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.