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Vince Mitchell
24th March 1962 - 1st November 2013

On Friday 1st November 2013, Vince Michael Mitchell - known to most simply as either 'Bobble' or 'Vinny' - passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was universally considered to be one of the kindest, most genuine and open people in the intense and stressful world of motorsport, and he will be sadly missed.

  Baby Bertha, poto: General Motors

Vinny was born in 1962, but his passion for motorsport wasn't really kindled until 1976, when his uncle took him to spectate at a stage of the Texaco Tour of Britain. It was a mixed stage that gave the fourteen year-old a taster not only of the grit and gravel of rallying, but also his first sight of circuit racing. In his own words, "It was brilliant, and I was hooked for life!"

He lived then at Newbold Verdon, just a few miles from Mallory Park in Leicestershire. He started to cycle over to the circuit whenever he could, just to catch a glimpse of the cars, either testing or at weekend race meetings. "The first event I remember watching was a round of the Super Saloons series. Seeing the likes of Gerry Marshall throwing 'Baby Bertha' (a legendary V8 engined Vauxhall Firenza) round the track was simply awesome."

He did well at Market Bosworth High School, and armed with a generous handful of GCSEs, went on to take his City & Guilds as a Motor Vehicle Technician at Charles Keene College, Leicester. He started his career as an apprentice mechanic in 1979 at a local Mazda dealership, fettling road cars, and worked his way up the ladder. He moved on to become Service Manager at Robinsons Garage in Leicester. These were all jobs like any other, but servicing a Mazda Luce or the occasional RX-7 wasn't exactly where his heart lay. Vince wanted to get involved in the pacier world of motorsport.

  Vince Mitchell, Mallory Park, c1992. Photo from Vince's own collection.

Like so many engineers, he also fancied his chances as a driver, and between 1989 and 1993 he prepared and raced a Talbot Sunbeam in Super Road Saloons and Modified Production Saloons. He wasn't half bad at it either. In those five years he finished twice as overall Champion, and three times he closed the season as runner-up.

It was enough to get him noticed, and to open a few doors in a new career path. Vinny joined Andy Rouse Engineering, helping to prepare the team's Ford Sierra and Mondeo racecars to a series of wins in the British Touring Car Championship. He moved from there to take up the position of Second Mechanic at Audi Sport UK, where he stayed long enough to make his Le Mans debut, engineering the team's Elleray-designed R8C coupé for the 24 Hours in 1999. It was while he was there that he also acquired the nickname of "Bobble", initially from Yvan Muller - a reference, apparently, to Vinny being "a bobble hatter" because of his extensive knowledge and passion for anything to do with cars.

Vince Mitchell, in the cockpit of the car he helped create, the Saleen S7-R  

Vince arrived at Ray Mallock's Wellingborough outfit in February 2000 during an exciting time for the company. RML was in the process of developing a brand new supercar for Saleen in America, and would go on to perfect the Saleen S7 - not only as a high performance road car, but also as a very competitive GT racer designated the Saleen S7-R.

Vinny worked on the development side of the Saleen project, and spent most of his time in the company's workshops in Wellingborough, but he also found time at the weekends to help engineer Michael Mallock to the youngster's first title in the 2000 National Supersports Championship at the tender age of 17.

In 2001 Vince was moved more permanently trackside, and worked on RML's entry in the European Le Mans Series. The #41 Saleen S7-R, entered in the GTS category that season, won four out of the season's seven races (driven by Bruno Lambert, Ian McKellar Junior and Chris Goodwin), and paved the way for the link-up with Mike Newton and AD Group. Vince, though, was moved sideways in 2002 and 2003, and assigned to engineer RML's venture into ASCAR racing, coaxing Kelvin Burt to second in 2002, and then engineering Ben Collins to a dominant title win in 2003. It was Vince's first season working with The Stig, but it wouldn't be his last.

  Vince Mitchell and the RML squad at Le Mans, 2003

In the meantime, RML's involvement in GT racing had developed into a two-car squad contesting the FIA GT Series, with Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton pairing up for the first time in a Saleen S7-R. Vince joined the squad for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June 2003, and set out upon a path that would see him become Number One mechanic for Mike and Tommy for a total of five years.

