Vic Elford and Brian Redman

Opinions

Vic and Brian. A Londoner and a Lancastrian forever linked: Porsche versus Porsche, Alfa versus Ferrari.

Rivals in a golden age of sports car racing: 908s and 917s; Targa Florio, the old Nürburgring and a chicane-free Mulsanne.

Elford won three ’Ring 1000km, Redman two. They each won a Targa – and at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen, too.

And both led Le Mans by large margins without ever winning it.

Their parallels continued in Formula 1.

Vic got Brian’s drive at Cooper after the latter broke his arm at Spa in 1968. Redman’s F1 career never fully recovered from that sudden suspension failure and his tally of eight points from 12 starts does not do him justice.

Elford – a remarkable fourth in the wet at Rouen on his F1 debut – would score eight from 13 starts.

A badly injured arm halted his momentum, too, when his McLaren struck debris from Mario Andretti’s Lotus crash at the 1969 German GP.

Elford: “I wrenched it out of the shoulder. Worse than a break.

“I was told that either I could strap it up for three months and spend a further three learning how to use it again – or suffer. I’d just signed a two-month contract to test the Toyota 7.

“So I suffered.


At the ‘Ring before the crash

“I went to St Thomas’ every morning for three hours of physiotherapy, and the doctors struck a deal: they’d let me go to Japan if I could lift my arm above my head in six weeks time.

“After six weeks I took off my shirt and raised my arm. ‘OK, you can go.’ With that they turned and walked out – and I passed out on the floor.”

Redman tells a similar tale: “They took an X-ray of my arm in England and said it was fine.

“So I went and did the Springbok Series in a Chevron B8 – Kyalami Nine Hours, Cape Town Three Hours, Lourenço Marques Three Hours – by which time my arm was hurting a bit.

“I rang Alex Blignaut, organiser of the South African GP and Kyalami Nine Hours, to ask if he knew a specialist: ‘Brian, I know the Christiaan Barnard of bones.’

“He took about 20 X-rays before sitting me down for two bits of bad news: ‘You don’t have any union in either bone in the forearm – and I’m going on holiday tomorrow.’


The start of Redman’s Spa crash

“I told him I had to be at the [1969] Daytona 24 Hours in six weeks. So he stayed to try an experimental procedure. He opened my arm from elbow to wrist, cleaned the broken ends that weren’t healing and took bone from my hip and glued it in place.

“He didn’t put it in plaster – it was in a sling instead – and told me not to use it until I had to.

“Driving at almost 200mph on the banking with one hand wasn’t great. But I didn’t tell anyone. It was my first drive for Porsche. I think Vic must have asked for me.”

Elford: “I honestly don’t remember, but it’s quite possible. I was always unselfish. If I thought Brian merited it, and that it would be good to have him in the car with me, I probably did.”

They retired because of the same engine problem that sidelined all five works 908s – and were promptly split up. They would share a car only once more: a 917 at Brands Hatch in 1971. They retired again, this time because of a fire.

Redman: “Rico Steinemann, our team manager, asked me after Daytona if I would rather be number two to Jo Siffert or a number one and choose my own co-driver. Given the choice of anyone I probably would have chosen Vic.

“But I knew that Jo and I would probably win more races. I also knew that I would get none of the accolades. And that’s exactly what happened: we won five of 10 races in 1969.

“It was the right decision at the time.”

Elford: “I found it a little odd, yeah.

“Jo and I had been the first to be offered a year’s factory contract. We drove together at the 1968 Nürburgring 1000km, perhaps because the 908 coupé was new, and won. Immediately after that Porsche put us in different cars. We never discussed it being any other way.

“As a racing driver you want to win, but you want to be the best, too. I didn’t mind who was driving with or against me. You don’t want to be second to anybody.

“But Brian and I got on well, as far as I know.”

Redman: “We are more friendly now, and have been for the past 10-15 years, than we were in our racing days.

“In that era it was better not to become too friendly with the other drivers, because of the dangers. Even Jo, with whom I drove for two years and had a great relationship, wasn’t a bosom friend. If you got too close… how could you carry on?”

Elford: “I don’t know whether we all did it on purpose or whether it was subconscious, but I think that’s true.

“It’s also true to say that, although I’m not anti-social – I enjoy being with people I like, meeting old friends – I don’t need to be surrounded by people to be perfectly normal and happy with what I’m doing.

