Cars, Classic and Modern:
My first car was a 1929 Rolls Royce hearse. Among the favourites I have owned are a 1961 MGA 1600, a 1966 Mini Cooper S, a 1972 drophead Boss engined Mustang, a 1963 fixed head 3.8 Jaguar E-Type, a 1971 drophead V12 E-Type (the sixth one built) a 1986 BMW M5, a 1997 Aston Martin DB7, a 2004 Aston Martin Vanquish, my current Brabus S-Class Mercedes, my 2008 Bentley Continental Speed, my current Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and our classic 1987 Mercedes 500SL.
The most unreliable was a 1975 Triumph Stag. My 2004 Aston Martin Vanquish, which I bought new, demented me with its unreliabilty to the point where I eventually, reluctantly, sold it back to Aston in sheer frustration. I traded the Aston Vanquish for an Aston DB9 convertible, which I did not like at all – I found it cramped, noisy, and it flexed horribly on bends. I bought a black Mercedes SL 55AMG, on Jeremy Clarkson’s recommendation – which was a total beast! Quicker than the Vanquish, with more space, but sadly not much more reliable – a constant pain with electrical problems. And it did not have the Aston’s “soul”. When you drive an Aston everyone on the road is nice to you – everyone, even the most resolute of car-hating greens seems to love them. But people looked less lovingly at the Merc, like it belonged to a successful drugs dealer. At the beginning of 2007 I took delivery of a Bentley Continental GT. I fell in love with the looks of these cars the moment they first appeared. To me they were pure sculpture on wheels, and next to my DB7, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. But my joy of owning this car lasted a mere 18 months – before it caught fire as I was on my way to a charity event at Glyndebourne Opera House. In the long-ensuing saga, the car was off the road for a staggering 12 weeks. I got fed up in the end and bought another one, the massively uprated Bentley Continental GT Speed, a car with real attitude! It had 600 BHP, would do 203 mph and handled as sharply as a Porsche. I owned this car for almost six years, and barring a faulty boot mechanism, it never missed a beat. Some years ago, the head of design of Porsche was talking about the secret of successful car design: “Every time you get into the car, behind the driver’s wheel, it must make you feel like it is your birthday”. My 2004 Vanquish did that, my Bentley Speed did, and my current Vanquish Volante does every single time I open the driver’s door.
The world of the Police…
…As well as Science, Medicine & the Paranormal are my principal interests above all else. I spend a lot of time with police forces on my research, in particular Sussex Police – and I have now donated two police cars to them. The first in 2008 and the second in 2014 on which the livery (alongside the Police markings) changes each year to match the jacket of my latest Roy Grace novel.
Running, cycling, swimming, tennis & skiing:
As a Type 2 diabetic, I’m passionate about exercise, either running, cycling, swimming or playing tennis for a minimum thirty minutes every day. I find this the most effective method of all in helping to keep my blood sugars low.
Thanks to my Austrian mother, who took me skiing from the age of 5, I have a huge love of this sport. I was selected to train for the British Olympic ski team when I was 15, but my parents, (probably very wisely), felt it would be too disruptive to my education. I still ski a lot – fortunately, as I met my wonderful wife, Lara on a ski-lift in Courchevel, in 2013!
One of my maddest passions is motor racing. I passed my ARDS British racing drivers licence test back in 2004 (after failing at the first attempt and scaring the instructor witless when I spun a Lotus Elise at 110mph on Copse corner at Silverstone). Some friends called it yet another of my many mid-life crises! Some, less charitably, said it demonstrated that I would do just about anything to promote my books! But all of them were united when they saw the car I was racing. They said, a What??? I began my motor racing in a 2CV Citroen in the annual championship series, the high-point of the season being the annual 24 Hour Endurance Race for 2CV Citroens at Snetterton. Subsequently I graduated to racing Touring Cars in the Britcar Endurance series. In 2010 we raced a works Honda Accord, but were blighted during the first part of the season. But we did finish decently at Castle Combe, Brands Hatch and in the 24 hour race at Silverstone. In 2011 we raced a seriously quick 350 brake horsepower Seat Toledo, formerly raced by two-times British Touring Car Champion, Jason Plato. With uprated power we came 4th in class at the Britcar Production Cup endurance race at Brands Hatch.
Unfortunately, in June 2012 at Oulton Park my then racing partner Andre Severs, hit the barrier on Old Hall bend at 120mph after the steering arm broke totalling the car and coming perilously close to totalling himself although I am happy to say he is now back racing. I now race this beautiful 1965 BMW 1800 Ti (known as a TiSa) in a number of historic series. In May 2013, I had this spectacular high-speed crash at Brands Hatch when I was hit from behind by a Lotus Cortina and rolled at over 90mph. I suffered two broken ribs, a bruised spleen and three slipped discs (from which I am still recovering!). The car was re-built in time for the 2013 St Mary’s Trophy at The Goodwood Revival. Steve Soper driving on the Saturday finished in 5th position and we got 10th place overall.
I raced in the 2014 St Mary’s Trophy with Paul Taft, in a huge 1955 BMW 502.
It was last raced by Jackie Oliver in 2009 but the current engine was down on power and we finished a not entirely unrespectable 18th overall. In 2016 I am continuing to race this BMW as well as my 1958 Fiat Abarth Evocation (which I will be co-driving with my wife Lara, who has recently passed her ARDS licence) and my 1958 Austin A35. You may also notice whizzing around some circuits my BMW M3 Schnitzer race practice car with a full Roy Grace livery and the licence plate ‘A PJ 800K’!
I used to own a Second World War Mitchell B25 bomber. It is now permanently housed at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
Food and Wine:
I write a monthly food and travel column called Grace & Flavour, for Sussex Life Magazine. I’ve always been passionately interested in both food and wine, and writing this column gives me a great opportunity to explore restaurants of Brighton, as well as the county of Sussex and further afield – and sometimes to say what I jolly well think about them!