Phil Cooper, the inimitable owner of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres, celebrated with reigning champion Miles Rudman this past weekend during the annual BARC Championship Awards Evening where the former was presented with the Gerry Marshall Trophy.
Taking place at Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, the British Automobile Racing Club event acknowledged all of the various champions from BARC sanctioned categories last year as well as some other widely respected figureheads within the sport.
Cooper, of course, who brought Legends Cars racing to UK shores over a quarter of a century ago after retiring from the music industry, needs no introduction to fans of the championship and his tireless efforts over the past 25 years were rewarded with the prestigious Gerry Marshall Trophy.
Named after the legendary British racing driver, who gained cult status during his career in saloon car racing across four decades, the accolade is awarded each year to the person which the BARC believes epitomises Marshall’s philosophy of the sport.
Speaking about the award, Cooper said: “That was quite the surprise, I had no idea. I’ve been invited to this event for a number of years and don’t always attend, but the team at the BARC were rather quite insistent I attend as Miles was coming and his car was on display as well.
“I thought I would be handing over Miles’ award, so when that didn’t happen I thought that was it. Then Alan Hyde read my name out and it was just complete shock. I’m very grateful and thankful for receiving this accolade.”
Cooper added: “Last year was the 25th Anniversary of the Legends Cars National Championship and I’m very proud of what we have been able to achieve. When I finished working in the music business I thought that I might potter around in motor racing for a little while but here we still are.
“We present ourselves as one of the friendliest paddocks in the business and that is true to form, and it is one of the reasons that I am still here doing it. Every team, driver, car owner gets on with each other and that is what it is all about – long may it continue.”
Reigning Legends Cars Champion Rudman, whose car was also on display at the awards ceremony, said: “Looking back it was a great season, there are so many highlights to think about – it was a great achievement for us. It’s very competitive, so many drivers that can win, it’s about being in the right place at the right time and working out where you are on track and where you need to be.
“Hopefully it all goes your way, knowing who’s around you – who you can and can’t work with – and making sure you’re at the front for the last few laps. There is a fine art to driving them [Legends Cars], it’s all about understanding the car and how it works and also the car itself.”
He continued: “I think it’s fantastic Phil [Cooper] has been in it for 26 years now, it’s a fantastic formula to race in with great value for money, you get a lot of track time and seat time, and it’s really competitive.
“What attracted me to it was the close racing, it’s more driver ability and not who can buy the best engine or the best tyres. It’s more down to the driver at the end of the day and that’s what makes it more competitive and more challenging. If you’ve got the skill you can win, it’s not who can spend the most money.”
Rudman, of course, will be back to defend his Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres title this season. Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host the opening six races of the campaign on 4th/5th April.