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Sunday, November 29th, 2020

How Not To Win Le Mans

Le Mans

-Reflections on How Not to Win-

Brian Redman

Although I usually had fast, well-prepared cars and strong co-drivers  Le Mans is the only major World Championship sports-car race missing from my résumé and the only one that really matters in the world of long-distance racing. It is small consolation that I took firsts in the IMSA class in 1978 and 1980, and frustrating to know that I led the race overall on five different occasions, four of them in works cars: with Jo Siffert in 1969 in a Porsche 908 and again in 1970 in a 917K; twice also with Jacky Ickx, first in a Ferrari 312PB in 1973 and then in a Porsche 936 in 1979; and, finally aboard Dick Barbour’s Porsche 935 with John Fitzpatrick in 1980. 

 In 1966 I’d done the Monza 1000 Ks with Richard Bond in Nick Cussons’ GT40 and in ’66 and ’67  Spa 1000 Ks with Peter Sutcliffe in his GT40. Yorkshire landowner and City of London businessman Viscount Downe, John Dawnay, was looking for an inexpensive driver with some long-distance experience so he invited me to drive his Ford GT40 at Le Mans with Mike Salmon.. The team was entered by that strict disciplinarian John Wyer who may not have approved the laid-back atmosphere of  the Downe équipe, run from the Hôtel de France in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir.

 

1967

On the Thursday before the race, the team’s commitment to eating, drinking and fine living was in full flow when at 3.30pm Lord Downe turned his attention to business. ‘What time is practice”’ he enquired? As 14 diners looked at each other with bemused silence, I volunteered, ‘It’s at 5 o’clock.’ Speaking to his younger brother the Hon.James, Lord Downe said: ‘Get Brian to the track, as quickly as possible.’ The Dawnay’s enormous old Rolls-Royce, of Second World War vintage, could only proceed with comfort when centrally positioned on the crowned French country roads. On a mission, at 75 mph, James gripped the wheel, right foot firmly planted on the throttle. In the distance, coming towards us, a Citroën Deux Chevaux appeared, also in the middle of the road. As I was about to dive under the dashboard, James stood up. Steering with one hand and waving with the other, he shouted, ‘Get out of the way, you bloody peasant!’ Miraculously, they did. 

For the race, I was paired with veteran sports car driver Mike Salmon, who was the designated starter. When, after 20 laps, Mike stopped for fuel, I opened the door expecting to get in. ‘I’m terribly comfortable, old boy, I’m staying in’ Mike said. After every refueling stop, it was the responsibility of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s official plombeur to secure the filler cap. Unfortunately, in this case, the cap wasn’t fastened properly. As Mike  braked hard at the end of the Mulsanne Straight, fuel surged from the tank, popped open the cap and flowed onto the hot exhaust pipes. Immediately the car erupted in flames. Mike was able to extricate himself but not before being badly burned, the car was totally consumed. 

 

1968

Ickx and I were looking forward to driving out favourite GT40 #1075 at Le Mans. Delayed by protests, strikes and civil unrest – what changes?! - from the normal June date until September 28/29. Fate had other plans. On June 9th, at the Belgian Grand Prix, my Cooper-BRM broke its right-front suspension. In the resulting mammoth accident, I suffered a compound fracture of the right forearm and was out of racing until November. Just one week before Le Mans, practising for the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Monte Tremblant, Jacky suffered his own huge accident when the throttle jammed open on his Ferrari in practice and he broke a leg. Needless to say, our replacement drivers, Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi (my team-mate at the Belgian GP in  the Cooper team.) drove to a great win.    

