Ken Davies interviews Nick Mason

Motor racing and pop music have long been intrinsically linked and Nicholas Berkeley Mason, always known simply as Nick, is an original founder member of Pink Floyd, one of the best-known groups on the planet and a band whose distinctive genre includes experimental, instrumental and progressive rock. Their albums, such as 'Echoes', 'Dark Side of the Moon', 'Ummagumma', 'Division Bell' and 'The Wall' are an integral part of pop music folklore.

Formed in the psychedelic sixties, Pink Floyd became one of the most iconic – and commercially successful – groups in music history, but Nick dovetailed his busy schedule behind the drum-kit with a lifelong passion for motor racing, conducting a parallel career as a Gentleman Driver. This took him to Le Mans on four occasions and also several other notable sports car endurance championship races, including the daunting Nurburgring's Nordschleife, charismatic Monza and the ultra high-speed circuit of Spa Francorchamps.

Nick's enthusiasm for motor racing was first ignited by his father Bill Mason, a prominent and successful documentary film maker and keen amateur racer of his era. Nick's formative years in the early fifties were, therefore, spent at Silverstone and Goodwood, watching dad race the family's VdP Bentley 4.5-litre, the type that won the Le Mans 24 hours race in 1928/29.

After racing old cars for a few years Nick moved up to 'moderns' and drove at Le Mans for the first time in 1979 with Dorset Racing, the archetypal British Racing team, aboard their reliable 2-litre Gp6 Lola. Sharing the driving with Richard Jenvey, Brian Joscelyne and Tony Birchenhough, Nick finished his first visit to the Sarthe circuit in 18th place overall, 2nd in class and won the index of performance. He was hooked and would return on another three occasions with, what he modestly describes as, “An ever-increasing lack of success!”

Over the years Nick has assembled a unique and enviable collection of mouthwatering racing cars, all managed by Ten Tenths, one of his satellite companies. He claims he never really intended to become a collector of cars, but just bought them to go racing and didn’t have to sell to buy the next one. Nick's country home is not far from Castle Combe in leafy Wiltshire, from where the Masons often race as a family, and are frequently seen at Goodwood together; wife Annette and two daughters Holly and Chloe. In fact Holly is married to sports and GT racer Marino Franchitti, younger brother of multiple Indycar champion Dario Franchitti.

Approachable, modest and down to earth, Nick is a life member of the British Racing Drivers Club and, as a capable writer and journalist himself, president of the Guild of Motoring Writers. He also has an honorary Doctor of Letters awarded to him from the University of Westminster, his former college. Nick still likes nothing better than taking his cars to pieces – and then getting someone else to stick them back together again! For anyone hooked on motor racing and rock music, it doesn't get much better than this, enjoy our interview.

How did you make your start in Motorsport?
I bought a pre-war Aston Martin Ulster in 1973 and kicked off with the VSCC and AMOVC. Mentored by Derek Edwards, who taught me how to fettle the car and showed me the basics of cornering and cooking a full English breakfast – on top of a petrol tank!

What was the best moment in your motor sport career?
Probably winning the historic sports car support race to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a 2-litre Maserati T60 Birdcage on the last corner of the last lap!

What was the worst moment?
My wife Annette’s accident at Goodwood Revival in the same car a year later. Fortunately it looked far worse than it was (both car and driver!).

Which event did/do you most look forward to?
The five-yearly Ferrari 250 GTO rally. A breathtaking collection of cars driven by a group of real enthusiasts, and many of them now old friends.

Congratulations, you've won the lottery, and what car do you rush out to buy?
Thanks .… another GTO would be nice.

What are your future motor sport plans?
More spectating, team management and tyre-kicking.

Which competition has car impressed you most?
Gordon Murray’s McLaren GTR. Unique in winning Le Mans straight out of the box – even Porsche and Ferrari couldn’t do that.

What's the most entertaining event you’ve been involved in?
Probably Chris Evans’ Car Fest. Glastonbury meets Goodwood. Very relaxed demo runs, and a wonderful mix of racers, bikers and musicians around the campfire in the evening.

What is your most effective or personal asset?
In terms of supporting my motor racing –record royalties. Personally – probably an ability to look for non-confrontational solutions to problems.

What advice would you offer the aspiring driver entering the sport?
Assuming they are not the next Nico or Lewis, enjoy it. Not always easy when you are sitting on the back of the grid and it’s raining, but then it’s great when it’s over.

Who has been your greatest motoring inspiration?
Initially my Dad, then Derrick Edwards and finally Derek Bell, who took the time to teach me the way around the Nürburgring's legendary Nordschleife when I did the 1000-kilometer race in 1981.

Tell us something surprising about yourself?
I do like a certificate and, apart from a number of technical qualifications, I have three from Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. I can knock out a chocolate coffee cup with a coffee parfait inside if required!

One final question – what will we find on the Mason car CD or iPlayer?
Not a lot, I’m really a rRadio 4 man in a car. I’m not a fan of music played against a V12 background. Occasionally I’ll loop some track that I’m learning a drum part for but that’s not a lot of fun for a passenger.

Our thanks to Nick for sparing some of his valuable time for our interview and we hope to see him at Castle Combe again before the end of the season.

Note: The images are from Nick Mason's archive, Ken Davies and Jeff Bloxham.