David Piper



David Piper


stands out in my memory is the sportscar race supporting the Daily Express International Trophy at Silverstone in 1967.

In those days British events were quite important and very competitive. The reason everyone bought cars and spent a lot of money on racing in those events was because we got reasonable start money, plus bonuses and prize money. From a professional point ofview it was an interesting thing to do. Paul Hawkins made a living at it, and so did lots of other, including myself. There were lots of GT40s. Denny Hulme was driving Sid Taylor’s car, and there were guys like Hawkins and Mike Salmon, and various Porsches and things. I had my Ferrari 250LM, which I’d bought in 1964. At that time the American

At that time the American tyre companies, Goodyear and Firestone, were coming in with their tubeless tyres. I had contracts with Dunlop, but we found their tyres just weren’t competitive. You’d put the car on pole, and halfway through the race you’d go slower and slower as the tyre melted. But Dick Jeffreys of Dunlop released me from my contract, so we could run on these American tyres.

However, you couldn’t fit tubeless tyres on Borrani wheels with spokes, so we had to make some mag wheels. We got no help from the factory, so I had to do it myself, get the patterns made and get them cast. We spent the winter getting these wheels right. John Wyer had to do the same thing for the GT411, and he got BRM to make new wheels. But when they turned up for practice at Silverstone, all the GT4Os were illegal, because Wyer hadn’t kept the correct track. They’d gone outboard with these mag wheels, and the track was wider. couldn’t inboard

was go because there were bits and pieces in the way. Len Bailey, who was doing Ford’s design work at that time, would probably have had to alter the radius rods and pick-ups. It’s amazing Wyer made the mistake, because he’d done the same thing with Aston Martin years before. The LM was OK, because I’d got the track right.

Wyer and John Eason-Gibsonsof the BRDC came over and said, ‘David, please don’t protest otherwise we won’t have a race.’ Pd never protested in my life, so! didn’t, butt was very annoyed they were able to get away with it when I’d gone to a lot of trouble and got it right.! thought I was just being pushed around by the BRDC and the powers-that-be. It was an absolute liberty!

I was annoyed and it fired me up. In practice I couldn’t take Abbey flat, so I did something one doesn’t normally do for the race I put a little trim tab, a Gurney strip, on the tail, not knowing whether it would make any difference. It had never been done on an LM before, nor a GT40 for that matter.

We started the race and I cleared off and left everybody for dead on the first lap. But I had to work for it, because Denny caught me up and pushed very hard. I think the biggest advantage I had was I could take Abbey flat. That extra trim tab we put on the tail improved the car so much, and it also had an advantage on some of the other corners, which I probably didn’t appreciate quite as much. That meant I could keep ahead. I set a new lap record and won the race by only about a second from Denny, so it wasn’t one of those runaway victories. Denny wrote a column in a magazine saying he didn’t know what had happened. The Ferrari had a 3.3-litre engine, and the GT4Os were 5-litres, so there was a big power difference. It was

very unusual for an LM to beat a GT40. The following week Denny won the Monaco GP, and went on to be World Champion that year, so I was quite happy to have beaten him.

When he arrived at Silverstone Mike Parkes flew around with Tommy Sopwith, and he watched my green Ferrari leading the race. Then he went and won the Fl race. So it was a good Ferrari day.

The Old Man sent me a card saying ‘Moho Congratulazione, Pipet’. He’d always help me if I wanted anything, because he did appreciate people winning races in his cars you weren’t just another wealthy Ferrari buyer. Consequently I had a good rapport with the factory and the Old Man. He used to do all sorts of things for me. I had to leave Silverstone at about Spm to catch a ferry that night, because we were racing in the Spa 1000kms on the Monday. I was sharing a Mirage with Dick Thompson. I crashed in the wet on the

wet on way down the hill to Bumenville. I remember steering backwards at 100mph, before going though a hedge and fence and landing upside down in a ditch. It was quite an interesting weekend!

I still thoroughly enjoy racing, even if I am driving by myself and there are no spectators, which sadly is often the case these days. I’ve still got the LM it’s been a good old friend. I’ve had about five, but this one I’ve had since ’64, when it cost £6000. It’s probably done more races than any other racing car in the world it’s raced continuously since new. It still has the original chassis, gearbox and suspension, though we’ve done a bit of body damage over the years! There’s probably only one LM which is more famous, the one that Gregory and Rindt won Le Mans with in ’65.

The reason the LM is now painted red was because we were supported by the factory for the FIA championships in 1989 and ’90, and they insisted that I changed my cars from green to red. But I am going to paint it green again one day. 61