This past weekend, my son, Marshall, and I got to go to a very special event to hear Brian Redman tell us about his racing history. Mr. Redman has won a few things in his day - the 1970 Targa Florio being one of the most spectacular.
If you are not familiar with this particular race, it was run on public roads in the mountains of Sicily near Palermo. Founded in 1906 by the wealthy pioneer race driver and car enthusiast, Vincenzo Florio, it was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973. While the first races consisted of a whole tour of the island (92 miles per lap for a total of 670 miles!), the track length in the race's last decades was limited to the 72 kilometres (45 mi) of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, which was lapped 11 times. After 1973, it was a national sports car event until it was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns.
Brian and teammate, Jo Siffert, drove 11 laps - 495 miles and about 8,000 corners! - stopping for fuel every two to four laps. Each lap took over 34 minutes. They beat Nino Vaccarella, a local favorite and course expert in a Ferrari, for the victory and took the checker to a crowd subdued with stunned silence. Brian told us that the 908/03, his winning car, was also his most favorite race car he'd ever driven.
I love the fact that Mr. Redman started off by entering his company delivery station wagon as his race car in 1959. "I don't remember where I finished – a good thing , that – but the inauspicious results of my début set the pattern for equally humbling drubbings throughout the year." He quickly realized that "competing in a mundane little estate car was not the short road to Formula 1." But compete in Formula 1, he did. Back in those days, drivers raced in any series they could, often at the same time. We're seeing Fernando Alonso miss the Monaco Grand Prix this year to have a go at the Indy 500 – and most of the older guard are cheering him on. May that love of driving and desire to compete regardless of car and venue continue to drive racers forever.
Mr. Redman raced in 15 Formula 1 Grands Prix and took a podium spot in Spain in 1968. But he preferred sports cars, racing for Porsche, Ferrari, and Aston Martin. He's enjoyed class wins twice at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, three victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, many at Spa, the Nurburgring, and other famous races/tracks.
And yet, Mr. Redman appeared to us to be very humble and gracious. He signed memorabilia and his book both before and after the event. He even came out to the car park to sign cars – including mine! He chatted with us about recent talks with Hurley Haywood and how his wife asked him to stop racing after his accident at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa ("I said, 'I'm going [racing]." – perhaps not so compromise-oriented, but certainly a testament to his love of the sport).
It is truly incredible to meet someone who lived and raced in an era where survival had long odds. Yet they were able to put that out of their minds and enjoy this sport. Brave? Crazy? Addicted to adrenaline? You can decide for yourself. All I know is that it runs in the veins, like it or not. And that it was wonderful for my son and I to be able to meet a legend.