Experimental Dept. Engineer 1967-1978.
Roger joined the Triumph competition department, which was under Leyland’s control then, in 1967 when the official works team had been disbanded, but the competition shop was still involved with preparing cars for privateers like Bill Bradley who was racing his Spitfire which we looked after, and we also prepared Triumph 2000s for Roy Fidler.
The competition shop was at the back of Fletch North then where we had our own small department. Ray Henderson ran the department with Peter Cox as charge hand and the other lads in the department included Pete Clarke, Brian Spencer and Roger. In 1974 moved out of the Competition shop and Pete Cox went to press cars, and Pete Clarke and Roger moved into the main experimental shop on general experimental work for production. But the car industry under Leyland control then was in turmoil and then the three day week started.
Dowson is probably best-remembered for masterminding Mazda’s entry into the BTCC in the early 1990s, but his involvement with the series stretched back 20 years earlier when he was kingpin in Gerry Marshall’s tin-top campaigns.
Patrick Watts, who drove Roger Dowson Engineering Mazdas in the BTCC in 1992 and ’93, said his former boss was a down-to-earth engineer who relished taking on the bigger teams.
“Roger wasn’t a Tom Walkinshaw or a David Richards, and would never want to be compared with them. He was a hard-working, old-school engineer,” said Watts.
“My memories of the Mazda days are treasured. Through the ups and downs with our one-car team against the big boys, we didn’t disgrace ourselves.
“Roger took it personally if his cars got scratched. He would show his displeasure in no uncertain terms, usually with a red face and a bit of swearing.
“On the good days, such as when we took pole at Snetterton or lead for half the race at Knockhill [with the Xedos 6 in 1993], his face would light up and he was unable to hide his infectious smile.”
Dowson cut his teeth in motorsport after joining Standard-Triumph from Armstrong Siddley in 1967, working in its competitions department. He subsequently moved to Triumph’s experimental engineering department where he was involved in the development of the Dolomite Sprint, the TR7 and the Stag.
He spent his spare time building production saloon Dolomite Sprints for the likes of Marshall and Tony Hill, before setting up Gerry Marshall Racing with the tin-top legend in 1978.
Roger Dowson Engineering was established in 1982 and the team developed Group A versions of the MG Metro and Metro Turbo. Later in the decade, Dowson’s squad ran a Ford Sierra R500 for Jerry Mahony, who won the opening round of the 1988 BTCC at Silverstone.
The relationship with Mazda began when the team developed the MX5 for one-make racing. It subsequently graduated to the BTCC, first with the 323F in 1992 and then the Xedos 6 the following season.
Dowson became more involved in historic racing in the late 1990s and from the middle of the noughties worked for his son Simon’s Delta Motorsport organisation, which built the GP Masters one-make single-seaters in 2005-06.