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 To­tal 911’s Tony Mcgui­ness

Total 911 - - Guest Columnist: Hurley Haywood -

My friend, men­tor, the owner and founder of the Bru­mos rac­ing legacy, Peter Gregg, shot him­self dead on 15 De­cem­ber, 1980.

I first met Peter in 1967 when I raced against him for the fastest time of the day at an Au­tocross event and beat him. I am not sure what made our per­son­al­i­ties work as we were very dif­fer­ent, yet we worked well to­gether and had a friend­ship that lasted 13 years.

Many peo­ple thought we were re­lated. We had a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties in ap­pear­ance. Some­thing that was a lit­tle freaky is we shared the same birth­day! Our back­grounds were sim­i­lar. We both had been ed­u­cated at Ivy League schools, both had been in the mil­i­tary and, in­ter­est­ingly, we both had raced Corvettes. Meet­ing him changed my life. Be­cause of Peter, I’ve had a suc­cess­ful rac­ing ca­reer.

He got the name “Peter Per­fect” from his per­fec­tion with do­ing things. He left noth­ing to chance. He thought of every pos­si­ble sce­nario that could de­velop when rac­ing and planned for those in­stances. If some­thing went wrong, it wasn’t a sur­prise and he was ready to deal with it.

Be­cause of Peter I had been able to win Le Mans in 1977. It was his train­ing that put me in a po­si­tion where Porsche wanted to use me in that drive. From a teacher-pupil as­pect he was happy and proud of what I had ac­com­plished, but I think there was a pro­fes­sional jeal­ousy that I was put into that po­si­tion with Porsche be­fore he was.

At Le Mans in 1980 he was on his way from the ho­tel to the race track in a 924 with Frank Stella and his girl­friend on board when a trac­tor pulled out from a side road. Peter swerved to miss it but ended up in a ditch up­side down. No­body was badly hurt, but Peter knocked his head on the steer­ing wheel. It left a big mark and af­fected his vi­sion. Porsche doc­tors would not let him race. That was the start of his down­fall.

Peter was re­ally up­set, but I thought things would be okay. At the next race, which was at the Paul Re­vere Night Race at Day­tona, he gave me the re­spon­si­bil­ity of set­ting the car up, which I did. I also put the car on pole po­si­tion.

Even though this was a night race it was in the mid­dle of July and in­cred­i­bly hot. I had given us a one-lap lead, but I had worn my­self out and was de­hy­drated, so I called in over the ra­dio and asked if Peter was ready to go. The crew chief said, “Yes! He is stand­ing here with his hel­met ready to go.”

I said, “I want to come in for the sched­uled pit stop so we can make the change.” We had about 45 min­utes left in the three-hour race. Peter got in the car and we fin­ished 3rd. I was shocked that af­ter­wards Peter blamed me for los­ing the race. He said I had done that on pur­pose to make him look bad. Yet I had built up the lead in the race and Peter had lost it.

Af­ter we got back from the next race, which was the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, he came into my of­fice and said he didn’t want me there any­more. He ba­si­cally threw me out of the deal­er­ship and said I was no longer wel­come at Bru­mos.

Peter could be dif­fi­cult, but he had an unimag­in­able tragedy oc­cur on his tenth birth­day. While out in New York cel­e­brat­ing with his mum she jumped in front of a train, killing her­self as Peter watched. Every birth­day he was re­minded of what hap­pened.

On 6 De­cem­ber, 1980, he got mar­ried to a girl named Deb­o­rah Marrs. I didn’t get in­vited to the wed­ding, but on 14 De­cem­ber Peter called me and asked me to come down for lunch to talk. I hadn’t spo­ken to him since he told me to leave Bru­mos.

I was shocked that I got the call, but I knew Peter well and knew these were moods he went through all the time.

I went down to see him and it was like noth­ing had ever hap­pened. He gave me a big hug. We talked about the very first time we met all through the rac­ing up to that point and what we were go­ing to do in the fu­ture. He was go­ing to field an Indy Car team and he wanted me to drive for him and be a team again. There were all kinds of things he was talk­ing about.

I can’t an­swer if he had planned to kill him­self. If I had been trained in how to look for signs I would have had the red flags in the air. I think that he maybe wanted to clear the air and that if he did de­cide to do some­thing he and I were good.

The next day Peter bought a gun, went for a walk along the beach and shot him­self. It has been a long time since that ter­ri­ble day. I still miss Peter. He will al­ways be in my heart.

In the 1980s I was part of the Roth­mans Porsche Team. That team re­ally was the stuff of leg­end. In 1983 I was in­volved in one of the most ex­cit­ing and dra­matic fin­ishes in the his­tory of Le Mans. Along with Al Hol­bert and Vern Schup­pan in a Roth­mans Liv­ery 956, we were lead­ing the race. Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell’s 956 was clos­ing in on us. Then, on the last lap, some­thing hap­pened…

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