They don’t make them quite like ‘Quick Vic’ Elford these days. Sure, rally master Sébastien Loeb can turn his hand to the circuits and win in sports cars. But he’ll never start a Grand Prix – or win a rallycross at Lydden Hill.
Actually, on that final point I should tread carefully. After all, we’d never have predicted that Petter Solberg – the only man to beat Loeb in a straight fight for a Word Rally Championship title – would find himself rubbing doors at the Kentish speedbowl. But it happened in March.
And with rallycross back on the rise, perhaps Loeb will find himself on an entry at the little back-to-front Brands Hatch one day. Stranger things have happened, especially as the nine-time WRC champ is clearly in the mood for all sorts. We can’t wait to see him at Pikes Peak in Peugeot’s steroidal 208 T16 special in June.
Anyway, back to the point… genuine all-rounders these days are all too rare. Loeb, like a modern-day Walter Röhrl, is made of the right stuff to qualify. But no matter what adventures he takes on in the next few years, it’s a long shot that he’ll ever win the Monte Carlo Rally (again) and the Daytona 24 Hours within seven days, as Elford did in 1968.
Loeb is 40 years too late to win the Targa Florio, although he might have a crack one day at the Sebring 12 Hours or 1000km enduros at Spa and the Nürburgring. As for races around the Nordschleife that last for four days… He’d shudder at the thought. Wouldn’t we all?
Elford, of course, conquered the lot, and with more opportunities in competitive Formula 1 cars, he might have added a Grand Prix victory or two to an incredible career tally.
And it doesn’t stop there. He was always a good storyteller, but not just in front of an audience with a microphone. It turns out he can write, too. Good enough to pen the cover story of our June issue, in which we celebrate 50 years of the ubiquitous Porsche 911.
Regular readers will know Vic’s written for us before. This time, the spark of inspiration came from this very website.
Back in January, our web assistant Alex Harmer posted a story on the 911 written by Andrew Frankel. To illustrate it, he chose a shot of Porsche’s finest rubbing doors with a battered Ford Cortina, wallowing in thick Kentish mud. Random choice, I said. When most people think of 911s, rallycrossing at Lydden is rarely the first image to spring to mind. I told Alex to change it for something more suitably stylish.
But over in Florida Vic had already spotted the shot and fired off a quick email to me. “Do you know the full story behind that photo of me winning the first ever rallycross? If not, I will happily write about the first days of competition of the 911 and what I did with it during that first year.”
How could I say no? After a bit of negotiation on the wordcount (and the fee), Vic set to work. A couple of weeks later the amazing story you can read in the June issue landed in my inbox – and we hardly had to change a word. It’s a brilliant piece.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t give too much away. But in short, Vic’s story explains how he convinced a doubtful Huschke von Hanstein to lend him a 911 to go rallying, and how he paid back Porsche’s great motor sports manager with a European Rally Championship title in 1967, not to mention 2-litre British Saloon Car honours in the same year, culminating in that famous victory on the Monte the following January.
Vic also pointed us in the direction of Rob Russell, the man who owns his Lydden rallycrosser and BSCC racer today. We’re grateful to Rob for bringing GVB 911D back to Lydden for a reunion photo shoot to help illustrate Vic’s words.
Some stories just fall together, by chance. They often turn out to be the best.
To complement Elford’s tale, I thought we should look beyond the late 1960s and his incredible exploits to do further justice to the 911. There are enough Porsche books out there already, and we knew we couldn’t cover it all within the pages of one magazine. So we chose a handful of 911-related competition highlights, spoke to the nice people at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and booked our flights for a short trip to photograph some cars.
The museum is closed on Mondays, which is perfect for magazine editors and snappers. Matt Howell and I arrived bright and early on a snowy morning to find the cars we’d chosen already waiting for us in the clean, empty underground car park, which would serve as our studio for the day. And the cars? Oh, just the Martini RSR Turbo ‘whale-tail’, the stunning 935/77 ‘Baby’, a vivid yellow RS road car and a pair of latter-day GT3 racers with ALMS and Le Mans history. With shapes like these, we couldn’t go wrong.
The issue went to press after the Chinese Grand Prix, but before Bahrain (always annoying for us when that happens!). But Nigel Roebuck was hardly short of subject matter to get his teeth into in Reflections. As you’d expect, he doesn’t exactly sit on the fence when it comes to team orders in Malaysia and degrading tyres in Shanghai.
Nigel has also written an absorbing story on the life of Bernd Rosemeyer, the 1930s Grand Prix star who has been likened to Gilles Villeneuve and Stefan Bellof. The parallels are striking.
Elsewhere, Lunch with Tiff Needell will make you chuckle, while profiles of the four Brits in GP2 and a rare interview with Gian Carlo Minardi offer further diversity.
Right, I’m off to think up more articles for Vic Elford to write. He’s 77 years old – but do you think he’d fancy a staff job?
For more from Damien Smith, click here.