A Telegram, Eleven Thousand Miles & an Interview

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I’ve always believed in fate. My parents believe in it and one of the greatest examples of it, for me, is the story of how my father ended up not only working in Formula One, but for his dream team, Lotus.

But let’s start at the beginning. In his hometown of Sydney, opportunities to see Formula One cars race were few and far between. A racing enthusiast in all forms, my dad was infatuated with the skill of driving, and for him no one did that better than Jim Clark. A brief meeting at Warwick Farm where he was able to get Jimmy’s autograph, cemented his admiration for the Lotus driver. And with his idolisation of Clark came his passion for Lotus, a car that he loved everything about, from the colours, to the elegance of its design.

Peter and Jane Collins listen to telegrams at their wedding reception in Sydney 1977

On 4 December 1977 my parents married in a small intimate ceremony in a Sydney flower garden. When the wedding party gathered for cake and speeches, a telegram was read from a fellow Australian who had already made it to Formula One. At the end of the telegram was the news of a job opportunity at Team Lotus.  My father spent the entire evening on the phone trying to speak with Colin Chapman to secure an interview, but to no avail.

In just five weeks, without an interview, he and my mother had packed up their few belongings and were boarding a plane to England on a one-way ticket, with only one hundred and fifty pounds in their pocket and no idea what was waiting for them at the other end.

Although rewarded with an interview with Competitions Manager, Andrew Ferguson, my father was not offered the job.

Over the coming year he persistently and obsessively (possibly much to the annoyance of Chapman) called to see if there were any opportunities without success. He looked for work with other teams and took a job in the Ralt Cars Factory, doing whatever he could to be involved in motorsport.

The life in the UK was not what my parents had expected. Living on next to nothing while my father chased his ultimate goal. On their first wedding anniversary, a year to the day he had held a glimmer of hope for working for his dream Formula One team, he walked into the foyer of the apartment building where my parents lived and heard the communal phone ringing. Not one to usually pick up the communal phone he decided to answer it. To his surprise and delight it was Team Lotus, asking him to come to the Factory to discuss a job as Assistant Competitions Manager.  He was offered the job and started his new role less than two weeks later.

His persistence and determination had paid off, and the fact that the call came a year to the day that he received word of the job, and for reasons unbeknown to even himself, he picked up that communal phone, confirms to me that it was fate.

Peter Collins, Assistant Competitions Manger for Team Lotus. An incredible opportunity for his first job in Formula One, one that he said “was beyond belief!”

(L to R): Colin Chapman (GBR) Lotus Team Owner with Peter Collins (AUS) Lotus Team Manager. Formula One World Championship, Italian Grand Prix, Rd 13, Monza, Italy, 9 September 1979.
Peter Collins & Colin Chapman on the pit wall at the Italian GP

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© Samantha Collins.  This article may not be copied or distributed in part or in whole without the consent of the author.

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