As the breeze whips the dust into a million tiny tornados around the venerable oval of Standlake Arena, the gentle chirrup of birds in the trees is brutally elbowed aside by the sudden and violent rasp of angry hot rods and balls-to-the-wall bangers. This is a venue in which ordinary blue-collar people become heroes as the sun goes down. For Mervyn Beckett, it harbours endless happy memories.
“My dad raced hot rods and bangers here for thirty years,” he recalls, with a wistful smile. “It’s the reason I’ve always been into cars, and into racing – from a very young age I used to come down here to watch dad race.”
If Mervyn’s name is familiar to you, it may or may not be for his prowess as a highly skilled and respected self-employed mechanic; indeed, it’s most likely that you’ll know him for his successes in the Civic Cup race series. With his bright yellow EP3 Type R, he’s certainly hard to miss.
This hands-on approach to motorsport stretches back to his teenage years, as Mervyn got into oval racing in a Vauxhall Nova at the age of 17. Of course this was at Standlake, his old man’s former stomping ground. “I raced for a few years, and took a few podiums here and there, although I never won a championship in that Nova,” he says. However, there’s another series in which the Nova has always enjoyed success: Stock Hatch. And since he knew the car inside-out by this point, Mervyn made the switch in 2013.
As well as loving the racing, he really enjoyed the paddock camaraderie within the 750 Motor Club, with the other grass-roots racing enthusiasts sharing endless knockabout humour and banter between races. One thing they all agreed on was that the Hondas in the Civic Cup looked like a heck of a lot of fun, and by 2016 Mervyn found himself in an EK Civic race car. “The sound of those VTEC motors was so addictive, we all fancied getting into those cars at some point,” he laughs. “There is quite a big budget increase necessary when you move up a league like this, but around that time I’d started my own business and I had the money to put into getting myself to the next level.”
Mervyn’s skills were getting more and more competitive through these years, building on an already strong base of hot hatch circuit racing, and having levelled-up to an EP3 for the Civic Cup’s Class B, he then made the lateral shift to compete in the Production Class in the Type R Trophy for the 2018-19 season.
“For 2020, the Civic Cup introduced a Production Class too, so I felt the time was right to move back,” he continues. The car itself was highly developed and optimised by this point; Mervyn had initially bought it as a totally stock Milano Red road car, stripping it right back to first principles and fully rebuilding it himself. In the time it’s been competing the Honda has intelligently evolved according to the lessons its driver has been learning, and man and machine were operating in perfect harmony at the start of this year for the 2021 Civic Cup.
“I started a professional relationship with BC Racing for 2021, as it seemed like something that would work out very well,” he says. And given the results he’s achieved, that has proven to be the case. In fact, at this moment in time Mervyn is in joint first place in the championship, with just one round to go. “There are lots of points up for grabs at the final outing at Snetterton,” he smiles, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “It’s all about the reliability; I’ve only had one DNF, at Anglesey, so I’m going into it pretty confident. My key rival Alfie Threlfall is a very strong competitor, and the two of us are some way ahead of the third place runner in the points – there’s still all to play for.”
Being so successful racing in a car he prepared himself acts as a very helpful shop window for the day-to-day business, with Mervyn’s customers hugely enthused and reassured by his mechanical skills – and of course his finely honed skillset behind the wheel is doing the most important job of all: rekindling those memories of youth, maintaining the family tradition, and keeping that high-octane fuel pumping through the veins.
“In the future I plan to do a lot more testing and setup,” he enthuses. “Given the regulations, there’s not a lot of scope for upgrades like you might find in, say, Time Attack – so it’s all about setup and driver ability.” It’s evident that these are areas in which Mervyn excels, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how far this stellar racing trajectory takes him.
October 8, 2021 | By: Apex Performance