Before that though almost every job in the Port Talbot motor club was done by Brian, from Chief Marshal to Stage Commander and a five-year stint as clerk of the course, “I was clerk of the course of the PTMC Novice Road Rally and on the organising team of the Edmunds Classic Car Tour – one of the first full-blown Classic rallies, not a tour, which shaped the events that we know today.” His Irish heritage also took him into another chance meeting that ended up with him becoming the course car driver for 13 rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship, a role he looks back on with much fondness. “The car I drove was absolutely fantastic, it was prepared in a tiny garage but with a full team of mechanics and full support on events. The tyres were changed before each stage and the mechanics would spend much of their time taking readings from sensors around the vehicle, but in my naivety, I didn’t pay much attention. It turned out it was part of the development program for what would become the Mitsubishi Lancer, and I’d not even realised!”
Family life bought in a forced hiatus though, but work would provide almost as much variety as all of the extra-curricular activities had during the 80s. “I’ve worked throughout the automotive industry, in manufacturing, customer-facing roles and marketing. I’ve owned several companies, including the retail business I built with my parents, been involved in the newspaper distribution industry and got involved in the web-based business after teaching myself to type and use Microsoft applications. I was even involved in the development of the app that would be adopted by a leading takeaway service.” Brian talks to me about various jobs and roles and about being in the right place at the right time as having a large bearing on many of these jobs coming about, but it’s his involvement in pyrotechnics that really grabs my attention, a Segway that comes as a complete surprise, even for someone with a professional life as varied as Brian’s. “I had got involved backstage with my daughter's dance troupe. In those days there was no real legislation around the use of indoor pyrotechnics, and so we had been experimenting with them in stage shows. One of the shows was as a support act for the Party in the Park tour, on the bill of which was the band Busted. Their pyro guy fell and broke his leg, and I ended up finishing off their tour for them as their pyrotechnics person.”
So, despite the incident with the drum kit all those years ago, Brian eventually did make it in the music biz! Albeit, not in the way he had planned. But how then does all of this lead to HERO? Again, it was a case of right place right time and who you know. One of Brian’s navigators, the late Hywel Thomas, was involved in doing the results for John Brown during the early days of HERO. HERO had a new event, going from Lands End to John ‘o Groats that they needed some assistance on and Brian was recruited. “I marshalled on that first LeJog, but that was it, and then helped again around five years later. Then Peter Nedin wanted to buy the business from John Brown, who agreed he would license it to him if he could come up with a business plan. I helped him with that and did the accounts for Peter, but that was the extent of my involvement.” That was until Peter phoned Brian one day to tell him that ‘some mad Italian’ had done LeJog and wanted to get involved. Once that mad Italian and his mate had made it clear that they wanted to invest in HERO, a meeting with Brian was set and he would be introduced to Tomas and Patrick for the first time. “They were adamant they wanted me on board, but I just didn’t have the time” says Brian, “Tomas being Tomas wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I agreed to two Sundays a month, did that first Sunday and the rest is history.”
What a history it has been as well, it’s a job that Brian loves but one that has changed dramatically in his time with the company. “It’s a much more serious business these days,” he tells me, “but it’s an exciting time with the move to the new office, and see what the future holds.” But what does the future hold for Brian Whyte? A return to competitive rallying perhaps? A collection of cars? “Actually, I don’t own a car, Brian tells me. Cooking is my hobby now, that’s how I relax on a Friday evening.” A bit more discussion reveals that it’s a little bit more than cooking, this is Master Chef level stuff and the waiting list for a table at Brian’s Secret Kitchen is as long as the list of jobs that Brian’s done in his life. It’s another string to a well-adorned bow though, and it seems that in Brian’s kitchen of life, variety is definitely a favourite spice.
There are countless more stories that are shared with me that are either too lengthy to include, or that don’t quite make it past the sensors! I’m sure that there are even more besides as well, and now with both of Brian and Pam’s girls clearly showing they’re a chip off the proverbial and with younger blood involved in HERO-ERA to share the experience with, there are undoubtedly more stories still to be written. But if you want to hear tales of a time that was, you’ll not hear Brian shouting about it, instead you’ll have to seek him out and tease them out of him, preferably over a glass of red or two. Then you’ll find out that the quiet man behind the computer, actually has plenty to say for himself.