911 Porsche World - - The Usual Suspects -

The Attwood, Bell and Tandy 911s will all sell in re­spectable num­bers; that seems cer­tain. But at the launch, well, I wasn’t that both­ered whether or not I even sat in one. Much more in­ter­est­ing was watch­ing the three driv­ers at work and play. Derek Bell is the con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional when it comes to schmooz­ing the me­dia. He’s got a celebrity aura about him, the em­bod­i­ment of the suave sil­ver fox, and the mo­ment he spots a cam­era the smile and the pose are in­stantly in place. A nat­u­ral show­man, he’s a fount of anec­dotes from the golden years of mo­tor racing, all de­liv­ered with colour and hu­mour. And from Porsche’s per­spec­tive, he’s bril­liant at be­ing cor­po­rate, can say all the right things about the com­pany and its road and race cars, with­out sound­ing as though he’s be­ing paid to say it.

Attwood also has an im­pres­sive reper­toire of fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries from back in the day, but you get the slight sense that he’d pre­fer to get to know you bet­ter be­fore dis­pens­ing them. It’s not as though he’s in any­way re­luc­tant to talk when thrown into a pack of jour­nal­ists, it’s sim­ply that he doesn’t have the same com­fort­able, nat­u­ral flow that Bell has in an un­fa­mil­iar crowd: Attwood, I’d guess, would feel more at home, more chatty, in a pub with a smaller group of peo­ple who he could in­ter­act with more in­ti­mately, and where he wasn’t the cen­tre of at­ten­tion. That’s no crit­i­cism; most of us would be the same, only most of us haven’t won Le Mans or driven Porsche fac­tory racing cars.

Com­par­a­tive young­ster, Tandy, is the least com­fort­able of the Leg­ends when it comes to cor­po­rate glad-hand­ing. I’ve met him once be­fore, in a pit garage at La­guna Seca dur­ing the Rennsport Re­union a cou­ple of years back, and he was witty, ir­rev­er­ent and chatty. At the Porsche Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre with his Porsche pay­mas­ters in at­ten­dance, you could sense he felt com­pelled to be on his best be­hav­iour and it was killing him. He was most ill-at-ease dur­ing the Q&A ses­sion, hosted by a Porsche em­ployee, where ev­ery re­sponse had to fol­low pre-pre­pared guide­lines: whereas Bell has the ex­pe­ri­ence to em­bel­lish his an­swers with nuggets from his per­sonal Porsche scrap­book, Tandy gave the scripted re­sponse but noth­ing ex­tra. Again, no crit­i­cism im­plied – af­ter all, he’s a racing driver, not a cabaret act.

Pro­mo­tional du­ties mostly over for the day, it was touch­ing to see the trio of Le Mans win­ners hud­dle to­gether for some pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion, and clearly the odd joke or two. Kin­dred spir­its and all that… Later, Bell and Attwood were tasked with driv­ing their old race cars (ac­tu­ally, the 917 was mocked up to look like Attwood’s) around the Porsche Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre track for the ben­e­fit of the of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­phers. Bell emerged in Nomex and hel­met and Ray Bans, cir­cu­lated for as long as the Nikons needed him, re­turned, and was straight out of the car.

Attwood wore his over­alls but re­mained lid­less even af­ter he’d slith­ered into the tight con­fines of the 917’s cock­pit. He did his duty be­hind the cam­era car, but when the pho­tog­ra­phers pulled off the track, Attwood stayed out there for an­other five or six laps. He wasn’t can­ing the Porsche Mu­seum’s car, just en­joy­ing it. Watch­ing him from the PEC’S view­ing bal­cony, it was as though he was lost in the mists of time, con­tem­plat­ing what once was, alone with a race car that had served him so well. I re­main cyn­i­cal about spe­cial edi­tions, but ob­serv­ing Attwood out there in his own world was a very spe­cial mo­ment.

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