Stanford grew up in Swindon, in the west of England, and his interest in the sport was triggered because his next door neighbor at the time was a big fan of Scottish racer Jim Clark. The sport, however, was only a hobby in those early years because when Stanford left school at 16 he went to work for the British government's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, being involved in the organization of stock-piling of supplies in case of war. Fortunately no war broke out and so in the evenings and at weekends Dickie was involved in running a Formula Ford team with a friend. Through this he learned mechanics and ultimately he quit his job at the Ministry to take up a dual role as mechanic for his friend's road car garage and for the racing team.Racing quickly became Stanford's primary involvement and he was soon preparing customer cars for the team. When the garage shut down because of the recession Stanford went on to work for former Grand Prix drivers Tim Schenken and Howden Ganley - who had formed a racing car company called Tiga. For a brief period this built Formula 3 cars but it too closed down and so Stanford retired from racing and worked as a garage mechanic until he was offered a job with the Ralt Formula 2 team in 1983. That year he wrote to Williams asking for a job but was rejected. Two years later, after successful F2 campaigns with Jonathan Palmer, Mike Thackwell and Roberto Moreno, he tried again and Williams took him on. The team was expanding at the time, moving into its new factory at Didcot. Stanford started out as Nigel Mansell's mechanic in 1985. He worked on the test team in 1988-89 before becoming chief mechanic in 1990. At the end of 1994 the then team manager Ian Harrison quit F1 and Stanford was appointed as his replacement, with the team moving on to World Championship success with Damon Hill in 1996 and Jacques Villeneuve the following year. He remains in that role to this day.