 

1969

During practice for Le Mans in 1969, Jo Siffert and I tried one of the new Porsche 917s. On the Mulsanne straight the 917 was difficult to drive, wandering from one side of the road to the other – you hoped that when you arrived at the right-hand “kink” you were on the left side of the road. For the race, Jo and I decided to use a special long-tail 908 Spyder as we felt it would be more reliable than the new 917. We led during the third and fourth hours until the transmission overheated and melted the plastic piping that delivered oil from the pressure sump to the main shaft and differential, probably because the enclosed tail section made the ducts in the rear bodywork inefficient.  John Woolfe, the first private owner to buy a new 917 was partnered with north of England driver Digby Martland with factory drivers, Herbert Linge and Kurt Ahrens as backups. During practice, Digby rode out a lurid spin over the crest near the end of the Mulsanne straight, just before the 90-degree Mulsanne corner. Returning to the pits, he wisely announced his retirement from Le Mans. Factory drivers Richard Attwood, Vic Elford and myself all then begged Woolfe to let the experienced Herbert Linge take the start. ‘It’s my car and I’m starting,’ he said. At the signal for the four o’clock start, all drivers dashed across the tarmac, jumped into their cars and charged off in a chaotic mêleé – that is, all except one. Jacky Ickx, critical of the obvious dangers inherent in this colourful bit of theatre, made it a point to stroll across the track after everyone else and carefully fasten his safety belts before starting. Jacky may have joined the 55-car queue last, but 24 hours later he finished first, even if only by 100 yards. Imagine what John Wyer would have said if he finished 2nd due to the leisurely start?! The conventional practice was to let the field sort itself out and then, on the second or third lap, steer with one’s knees down the Mulsanne straight while fastening the belts. On Woolfe’s first lap, he lost control of his 917 in the fast, tricky Maison Blanche (White House) section, crashing heavily. Not incidentally for the Porsche team, he took most of the rival Ferraris with him. Sadly, John did not survive.

 

1970

By 1970 the 917 had been developed and proven, and Porsche was determined to hammer out a Le Mans victory. Seven 917s formed a Porsche steamroller, four with the new (since Monza) 4.9-litre engine and three with the older 4.5-litre motor; two were new long-tail cars specially designed for that year’s Le Mans and the other five were short-tail 917Ks, which were more forgiving to drive but not as fast on the straights. Porsche’s might was arrayed against no fewer than 11 Ferrari 512s in both short- and long-tail configurations, all with 5-litre V12s. John Wyer opted to run short-tail 917Ks rather than any new Porsche-supplied long-tail cars because his cars were proven and prepared by his own people. His usual drivers – Pedro Rodriguez with Leo Kinnunen, and Jo Siffert with me – were given cars with the upgraded 4.9-litre engines, and for this event Wyer opted to add a third Gulf entry with 4.5-litre power, for Mike Hailwood and David Hobbs. Porsche Salzburg brought one of the new 917LH longtail versions for Vic Elford/Kurt Ahrens and a 917K for Richard Attwood/Hans Herrmann who opted to use the 4.5 litre engine thinking it might be more reliable, which it was, although they were not expecting to be some 6 seconds a lap slower.. The JW Automotive team headquartered as usual at that lovely old bastion of French laissez faire, the Hôtel de France, and, as always, John Wyer’s favourite retreat proved the perfect place for his drivers to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of their peers. The mechanics would drive our racing cars to and from the track and it became normal to find a trio of 917s with noses thrust against the front entrance as if arranged by a proud parking valet. Off the track, our lives were simple, with race strategies, car set-ups and driver rotations discussed with John and the engineers in informal conversations, often during meals. Without today’s tsunami of telemetry data, there were no marathon decoding sessions with superimposed drivers’ laps, G-load analysis and printouts tattling on every second of the driver’s performance. We managed to race without masseuses, personal trainers, nutritionists prescribing leafy diets, or mindset coaches. 

