WALKING into Bryan Apps’ lounge is something of a spiritual experience – especially if you’re a motor sports enthusiast.

The faces of legendary drivers and action from epic races adorn the many paintings on the walls.

The retired reverend from Bournemouth has been an Anglican priest for nearly 50 years, but away from clerical duties he enjoys nothing more than painting scenes from motor racing.

“I first got interested in motor racing at the age of 12, when I visited Goodwood with my father.

“I then started painting for recreation in the 1950s,” says Bryan, 73.

After selling a few paintings, Bryan decided he didn’t want to make money from his work – and took an unusual decision.

“I paint famous drivers and famous races, and once the painting’s complete, I’ll send it to the driver, often starting correspondence.

“Over the years it has put me in contact with Enzo Ferrari, Nigel Mansell and Prince Rainier of Monaco – who has several of my paintings in his private collection.

“It’s deadly to paint for money. For me, it takes the fun out of it.”

In fact, Prince Rainier of Monaco was so impressed with Bryan’s brushstrokes that he invited him and his wife Kathleen to stay for a few days.

“I’ve done over 200 paintings and, in many instances, I’ve got to know the drivers personally.

“It has greatly enhanced my interest in the sport.”

Bryan says he has often been sent pit passes for big races in the UK.

“Race boss Ken Tyrrell once told a driver, ‘Bryan’s a vicar who’ll paint you. And if you get on his good side, he’ll put in a good world for you with the man upstairs’.

“Bernie Ecclestone also wrote to me once, suggesting I should start races off with a prayer.”

Bryan’s paintings of racing cars and drivers have been collected together for his new book, When Motor Racing Was Fun.

The colourful book, published by Halsgrove, is packed with artwork and entertaining anecdotes, plus a foreword by Sir Stirling Moss OBE.

The racing legend contributed to Bryan’s book before his accident in March this year, when he broke several bones after accidentally falling down a lift shaft.

“I wrote to Stirling to ask how he was recovering,” says Bryan. “He sent me a very nice email and wrote back to me saying he was OK.”

Bryan admits he has a particular fondness for the early days of motor racing before it became a global business.

“From a spectator’s point of view, you were nearer to the action in the old days.

“With open cockpits and helmets you could clearly see the driver’s faces.

“But motor racing is a good deal safer these days, with the strict regulations.”