Formula for success - from Formula 1 to classic cars in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 10:30 15 July 2020
Copyright: Archant 2020
After a career in the fast lane and with supercars David Hyatt is relishing country lanes and classic cars
David Hyatt loves working on cars and rarely misses a Grand Prix on TV. But unlike millions of others, from full-fuel petrol heads to people with a passing interest in fast cars, David of Bawdeswell, near Dereham, has been there, tuned the engines, talked to the stars and tasted the champagne.
He was part of the Renault Formula One team when Fernando Alonso twice won the F1 World Championship and the team clinched the constructors’ championship. David had wanted to work in Formula One for as long as he can remember and for 10 heady years revelled in the joy of winning, the thrill of being part of the pit stop team, the adrenaline of race day, and a hectic schedule of world travel, lavish parties, famous faces and huge television audiences.
It was hard work too, with long days and nights perfecting the cars, the constant packing and unpacking of entire garage workshops - and the knowledge that a single tiny error on a wheel change would be seen by a hundred of million people around the world. He has stories of repairing crashed cars through the night, of packing his underwear with dry ice to overcome the heat and humidity of Malaysia as he ran from starting grid to pit lane in eight layers of fire-proofing, and of Brazil where he was once held up at gunpoint at traffic lights - but loved the fans and the food.
David’s passion for car racing and F1 came from his dad, and a childhood growing up watching Hot Rods races across East Anglia. He was in his teens when he began applying to every F1 team in the UK, hoping for a job. With no luck, he decided to start out as an apprentice aviation engineer with Marshalls of Cambridge, knowing it would help him build the skills he needed for an F1 career.
“I carried on writing and carried on getting lots of knock-backs,” said David. Until, at just 21, he was offered a job with the Benetton F1 Test team. He took a pay cut and followed his dream. He went on to join Renault and become part of the team which won back-to-back driver and constructor world championships with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. It was a lavish lifestyle, surrounded by phenomenal wealth, flying around the world with the fastest cars, to perform in front of many of the most famous faces on the planet.
The races were intense and the parties were memorable too. “There was no social media, no cameras on your phone, you could get away with pretty much anything,” said David.
After a decade he decided it was time to move on to new challenges. “I had achieved my goal of being part of a team that won the world championship, with two double world championships, but was tired of 18-plus hour days and was still young, so I had the time to sample new things.”
He spent the next decade putting together a supercar collection in Bahrain for the man who had made his fortune building the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi F1 circuits. He had to find the best cars in the world, vet them, negotiate a price and eventually look after them. He tracked down a Bugatti Veyron, an Aston Martin Vantage, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, several Porsches including a 918 Spyder, Maseratis and McLarens including an F1, the hardest of all to source.
Today the collection is worth around $100m. But he said you don’t need an unlimited budget to invest in cars. “The cost to purchase was less than half,” said David. “And the same can be done with everyday classics; buy the correct car at the correct time and you have a very good investment, currently 100% better than money in the bank, plus you can have some fun!”
Despite the years working in Formula 1 he has never actually driven an F1 car. “The closest I came was sitting in the car with it running carrying out systems checks, effectively driving the car but off the ground the in the garage.” The supercars were rarely driven too. “Part of the value is keeping the mileage low,” said David, who still acts as a consultant for the Bahrain collection.
He particularly loves working on classic cars. “Classic Minis, 1960s Alfas, E type etc,” he said. “It’s absolutely amazing how many classic cars there are in Norfolk. Every weekend you see them out and about.” He belongs to the Fakenham Auto Club and uses the knowledge accumulated from a decade with Formula One, followed by a decade sourcing, restoring and maintaining some of the most valuable cars in the world to work on cars at home in Bawdeswell.
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David grew up in Suffolk would return to visit family. “We always ended up coming to Norfolk for things to do. We were looking for a house with the room to build a workshop and holiday let in the garden and very quickly we found such a place in Norfolk.”
After moving to Bawdeswell with his wife, who had worked for the Bahrain royal flight, and youngest daughter, he set up Classic Hangar, a business restoring and sourcing cars and offering pre-purchase inspections - which he believes are just as important for buyers of reasonably priced classic cars as for supercars for the super-wealthy. “Classic Hangar offers a one stop shop for classic cars, sportscars and supercars, using all I’ve learnt. My job is still as exciting as ever,” said David.
And his life-long love of Formula One continues. “I still watch every session. I still love it as a fan.”
DAVID’S FIRST AND FAVOURITES
First car: Silver 1.0L Metro
Current day-to-day car: Volvo V50 T5
Dream car: Ferrari F40
Favourite F1 driver: Jenson Button for being a truly nice normal person. Fernando Alonso for his stunning never give in drives
And your all-time hero? Has to be Senna.