Hur­ley Hay­wood

Ear­lier this year, Porsche race leg­end Hur­ley Hay­wood’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy was re­leased. Here, Amer­ica’s great­est ever en­durance race driver shares some ad­di­tional mem­oirs with Tony Mcgui­ness

Total 911 - - Guest Columnist: Hurley Haywood -

Noth­ing pre­pares you for Le Mans. It is an amaz­ing event. Back in 1977 I couldn’t be­lieve my luck be­ing cho­sen as a fac­tory driver for Porsche, yet here I was in the beau­ti­ful Mar­tini Rac­ing liv­er­ied 936 lead­ing the race with Jür­gen Barth and Jacky Ickx in my team.

They were go­ing to give me the hon­our of tak­ing the check­ered flag. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing mar­vel­lously well. The car felt good, ev­ery­thing was good. We weren’t in jeop­ardy of be­ing caught by any­body. Then I felt this sort of tight­ness in the engine. I looked out the rear-view mir­ror and there was blue smoke bil­low­ing out of the ex­haust pipes. I thought, “Oh my God!”

I stuck the mi­cro­phone in my hel­met and said, “This is car four, we have an engine prob­lem.

There is smoke com­ing out. I am go­ing to drive it slowly back to the pits.” I was feel­ing quite dev­as­tated, think­ing I had done some­thing wrong.

I got back to the pits and the crew im­me­di­ately took the bon­net off the back and re­alised one of the pis­tons had burnt a hole in it. They dis­con­nected the spark plug and took it out to neu­tralise it.

Porsche de­cided Jur­gen was much more me­chan­i­cally in­clined than I was and had the best feel for keep­ing the engine go­ing, so put him in the car. The en­gi­neers had worked out how slow Jur­gen would have to drive, and the team knew ex­actly when to let him go from the pits to com­plete the last few min­utes of the race and still be in the lead.

They gave him a huge clock and said you must do a lap within… I don’t know, four min­utes, or what­ever it was. I can’t re­mem­ber the ex­act time, but they knew ex­actly what had to be done to take the check­ered flag at the 24-hour mark.

Well, he went too quickly. He had to make an­other lap, and by that time the engine was not feel­ing well at all! It was ag­o­nis­ing wait­ing for him to come back around. He ba­si­cally inched across the fin­ish line, but we had won the 1977 24 Hours of Le Mans! It was in­cred­i­ble!

I re­mem­ber run­ning across the pit lane, jump­ing over the guardrail and hav­ing this sea of peo­ple… I mean I have never been in a sit­u­a­tion where you were so over­whelmed by the sheer mag­ni­tude of the crowd that was sud­denly rush­ing on you.

I fi­nally got to the car and they lifted me up on the side pod. It was amaz­ing. That whole thing was un­be­liev­able. It was hard to imag­ine it was hap­pen­ing. Here you are at your first time at Le Mans and you won the thing! The crowds were im­mense, and the noise was deaf­en­ing. It was so in­cred­i­bly emo­tional. Just like a dream! Ev­ery­one wanted to touch you, to talk to you, to say some­thing. The guards and the safety pro­to­cols they have now didn’t ex­ist then, so peo­ple where ev­ery­where.

I had won Day­tona three times up to that point so Porsche knew I had the abil­ity to bring a car to the fin­ish line, but Le Mans is so dif­fer­ent from Day­tona. There are few com­par­isons other than they are both 24-hour races.

Thank god that ev­ery­thing went well! There were a bunch of things that could have gone wrong and things that did go wrong, yet we over­came those prob­lems. That’s what makes a great team, and that’s what gives Porsche the unique abil­ity to win so many of th­ese longdis­tance races – its abil­ity to quickly an­a­lyse a prob­lem and fix it.

I didn’t get to savour the Le Mans win as I went right back to the air­port the next day to fly back to Amer­ica. I was ba­si­cally mobbed at the air­port, which was amaz­ing! That was pretty cool. No one knew who Hur­ley Hay­wood was when I landed in France, but they knew who I was when I left! I re­ceived a huge re­cep­tion when I landed back in the States; there were a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple wait­ing to con­grat­u­late me.

We get a lot of things for win­ning Le Mans, but one of the things I got was a beau­ti­ful glass like a rock which has ‘Le Mans’ and ‘Win­ner’ and the year in­scribed on it. It re­ally is a beau­ti­ful thing, and weighs about 15 pounds. I ac­tu­ally car­ried it back home in my suit­case!

I had come a long way from that car park where I had beat Peter Gregg in my Corvette for the Au­tocross fastest time of the day (FTD). Back then I never would have imag­ined that I would have won ma­jor vic­to­ries at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Day­tona and the 12 Hours of Se­bring be­fore the 1970s ended.

But then, on Mon­day 15 De­cem­ber, 1980, I heard the dev­as­tat­ing, in­com­pre­hen­si­ble news that lives with me to this day…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.