During the 1970 race Porsche’s vaunted 917 juggernaut began to become undone in alarmingly quick succession. The Rodriguez/Kinnunen car was the first out with a broken connecting rod, after just 22 laps. They were quickly followed 27 laps later by the Hailwood/Hobbs entry after Mike failed to stop when called in for rain tyres and slid his Porsche into Carlo Facetti’s Alfa Romeo T33 which had spun and hit the barrier in the Dunlop Curve. It was not too badly damaged, at least until Mike’s 917K hit it.  As rain fell in the early evening, Reine Wisell, struggling to see through the oil-smeared windscreen of his Filipinetti-entered Ferrari 512S, was driving slowly through Maison Blanche as he headed for the pits. Three factory 512s arrived on the scene, nose to tail. Derek Bell, in the first, managed to swerve and avoid Wisell’s car but, in doing so, selected a wrong gear and damaged the engine.  The second, with Clay Regazzoni aboard, didn’t miss: not only did Clay take out Wisell but he also gathered up the following Michael Parkes. In one fell swoop, four top-rated Ferraris were out of the race, leaving the Jacky Ickx/Peter Schetty 512 as the marque’s only serious contender. All this left Seppi and me with a very nice five-lap lead and in control of the race. At 2.00am, in pouring rain, Seppi missed a shift. This was so easy to do, and a major disadvantage of a synchro gearbox in a racing car. Three slower cars had exited the pit chicane, and as they drove side by side in their own race towards the Dunlop Curve, Seppi dived to the right and in front of the Porsche pit, missed a gear. The 917 engine would go to 8,200 rpm for 40 hours, once over 8.500 and you were finished. 

 Just two of the 917s remained, both with the 4.5 litre engine. The Porsche Salzburg 917K which had started a lowly 15th and was so well driven by Richard Attwood and veteran Hans Herrmann won overall. In an excellent 2nd place, 5 laps behind, came the psychedelic longtail 917LH for the new Martini Racing team, driven by Gerard Larrousse and Willi Kauhsen (one of my favourite Germans, I see him every couple of years and he says: “Brian, tell me a good German joke” I reply: Willi, there are NO good German jokes”!)  and in 3rd the 908/2LH of Helmut Marko and Rudi Lins. Finally, the hoped and prayed for victory at Le Mans, to the collective relief of Porsche’s engineers and executives, especially racing manager the incredible Ferdinand 

Piëch, whose drive and energy was entirely responsible for the success of the 917 and who had driven his engineers - and bankers  -  almost to distraction. 

 

1973

Ferrari skipped Le Mans in 1972 because of concerns about the reliability of the Formula 1-based 3-litre flat-12 engine powering the 312PB. It was the only major race that year that Ferrari didn’t win. For 1973 the Scuderia entered three cars in the 24 Hours, one for Arturo Merzario and Carlos Pace, the second for Tim Schenken and Carlos Reutemann, and the third for Jacky Ickx and myself. I was asked to test the car at Paul Ricard, Ingenere Mauro Forghieri wanted to explore lowering the airbox that feeds oxygen to the engine and he asked me to gauge the effect on the airflow by loosening my belts at top speed and raising myself up in the seat. The immediate effect was that my helmet was sucked against the air intake and suddenly I was looking at the sky in a racing car doing 170mph. Emergencies unleash hidden strength and I managed to drag my head out of the airstream and control the car. It made for interesting dinner conversation. More wine, please. Before the race, Jacky came to me and said, ‘Bree-an, I wish not to start and do battle with Merzario.’ Their animosity was well known and mutual. I reminded him that one of the nine prototypes in the race would win, and that Le Mans was about survival. I warned Jacky that, at the end of the first lap, he should expect to see me in ninth place. ‘Good,’ he answered, a very un-Jacky-like sentiment. By 7.00pm, just three hours into the race, we had been lapped by Merzario and unexpectedly, I received an out-of-sequence signal to pit. Forghieri wanted to examine our brakes as the backing plates of Merzario’s car had welded themselves to the discs. The decision was that our brakes were fine, and we were good to go until midnight. At about that time, the other Ferrari developed a fuel leak and we inherited the lead. Late on Sunday morning we developed a similar fuel leak and we also suffered a broken exhaust that the mechanics tried in vain to repair. By Sunday afternoon Jacky and I had slipped into second place behind the Matra-Simca MS670B of Henri Pescarolo and Gérard Larrousse, but still with a slim chance of pulling off the win. I had finished my final stint and was getting changed when Jacky delivered the news that our engine had failed as he was entering the pits. It expired t 3.27pm, 33 tantalising minutes from the finish. We had run for 332 laps and had we been able to cross the finishing line under our own power, a Le Mans requirement, we would have placed third. Ferrari’s exhausted mechanics were in tears as they pushed our car from the pits. The grandstand gave the team a standing ovation.

