Speed has been a major factor in Jonathan Lewis’s life. He was born in Yorkshire and both his parents raced competitively. They lived in the Punch Bowl Inn in Marton cum Grafton, which has since been co-owned by Neil Morrissey, a former man behaving badly on TV.
Rather unusually, Jonathan first got behind the wheel as a child, sitting on his mum’s lap in her classic Mini Cooper. Not that he’d recommend this, of course. At 14, he started competing in the ladies’ Mini races, because there were no junior categories. At 15, he had progressed so far that he was asked to compete against the men and hasn’t stopped racing since.
His unusual upbringing brought with it the freedom of foreign caravan holidays – his parents thought nothing of driving all the way to Italy in the 1960s. At that time, you couldn’t drive a caravan on and off the boat, though. “I can still remember the crane picking up the gas-mantle caravan and putting it on the ship. We’d always take our bikes and I loved Italian ice cream. We spent many holidays in Germany, too.”
Jonathan leads Team Bailey, which competes in Mighty Mini races and is sponsored by Bailey of Bristol and other caravan industry manufacturers and suppliers, such as Al-Ko, Whale and Tracker. The team’s four drivers always need somewhere comfortable to sleep and Jonathan’s Bailey Unicorn provides the ideal trackside home-from-home.
“All the racetracks we stay at are geared up for us and have electric hook-up and shower blocks, so we’ve got everything we need. In the evenings, we often have a barbecue, inviting others to bring something which we then cook. We have a drink together and it’s a lot of fun. If more people want to stay, we just put the awning up.”
Although he has a real need for speed on the race track, Jonathan takes life at a much slower pace when he is away in the van with his family. Even so, Jonathan’s daughter Atlanta-Jeane is particularly interested in dad’s racing career and his eldest daughter Emma has also had a go behind the wheel at a track.
During the season, the team competes all over the country, from Jonathan’s home turf at Snetterton in Norfolk to Donington Park in Derbyshire. It’s not uncommon for him to show people around his luxurious Bailey van but one incident stands out in his mind. “We were all sitting around having dinner and a man popped his head up and actually through the window to get a better look inside!”
Of course, Jonathan took this all in his stride and if you see him and the Mighty Minis racing, give him a cheer. Don’t forget to pack your sausages for the barbecue, too!
Since Practical Caravan's meeting with Jonathan, the team's Unicorn II Madrid has been upgraded to a Unicorn Cordoba for 2015, towed by a Kia. The new matching outfit must be great for the team's morale, and they did well at the Mighty Mini Championship at Oulton Park in April. Jonathan is managing four new drivers this year, who will all use the Cordoba as their base when going to 12 racing venues in the UK and five in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
It's one in the eye for anyone who tells you that caravanners are slowcoaches!