof, Gilles Villeneuve or Ronnie Peterson had picked up a spanner instead of a steering wheel, they would have been ‘a David Scotney’. He was that good.

Those outside the paddocks of the world over the last 30 plus years probably don’t know too much about David Scotney and his passion for all things mechanical. That is a shame because David was as at ease chatting with fans and young enthusiasts, new young chargers, fresh faced engineers as he was with the experienced, grizzled drivers and team bosses he worked with over 34 years.

David (right) getting Michel Ferte ready for Thruxton F3000 race in 1985 – Photo courtesy of Michael C Brown

I first met David in 1999 at Le Mans but really got to know him when I joined Lola in 2002. The first interactions with David were not too promising. “You come to do all the bullshit stuff then?” he said. “Yes”, I replied, “They tell me I’m talking to the right person for that!,” I responded. He liked that and from then on we became firm friends. I used to call him ‘the broad church’ of racing knowledge, with a nod and a wink to both of our ‘spare tyres’. Then there would be that distinctive throaty laugh……a pause……….then……”Smyth you T***!!”

The tales and anecdotes of David have long been entrenched in Lola folklore for some time. Most of them are completely unrepeatable and he used to tell them with the upmost relish, including often impeccable impersonations of those he found to be a little too pompous for his liking. A few yarns beggared belief but, remarkably, witnesses were often found and they corroborated with David about such japes as ‘ The Blow-up doll dressed in Skoal Bandit uniform’ incident (it was deflated and flown across the room!) at a formal official sponsor function. Guess who the sponsor was?

Then there were the many shakedowns of Sports 2000 and F3000 (yes F3000!!!) in the Lola factory car park. ‘Elf ‘n’ Safety’ was well in the future…thank God! Then there were the innumerable altercations with Le Mans paddock and car parking officials!

Less amusing (for those involved) were some of David’s ‘quali laps’ coming back from Le Mans, Spa, Nürburgring, etc, to catch some ridiculously tight ferry or shuttle connection. One instance saw former Lola Chief Designer, Julian Sole, the ‘Wookie’ (renowned Lola aero boffin – Dan Cox) and myself unable to speak in ‘terrified awe’ as we drifted through the tunnel at Rouen, using fellow road users as apexes at a speed not conducive to prosperous mental health.

Muckin’ about at Le Mans: David, Julian Sole, Vince Goodridge, Adam Airey, the author in elegant pose and Dan ‘the Wookie’ Cox – Photo by Jakob Ebrey

On those journeys we often talked about getting his tales into print. The content was rich and amusing but also could have been practically used for fellow and future mechanics the world over. I have received a multitude of messages for David remembering his extraordinary skills, dedication to his craft and his astonishing stamina. At Le Mans last year, he was visually fatigued after the rigours of a week at La Sarthe, his 22nd and now sadly his final time there. He had also had innumerable chemo and radoiotherpay session just months before. As we walked through the paddock he shouted; “What time is the Grand Prix on ‘Smyth’?” “8pm,” I replied. He walked on a little further and said; “Great, let’s find a TV.” He was always looking for the next race, wherever it was, no matter how tired, ill, or exhausted he may have been. Proper racer.

“I remember when at our first outing in a Lola at Mosport Park, David was like a mother hen,” remembered Rob Dyson last week. “He watched, listened and advised. However, when we had an engine ‘issue’ prior to the start it was David, with wrenches in hand, assisting to get the car out on the grid. He was always respectful and always ready for the next race.

So, farewell David. If the ‘big man’ upstairs has a scrutineering team I don’t fancy their chances of getting rest any time soon! We’ll miss you. We’ll remember you so fondly and we’ll get some silverware for you at Le Mans this year!*

*4th place for Rebellion Racing at Le Mans was as good as silverware. Christ, did we have a drink for you that night mate!!

David – Photo by Jakob Ebrey


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