PEOPLE: PETER COLLINS
Name: Peter Collins
Collins says that it was a film about the Monaco GP of 1961 that first attracted him to motor racing. He became an avid reader and in 1964 went to his first motor race at the Warwick Farm circuit in Sydney. It was a round of the Tasman Cup series which was won by Jack Brabham but Collins was more impressed by Jim Clark and became a passionate Clark fan. In 1968 Collins left school and worked as a gofer for Scuderia Veloce, the Ferrari agent in Australia, with driver Chris Amon.
Soon afterwards his father died and dreams of motor racing evaporated as Collins had to find work to feed his family. He joined a shipping company as post boy and eventually became the assistant to the company accountant. He then moved to work for the Air New Zealand freight service which enabled him to get cheap tickets to fly to Europe to see F1 races. At the same time he got to know Geoff Sykes, the manager of Warwick Farm and when Peter Windsor, the Warwick Farm press officer at the time, left to pursue a career in journalism in Europe, Collins got the job for race weekends. On one of his flying visits to the United States in 1975 he managed to get himself the job of team manager for a small team being run for Australian Warwick Brown.
Collins quit Air New Zealand and went to California where, between Formula 5000 races, he helped out Dan Gurney's AAR. When that ended Collins went back to Australia and did a variety of jobs to keep the money coming in until he received a telegram from Windsor saying that the job of Lotus team manager was open. Collins spent his wedding night on the phone to Team Lotus boss Colin Chapman. Although he did not get the job he decided to sell everything and take his new wife to Europe, working as a storesman for Ron Tauranac. At the end of that year he was telephoned by Lotus and asked if he would still like to be team manager and he started working at Ketteringham Hall in December 1978 - at the end of Lotus's World Championship-winning season. The team struggled for the next three years but Collins stayed there. He played an important role in convincing Chapman to hire Nigel Mansell but later fell out with the team boss and at the end of 1981 moved to ATS. This was short-lived and in March 1982 he replaced Jeff Hazel as team manager of Williams.
Collins stayed with Williams until mid-1985 when he decided he wanted to establish his own team. This was not a success but a job came up as team manager of Benetton and he jumped at the chance. He negotiated an engine deal with BMW, hired Gerhard Berger and the team won its first race in Mexico at the end of 1986. A new deal was organized with Ford and Collins signed up Johnny Herbert for the 1989 season. Herbert suffered serious leg injuries shortly afterwards but Collins stuck by him and Johnny finished fourth on his GP debut in Brazil. The decision to support Herbert led to a political battle with Flavio Briatore later that year and Collins and Herbert were ousted.
In the course of 1990 Collins and Peter Wright put together a deal to take over the running of Team Lotus. They hired Mika Hakkinen and Herbert. The team struggled financially despite some promising results and eventually closed down at the end of 1994.
Collins left F1 and has since worked in karting, helping to promote and manage new young drivers.