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Driven To Crime: True stories of wrongdoing in motor racing

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As anyone involved in a sport such as motor racing knows, adrenalin is a very powerful hormone that can produce extreme emotions and excitement.

Behind the wheel at Silverstone, however, was not Lockie but Chris Goodwin, who coincidentally had raced the very same chassis for its previous owners in the 1997 FIA GT Championship and had been drafted in for this session. Crispian Besley is a first-time author with a life-long interest in cars and a passion for motor racing. Goodwin again put the car on pole position and recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to third place, complete with the obligatory pitstop. He chose the Goodyear-supported Ferrari Challenge, a club-level British championship that catered for drivers competing in a wide variety of Ferrari models divided into two categories, one for older and often standard road models, the other for much quicker ‘modified’ cars. A serial conman and deluded ‘Walter Mitty’ fantasist, James Munroe — born James Cox —appeared to typify dull, unremarkable respectability but led a very public and extravagant double life.Goodwin admitted that by now, despite being handsomely paid, he was finding it difficult to maintain his motivation when co-driving with someone who was completely out of his depth. Over 60 true stories cover webs of deceit and numerous crimes including drug trafficking, corruption, embezzlement, robbery, fraud, murder and money laundering. Although his job prospects and personal life didn’t change materially over the next couple of years, he ended up being able to acquire a Ferrari 348tb in the classic and desirable colour combination of Rosso Corsa with cream hide interior. Now going by the name James Munroe, he fooled himself that he was ready to live the second part of his childhood dream: he was going to become a racing driver. For the next round, at Brands Hatch on 20th June, Munroe again took the start for a short stint before handing over to his ‘pro’ co-driver with the car two laps down.

Like so many schoolboys, James Cox was passionate to the point of obsession about cars as a teenager and dreamt of racing them as soon as he was old enough.You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. His behaviour guaranteed that he would draw attention to himself to such an extent that it was almost as if he wanted to get caught. At times I found it a difficult read, but only because so many of the characters that I did know were/still are my boyhood heroes, people I’d naively looked up to and tried to emulate… some may say I did a pretty good a job in that respect, because after all my years as both a driver and Team Owner, I also found myself accused of dastardly financial deeds and yes, my alleged “crimes” are in fact featured in Chapter 9 of Driven to Crime!

As the champagne flowed at the Veuve Clicquot-supported event, the slightly chubby accounts manager from Wokingham revelled in all the attention he received from the numerous photographers and journalists, but in reality he looked almost as out of place in those surroundings as he did on a race circuit. Besides the cars already mentioned — the two Ferraris and the two McLarens — his fleet of road cars included three Aston Martins, three Mercedes and a Ferrari 550 Maranello. Some of these people are the same kind of pure sociopaths that can steal all the money from an elementary school teacher pension fund, and their only thought is, "how can I do the same thing to the middle school? The season comprised 11 races, one of which was a continental excursion to the daunting Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. By the time he had reached his 20s, the nearest he had come to owning any kind of ‘performance car’ was very much more modest.Cox was tracked down and found to be living in a Premier Inn hotel in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, at the time of his arrest. For the second round, at picturesque Oulton Park in Cheshire on 3rd May, there was special dispensation for Goodwin to drive solo because the ‘self-made multi-millionaire’, as Munroe had started to describe himself, was reported by Autosport magazine to be ‘away on business’. In the story, Munroe was quoted as saying: ‘I’ve been into fast cars and racing since I was a teenager, but it’s a difficult game to get into. Indeed, the only recognition he ever seemed to receive over the course of two seasons with the F355 came at Croft, North Yorkshire, when the race commentator lavished inordinate attention on his car just because its red-and-white harlequin livery looked similar to nearby Sunderland football club’s team strip. Crispian Besley takes us on a fascinating behind the scenes tour de force of real-life corruption and shady dealings within the world of professional motor racing.

Panic Publicity continued to prove its worth by ensuring that its client made a series of television appearances, the most notable of which was on BBC2’s The Car’s The Star in an episode featuring the McLaren F1. Interesting subject matter, sort of light on high crimes and heavier on white-collar offenses, but the reader learns a lot.

Judge Josh Lait was not sympathetic and said when summing up: ‘This was a serious and continued breach of trust carried out over a substantial period, executed by false documentation. Goodwin managed to reduce the deficit by one lap and bring the car home fourth, his efforts once again rewarded with fastest lap. For all his many failings, which included a lack of talent behind the wheel of a racing car, what is undeniable is that this figure of intrigue and amusement amongst the paddock crowd was not only passionate about fast cars but also had great taste in them. In the case of James Cox (aka James Munroe), his craving for attention suggested that he received his highs not so much from racing one of the fastest and most desirable sportscars ever made but more from the publicity and kudos that went with it.

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