David Parkin on firing up a Ferrari, an Endless milestone and meeting a Farage Mini-Me

MY memories of Chris Meek, the racing driver and entrepreneur who died recently, prompted an email with some fascinating recollections from Robert Barr, whose family founded and ran motors and coach tour business Wallace Arnold.

Robert led a management buyout of the coach holidays arm of the famous business backed by 3i.

And one thing his story does prove is that I actually under-exaggerated the truth in my story about a photo showing the speedo of a Ferrari driven by Chris Meek on the M1 motorway.

That’s a first.

Anyway, over to Robert:

Chris used to come into my garage on Scotthall Road very frequently and we travelled on many lunatic trips around Ireland together back in the mid 90’s. But I thought you would be interested to know, if you don’t already, more about the photograph on the wall at the Flying Pizza.

The photograph was taken by a reporter and Chris was doing an unofficial speed trial test on the M1 in order to prove for a pending court case by an Englishman against Ferrari that the 365 Berlinettta Boxer would indeed do its declared speed of 186 mph.

Chris contacted Ferrari and offered to do the test, however Ferrari said that they could not officially condone Chris Meek to break the law. So Chris went ahead and did the test, with a reporter as a witness, early one morning on the M1. He took the car up to 188 mph to prove the point and they photographed the speedo at I seem to recall 186 mph which I think was the speed declared by Ferrari in their sales brochure.

Chris helped the factory to challenge the case and the Englishman withdrew thus saving Ferrari a very costly bad publicity. Chris was invited out to Maranello to meet Enzo Ferrari where he presented the old man with a full framed photograph, as per the one in the Flying Pizza and one similar to the one Chris gave to me.

Enzo Ferrari was so pleased with Chris for his help that he then promised him the first right hand drive version of every model to come off the production line should he wish to purchase it – in perpetuity.

Enzo hung the photograph on the wall behind his desk right up until his death on August 14th 1988. I do not know where it is now, but one hopes such a cherished item will be kept somewhere safe in the Ferrari museum at Maranello.

I am sure that it is possible Chris might have embellished this story in bits but I know he was always first in the line for every model so I am pretty certain that there is more truth to the story than fiction!

One other great memory I have of Chris was when we were on one of our first Gobstopper Runs in mid Ireland and despite our free reign to drive at whatever speed we wanted (granted by the Chief Constable of Dublin) Chris managed to test the good old Irish spirit by doing 165 mph in a 30 mile an hour limit zone coming into a village quite close to Athlone.

He was of course apprehended and slung into the local nick for two hours. Chris though being Chris produced a Sri Lankan driving licence and managed to convince the Garda that he was not English but Sri Lankan. Looking at his long hair and tanned skin they were sufficiently confused to believe him and let him go with a caution.

Consequently he was free to proceed and join the rest of the 40 Ferraris on the trip at the Galway Oyster Festival where we led the procession through the town and down onto the docks where the festival took place.

Somewhere I have some great photos of Chris on that trip, one from later that very same day of the incident was of him sitting on the throne at Bunratty Castle where he was King for the night!

Anyway, I could tell stories for ages about Chris but he will be sadly missed and your article did him very proud indeed.

Thanks Robert, your stories confirm there is one less character knocking about down here.


TO Banyan, the new venue on City Square in Leeds giving Restaurant Bar & Grill a run for its money.

If the sun ever comes out for more than a day this summer, I intend to conduct a lengthy period of research on which of the two’s al fresco dining and drinking terraces is the most popular.

Last week Endless took over Banyan to celebrate its 10th birthday.

The private equity firm launched in Leeds a decade ago.

Garry Wilson and Darren Forshaw left Ernst & Young to start something different. Originally focused on distressed and insolvent opportunities, Endless has gone on to successfully invest in businesses making and selling everything from paint to bookshops, sausages, office furniture, bathrooms, school uniforms and Cornish pasties.

That’s what I call a diverse portfolio. They are now being linked with a bid for part of Tata’s UK steel business.

Slightly jaded from a long day at work (I’d done at least four hours of grafting that day) I didn’t intend to stay too long at the Endless bash but found such a who’s who of the Yorkshire dealmaking and restructuring community present that time flew.

Well they say business is all about people.


ONE of those at the Endless event was Robin Johnson, corporate partner at law firm Eversheds.

He has an interesting take on what a vote to leave the EU might do.

Following the sale of Leeds-based electronics supplier Premier Farnell to Swiss group Daetwyler for £700m this week, Robin wondered if Brexit fears could have been a factor.

“I think there could be some opportunistic bids if Brexit happens as overseas buyers buy on the cheap as the stock market and sterling plunges short term,” he said.

“As a man who believes in free trade I am in the remain camp but I am aware of the failure of the Doha round [of trade negotiations among the World Trade Organisation members] and whether the UK could do bilateral deals outside the EU is a possibility.

“But I believe we should remain part of the club which needs reforming rather than resigning and sitting and sniping from the outside. Longer term that must be best.”

Given I’m chairing an EU Referendum debate on Tuesday, I’ll stay neutral for now.

Although that’s not the tack I took when a 25-year-old trainee estate agent from Harrogate was giving it the full Nigel Farage at a party after the England match last Saturday.

He wasn’t wearing red trousers, but I bet he’s got a pair.

Have a great weekend.

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