My only grand prix
1969 German at Nürburgring; by Peter Westbury
How did you come to be on the Grand Prix grid In Germany?
Well, at 29, I was quite late getting into circuit racing, and am probably better known for my hillclimbing exploits. Anyway, I'd been successful in F3 and moved up to F2 with my own Brabham (BT30) for 1969.
I was on holiday in the South of France with my wife and children when I got the call. The hotel manager came running along the beach to tell me to phone Paul Watson, who arranged a lot of my entries. When I got hold of Paul, he told me that I had been offered a place at the next F1 race as the organisers needed more starters. I phoned the guys at my factory to get the car transported over to the Nürburgring while I made my way to Germany.
Had you much experience of the Nürburgring?
I didn't know the track very well and it was wet on the Sunday. It was my car and, with only the one engine, I had to rein in my enthusiasm.
In doing so you made it to the finish.
Yes, I ended up ninth (and fifth in the F2 class) but, to tell the truth, I was just glad to finish. We'd had to get some larger fuel tanks made, and of course they leaked. I spent several laps sitting in fuel: private parts and petrol don't really go together. It was uncomfortable with a capital F.
Did your drive lead to any offers?
No, not really. Of course I had my eye on F1. We all did, and I was getting stronger in F2. A year or so later I went back to the 'Ring and beat Jochen Rindt to pole by 2.5sec. I always went well on fast tracks. I did some testing for BRM and got to know Louis Stanley quite well...
That led to a BRM in the 1970 US GP.
Yes, I was invited to take part, but I was very much the makeweight; the third driver behind George Eaton and Pedro Rodriguez. I was delighted to get the drive, but I barely got to practice. The engine blew up so I never came close to qualifying.
Is It true that you were offered a drive with BRM at Monza in 1971? Which of course Peter Gethin won — in that car. Louis had been trying to get hold of me for Monza but I didn't find out until it was too late. I was disappointed, thinking I could have won a GP. That may be wishful thinking, but then I always went well at Monza...
That was the end of your time In grand prix motor racing. wasn't it?
As a driver, yes. I laid up my helmet the following year. Thing is, I was co-opted by Louis and Jo Bonnier into joining the GPDA because of my background in engineering. I inspected circuits on its behalf and this led to me working with the FIA. I then became a commercial pilot, which I enjoyed immensely.
What does it mean to say that you are a GP driver?
I'm proud of it. Very few are privileged enough to get anywhere near these cars so, yes, it still means a lot. I'm still amazed at the number of letters I get from fans, even though I did so little in GP racing.