TO FINANCE my racing career, I spent several years in the motor trade - and to be honest dozens of really bad cars passed through my hands.

One that sticks in my mind, though, is a Renault 12 about the time that I was racing Formula Fords. I was absolutely skint, but managed to scrape together pounds 75 to buy the Renault.

It looked tidy enough, but had this peculiar habit of running for 15 minutes then stopping dead, and the engine would not fire again for a further 20 minutes.

There was no way that I could afford to have it fixed, although I discovered that if I drove it for just 12 minutes, then parked it for five, it would start immediately.

I ran it for maybe six months and got used to it. That meant carefully planning every journey, using a stopwatch, having a pile of magazines to read - and I'd also pack a sleeping bag.

Then there was my first Mini van, which had all the usual faults like a major rust problem. In fact, all the time that I owned the car, it had a flat battery which I could not afford to replace. I always parked on a hill, or incline, in order to jump-start it.

On one occasion, exiting a pub car park, the A panel adjacent to the driver's door had rusted through and jammed it shut. Unfortunately I had already pushed the Mini off and was struggling to get in. I had to run around to the passenger side, catch it up, unlock the door and then jump in. I averted disaster by inches.

Another problem with that van was the gear linkage, which would come adrift and only leave me with reverse gear. Only a rusty nail would hold the linkage in place, and if that broke I was stranded.

On one occasion I parked just off a motorway junction to go to a nearby meeting. When I returned, I had the misfortune to find that the nail had broken, so the only way out was to reverse home 3 miles.

As I did this, I overtook a jogger, but had to stop because the engine was overheating. When it had cooled down, I overtook him again. I think that happened four times before he ran up to the car and said: "Put me out of my misery, this has got to be Candid Camera."

Tim Sugden finished 4th at this year's Le Mans in an EMKA Team McLaren and last year won the Privilege Insurance GT Championship which currently he is leading.