Motorsport provides the right medicine for retired doctor John

Monday 1 Dec 2014

A mature Myerscough College Motorsport student is aiming for a late career change – after more than 33 years as a professional anaesthetist.

67-year-old John Davies has always had a passion for motorsport and after retiring in the summer decided to enrol on a full time Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Motorsport. John has worked his whole life in medicine, including for more than 33 years at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, being appointed in 1981.

John’s love of motorsport goes back many years. He said: ‘’I retired at the end of August from a job I’ve enjoyed for many years. This has been a long standing hobby – I’ve always liked cars. When I was in training all those years ago I drove beautiful Triumph Vitesse  and I always  remembered it. Then in the early 1990s, as my family started to get a bit older we had some money and I decided to buy a car to restore, so I bought a Triumph Vitesse from 1969 and stared work on it.’’

Then, in his mid 40s, John took the decision to actually take to the track and compete:  ‘’I soon realised that just restoring and showing cars wasn’t quite what I wanted to do so I decided to look into competition entry, and began to start making plans to develop the car for competitive driving.’’

John’s first season was 1995, and a number of successful races followed with work on the car to convert it to a hard top coupe, until disaster struck one day in 2001 when John was involved in a crash, outside of competition, that wrote the car off.

But John was determined to get back involved as soon as possible: ‘’I had to build another and this time I based my design on a Volvo estate as the aerodynamics were good. I bought a car and adapted it with Vitesse parts and we were away to race again.’’

Disaster struck again though in 2007 when his car ended up on its roof during an event. But although John had now turned 60, he still had no intention of quitting and once more searched for a new car to race, stumbling across the same car on eBay that he raced against on his very first competitive event. 

‘’I needed a new car and when I found it I knew that I had to have it. It was put up for sale just after my crash and I just stumbled across it – it was meant to be.’’

John has raced his cars around some of most famous circuits in Europe, including Brands Hatch and the Nurburgring in Germany. 

John explains: ‘’I came to Myerscough because I wanted to broaden my experience. I realised that Myerscough had courses in motorsport engineering and thought it may be something nice to do on my retirement. I’m very much an amateur and want to be more professional – I want to improve as a an engineer and this course definitely helps me do that.’’

‘’As a hobby I chose something that was very different to my job and I now want to learn something that has the same level of skill as medicine.’’

John isn’t fazed by having to study for the next two years alongside a class full of teenagers: ‘’My course is full of 16-18 year olds. They’re all fantastic. For the first few days I had a few funny looks but they are marvellous with me now and have accepted me, to which I’m grateful. It’s refreshing to be part of a young group. They can’t believe someone as old as me wants to come back into the classroom – but they accept me.’’

It wasn’t straight forward for John to get onto the course, after he was advised to take up a short course instead: ‘’The first time I applied I got a letter back saying they didn’t think I was right for the course. I don’t think they thought I was serious, but I asked them to think again and they invited me for an interview and tests. I was then offered a place and it was great.’’

John, who lives in Lancaster, now hopes that turning his hobby into a qualification will now lead to a job: ‘’I’ve been joking  to friends that they’ll have to look out for me from the Ferrari pit lane in a wheelchair! I don’t know whether I could get a job in the industry but I’d like to have the opportunity. I have some ideas about how I could get involved in professional motorsport after I graduate and we’ll wait and see.’’

‘’I’d certainly like to take part in motorsport at a more professional level in the coming years. Hopefully I can be taken on somewhere to gain even more industry experience. I have some contacts where my skills could be put to use so we’ll see.’’

John is also a medic on the UK rally circuit and still work part time as a doctor to maintain and retain his medical registration. He says people of a similar age shouldn’t think twice if they want to get back into education: ‘’I’d say go for it, having a rest is the worst thing you can do! I hope I have many years left in me yet. If you keep busy, age is not a barrier to doing significant things. You have to have ambitions.

'’My wife Linda doesn’t mind me doing this. My kids think I’m crackers but they’ve grown up with me doing it as a hobby so support me.’’  

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by Dave Salmon

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