“I would suspect that Brian might be the opposite. I’m only guessing. That’s not an accusation.”


Elford’s last Le Mans appearance, in 1973

Redman: “I was surprised when Vic retired [and stayed away]. He was still comparatively young. And what did a retired racing driver do in the days when there wasn’t much money about? John Wyer paid me $750 per race, except at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, for which I got $1000 – for driving these incredibly dangerous cars.

“Was it when Bonnier was killed at Le Mans [in 1972]? [Elford stopped his Alfa and waded into the hellish scene.] We’ve never talked about it.”

Elford: “I wasn’t afraid of getting killed. That didn’t bother me at all. It would have bothered me to get badly hurt. So Jo was not the deciding factor, but it certainly came into it.

“I was no longer really interested and passionate about it. It wasn’t difficult to say I’d had enough. Sponsorship was rearing its ugly head and suddenly it was more important to turn up with a briefcase full of money than to be able to drive a racing car. That pissed me off.

“I didn’t miss it. I didn’t have to replace the buzz because it was no longer a buzz to be replaced.”

Redman: “I tried to retire – stupidly – to South Africa at the end of 1970 and lost my [full-time] Porsche drive.


Redman at the Nürburgring in 1972

“But Sid Taylor borrowed BRM’s Can-Am car and with it I won an Interserie race at Imola [in September 1971]. It was good in the wet – Tony Southgate’s designs always were – and we beat a works Ferrari.

“That night Ferrari’s Mauro Forghieri asked what I was doing for the rest of the season. That’s how I got the drive at the Kyalami Nine Hours. Clay Regazzoni and I had the older 312PB, Ickx and Andretti the newer one, but they suffered problems and we won.

“In 1972, Ferrari was much better organised than Alfa Romeo, really pushed the boat with its drivers – Peterson, Andretti, Ickx, ‘Regga’ and Pace – and we cleaned up.”

Elford: “I spoke with Ferrari team manager Peter Schetty once or twice. Then Porsche’s Ferdinand Pïech, of all people, said I might be better off at Alfa.

“Do I regret it? Well, I would have won a helluva lot more races at Ferrari – but, on the other hand, no.

“It was the same renegade situation that we’d had at Porsche: Ferrari’s was the John Wyer way, whereas Alfa, with Carlo Chiti in charge, was the Salzburg style.”

Redman: “We at JWA didn’t know about Porsche Salzburg until the start of 1970. Suddenly there’s another factory entry.”

Elford: “Pïech was in trouble with the family and Porsche shareholders for spending too much on racing, so JWA was invited to create the factory team using Gulf’s money.

“Wyer assumed, quite reasonably, that there would be no other works Porsches. But he didn’t know Pïech; no way in the world was he going to hand over all of his hard work of the past couple of years to a monied outsider. He wanted to keep his hand on the tiller, run things behind the scenes.

“That was good for me. I was perhaps Pïech’s favourite. We had the same philosophy, the same mentality, when it came to races and winning. I suspect that he didn’t need other people either. We just sort of clicked.

Redman: “Those 908/3s were prepared at Weissach. JWA never saw them until they arrived at the Nürburgring or Targa. They got stuff that we didn’t get.

“We made a slow-ish pit stop when I took over from Jo at the Nürburgring [in 1970]. I caught and passed Kurt Ahrens, Vic’s co-driver. Then I caught Leo Kinnunen, my team-mate. I was looking to pass close to the 13-kilometre jump, taken in top, when he made a mistake and hit the banking on the left. I missed him by absolutely nothing.

“But then my oil pressure started to fluctuate. When I handed it back to Jo it was very slow to start. And it stopped for good on that lap.

“In 1998, I reminded Klaus Bischof, by then head of the Porsche Museum, about this problem: ‘Ja! We knew about it at Salzburg. We had bigger oil tanks.’ Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.”

Elford: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.

“Wyer didn’t want us to use a 908/3 at the Targa in 1970. He wouldn’t use a long-tailed 917 at Le Mans. He didn’t race with the new 4.9-litre engine at Monza. We used them all.

“A sort of ‘Up yours!’ from Pïech.

“But JWA got the better of it. They had more money to pay for engineering talent, like John Horsman, plus Wyer himself was very experienced and knew what he was doing, whereas it was all fairly new to our small group.

“I never met Wyer. All the drivers he went for – Jo, Pedro, Brian, etc – he’d worked with before. He might not have liked me anyway. Brian and I are very different.”

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