Tony Pond – blue collar rally legend
remembering the 'tached driver that defined the rally old school
We always loved the very idea of Tony Pond.
The British rally driver, born in Hillingdon in 1946, always encapsulated a specific sort of blue collar derring-do – one that was very English and very of the period. Though he lacked the family resources to pursue an expensive sport, he worked in the motor trade and managed to claw his way into the British Leyland Factory team when they offered him his first top-line drive for 1976.
Tony was already 30 at this point, and as the rally world ramped up toward the Group B era, he was instantly popular with the fervent UK rally crowds, who loved him not only for the everyman heroes he drove, like the Triumph TR8 (pictured). The punters loved Tony as much for his personality as much as the car. Few rocked the trademark ‘Rally Jacket’ and moustache like our Tony.
Though he never reached the high peaks of the rally profession, with that roguish charm, a deadpan sort of humour, and lip-fuzz, he recalled, according to the obituary in The Guardian that run after his death in 2002, “some pioneering aviator…”
When Group B hit, Tony was at the helm of the Metro 6R4 monsters that were the mainstay of the BL team. Pond’s finest hour, in fact, came at the helm of the Metro, when he narrowly missed a victory in the 1985 RAC rally, losing out only to the madly superior Lancias of Henro Toivonen and Markku Allen.
But racing Rally cars wasn’t Pond’s only role for the Leyland corporation. He raced saloon cars successfully and played a central role in developing the MGF sports car. One of his major claims to fame was the amazing feat of averaging 100mph in a Rover 800 Vitesse hatchback on the Isle of Man TT course.
It would be nice to see a brawny bloke with a handlebar moustache from the South East of England make it on the international rally world one more time.
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