WORDS: TAYLOR WALSH
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY OF JONATHAN LEWIS
From the age of eight Jonathan Lewis has been obsessed with Mini’s, after his mother’s Mini failed its MOT, Lewis used it to learn how to drive and as they say the rest is history… although is it?
Lewis may have started racing a Mini, winning the Graham Hill Memorial Trophy in 1979 and becoming the overall winner of the Mini Severn Championship in 1980 but he made his name running his own Formula Ford team (Jonathan Lewis Racing) before managing the official Van Dieman works team and eventually running a World Series Renault team, which he led to a world title in 2006.
If you ever wondered how successful Lewis’s Formula Ford management days were, here’s a brief snapshot. Under Jonathan Lewis Racing, the team’s championship wining drivers included Antonio Pizzonia, Ralph Firman Jr, Doug Bell and Kelvin Burt. As team manager of Duckmans Van Diemen (works team) he racked up six National titles, one European title and eight Formula Ford Festival wins all while working with drivers such as Mark Webber, Dan Wheldon, Rob Collard and Jason Plato.
As co – owner and team manager of Comtec Racing, Lewis sealed the 2006 World Series by Renault title in the team’s first season with driver Alx Danielsson. Comtec competed in Formula Renault 3.5, Formula Ford, Formula Renault 2.0 and GP World Series. For our younger readers who are wondering what Formula Renault was, head to Youtube and search for ‘Richard Drives An F1 Car Round Silverstone’ in which Lewis coached then Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond to drive Fernando Alonso’s World Championship winning Formula One car. Following this success, Lewis diversified into Formula 2 power boat racing and appeared in the Red Devil Honda Formula 4 team during the 2008 season. After a brief spell racing powerboats, Lewis returned to racing and formed the Snetterton Speed Shop.
For over the past decade Lewis has owned, managed and competed with the Snetterton Speed Shop. The Speed Shop is the go-to place for historic racers from around the globe, gentleman drivers from America, Ireland and Europe have all chosen Lewis and the team to run their priceless race cars. Not only is the shop run by a leading figure in historic motorsport (Lewis) but the team personnel have an incredible resume in their own right. Steve Taylor, Michael Waudby, Jamie White have worked with some of racing biggest names and that’s before we get to Mike Galter. Mike is a veteran of international motorsport and known at a global level, working with drivers such as Senna and Webber. So, it is no wonder that legendary drivers and celebrities choose the Speed Shop when they go racing.
Motorsport legends such as Martin Donnelly and Tim Harvey have all raced for the team with the latter competing in the 2019 Historic Formula Ford Championship in a newly restored Van Diemen RF81. Tim is not the only touring car start to appear on the shops radar, Andrew Jordan, the 2013 BTCC Champion and owner of a competitor team Jordan Racing Team (JRT) recently purchased a Mini Miglia from the team after admiring the restoration and rebuild the team has recently done. Even rock legends know who Jonathan Lewis is, ACDC front man Brian Johnson raced with the team in 2016.
In 2019, Mini celebrated it’s sixtieth year with celebration races being run across the globe with the most famous race that year being run at Goodwood’s 77th Members Meeting. The Betty Richmond Trophy featured sixty Mini’s raced by some of motorsports leading names including Stig and Tom Blomqvist, Darren Turner and Chris Harris. However, to any fan of historic Mini racing they will be able to pick out the names of men and women who breathe Pre – 66 Mini racing and arguable Jonathan Lewis is one of the top five classic Mini racers in the world. With a third row starting position next to Le Mans winner Darren Turner, Lewis admitted in an interview that he had no chance of winning the event ‘I’m surrounded by Finish children and really talented people, hope to be the most successful older person’.
Lewis did better than that, claiming third behind Nick Swift and Nicholas Padmore. Even in the final stages of the race Lewis looked like he could take the win after Padmore lost control heading towards the chicane and nearly taking out Swift next to him.
Ahead of the 2020 season, Lewis and the Speed Shop boys had stripped and rebuilt the cars that were due to be run that year. This is the level of professionalism Lewis provides, all the cars are ready for any pre-season testing the customers require. Like many racing teams across the world, the team had to halt racing and batten down the hatches but what does a racing driver do in a lockdown situation? For Lewis there was only one thing, join the Royal Voluntary Service and drive ambulances (all within the speed limit of course). Running errands for local residents of Attleborough, Lewis even received a government Covid 19 parking pass which allow him to perform critical errands for people isolating.
Ultimately Lewis is a racer, his competitive nature has achieved him international success, but it can also be seen in his wider family with daughter Morgan who runs a successful cake shop. His passion for racing has helped to cement his legacy within the sport but he will not give up the helmet and overalls for many years to come and will continue to be a feature at Goodwood meetings.