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Dave Bewley talks to Barrie Williams

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Barrie Williams is reunited with one of his father’s creations

It had been a long day at the 17th International Kart Show and it was almost time to start packing things away. A distinguished looking gentleman made his way rapidly towards the historic karting stand where a 1960 Fastakart/Villiers was being displayed by its owner, Steve Greaves. “Do you know, my father used to make these things,” he exclaimed delightedly. Barrie Williams is 67 years old and has taken part in over 800 motor racing events, including 280 rallies. A BRDC member for more than thirty years he still competes in historic car races today and acts as an instructor at several circuits. Back in the early sixties he was a familiar figure at kart events all over Britain, including such venues as Olivers Mount, Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Shenington, Rye House, Aintree, Southport and Buxton. Along with his father Frank, he won a famous victory at the Aintree 200 racing with slick tyres in pouring rain. “Although Frank was his real name, my dad was better known in karting circles as Tony,” Barrie points out. “Along with Graham Hill and Dick Tarrant, he actually appeared on the front cover of Karting magazine when it first appeared in February 1960. Before taking up karting he’d been involved in motorcycle racing, so he had good contacts with firms like Sunbeam, Villiers and BSA. For many years, he ran a garage in Herefordshire and did lots of small engineering jobs on various aircraft during the war. Afterwards he was persuaded by Eddie Evans to set up an engineering works alongside the garage. It was known as Bromyard Engineering and our main line of business was producing coal mining equipment.

Mel Bayliss, another motorcycle competitor, worked at Saunders Valves nearby. When he was made redundant, Mel came to work for us. He read about a new branch of motor racing that had been imported from America. Eddie Evans, who was by then our chief engineer, expressed some interest and together they attended a local race meeting. Soon, Eddie had designed and built a kart which we eventually started to produce commercially at our factory. Dad used his motorcycle contacts and found a plentiful supply of cheap Villiers engines.” The Fastakarts I remember were all painted blue. Barrie provides the reason why. “We supplied one of our karts to a daughter of the Shearling family who produced Babycham and, from that time onwards, champagne blue became our trademark,” he explains. “I think around 600 Fastakarts were produced, all with Villiers engines. Arthur Mallock bought two of our karts for his sons Richard and Ray who later produced the Formula Ford cars. The television commentator Raymond Baxter also bought one of our karts ‘to see what all the fuss was about.’ Lennox Broughton, Ken Stansfield and Mel Bayliss became works drivers. We deliberately chose a simple design aimed at producing budget priced karts. There was certainly lots of competition from other manufacturers and I believe someone has calculated that over 60 of them suddenly appeared over a twelve month period.” Among Barrie’s outstanding memories are the 1961 Barcelona GP (won by Britain’s John Brise) and the Shenington World Championships of that same year. “My dad’s experience at the Shenington event was a painful one,” he recalls. “He’d crashed into a straw bale when another kart ran over his foot. He escaped with a broken ankle but it curtailed his activities for some time. Apart from the traditional race meetings we also took the Fastakart to various hillclimbs and usually shocked other competitors with our speed. I claimed a class win at the Radlett Hall hillclimb but a couple of weeks later we went to Shelsey Walsh and encountered some difficulties.

Tico Martini had also arrived with a kart at this one and the organisers refused to let either of us race because we had no front suspension. As Tico had travelled over from Jersey to compete, my dad took his kart back to our workshop and incorporated some valve springs from a Morris 1000 I owned. We went back and presented this kart for scrutineering but they still rejected it on the grounds that there was no rear suspension. Compared with today’s motor racing scene those were happy carefree days. We were all determined to have a bit of fun and everyone remained firm friends off the circuit.” Well over 40 years had elapsed since Barrie and his father last raced this famous marque but he couldn’t resist sitting in the seat once more, pointing out one or two finer details. “In many ways the Fastakart was an innovative design,” he claimed. “We were the first for example to incorporate front wheel brakes on our chassis and then led the way once again with a column gear change. The Keele kart and Progress were much more complex as both incorporated rack and pinion steering but I don’t believe they performed any better out on the circuit. After three or four years though, other manufacturers did come out with more modern design concepts. Dad and Mel Bayliss had a parting of the ways, Mel took another of our employees Bill Withers with him and together they set up in business ten miles away at Malvern. With dad’s consent, Bayliss & Withers took over manufacture of the Fastakart. They introduced a Class 1 model with JLO power but went bankrupt several times before Pepper & Haywood took over. I was disappointed when the Fastakart name disappeared altogether around 1968.” After his karting career, Barrie made quite a name for himself in F3, initially racing Coopers alongside Chris Lambert in a team run by Alan McKenchnie. His last significant outing in karts occurred at Rye House during the early seventies when David Hardcastle from Motor magazine persuaded him to compare a batch of Class 1 machines with Kelvin Hesketh’s World Cup winning class IV chassis. It was good to catch up with him at Donington and talk about a chassis that has an important part in the history of our sport. I’m probably just a little bit biased on this score. We bought our first kart back in 1963. Naturally, it was a Fastakart, produced at that time by Bayliss & Withers. I still have very fond memories of it even today.