 

1976

After winning the Daytona 24 Hours in a factory BMW CSL it was decided that we would do Le Mans in a new turbo CSL. Not only that, it would be specially painted by noted American artist, Frank Stella.  After we blew four engines in practice, the least damaged one was reinstalled for the race. Jochen Neerpasch then issued the most welcome instructions of any team manager, ever. ‘Brian, I vish you to start the race and drive as fast as possible. The engine vill not last.’ It lasted for two glorious hours. Twenty years later I met chief engineer Martin Braungart, who asked, ‘Do you remember the turbo CSL? Do you know what was the power?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘it was 750bhp.’ ‘Ah, zis is vat vee tell ze drivers – actually 950.’ That lovely art car remains one of my favourite cars but will always be best known for its striking Frank Stella graphics. 

 

1978

After winning the 1974, ’75 and ’76 U.S. F5000 championships (and almost winning in 1973 but missed two races driving for Ferrari in Europe) For 1977 marketing purposes the SCCA changed the rules mandating all-enclosed bodywork and renaming the series “Can-Am”. The first race of the new season at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Saint-Jovite, Canada I was in a rebodied F5000 Lola prepared as usual by Jim Hall and his great Chaparral crew. After 20 minutes in the new car I came into the pits, Jim Hall asked how the it felt, I replied, good and asked for the front wing to be dropped ¼ of an inch. On the next lap, at 160 mph, the Lola took off, flew 30’ into the air and turned over before dropping back to terra firma.  This resulted in a broken neck, left shoulder, 2 ribs and a spilt sternum, not to mention the roll bar broke and my helmet scraped down onto the road . The ambulance blew a tyre on the way to hospital and to cap it off, when my wife Marion arrived from England the next morning, there was a photograph with the two attendants changing the wheel. The rear doors were open, and the headline read: ”Redman est Mort”, Recovery took 9 months. In December, in attempt to see if I could or indeed wanted, to race, I asked Jo Hoppen competition manager for Porsche, Volkswagen and Audi if he could find me a drive for Sebring in March of 1978. Driving a Porsche 935 entered by Dick Barbour with Tampa businessman Charles Mendez and Bob Garretson whose shop prepared Dick’s car, we won. Next was Le Mans, driving with Dick Barbour and John Paul, Sr. who had just married Hurley Haywood’s sister, she was at Le Mans with him, as was his former girlfriend. He was later convicted of drug dealing and attempted murder and to this very day, is still wanted by the FBI.

In the early hours of Sunday morning I had what might be called a somewhat unpleasant experience. For once, it was a beautiful, moonlit night. On the Mulsanne Straight I’d just reached top speed of around 200 mph, some distance ahead I saw the tail-lights of a slower car, probably a 2-litre sports-racer. There’s a slight rise on the straight, just before the “Kink” and as I came over the rise something didn’t seem right, there was a strange reflection from the lights. The next instant, chaos! A car had gone off the track at the “Kink” and there was an enormous cloud of dust. Unable to see anything, I tried to gently brake. A 2-ltre Chevron hit the barrier and flashed across in front of me. Still braking I come out of the dust cloud and there on the right, slowly coming to a standstill after rolling for over ½ a mile lies the remains of a 935. As I drive past, I recognise it as our team car. The drivers were the late Bob Akin, Bob Garretson and Monterey Historics organizer Steve Earle. I was so concerned I did what you’re not allowed to do and stopped at the Mulsanne signaling pit to ask who the driver was. “Bob” came the response. Extremely worried, I carried on and on the next lap passed the ambulance and two laps later made a non-scheduled visit to the pit. “How’s Bob?” I asked, expecting the worst. “He’s in the back of the pit, hurt his ankle” came the response. Phew!   We finished 5th overall and 1st in the IMSA class.      

