My other life as a motor mechanic: Populous’ senior principal Mike Trice talks about spending his youth under the bonnet of a racing car
My friend Neil and I spent a considerable part of our late teens restoring and driving Italian cars. After a while, we found that the police didn’t much like our road driving, so we reverted to the track.
After dabbling with a kart that we co-owned, we moved on to the Brands Hatch School of Racing, which culminated in Neil racing a pre-1974 Formula Ford – one of the entry-level series on the motor racing scene – and me securing a role as his chief mechanic. I spent most of my time with a spanner in hand, trying to work out where the oil was leaking from.
It wasn’t particularly grand in those days. Neil was sponsored by his mum, and we used to traipse all over the country, often staying in not particularly glamorous settings.
It was great fun, though, and I began looking for the kind of career that could possibly fund some form of racing activity. I’m still looking.
Over the years I’ve also restored a number of my own cars. I partly funded my university studies by repairing and selling cars and, before kids came along, I owned and maintained a Ferrari 328, which I drove down to MIPIM one year. It’s the same car that appeared in Magnum, PI, but I chose not to sport the moustache. I also had an old Porsche 911 that covered 320,000 miles.
I’ve been involved with a number of motor racing circuits with Populous, and have had the opportunity to work (and drive) on some great tracks while meeting some of my motor racing idols, such as Nigel Mansell and David Brabham. I’ve also found that the inherent knowledge and understanding of mechanics and how things work have served me well throughout my architectural career.
I still mess around with cars when I can, and get to go karting occasionally. The last time that Populous went karting on a work night out I was unjustly black-flagged (disqualified) at the first corner. I’m still trying to work out who was really responsible.