THE racing career of Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has come back into focus courtesy of the popular Netflix television show The Crown.
The fourth season of the dramatization of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as the head of the Commonwealth covers Thatcher’s early years as British Prime Minister, with the six days her son went missing on the 1982 Paris-Dakar Rally forming a major plot point.
But did you know that, by that point, Thatcher already had a Bathurst 1000 start under his belt?
Thatcher made his first and only start in the ‘Great Race’ in 1979 – a race that is available in full on DVD in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – just a handful of months after his mother’s rise to power.
He was still very much a rookie when he arrived at Mount Panorama: he’d only been racing for just under four months, with his driving debut coming on June 10, 1979 in – of all things – a 1.6-litre Sunbeam modified to run on methanol.
“Mummy had a sense of humour loss when I announced I was going motor racing,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.
“She doesn’t follow it too closely but always asks how I went rather than if I am safe after a race.”
The bulk of his racing after that came in race driver school cars in club events, but it was enough for legendary Toyota racer and car dealer – and promotional guru – Peter Williamson to recruit Thatcher to race a Corolla at Bathurst.
“I was asked to do this race by Peter Williamson after he’d seen me drive in a couple of events in the UK, so I would like to think he asked me based on my driving ability rather than anything else,” Thatcher told Seven’s Evan Green ahead of the race.
“I’ve won a couple of things, set a couple of lap records – and also (had) one very nice crash!”
Thatcher shared his Corolla with Japanese racer Kiyoshi Misaki, and their #77 machine ran in colours matching Williamson’s Toyota Celica – albeit with a big Union Jack joining the Rising Sun Flag on the roof.
From 54th on the grid, Thatcher drove the first stint and charged into the class lead within the first 20 laps!
However, while the Williamson/Mike Quinn Celica went on to win its class and finish in ninth place overall, Thatcher’s Bathurst adventure ended two hours after it started.
The #77 Corolla stopped at the top of Mountain Straight with a broken oil pump drive; the car was brought back and repaired for Misaki to turn a few laps, but when the issue recurred the car was retired for good with just 41 laps to its name.
“That’s motor racing, but I’m glad I had the chance to run here,” Thatcher told reporters.
Thatcher continued to race cars throughout the 1980s, making a couple of starts in the Le Mans 24 Hours and racing for the factory-supported Bigazzi Team BMW squad in the European Touring Car Championship.
While he never returned to Mount Panorama, he did actually score one of his best career results in the Southern Hemisphere.
Thatcher joined Kiwi racer Trevor Crowe aboard a BMW M3 for the 1988 Nissan-Mobil 500 Series in New Zealand, and the pair claimed a remarkable third placing at Wellington.
The harbourside event has been immortalised in a new book, The Wellington Street Races: The Definitive History of New Zealand’s Iconic Motorsport Event.
Written by Richard McGee, it is the first book to chart the creation, rise and ultimate demise of the race, and chronicles each year’s event, featuring stunning images and full race results.
It’s now in stock in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – click HERE to order!