Alumni Bookshelf Part Three: “The Blunt End of the Grid” written by Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts, a proud alumnus, has recently published a book detailing his experiences when he took up racing in his 50s with the 750 Motor Club. When at Hull, he studied for a BSc in Psychology and and returned later to do an MSc in Information Technology. Dave’s book, “The Blunt End of the Grid”, was published earlier this year by The Book Guild Ltd and was nominated for the RAC Motoring Book of the Year Award.

Here he talks about his time at the university and tells us more about his book, avaliable from Book Guild, Amazon and Waterstones.

About Dave Roberts

I came to Hull University in 1982, at the age of 30, having decided that studying Psychology might have the edge on driving a taxi for a living. As well as having a decent grant in those halcyon days, I supplemented the income by mending and selling a car or two during the summers.

I loved the environment, being paid to enjoy the riches of the Brynmor Jones Library, so much so that I stayed for an extra year to do an Occupational Psychology Diploma.  But all good things come to an end, and in 1986 I was back in the real world – driving taxis…

A true Gaussian curve of career progress…

My book describes what happened next!

Dave Roberts (Photo by Janet Roberts)

About “The Blunt End of the Grid”

A book about 13 seasons of not winning whilst racing with the 750 Motor Club.  250 pages of entertainment for about the same price as a couple of car magazines.  Starring Garfield the Cat as the resident quality control inspector, and a cast of several.

“Look at this.  Ayrton Senna’s racing overalls coming up for sale.  Estimate, £25,000 to £30,000.”

“Dave Roberts’ overalls that I had to prise off his back to wash them after he’d spent the past 6 months in the garage.  Value.  Two quid.”

Not Formula 1 then.

This is the story of a man who, inheriting a modest sum from his aunt, could have finally repaired the hole in his kitchen ceiling, replaced his rotting windows, and even installed some proper carpets.  Instead, he purchased a sports car in kit form, built it, and took it motor racing.

At first, just arriving at the track with a working race car seemed to be a justifiable cause for celebration.  Graduating from feeling like a bumbling overweight bee amid a swarm of angry hornets, he began to learn how to become slightly more credible as a racer, even overtaking another car now and then, without ever troubling the queue for the hallowed podium.

Did it matter?  Not if you were having fun.  Some people seem to turn up in a high end motorhome, climb into the immaculate race car under the professional team’s capacious awning, and cruise to an uneventful win.  This tale isn’t like that.  Too much went awry.  We hear of trailers, and even a tow vehicle, being left behind on the way to meetings, as well as the almost routine demise of engines and replacement of tow vehicles.  Incredibly, a small collection of trophies was later gathered, but the pursuit of prizes was never at the top of the list of priorities.

A lot was learnt, not just in the area of mechanical knowledge.  In this defiantly unprofessional and non-technical memoir, Dave looks back at life in the not-quite-fast-enough lane, in a succession of race cars, road-going kit cars and ancient vans called Wembley.  Because motor racing occupied only 99% of his thoughts for fifteen years, there is space for his iconoclastic views on professional sport, religion and politics, and even time travel.  A couple of sentences anyway.

Was it all worth it?  Is second place just ‘first of the losers’ or is there more to life than that?  Of course there is.  Without the marshals, the medics, the race organisers and the many drivers who didn’t quite get to the cutting edge, this colourful world could not exist.

Above all, Dave feels that it was more fun than fishing.  Even when the car had to be pushed back through the paddock.  Join him as he shares the madness.

The Blunt End of the Grid by Dave Roberts
Available here on The Book Guild Ltd
Cover Photograph by Steve Jones

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