One of motorsport’s more colourful drivers and best-loved characters, Ian Flux or ‘Fluxie’ as he is better known, was, it would seem, destined to race. However, despite never getting the biggest breaks, he knew how to live life to the full.
His autobiography tells it how it was, covering not only the highs, which included five championship titles, but also the lows and the many setbacks along the way. This amusing book gives the reader the opportunity to laugh with him about much of it, particularly the pranks, but also learn about some of the darker times that Flux has never divulged until now. All in all, this is a very different kind of racing driver’s memoir and well worth reading if like me you love motorsport.
Ian Flux collaborated with Matt James, long-time editor of Motorsport News (formerly Motoring News) in the creation of this book. His knowledge and experience spans from reporting on all levels of motorsport, from club racing all the way up to Formula 1. And since 2004, he has been following the British Touring Car Championship, having covered over 400 BTCC races.
There is also a lovely Foreward by Tiff Needell, in which he talks about Ian Flux as being “one of the most charismatic drivers to have taken to the racetracks” and that “his story is one of perseverance against the odds.” He goes on to say that “it is also the story of a lot of beer” rounding off by suggesting we all “raise a glass to my mate – so long as it is a Pilsner lager, of course.”
Flux opens chapter 1 by saying that “contrary to popular belief, I did not enter the world on full opposite-lock. And nor did I have a cigarette in one hand and a pint in the other.” In fact, his early years were spent growing up on his parent’s farm in Cobham in Surrey.
Then, aged six, he got a go-kart as a present, which was a turning point in his life. His dad had always said that if he has a son, he was going to make sure he could enjoy all the things he’d missed out on and have a different kind of upbringing to his own. And one of the things his dad always wanted to do was to go racing having done the Motor Racing Stable course at Brands Hatch in a 500cc Cooper Formula 3 car.
Flux muddled through in the classroom at school, having lots of laughs but also received sexual abuse from a schoolmaster and an early racing mentor.
The spark ignites in chapter 2 when Flux started racing in March 1970 in his own Formula 6 kart, winning his first race. It was also a darker time for him at school when Flux was bullied mercilessly by a big 14-year-old who was perhaps jealous of all the racing, making his life a misery. But karma caught up with the big bully the following year when he overdosed on LSD and was taken out of school, never to be seen again. This resulted in Flux saying: “My whole life changed.”
In the next chapter, Flux talks about “life as a grease monkey” and remembers 1972 well, as it was the year he won his first championship title in Formula 6 karting. Having thought about competing in Formula Ford, he decided that Formula Vee would give him more opportunities to race and gain valuable experience on the track.
His first race was at Lydden Hill in Kent, where he crashed on the last lap of practice. So Snetterton turned out to be the first race he actually competed in but was over cautious following the Lydden Hill incident and finished near the back of the field.
Flux started working at new Formula 1 team Token doing odd jobs in 1974 before moving to Graham Hill’s team, Embassy Hill, which had a big impact on his life.
In some extracts from chapter 4, entitled ‘Graham Hill: learning from the master’, flux recalls:
“With the Token Formula 1 team, I’d glimpsed a life that I really wanted but it had been snatched away. Just before Token closed, however, Neil Trundle phoned the workshop. Ray Jessop’s wife answered the phone and said he wanted to speak to me. Neil said he’d heard that Token was shutting. He said he would call Graham Hill’s Formula 1 team on my behalf because he knew they were looking for a new van driver.
“Neil put in a good word for me. I didn’t even have to go for an interview. Neil just rang back and told me I would be starting at Embassy Hill the following Monday. The team was based in Feltham, in the old Rondel Racing workshops, as Graham had raced for Ron Dennis’s team and then taken over the premises after Rondel’s closure. Graham had set up the team in 1973, running a Shadow, then turned to Lola in 1974. Now he was starting to build his own car, the Lola-derived Hill GH1.”
He then shares an amusing anecdote of messing around with Graham Hill’s lapboard, saying:
“In those days, you had loose letters and numbers that you attached to the board. They wanted to put a very rude word beginning with ‘C’ on the board for one lap but they didn’t have a ‘C’. So I hung out ‘Gunt’. On the very next lap, Graham came in: “What the fuck was on that pit board?” We told him it was the lap time, but he knew it wasn’t. I was standing there all innocently and he called me over. He said, “It’s a good job I have a sense of humour… However, this is the first time I have ever met you and I don’t expect to be called a ‘Gunt’ on my first acquaintance with a spotty 18-year-old.”
There is no doubt that Flux was in awe of Hill and his time at Embassy Hill helped shape his racing career.
“When I met Tom Pryce, he was a hero, but he was much younger, very laid back and had come up through the ranks like I was trying to do, so I felt a bit like him to a very small degree. But Graham had been a star for a long time. I would have seen him race at my very first meeting at Goodwood, when I was five, even though I couldn’t remember it. Hill was a double World Champion and a BBC Sports Personality of the Year — a real celebrity.”
Flux won his third Formula Vee race on the trot during that 1975 season and it suddenly struck him that this was something he could do for a living, going from being fun to being something he seriously considered. And at the end of the season, after he had won the Formula Vee Championship, all the Embassy Hill boys came down to watch him in the last race at Brands Hatch.
When Hill found out he’d won the title, he gave him a pair of his old overalls. Flux never used them though as it didn’t seem right and kept them for over 20 years before putting them in a Brooks auction and getting £9,500, which paid for an extension to his house which he always called the Graham Hill wing!
The Formula Vee title in 1975 led Flux to Formula 3 and Formula Atlantic, but he still had to take on various jobs to make ends meet, including as mechanic to motorcycle racing legend Giacomo Agostini for his four-wheel efforts.
Diversifying into sports cars, Flux had some successful adventures in Sports 2000 and Thundersports, winning championships in both, as well as in Thundersaloons where he drove a Chevron B8 and Lola T594C.
There is no doubt that Flux turned out to be a true all-rounder, competing in the British Touring Car Championship from 1988 in a variety of cars that included a Toyota Supra, Vauxhall Astra GTE, BMW M3 and Peugeot 405 Mi16. He then raced a Jaguar XJR-15 in the big-money 1991 series held at Grand Prix races, including iconic Monaco.
He drove a Lister Storm GTL in 1997 and 1998 as well as a Chrysler Viper in 1999. Then in the early 2000s Flux drove a Rapier 6, Porsche 996 GT3-R, Porsche 935 and Ferrari 360 Modena.
1996 turned out to be his ‘golden year’ though, when he won the championship in the TVR Tuscan Challenge and the British GT Championship with a McLaren F1 GTR.
Notching up nearly 50 years on the racetrack, Ian Flux has more recently tested competition cars for Motorsport News and done driver tuition and track-day demonstrations. Summing up his career, he says:
“When I look back, I realise that I’ve had an incredible journey. From those little acorns of racing a kart around a field at home, I found a career beyond anything I could have dreamed of.”
And rounds off this wonderful memoir by saying:
“I don’t think there’s a 17-year-old around today who could go on to do what I did. It just wouldn’t be possible. I guess that makes me the last of a generation.”
Publication date: 30th June 2023
UK price: £25.00
Format: 234x156mm, hardback
Pages: 304 with 80 photographs
For Flux Sake – Beer, Fags and Opposite-Lock
By Ian Flux and and Matt James
Foreword by Tiff Needell
Published by Evro Publishing
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Images courtesy of Evro Publishing