The 4th GP in Tenerife with Robert Waid driving the Fraser rally Imp
Sunbeam Imp, 1967-1969
The Alan Fraser Racing Team got invited to Tenerife by the local Rootes agents for the 4th Gran Premio (1967). Fraser took a Tiger and two Imps, one with Group 5 specifications and the other a 'Rallye' version. Peter Harper drove the Tiger and won the GP.
Robert Waid: "I can't remember who drove the Group 5 car, but I drove the 'Rallye' (Group 2?) and had a ball !"
"The Group 5 car was driven that day by one of Alan Fraser's 'hired guns', Ray Calcutt, that he brought with him from England. I can remember!"
Robert: "Of course I knew Ray Calcutt, having met him at the Fraser 'Works' and I went to a race with him and Alan, I think at Silverstone. But I honestly did not remember his being in Teneriffe. Anyway, it is very likely that he was there."
"How did I do in the 4th GP? I don't really remember exactly. In the photo it looks like I am way behind, but most of the cars ahead were soon to be lapped.
But there were some very fast (for the time) cars. Behind me in the picture, just showing the hood, is a Lancia HF factory prepared car, and I think I managed to stay ahead of him."
"I really enjoyed myself during the race - the handling of the car was extraordinary, and it was faster than many cars with much bigger engines.
Also, to be frank, it was nice not to have to worry about how I was going to get to work the following morning if I 'pranged' it. Up until that time my race car had always been my everyday use car - at most we changed the wheels and tires to go racing!"
"How did I come to drive the Imp for the Alan Fraser team?
The Rootes dealer in Las Palmas was Juan Dominguez, a very good friend (and occasional competitor) of mine. Alan had come down to Las Palmas on vacation and had contacted Juan, since at the time he was running his Rapier in European Rallies as a 'almost' factory entrant, and had as a mutual friend Norman Garrad, who was the Rootes Competition Manager.
Juan asked me to show Alan Fraser around, and among other things, I ran him over some of the special sections and hill-climbs that were included in the International Ralllies held in Gran Canaria.
A few years later when Alan brought his cars to Teneriffe, he contacted me to see if I might like to drive one - apparently I had scared him enough on his previous visit that he remembered me!"
Another reason may of course have been that the 3rd GP had been won by Robert with his Cooper 'S' (after Herminio Tunyon spun the Porsche Speedster he drove for a mutual friend).
Having enjoyed racing the Imp, he took the opportunity to try and buy one.
"Afterwards I wanted to buy the 'Rallye', but Alan Fraser would have none of it - he wanted me to have the Group 5, and so it was."
"I think Alan Fraser thought that I could 'show off' the Group 5 car better than the Group 2.
My problem was that I couldn't afford to have a pure 'race' car sitting idle most of the time, which needed a trailer to haul it to the races. I didn't have a trailer, nor a car to pull it with, nor a place to park it. But Alan made me such a good deal on the Group 5 I couldn't turn it down, but the added expense really put me in a bind."
Even in photos the cars are easily distinguishable: the 'Rallye' Imp was left hand drive. The one he bought was the Group 5 car, which was right hand drive.
"The first time I drove an Imp may well have been in Teneriffe driving the Rallye car from the docks to the dealership.
And the only other time, aside from driving my own car, was during a trip to GB when Alan Fraser lent me one of his."
Robert Waid - Racing in the Jarama 3 hours. © Gloria Castresana Waid
An Imp not the typical choice for an American?
"Possibly, but a smaller car was an advantage, given that
"To my knowledge there were no other 'racing' Imps in Spain at the time."
"I ran it in several races in Tenerife and Gran Canary, and took it to Madrid and ran Jarama, tho DNF'd with a broken half-shaft. My wife [Gloria Castresana Waid] took it to Jarama later, but also DNF'd, blown head gasket."
"Yes, we raced and hill climbed the Group 5, but I don't remember ever having it in a rallye. Elsewhere on one of your pages it is stated that the Group 5 engine would hardly run below 4000 RPM - with very careful tuning it would idle at about 1600 RPM and you could drive it on the street if you were very careful with the throttle. But it was no fun, and involved much clutch slipping. It was just not flexible enough for rallye work, and even on the hill climbs it was touch and go if you either stalled the engine on the start or burned up the clutch - not much in between!"
"My wife raced mostly Austin Coopers, but also ran my Imp, occasionally, when I was not able to make the meet." In photos of their Imp being raced you can easily tell whom it is: Robert wears shades, Gloria does not.
"Unfortunately I didn't have access to the Fraser mechanics - I probably wouldn't have broken the car so many times if I had."
"I have some correspondence with a couple of the engineers, and also have the dynamometer and other spec sheets for the car."
"waiting the 'GO' on a hill-climb in Teneriffe"
"the Group 5 car at Jarama, being followed by an Alfa GTA. At the same speed in the same corner, look how much more composed the Imp is, while the Alfa seems to be understeering."
"The Group 5 car was a bit slow off the line, but once it got going, it was very fast and took the corners very well, even when they were rough - which is surprizing since the car was originally set up for the smooth tracks in GB.
There was a bunch of very fast Cooper 'S' in competition in the Canary Islands, plus a couple of Tigers and a very fast all alloy four cam Porsche Speedster which was always a contender. But I could usually beat them with the Imp, unless the track had very long straights - then horsepower will tell!"
Bruce Waid (son; brujo1954):
"I was also at the hill climb in Tenerife where the 3rd pic was taken. It was the Subida a Guimar in Tenerife. The start had a very long straight and so the course was not good for the car. Once the straight was passed, the car was at its best. I was 'dumped' at one of the corners which had a bit of hill on one side and I got as close as I could to the road to take pics of the cars."
Three gear shift levers
Bruce (Robert's son):
"The interesting thing about the Group 5 car was that it was right-hand drive, meaning the gear shift was to be done by the left hand. Daddy could not shift left-handed, so he had a ball-bearing type of apparatus latched on to a steel bar that ran under the seat to the right side of the seat, with another ball bearing attached to another lever and he shifted using that lever with his right hand.
To put the car in reverse, there was another gear lever altogether behind the seat !!!"
"If you look at the base of an Imp gearshift lever, you can see why he refers to it as a 'ball-joint' - the one on the right of the driver's seat was a twin to the standard central one, and we just spot welded it to the floor, with a piece of spring steel connecting the two - you could then shift either right or left handed as suited your fancy."
"you can just see the door of my Fraser, and a bunch of hobos walking by - I'm the one in the middle with the leather jacket!"
When he decided he could no longer stay in the Canary Islands, 1969, the Imp was sent back to Tenerife (from Las Palmas, where he was living) to the Hillman Agents (Hernandez Hermanos).
"I have no idea of the history from then."
Robert and Gloria at Lime Rock raceway in about 1972,
still racing but not in Imps.