Racing driver still winning... aged 75

By Danny Caro, April 15, 2010
Philip Barak on the track in his blue Cosworth.

Philip Barak on the track in his blue Cosworth.

He beat the legendary Sir Jackie Stewart - and now veteran driver Philip Barak is gearing up for his 54th year on the circuit.

An unlikely 75 years old, Mr Barak is believed to be the oldest competitive racing driver in the country.

Born in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, Mr Barak can be identified by the star of David he wears on his helmet and began an early love affair with engines.

Wryly, he recalls: "I was not a typical Jewish boy. I used to race motorcycles. My father [who made machines for amusement arcades] was very concerned."

But Mr Barak, the grandson of Russian immigrants, found time to join Newcastle Maccabi, where he met his late wife, June.

 Mr Barak,  at 75, still jogs and works out in the gym to stay in pole  position

Mr Barak, at 75, still jogs and works out in the gym to stay in pole position

Recalling his early days on the track, he said: "I started competing in a racing green car, but never won a race. Then one day I painted it blue and white, and have never looked back."

Each year he undergoes a medical assessment more stringent than that of an airline pilot - racing requires perfect vision and movement. His exercise regime includes a daily run and cycling. He said: "I don't drink or smoke and I go to the gym. I really don't want to stop racing. I am 75 and am still winning races, so why should I?"

Mr Barak, who regularly competes against drivers less than half his age - in some cases as young as 25 - began his racing career in 1956, aged 21.

Early on, he had a serious accident at Mallory Park, Leicestershire. He suffered a broken back and knocked out three vertebrae, but miraculously, he was back on the track and racing within three weeks.

Today, he drives a Cosworth racing car, which can reach 200mph. For the past two years he has won the British Automobile Racing Club South East Racing Championship. During his long career, Mr Barak has won nine championships, holds five track records, and has come either first, second, or third a staggering 900 times. Remarkably, he has won most of his races in the rain, conditions that he believes "separates the boys from the men".

Twenty-five years ago, the Barak family - Philip, June, and sons Adam and Gary - moved to Towcester, near the Silverstone race track, where Mr Barak set up Woodcote Racing. The firm prepares, builds and rents racing cars, and also specialises in health and safety footwear.

His home is full of trophies and racing memorabilia. Among his more enjoyable memories is of his first race, when he beat Sir Jackie Stewart, although Sir Jackie, a good friend, had his revenge in 1964 by breaking Mr Barak's lap record at the last ever race at Charterhall in

A member of Milton Keynes Reform Synagogue, Mr Barak, who has raced in more than 30 cars, has represented England at the Coupa Ferrari at Aintree and has driven Formula Ford at Silverstone, Donnington and Brands Hatch. Now, he says, it's not age that holds him back - "I certainly don't feel like an old man. I feel fitter now than I did in my 20s and 30s" - but money.

There has been a steep rise in the price of engine parts. Mr Barak said: "All prices in motor-racing seem to have quadrupled in terms of the cost of fuel, tyres and engines during the recession. It would be a catastrophe if I had to stop racing due to a lack of finances."

But, provided he secures additional funding, Mr Barak is confident of claiming his 10th title when he makes his first outing of the year on May 10 at Mallory Park.

Last updated: 4:23pm, April 15 2010