Hur­ley Hay­wood

To cel­e­brate the re­lease of Hur­ley from the Be­gin­ning, To­tal 911’s Tony Mcgui­ness con­tin­ues our sit down for an ex­tended se­ries of in­ter­views with Amer­ica’s great­est ever en­durance race driver

Total 911 - - Guest Columnist: Hurley Haywood -

On 19 Au­gust, 1975, one of the world’s great­est rac­ing drivers and my good friend Mark Dono­hue died in a For­mula One rac­ing ac­ci­dent dur­ing prac­tice at the Aus­trian Grand Prix. I was shocked and dev­as­tated. Mark had helped me in so many ways with the 917; he had pro­vided me with guid­ance and ad­vice that was im­mea­sur­able.

Mark was very much like his son David in looks and per­son­al­ity. Mark was ex­tremely proud of the pranks he played on other drivers. His pranks were in­ge­nious! One time be­fore the driver’s meet­ing at the 1973 Watkins Glen race he opened the bon­net of my rental car and switched all the plugs. I was able to start the car, but as I was driv­ing it the car was shaking and shud­der­ing. It wouldn’t make it up the hill. When I fi­nally ran into the driver’s meet­ing com­pletely out of breath he was laugh­ing, al­most in tears. He had a great sense of hu­mour.

We both shared a love for power­boats, and of course Mark loved to race boats fast! One time we had his boat out in south Florida when he mis­judged a wave and stuffed our nose straight into it. It pretty much sub­merged the boat! It took on wa­ter but luck­ily we kept it from sink­ing. It was funny and scary at the same time!

It’s in­ter­est­ing how things turn out be­cause be­fore Mark died he had talked to me about be­com­ing his part­ner in a BMW deal­er­ship. He had ne­go­ti­ated a plan with BMW to be the head of the BMW rac­ing team in Amer­ica, with me be­ing his main driver. He had all the pa­pers signed in his brief­case when he was killed in Aus­tria. I don’t know if it was fate or some­thing, but that would have changed my life com­pletely. I would have never won all the races I won, and not had the re­la­tion­ship I ended up having with Porsche.

In 1977 I got the call to be a fac­tory driver with Porsche at Le Mans. For a driver then it wasn’t like it is today at all. There was no lead-up, no pre-prac­tice, noth­ing! You ar­rived at Le Mans, you got in the car and be­gan to learn the track and the car. Be­cause they had seen me in the 917, Porsche was con­fi­dent in the fact that I could do that. Keep in mind I had never even seen the Mar­tini Rac­ing Team 936 car in per­son.

When I first ar­rived at Le Mans I got very lost! I had pic­tured Le Mans as a small town, but it isn’t. I drove around for hours un­til I no­ticed a guy in a Porsche jacket, so I stopped and asked him for directions. He said, “Mr Hay­wood, we have been wait­ing for you.” He hap­pened to be my crew chief Klaus Bischoff. He took me to meet the guys and have a cou­ple of beers with them. I ended up sleep­ing in the back of my car that night and then the next morn­ing go­ing to tech in­spec­tion.

I had met Dr Ferry Porsche very briefly be­fore, and he re­mem­bered me. At Le Mans he came up to me and I re­mem­ber him very dis­tinctly say­ing, “Mr Hay­wood, we are very happy to have you on the team. I am sorry we can’t pay you a lot of money, but I can give you a car that you can win the race with.” The Porsche fam­ily opened their arms up and made me feel at home. That was part of the mys­tique of be­ing in the fac­tory team. Ev­ery­body was friendly and ev­ery­body re­spected one an­other. Even the low­est de­nom­i­na­tor on the team was treated as an equal to the high­est.

I was paired with Jür­gen Barth. Ev­ery­one on the team was very help­ful. It was easy to learn the car, but Le Mans is a very fast track and all the cor­ners are taken at a high rate of speed so you had to be care­ful. The car had a rhythm to it. It was beau­ti­ful and de­light­ful to drive. In fact, the 936 was my favourite race car of all time.

At the 1977 24 Hours of Le Mans Porsche en­tered two 936s. I was in the #4 car with Jür­gen (above). Jacky Ickx and Henri Pescarolo would be in the #3 car. Porsche gave me the hon­our of start­ing the race, which was a big deal.

The race didn’t start off well. On the open­ing lap the throt­tle stuck wide open. I had ev­ery­body be­hind me so I didn’t want to make a stupid move. I ba­si­cally hit the kill switch and got the car over on to the side of the road and into the grass, but then I sud­denly re­alised I couldn’t restart the en­gine as it would over rev. So I got out of the car and got the bon­net off the rear of the car which we had prac­ticed do­ing. I found what the prob­lem was and fixed it so I could drive it back to the pits. By the time we got it back in the race with the sys­tem fixed we had lost two laps.

Then the #3 car had a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure and Porsche de­cided to move Jacky Ickx over to our car with us. Jacky was bril­liant! He re­ally was some­thing to copy as he was so good at night and so con­sis­tent.

It was now go­ing in­cred­i­bly well for us. Lead­ing the race into the last few hours felt amaz­ing. We had a big lead and Porsche was go­ing to give me the hon­our of tak­ing the che­quered flag, but then, some­thing un­be­liev­able hap­pened…

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