Le Mans win­ner Richard Attwood never re­ally stopped rac­ing, while his cur­rent mount, a 39-year-old 928 S, never saw a cir­cuit – till now. We watch the ace in ac­tion at Croft

911 Porsche World - - 928: Racing With Attwood - Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy: Antony Fraser

The 928 never had a par­tic­u­larly long or ex­alted rac­ing record: a sin­gle­ton French car placed 22nd over­all at Le Mans in 1983 and 20th in ’84, but the model was just not cut out for track ac­tion like its 911 sib­ling – or its four-cylin­der 924 GT/R sis­ters, ei­ther.

On the other hand, our man Richard Attwood, who we’ve come to watch rac­ing a 928 in the HSCC’S Road Sports event at Croft, has had an ex­traor­di­nar­ily long ca­reer in top-line mo­tor sport. He be­gan rac­ing For­mula Ju­nior Lo­las in 1961, grad­u­ated to For­mula 2 in 1964, and en­tered F1 with BRM the same year, as well as driv­ing the works Ford GT40 and Fer­rari P330-P3/4S from the mid-’60s on­wards. He was a mem­ber of the works Porsche team from 1969 to 1971, helm­ing Mar­tini-salzburg and Gulf-jw-au­to­mo­tive 917s and 908s. In the midst of top-line suc­cesses, his sparkling ca­reer cul­mi­nated in the leg­endary 1970 Le Mans win along­side Hans Her­rmann in the fa­mous red 917/023, and he re­tired (tem­po­rar­ily) in 1972. In the Croft pad­dock I no­tice a neat legacy from his crowded past, a For­mula 2 Lola T60 he drove for BRP in the mid-’60s, wait­ing its turn for an­other his­toric race.

Richard has cam­paigned a 928 once be­fore: at the 1984 Day­tona 24 Hours, shar­ing a Bru­mos-en­tered car with ‘Quick’ Vic El­ford and a cou­ple of Amer­i­can driv­ers, plac­ing 15th over­all. More re­cently he’s been in­struct­ing pun­ters at the Porsche Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tres at Sil­ver­stone and Mill­brook, where he once men­tored me aboard a Cayenne on the off-road course for 911&PW. This sea­son he’s cam­paign­ing a freshly-fet­tled 928, a 4.5-litre 1978 car, in the eight-round HSCC Road Sports series. He’s en­joyed mixed for­tunes. Round 1 at Sil­ver­stone was wet, and he brought the 928 home in 3rd place – on its race de­but. Cir­cuit knowl­edge doubt­less en­abled him to log 3rd at Brands Hatch, while Cad­well Park was not a great suc­cess due to the tight­ness of the Lincolnshire track’s twists and turns.

And so to Croft, Eng­land’s north­ern­most race­track, run by the BARC, and one cir­cuit Richard hasn’t raced on be­fore, not even in the early years, prob­a­bly be­cause it’s al­ways been more of a club rac­ing venue that never hosted the more in­ter­na­tional events he com­peted in dur­ing the hal­cyon days. The irony is not lost on the chief mar­shal – who lets us shoot from the pit-lane gantry – is that in our midst we have a star of the Monaco GP and Le Mans, par­tic­i­pat­ing as a Croft vir­gin in an HSCC club­bie. ‘We don’t stand on cer­e­mony here,’ he chuck­les.

Re­splen­dent in liv­ery ref­er­enc­ing the ’84 Bru­mos Day­tona car, the 928 has ar­rived at Croft fresh from fet­tling at PC Leeds, and Jonathan Man­nell from Porsche Cars GB ex­plains the plan: ‘this car is be­ing raced to cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of the 928. We have four clas­sic spe­cial­ist cen­tres at Glas­gow, Swin­don, Hat­field and Leeds, and they are tasked with get­ting the car through the sea­son, and we’re ro­tat­ing it so this week­end it’s Glas­gow’s turn to crew it.’ The Road Sports series al­lows only min­i­mal mod­i­fi­ca­tions, so the 928 is lim­ited to a front strut-brace, stiffer dampers, straight-through ex­haust and lim­ited-slip diff, while the cabin is stripped out and equipped with roll-cage, fire ex­tin­guisher and race seat. ‘We’re run­ning Pirelli Tro­feos at the mo­ment, but I think we prob­a­bly need a slightly stiffer tyre so we may trial some other brands; Pirelli agreed to spon­sor us, but even they’ve agreed the tyres are a lit­tle bit soft for the 928.’

It’s a big 47-car grid for the Road Sports race, and the 928’s op­po­si­tion ranges from Elans and Lo­tus 47s to TVRS, TR4S, MGBS, a sin­gle­ton 924 (Chris Baines), and Ital­ian ex­ot­ica like an Alfetta GT and Lan­cia Beta Monte Carlo. There are long, fast straights and de­mand­ing tech­ni­cal cor­ners, in­clud­ing Tower, Com­plex and Hair­pin, and Richard qual­i­fies the 928 rel­a­tively well up in 16th slot. It’s also Croft’s Nos­tal­gia-themed week­end, with a ver­i­ta­ble army of mil­i­tary and vin­tage ve­hi­cles lin­ing the in­field ac­cess roads, plus a ma­jes­tic Avro Lan­caster fly-past, and that’s what many

spec­ta­tors are here for, though a few fans re­alise who they’re deal­ing with and clus­ter for au­to­graphs.