Later in 2003 Mike Newton purchased the first of what would eventually be both the ex-works MG Lola EX257s and instructed RML to prepare the car for competition in the newly-created Le Mans Endurance Series. The car would make its debut that autumn in the 1000 kilometres at Le Mans.

Vince Mitchell, with Mike Newton, Phil Barker and Tommy Erdos - and the Audi hat he was so proud of.  

Vince (still proudly wearing his Audi Sport UK wooly hat!) would engineer the car, not only for that first race, but also through the following year's full season of the LMES. That included the 24 Hours at Le Mans in 2004 where the car, moved from the LMP675 class to LMP1, would be quick, but ultimately fragile.

The following year, 2005, saw the team return to the 24 Hours with the MG Lola EX264, and win the LMP2 class. Vinny was there, and he was back again in 2006, taking special delight in not only helping Tommy, Mike and Andy Wallace to a successive class win, but also by being a member of the RML crew that picked up the prestigious ESCRA award for best technical assistance at the 24 Hours.

Vince (in his habitual spot by the rear wing) and the entire squad, testing at Snetterton prior to Le Mans 2005 - the team's first class win.

Vince Mitchell, second from the left, with the entire RML AD Group sqyad for the Le Mans 24 Hours, 2005.

Vince Mitchell, team player. With Rick Perry and Adam Hughes

Vince Mitchell, sharing the celebrations of a second successive Le Mans victory in 2006.

  Vince holding aloft the ESCRA award at Le mans 2006, with Paul Smallcorn.

"Winning Le Mans twice, and being part of the team that won the ESCRA award, was very, very special," he admitted. It would remain among the highlights of his career.

Vince left RML for three years at the end of the 2006 season, first moving to Spain to become chief engineer for the Ascari resort racetrack, and then returning to the UK to take on the role of chief mechanic at Gary Pearson Engineering.

That saw him preparing Jaguars and Ferraris to race in historic championships, as well as Michael Schumacher’s B192 Benetton, but while he evidently enjoyed the work, he hankered to be back at the cutting edge. He returned to RML in 2010, initially part-time (to assist the team at Le Mans), and then full time, resuming his role as Number 1 to Mike and Tommy, and seeing them through to the Le Mans Series LMP2 title in 2010.

Vince Mitchell, third from the left, back row, and the RML AD Group team for Le Mans 2011. Photo: David Stephens

2011 would be the final year of the RML AD Group sportscar programme, and Vince was there all the way. He remained as Number One to Mike and Tommy, but was also especially pleased to be reunited with Ben Collins once again. He was later chuffed to bits when he discovered that he'd earned a mention in Ben's book about his life as The Stig; The Man in the White Suit. "How cool is that!" he said.

Vince Mitchell, reflective, eyes on the car, focused. Photo: David Lord

Vince Mitchell - always very hands-on as Number One

With the end of the sportscar programme, Vince moved across to RML's highly successful Touring Car squad, and a close association with yet more World and British titles followed.

Vince Mitchell - an earlier shot, from 2005

Throughout this period - and in the years since - Vince faced the additional challenge of being diagnosed with cancer. He underwent a first operation in the summer of 2010, and scans in the months that followed suggested that the procedure had been successful. Regrettably, it was a reprieve that lasted less than a year. Despite the prognosis, Vinny remained for ever cheerful, good humoured and, above all, generous. He will be sorely missed, but very fondly remembered. Our thoughts are especially with his parents and family, his son Michael, his grandchildren, and with Amy.

Vince Mitchell, engineer and photographer

Mike Newton:
"It was a very sad day to hear that Vince Mitchell had passed away after losing his fight with cancer. The world is a lesser place without him, and he will be missed by many - especially all those that worked and shared successes with him."

"We were all so pleased to see him back at RML, coping so well with every challenge ahead of him, working on the cars he loved, with the people who loved him around him."

Thomas Erdos:
“Vinny was my Number 1 for almost the entire time that I drove for RML. When Vinny decided to move to Spain, I was really sad that we would be going racing without him. I knew that he would miss racing with us terribly. It's what he lived for. I have never met a person in our sport with so much passion for his job. Vinny simply lived for his racing."

"There was no one who could touch him on a pit-stop wheel change. He was so fit and extremely fast. I never forget one time at Le Mans when the Team was practicing pit stops in pit-lane and one of the lads was trying so hard to keep up with Vinny on the wheel changes that he made himself ill. The crew practiced all morning and the lads were all very tired, but Vinny was in his element!"

