A couple of years ago Barry Riddell was at a bit of a loose end.
Having raced just about anything with wheels, he had sold off his beloved bikes and was looking for another form of motorsport to whet his appetite.
“Karts, bikes, cars – I’ve raced nearly everything,” said the 47-year-old engineer from Oldmeldrum.
“I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie. My mum told me that when I was eight months old, I had a little trike and I cycled down some steps, fell off and was bloody and bruised.
“My mum took me in, washed me down and went to make herself a cup of tea, but as soon as her back was turned, I was off down the steps again.
“I’m nearly 50 now and nothing’s changed. I’ve had many scary moments, especially on motorbikes. I’ve had broken bones and plenty of hospital visits.
“My wife Liliane wasn’t keen on me racing bikes, so I sold them, but there’s always something else, it’s perpetual.
“Motorsport has always interested me, and it gives me a focus away from work. I work very hard offshore, so when I get home it’s nice to get out and blow off steam racing.”
When a friend suggested a Triumph TR7 V8 a couple of years ago, Barry wasn’t exactly jumping at the bit.
“I must admit that the TR7 was never on my best looking car list,” he said.
“I worked with a guy called Willy Toye in Azerbaijan and he was racing one. He said they were great for getting back into motor racing.
“He lent me his car to race and I got three third places in a car that cost him £3,000. It was extremely rough, but it did what it was supposed to.
“He had half a dozen cars, so I bought one the same. It was an easy way to get into it because I knew if something broke, he’d have a part.”
So in 2010, having caught the racing bug again, Barry bought this 1976 Triumph, fitted with a Rover 3.9-litre V8 engine, but soon realised that to race at the standard he desired he had a lot of work ahead.
“It was a great 10m car – it looked fantastic from 10m away,” he said, laughing.
“The car had been converted for racing in 2002 and had been overseas before I bought it. It actually raced in the Triumph Championship which it won. It was in fairly poor condition though so I spent a lot of time and money on it.
“Certain items had to be changed to meet the technical requirements of the group I was racing in, the main being the bespoke fuel injection had to be changed for carburetors and the car had to put on weight.
“The car to start with did not work well on the carburetors, as fuelling problems and the cam profile just made the car impossible to drive at a track like Knockhill.
“On fuel injection the engine had fantastic throttle response and a dyno sheet illustrating over 375bhp but only 210lb/ft of torque high up the rev range.
“I decided to race at Spa – the long flowing circuit was perfect for the engine but, alas, at 7,200 rpm on the Kemmel Straight, doing 160mph, the engine ran a cam shaft bearing and the oil pressure never recovered.
“This was the opportunity to change the cam shaft profile to make the engine more driveable so the engine was sent to Rover V8 specialist John Eales for a rebuild.
“Following this, the power was almost 40bhp down on the original figure but the torque was up 100lb/ft at 3,000rpm.”
Despite this, the car struggled to cope with its standard gearbox, so Barry ploughed more money into the car and following three gearbox rebuilds, he fitted a bespoke unit, and finally, he started to see results.
“With the new gearbox the car was transformed, it would eat tarmac,” he said.
“Coming out of the Knockhill hairpin, the car is amazing, it comes up the hill at just over 125mph and on the other corners I am always just in the right gear at the correct RPM – fantastic.
“Triumphs are a great way into motor sport – the power to weight ratio is unreal.”
Behind the wheel of the Triumph, Barry has accomplished some childhood dreams, including racing at Spa Race Circuit.
“I’ve done the Nurburgring, Knockhill and Silverstone, but Spa was the track I would watch as a child,” he said.
“To drive around it was amazing. I have watched it so many times on TV, so to be driving round it in this old Triumph was unreal.
“Nurburgring was scary. The car is exceptionally fast, but its handling is 30 years old. Mind you, that’s part of the fun.
“This is very different to anything else and there’s a real technique to driving it. You tend to overdrive it for a start, but you have to relax and let the car drive you.”
Barry has been getting some really good results with the Triumph, being beat into second place by 0.7seconds at Knockhill this year.
Just last weekend he travelled to Croft Circuit for a BTCC support race.
Thankfully Liliane is far more enthusiastic about the Triumph than Barry’s motorbikes, and he has plenty planned for the car.
“My wife is getting really interested in the car,” he said.
“There’s not the same fear as with bikes. Even if I go off the track, I have a roll cage. With bikes, if you fall, you’re off to hospital.
“I’ve put so much effort into this car and it’s just at the stage I want it, so I’ll use it for another three or four years. I’m hoping to visit tracks in Spain, Portugal and Italy when I have the time. I’m at the stage now where I have the car and I’m willing to travel.”
Not bad for someone who initially didn’t even think the car was much of a looker.