 

1979

I was somewhat surprised to receive a phone call from Porsche in April 1979. “Herr Redman, would you like to do the Le Mans 24 Hours with Jacky Ickx in a Porsche 936” Would I! First, a practice race at the  Silverstone 6 Hours, with Jochen Mass in May. The 936 was beautiful to drive, fast and handled well. We were over 5 seconds a lap faster than eventual winners John Fitzpatrick, Hans Heyer and Bob Wollek in their Gelo Racing Porsche 935. Things were looking good until…….with six laps remaining in my  first stint I felt the brakes fading. Knowing that Jochen wouldn’t be ready and not eager for back-to-back sessions, I decided to nurse the car to our scheduled stop. Three laps later, I hurtled into Club corner at 180mph to discover that the brakes had gone on vacation. Disaster imminent, I came off the pedal and tried to spin – much nicer not to see what you’re about to hit - there was a bang as the rear bodywork hit a wooden catch-fence post and the 936 came straight and  I found myself pointing in the right direction. With good pit work, a new rear body and new brakes, Jochen rejoined the race still in the lead. While approaching Woodcote on his opening lap at 180 mph, the new rear body flew off involving Jochen in an enormous accident. Thankfully he was unhurt. Sorry Jochen! 

Le Mans  began well and we were leading when I took over from Jacky at the end of his first stint. Then, as now, the tight, S-shaped Ford chicane slowed the field to almost to a walk, just before the start/finish straight. At that time the pit entry came immediately after the chicane. As I pivoted through the left/right corners, the 936 didn’t feel quite right and with just an instant to decide whether or not to pit, I chose to carry on. Thus began the most frightening of my Le Mans experiences. The tiny instability I’d felt in the chicane turned out to be a deflating left rear tyre. Entering the Dunlop curve at 160mph, the 936 spun without warning. I heard the rear body come off and saw the barrier flash by. Only the combination of a desperate swerve and a miracle kept me from smashing into it. The Porsche carried a substantial tool kit that included a ‘pad saw’, a hacksaw blade with one end covered in duct tape. After pulling off at the entry to Tertre Rouge, I cut the remains of the tyre off the rim and then slowly drove the seven miles back to the pits, keeping the left rear wheel on the grass as much 

as possible. Amazingly, after a lap lasting 38 minutes and repairs in the pits costing a further 53, we carried on, in 35th place. We had worked our way back to seventh place by one o’clock in the morning when, amidst thunder, lightning and pouring rain, the small television on the wall of room above the pits announced, ‘Jacky Ickx is stopped on the Mulsanne.’ Undaunted, Jacky was able to fit a spare fuel-pump drive belt and, 20 minutes later, the TV reported, ‘Jacky Ickx is going again.’ After just five more minutes it informed us, ‘Jacky Ickx is stopped at the Mulsanne corner.’ Now, I was sure we were out of the race. Wrong. Half an hour later, Jacky appeared in the pits, team manager Norbert Singer waved me to come down. I shake hands with my oldest friend in the world, Ian Green,  and with a feeling of impending doom, descend into the pit and climb into the 936. After 45 minutes of frenzied driving in torrential rain, I received a signal to pit. ‘Brian, you can get out of the car,’ Herr Singer said. ‘We were disqualified one hour ago.’ It seems that a mechanic had taken a ‘sandwich’ and thrown it across the track to Jacky. A vigilant marshal spotted the drive belt in Jacky’s ‘lunch’ and we were disqualified for receiving outside assistance. The next day’s Le Mans newspaper accused Porsche of cheating. Quelle Domage!

 

