A RACING driver from Flintshire is gearing up for the new autograss season and has set his sights on national glory after a 12-month break from the track.
Jamie Dodd, 50, from Sandycroft, service manager for Flintshire firm TDC Services, is a former regional and national champion with more than 30 years’ experience in the sport, which sees drivers compete in specially built buggies on an oval track at speeds of up to 90mph.
He says autograss is in his blood and his love of the sport has been passed down to his twin boys Craig and Lee, both 28, who also compete in race meetings across the UK.
Jamie is an engineer at Ewloe-based industrial cleaning specialists TDC Services, which exports its high-tech systems and products internationally.
Jamie has worked there for 28 years and continues to receive both sponsorship and support from managing director David Catherall.
His professional background means he is able to build the buggies he races in at home in his fully-equipped workshop. His skills mean he is in high demand by other top drivers in the sport who he also builds buggies for and advises on buggy track performance.
The former Hawarden High School pupil is confident of having a successful season, which starts next spring, and accumulating enough race winning points to secure the national title.
He is part of North Wales Autograss Club and is also aiming to win local qualifying events at Broughton and Manchester in order to go on and compete in the national championships weekend.
He said: “I’ve had a whole year off from racing because I was so busy building other people’s cars.
“But now I’ve had a break I’m ready to go full out attack again. I’ve started to build a new car for next season.
“My aim is to do all the major race meetings and try and win the national championship. I’m going to go for it and with my experience I fancy my chances.
“I couldn’t do it without the help of David who has always been very supportive of me over the years.
“He gives me sponsorship every month and allows me to order parts to work. We have a great relationship and it’s a great company to work for which is why I’ve been there for so long.”
TDC Services MD David Catherall, who is a mechanical engineer and inventor himself, said: “Everyone here at TDC is very proud of Jamie’s achievements over the years and we’re delighted to support him in any way we can.
“Jamie is a loyal and very valued member of staff, and I enjoy following his progress on the autograss circuit.
“After a 12-month break from the track, I know he’s eager to get back behind the wheel and winning races.
“There is no reason why he can’t go on and have a hugely successful season and all of us here at TDC will be cheering him on every step of the way.”
For Jamie autograss has been a huge part of his life since he was a teenager and he believes it’s the perfect starting point for an aspiring motorsport driver.
He said: “I started racing when I was 16 and I’ve won the North Wales and national championships three or four times over the years.
“I was also North Wales champion of champions about ten years ago. I’ve won titles in all three of the buggy classes.
“I’ve built a lot of cars over the years too. When I last counted about two years ago I’d built over a hundred.
“That’s what got me into the sport – building the cars from scratch. It was always something I enjoyed doing.
“It’s an affordable way of getting into motorsport too. It’s a very big sport with 4-5,000 people doing it but compared to rallying it’s seen as a bit of a poor relation.
“It shouldn’t be because it’s a lot of fun, a really good sport and a stepping stone for those wanting to get into motorsport.
“You can start racing in the junior section from 12 and I found with my boys that getting into it occupied their attention and stopped them from playing computer games or wandering the streets.
“The race meetings have a really good family atmosphere too. You travel on a Friday and then it’s a weekend of racing.
“You have a barbecue on Friday and Saturday nights and catch up with old friends. It’s brilliant to be part of.”
It’s a real family affair for Jamie with his twin sons also competing in races, and he admits it can be a nightmare on the rare occasion that they get the better of him.
He said: “I’ve raced against them a few times. We’re all very competitive but we have a good laugh about it.
“In the past I’ve beaten them more than they’ve beaten me shall we say, but when they do get the better of me they let me know about it that’s for sure!
“They’ve got their own vans and get themselves around the country to compete. They’ve always been into racing.
“I was racing when they were born and they’ve been to virtually every race meeting.
“They worked with me in my garage and workshop growing up. It gets in your blood. Lee has gone on to be an engineer like me and Craig is a mechanical fitter. I’m very proud of them.”
Jamie’s knowledge and experience of building cars from scratch has led to him building numerous cars for his competitors.
“I’ve built a lot of cars for racers who have been very successful”, he explained.
“I will race against people whose car I built. I find it quite satisfying seeing them do well in something you’ve built from scratch.”