Richard and I sit down at a pad­dock nosh­erie dur­ing the lunch break, and we dis­cuss his prospects for the two heats. ‘At least the cor­ners are open here, so if you look ahead you can see the cor­ners com­ing up, whereas Cad­well Park, which I didn’t know ei­ther, was nar­rower and tighter, and you couldn’t see the cor­ners, so it took me a lot longer to get a han­dle on that. But even here at Croft I’m about 5- to 7sec­onds a lap down on the front run­ners, so we’re not go­ing to be chal­leng­ing for the win. This is only my third time in the car, but we had an in­stant re­sult in the first round at Sil­ver­stone be­cause it was re­ally wet, and a big, heavy car ploughs through the wa­ter bet­ter than the lighter cars, and we fin­ished 3rd. But in the dry, these other nippy lit­tle cars with glass­fi­bre body­work – the Lo­tuses, TVRS and Dat­suns, and much smaller cars like the Lo­tus 7 – will be snap­ping at our heels. There’s a curve into the chi­cane onto the straight and, well, I’m re­ally strug­gling to get round that long right­hand bit (Hawthorn); it’s not that fast, but it’s so big – the weight of the car just wants to take it out of the side of the cor­ner, while all the other cars seem to be just driv­ing round nor­mally. So, it’s a bit of a square peg in a round hole, re­ally, be­cause the car’s so big. But we do quite well in the class, though we’re lim­ited over­all.’ I re­mind him of his out­ing in ’84 in the Day­tona 24Hours. ‘That was good, though I don’t know who else raced them in that pe­riod; when you look at a 911, by com­par­i­son a 928 is com­pletely not the right car for the job. This is not re­ally what I’d call a se­ri­ous at­tack on the cham­pi­onship; they’re run­ning the car to show that it could race if some­body got down to it. I did one or two track days in 928s with Porsche deal­ers on dif­fer­ent cir­cuits; at Don­ing­ton in an S4 you could drive round the cor­ners on the throt­tle, and that was a fan­tas­tic drive be­cause it had an ex­cess amount of power for the grip, but for what we’re do­ing now, it’s dif­fi­cult un­less the con­di­tions are bad, in which case we can make progress be­cause we’ve ef­fec­tively got down­force all the way un­der the car.’ Back in the day, Richard and his Porsche works team­mates re­ceived 911s as their road cars – he re­calls the 2.0 S from 1969 af­fec­tion­ately; ‘the oth­ers tended to swap theirs every year for the lat­est evo­lu­tion, but I kept mine as I was rather fond of it.’ As for the 928, ‘I used to call the 928 the armchair Porsche, be­cause it was a re­ally fast, lazy cruiser.’

Come race time, Richard holds his own

as the field surges down the main straight and into turn one, Cler­vaux. There are in­di­vid­ual chal­lenges through­out the pack, and he emerges from the chi­cane wheel-towheel with a TR5, Lan­cia Monte Carlo and Lo­tus Éclat. The V8 power soon dis­patches them, but a nim­ble-through-the-turns Lo­tus Seven S4 proves a tricky cus­tomer. ‘He’d got a cross on his back, so he was a novice and I didn’t want to up­set him, but even­tu­ally I did get by on the straight, and I sup­pose I was be­ing a bit too re­spect­ful be­cause after that I gal­loped away from him, so I shouldn’t have been mess­ing about so much.’ From 16th on the grid, the 928 is clas­si­fied 10th over­all. The sce­nario is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar in Race 2, with the Monte Carlo, Éclat and TVR 3000M pur­su­ing the 928, which is it­self maul­ing the lit­tle Lo­tus 7 again in a David-and-go­liath sce­nario. At the front, a pair of Elans duke it out for the win, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of Europa 47s, and a 240Z door-han­dling with an­other Europa. Then, all too soon, there are full course yel­lows, and after a cou­ple of laps the race is red flagged. A Sun­beam Alpine has crashed and can’t be safely re­cov­ered by the mar­shals. Back in the pad­dock Richard is philo­soph­i­cal: ‘We were never go­ing to make mas­sive in­roads, though at the start I over­took three or four cars, and I made about four or five places after that, so that’s where I made most gains, and then I only over­took one more car, and that was it.’ Once again, he’s cred­ited with 10th over­all, and every­one from Porsche GB and PC Glas­gow seems grat­i­fied that the car and its star driver have played their re­spec­tive parts sat­is­fac­to­rily.

There are more Road Sport rounds sched­uled: firstly Oul­ton Park, then two at Sil­ver­stone and, the pièce de ré­sis­tance, a race at the Spa Six Hours meet­ing. Richard will surely bump into some of his old mates there. ‘That will be two half-hour races, and Spa cir­cuit will suit our car, be­ing wide, and you’ve got the long Kem­mel straight, and all the cor­ners there are quite sweep­ing, and it’s fast back up through Blanchi­mont to the Bus Stop. So, it should have a good chance, be­cause the en­gine is al­right, the brakes are al­right, it’s just that we never sorted out the ride. It han­dles, in that you can get it to point and over­steer, but we haven’t done any­thing much with the dampers and we’ve only once played with the springs when it was just bounc­ing ev­ery­where, so we sorted that out, but re­ally, we need to go test­ing.’

Co­in­ci­den­tally, the 928 is then trail­ered to the Nür­bur­gring for the Old Timer meet­ing – as a dis­play car. Had we known, we could have driven it there for them on our 928mile mis­sion. A whizz around the Nord­schleife? In a 928? Mmm…ac­tu­ally, we’d de­fer to Richard on that one. PW

It han­dles, in that you can get it to point and over­steer

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