Why a 24-hour race at Silverstone triggered thoughts of a great man
Turned up for my fourth Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone with thoughts full of my third, four years ago, the car a GT3 Jaguar XKR and the result rendered irrelevant by a three-hour gearbox change during the night.
The reason it’s so fresh in my mind has nothing to do with the car or the race, but the circumstances in which I got the drive. That week I’d been on the Tour Britannia and on the last night had bumped into Richard Lloyd. I used to borrow hot Golfs from him in his GTI Engineering days, and worked closely with him when he took Bentley back to Le Mans in 2001. But we’d not seen each other for five years, so we sat at the bar and drank much wine.
Tentatively I asked how the GT3 project was going, because the rumours had not been good. His usual frank self, he said he’d entered the car for the 24-hour race to get much needed development miles under his belt. “Come and see for yourself,” he ventured. I declined, saying I didn’t want to go to the race as a spectator. “No, I mean come and share the driving.” So Richard rang the car’s owner, Stuart Scott, who kindly said “fine”. We finished the tour on Thursday, and I was qualifying by lunch on Friday. And, as ever with Richard, there was no paperwork, no conditions, nothing other than a handshake and the hope that I enjoyed myself. Which I did.
I never saw him again. I was in the Far East when I heard his plane had crashed claiming not only his life, but that of the pilot, a mechanic and the delightful David Leslie, with whom I’d shared a Mazda at the Silverstone 24 Hours the year before.
I wish I could find a photograph of Richard, taken that weekend I was parachuted into the Jaguar. It’s just a snap, but from the blue jeans to the slight smile and the BRDC cap, it is pure Richard. I took it to serve as a reminder of a fun weekend; how sad that it’s turned into a memory of a great man.