He was the keen amateur photographer who sneaked trackside without ever getting caught. He also applied to Aston Martin for a job that hadn’t been advertised… and duly got one anyway.
They say you make your own luck and John Horsman, who has died aged 85, illustrates the point well. His enterprising spirit led to a long, successful career as a motor sport engineer.
He first worked for Aston Martin’s road car division, but went with the factory racing team to Le Mans in 1962 as boss John Wyer’s assistant. He eventually followed Wyer to Ford Advanced Vehicles, to work on the GT40 Le Mans programme.
After 1966, the business morphed into the independent JW Automotive Engineering and built its own Mirage chassis, but in 1968 it reverted to the GT40 and scored the first of two consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victories.
JWA then enjoyed a successful partnership with Porsche – and Horsman was credited with sorting the 917’s early instability woes. As he put it, “At a test in Austria I noticed dead gnats splattered all over the front of the car, but at the rear there were only a few spots – the air seemed to be going over the tail flap and it wasn’t doing very much. So we riveted a different aluminium flap on the back, finishing the job in the garage that evening. The following day, Brian Redman went out and said, ‘That’s it. It’s now a racing car’.”
Motor sport has lost another prominent link to its past.