1980

Back to Le Mans in 1980, with Dick Barbour and John Fitzpatrick. A brand-new Kremer K3 935 was delivered to the track. John is not only a great driver, but also one of the few real experts in adjusting the turbo boost – without blowing the engine up. John qualified the K3 1st, at least that’s what we thought. On the Friday, the “off” day, the race organisers held an urgent meeting. “How can we have a German car, driven by two Brits, and an American owner on Pole position for the most important race in the word?” The cunning and guile inbred into the French by years of experience, came to the fore. “Ah – it is not the fastest lap which is on the Pole – it is the average of the drivers.” This put the Rondeau M379 driven by Henri Pescarolo and Jean Ragnotti in 1st place! Once again in typical Le Mans weather, rain fell in various quantities throughout the race. At 3am I finished a stint, wet and tired, and went back to the small trailer to try and rest. It was full of Dick’s friends from America. I went on the damp ground underneath. We were in and out of the lead for over 12 hours but then started to have a mysterious misfire. This continued until finally with one cylinder disabled, we continued. After handing over to Dick on Sunday morning, although wet and cold I stayed in the pit to make sure all was OK. In comes Dick at the end of his first lap and through the rain I see his hand waving. Dashing to the driver’s side door, Dick says: “Brian, you guys are paid to drive in conditions like this – get back in.” We finally finished 5th overall and 1st in the IMSA class.    

 

1981-’82-’84-’85-’86-88

These years involved various somewhat ineffective drives, which I don’t want to bore you with, although of course, every one had a “story”. Driving a Cooke-Woods Lola in ’81 and ’82, Group 44 Jaguar XJR 5 in ’84 and ’85, TWR XJR 6 LM in ’86 and a Vern Schuppan run Porsche 962 in 1998 we arrived at my last Le Mans as a professional, 1989.

 

1989

Early that year I received a surprise call from Aston Martin specialist and team manager of a new Works Aston Martin team, Proteus Technology. Richard Williams, asking if I’d like to drive an Aston Martin AMR1 being built to race in Group C in the World Sportscar Championship. Owned by Peter Livanos and the late Victor Gauntlett in partnership with Ecurie Ecosse, designed by the late Max Boxstrom, engineered by Ray Mallock – a gifted driver in his own right – with engines built by American specialist Reeves Calloway, this was a very serious attempt to race against the best in the business, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar, Nissan and Toyota. The AMR1 had been tested by David Leslie and Ray Mallock at Silverstone and Donington where a testing accident forced the team to miss the first race. My first time in the car was then was at its debut at Dijon-Prenois in May. The track was rough and revealed a major problem.  The AMR1 had been designed along F1 principles with little to no “droop” in the rear suspension meaning that over the many bumps it just leapt into the air. We finished  a lowly 17th and as may be imagined there was much discussion after the race! Ray Mallock designed some “droop” into the rear suspension and from Brands Hatch in July, where we finished a creditable 4th , the handling was much better.

Le Mans was not part of the Championship, but who cares, it’s the one race everyone wants to win. Driving with the Costas Los and Michael Roe, we qualified 34th. with teammates David Leslie, David Sears and Ray Mallock in 42nd. After the 4th hour, the gearbox wasn’t good, when changing from 3rd to 4th always a slight “catch”. I tried shifting gears with and without the clutch, slower, faster, nothing made any difference. I told Marion to book dinner as I was sure we wouldn’t last long. Twenty hours later, Peter Livanos asked if I’d like to do the last hour! 

By this time, we were up to 11th and unlikely to go higher or lower except through attrition. At the 90-degree Arnage, it was easy to slide the back of the AMR1 under power in 2nd gear. I did this for a few laps to try and 

relieve the boredom but after I stopped doing it, a large hand-written sign came from a group of Brit. enthusiasts on the right: “Give Us Some Oppo” next lap: “Now Fastest Lap” (!) and finally: “Crumpets and Tea with the Queen”. Great fun. If a Mercedes, Jaguar or Nissan passed us going into the Porsche Curves, we could stay with them until Tertre Rouge, then they simply disappeared. On the Mulsanne Straight we were doing 215 mph, the Mercedes and Jaguars 245. Goodbye. 

