22/7/1936 - 0/0/2000
Record updated 22-Jul-08
Bernard Unett was the British Saloon Car Champion (now called touring car champion) in 1974, 1976 and 1977.
Unett was born in Wolvey, Warwickshire. His parents ran a farm. He joined the Rootes organisation and became a development engineer - known as 'The Set 'em Alight Boys' because of the antics they got up to. He was deputy head of the department for the development of the 'series' Sunbeam Alpine in 1958 - 1959.
Unett began motor racing in 1961. One of his first racing cars was a prototype from the Alpine development programme, registration number XRW 302. It was in this car that Unett won one of his first trophies in 1964, the 'Freddie Dixon Challenge Trophy', the biggest prize in motor club racing at the time. The history of this surviving prototype can be found here. The site also has a brief pictorial history of Bernard Unett's career.
By 1965 Unett was married with four children and helped out on his parents' farm when there was time for relaxation. He was now racing for the Alan Fraser racing team, who developed the Hillman Imp for racing from 1964 onwards, competing principally against the Mini Cooper S. By 1965 the team were having great success in surprisingly standard Imps.
In 1965 Unett, in a 998 cc. Imp, was showing a 1299 cc Mini Cooper S the way around the track at the motor show 200 meeting. (The Imp was much better on the corners.) In 1966 the Rootes competition department decided to enter the Imp in saloon car racing. Being heavily involved in rally car preparation, they had to have outside help. Alan Fraser and his team got the job. Unett was soon setting lap records in the Imp at Brands Hatch. At the 1966 Easter meeting he set a lap record of 59.8, an Imp becoming the first car in its class to lap Brands in under a minute, and also won the Edward Lewis Trophy. By August the team had won 16 first places, 2 seconds and 7 class lap records. The Hillman Imp led in the British championship series.
Unett was also having great success racing a Sunbeam Tiger, registration number ADU 180B, in the 1965 season. It was one of the two ill-prepared Tigers that had an embarrassingly short outing at the Le Mans 24 hour race the year before. Unett, having modified the car, had little trouble beating the competition, receiving glowing press reports. In just over 20 races he had eleven outright wins, nine second place finishes and amazingly, never failed to get placed. He just fell short of winning the Autosport championship in the final races of the competition, due to a broken fan belt and a broken rear axle. Details of this surviving ex-Le Mans car can be found here (click on 'The car').
For the 1966 season Unett and Alan Fraser built what was to become known as the 'Monster Tiger'. Driven by Unett, it was very competitive, winning many races outright. But Unett lost out on a major title, using his original Tiger as in the previous year, in the very last race of the Autosport 1966 championship.
Unett went on to race in the Imp powered Vixen cars that dominated the B.P. F4 championship in 1968, the Vixens winning the first 6 places. His biggest success came with the Hillman Avenger with which he won the 1974 British touring car championship (then called saloon car championship), winning the 1600 cc class on eight occasions, with victories at Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Snetterton and Thruxton and Ingliston. The same year, Unett was also first in class and 11th overall in the 'Access' R.A.C. Tourist Trophy at Silverstone and first in class and 13th overall in the 2000 mile Tour of Britain. Unett went on to win the British Saloon Car Championship for second and third time in 1976 and 1977 in a Chrysler Avenger, Chrysler having taken over the ailing Rootes group. In 1978 Unett was involved with the development testing of the Chrysler Sunbeam Lotus and went on to use the car for rallying, which was re-named the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus when Chrysler sold the company to Peugeot. The car won the R.A.C. rally in 1980 and the world rally championship in 1981.
Bernard Unett died of cancer in 2000.