"It is especially hard to accept that someone so committed to his fitness would be struck so heavily with this dreadful disease...Just not fair..."

The trust I had in Vinny as my Number 1 was such that no matter what obstacles he had to overcome to get the car prepared, I knew he would not release it until he was satisfied the job was done properly and the car was ready to win again. This gave me so much confidence that I was always willing to push it to the very limit. We had a start-line accident in Istanbul, when the car was struck by an over-enthusiastic Frenchman trying to win a six-hour race in the first corner. The damage was substantial, and most teams would have retired the car, but not Vinny. He and the rest of the crew got on with the job and we were ready to go racing again just 45 minutes later. I radioed and asked; “ Is the car repaired to your satisfaction?” The reply came back; “Yes, it is good to go, Tommy!” I went out and set fastest lap of the race on my second flying lap (or was it the first?). The car was simply perfect."

"We have lost a dear friend and a Le Mans Champion, and the motor racing world has lost one of the best race car mechanics in the business. Vinny's dedication and passion for his chosen profession have been an inspiration - to me and all the RML crew who have had the privilege to work with him. His legacy lives on with young Adam Hughes, who was his protégé and is now a highly rated No.1 mechanic for RML. Vinny passed on his high standards to Adam and I’m sure it rubbed off on everyone who ever worked with him.

"Thank you Vinny, you’ll be sorely missed. I’ll always think of our winning years together as the best of my life. Rest in peace my friend.

Ben Collins:
I first met Vinny in 2003 when the time had come for me to "turn left" for a living in the European Ascar Series. The car resembled a tractor at first sight and the thought of hugging concrete with it at 180mph was daunting, until I met the man in charge of the machine. 

The expression: "you could eat your breakfast off it" applied to every car that Vinny's hand graced. The racecar positively glistened and it went like a ballistic missile. His attention to detail knew no bounds, he worked tirelessly and his enthusiasm fuelled everyone around him. Thanks to Vinny, who was also a "golden gun" when it came to wheel changes, his car won nearly every race that season. 

When Vince came to Le Mans with the rest of the RML family I wondered how his enthusiasm would endure over 24 hours. Well . . . the glint in his eye never dimmed, and his soul was completely at home with the people who shared his passion for competition and the place that put resolve to the test. I will really miss Vinny. He was a true friend and, as he might have said about something he really admired: he was "the bollocks".

Pauline Norstrom, AD Group:
"We are very sorry to hear Vince Mitchell has been taken so soon by the cancer we hoped so much he'd beaten. He had an infectious enthusiasm for the cars, the sport and winning in the face of adversity we all shared through the highs and lows of the LMP programme. Most of all, Vince's warmth and kindness will be sadly missed."


All photos (unless credited otherwise) by Marcus Potts. Please click thumbnails for enlargements.

RML Team News

Sportscar Programme
Issued November 15th 2013

Vince Mitchell, pushing hard, Thruxton. Photo from Vince's own collection.

Vinny engineered - and repaired - BTCC Fords for Andy Rouse. Sometimes a challenge. Photo: Amy Francis


Vince Mitchell, Le Mans 2003. Scrutineering - the car, and his phone.

Vinny at Le mans in 2004

Vince Mitchell, testing at a snowy Silverstone in the autumn of 2003.

Vince Mitchell, testing at a snowy Silverstone in the autumn of 2003.


Vinny, steering the EX257 through scrutineering, LM2004

The squad at Le Mans in 2004.


Le Mans 2005 - Vince, Adam, jakey and Phil

Vince in control during a pitstop for the Spa 1000 Kms, 2005


Pitlane exit, Snetterton test, 2006

Vince at Scrutineering for LM2006

Vince, centre, with Rick Perry and Adam Hughes

Vince, Spa, Le Mans Series 2006

Le Mans 2006. Vince centre-stage.

Vinny, Le Mans 2006

Vince in his preferred position - the cockpit of the racecar he's engineered.

Vinny at Le Mans, ready for the start of the 24 Hours in 2006

Vince, on duty, and waiting for the next pitstop - LM2006


Vince had a good eye for a photograph

Vince was rarely far from a camera - in front or behind.

Vince Mitchell at Le Mans, 2011

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