"Although I’d won on the “old” Nürburgring 3 times, I’d never raced on the ”new” version. I was delayed getting out to practice and thinking I’d get an express lesson on the track layout, I quickly latched onto the back of a 962 whose driver knew the track well. As we came into the fast left-right chicane, the 962 braked. I wasn’t expecting it, lost downforce and spun. Now, I’m going backwards at 120 instead of forwards. Trying to look over my right shoulder, I feel the AMR1 mount a curb, I’m about two feet off the barrier. By gently easing away, I get back on the track and with a quick twist of the wheel am still going forward, although at much reduced speed. Richard comes on the radio: “Well done Brian……….bet you can’t do it again”!  In the first Qualifying session, there’s a crash. Red flag, all back into the Pit Lane. Richard: “Switch it off Brian” Fifteen minutes later: “Start it up Brian” – “Richard” – “Yes Brian?” – “There’s a vibration in the engine that wasn’t here fifteen minutes ago” – “Give it a couple of laps”. On the out lap, at 6,000 rpm there’s was the most enormous bang I ever heard in a racing car as the crankshaft broke and split the engine. Throughout the season, although not fast enough, we had great reliability and I finished every race. Ray Mallock had designed a new aerodynamic body for 1990 but unfortunately due to a number of “political” reasons, the team was disbanded. A great pity."

 

Later Years

I’ve been fortunate, or unfortunate, depending how you look at it, to compete in the Le Mans Classic three times. The first time was with Bobby Rahal in his Porsche 917K, it was also my first time with the new chicanes on the Mulsanne. I don’t like them, partially because it’s a great pity to have lost that pleasant, somewhat relaxing time whilst travelling down RN138 for 6 Km at high speed, able to exercise one’s hands, look at the instruments – and reflect upon would could happen if something goes wrong. On this occasion it did. 

Whilst approaching the first chicane at high speed in practice, there was a bang, as the right front hub seized and the 917 decided it had an urgent appointment with the right-hand barrier. Fortunately, a bit of emergency energy 

kept it away. There was a “show” 917 in the paddock and a hub was borrowed and fitted to our car. In the first race, the left-front hub seized. Fortunately for me, Bobby was driving and managed to keep it off the barrier. 

Next time at the Le Mans Classic, an Alfa T33 with owner Peter Read. Rain, wet, miserable. On the way back to the hotel Sunday morning, a narrow bridge, coming towards us at speed, a large camion. I thought I’d seen a “one-way” sign giving us precedence. That may, or may not, have been the case, it didn’t matter as Monsieur Le Grand Camion approached head-on with no intention of deviating from his chosen course. Discretion being the better part of valor, my second urgent grapple with the steering wheel that weekend took me to the right where my front and back tires hit the curb with enough force to deflate them. On top of buying two new tyres, two months later I received a substantial speeding fine incurred whilst on the way back to Orly airport. 

The third and final outing was in 2014 when Alain de Cadenet rang me to see if I’d like to drive with him in Adam Lindemann’s Jaguar D Type. It was a bit of a rush to get my ACCUS FIA license and unfortunately it arrived the day after I’d left America for Europe. Of course, knowing the French, I expected a minor problem 

when I tried to register. “Monsieur Redman, where is your license?” – “Well, here’s a fax dated two days ago with a letter and photograph from ACCUS.” - “This is not good; we need the hard copy.” – “Why” – “You might have had your license taken away in the last two days.” With some native cunning, I managed to find a way round this problem. When the stern and somewhat unhelpful lady turned away to talk to a colleague, I managed to reach over and grab the important clearance document. 

 After surmounting the usual scrutineering difficulties off we go. After my first race I managed to find the Paddock after wending my way through vast crowds. The D Type is starting to overheat. I was stopped at the Paddock entrance: “Monsieur Redman, you have committed a serious infraction and must report to the Chief 

Steward,” – I start to get out of the D Type. “Monsieur Redman, you must take the car.” I drive back through the crowd, eventually find Race Control: “You cannot come in.” – “But I’ve been ordered to report to Race Control.” 

– “It doesn’t matter – you can’t come in.”   Back to the Paddock, explain to the marshal and am allowed in. Walk back to Race Control, wait for two hours and at midnight, am ushered into the august presence of the Chief Steward: “Monsieur Redman, you have committed a serious infraction.” – “Sorry, I’ve been racing 55 years and never been before a Chief Steward, what did I do?” – “You did not show the Pit Marshall your wrist band.” Merde! 

 

In closing, I would like to thank my dearest wife, Marion, for her unfailing love and support through 58 years, of good  -  and some very bad - times.

 

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