Brian Redman Talks – Redman in Redmond

Brian Redman Talks – Redman in Redmond

By Jay Gillotti and photos by Curtis Creager

Brian Redman talks to Porsche Club of America's Pacific Northwest RegionWe were greatly honored to have Brian Redman as our guest for the Porsche Club of America Pacific Northwest Region’s 50th Anniversary last November. An additional special treat was provided by the folks at Vintage Racing Motors who allowed us to re-unite Brian with 917 chassis 017/004, the car he raced at Le Mans in 1970. It was my pleasure to moderate a tech session for about 40 of our members and presented here are some gems of recollection in Brian’s own words.

On choosing to drive with Jo Siffert in the factory Porsche team in 1969:

Brian Redman: I raced at Daytona with Vic Elford but after that race, Rico Steinemann, the Swiss team manager for Porsche said ‘Brian, do you wish to be #1 in your own car?’ Meaning I could choose a co-driver then be #1. Well, as #1 you got to do everything. You got to set up the car as you liked it and you got the majority of the practice time if that’s the way you wanted to go. Or, he said, ‘Would you go as #2 to Siffert?’ Well, Siffert was about the quickest of the 10 drivers. I thought, ‘I think I’ll do a bit better in terms of race wins’ if I go as #2 but knowing the disadvantages of being low down on the totem pole in everything, publicity, time in the car, etc. Jo and Brian went on to win 5 of the 10 races as Porsche secured the World Championship for Sports Cars.

Brian meets the 917 at Spa, 1969:

BR: Siffert went out in the 917 and he came back and I said ‘what do you think?’ He said ‘we stick wiss zee 908!’ So, I was standing there, it was raining, it wasn’t pouring but it was raining, it was miserable. Herr Bott, head of engineering at Porsche, saw me standing there. I was trying to hide, actually. ‘Brian’ he says, ‘try zee 917.’ I said, oh, it’s raining, I’m not sure I want to. ‘No, no, you try it.’ So I get in. Well, it’s my first time in a 917 and I’m really uncomfortable. My head’s on the roof, my knees are up against the back of the wheel, I’m hunched up. I start it, wup-wup-wup, and it had a giant windshield wiper, they said it came off a Boeing 707. So, I turn it on, it was parked on the left, and ‘wooosh’, it flew off! ‘Went into the pits. So I switched off and got out. Herr Bott says ‘Brian, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Herr Bott, the windshield wiper’s gone’. ‘Ya, ya’ he says, ‘drive slowly’. So, I did two pretty slow laps, I can tell you.
Brian and Jo won the race in a 908 and Brian set fastest lap.

Regarding the test session in October, 1969 at the Osterreichring that solved the 917’s handling problems:

BR: I think it was Saturday. John Horsman, the engineer for John Wyer, saw that the front of the cars were covered in bugs. And then, there were no more bugs, some on the windshield and then the tail, of course, went down then up and right at the end, at the tip of the tail, more bugs. And so he said there’s no air going on the back. So he borrowed tools and the equipment, aluminum panels, duct tape, plywood, from Porsche and he just flattened the deck, like that. It wasn’t ready that day – we went down into the village where we were staying and they finished the work that night.

The next day I went out in it and instead of doing 1 lap as I’d been doing all the previous day, with the changes that they made, I stayed out for, like 7 laps. I came in and said ‘now we’ve got a race car.’ 4 seconds faster! 4 seconds and when you think of how you fight for tenths of a second… By the end of the day, with some more fiddling around and putting it on Firestone tires, it was 5 seconds faster. The original aim, when they got there, was to try and equal the fastest lap that had been set in the race a couple of months before. That had been done by Jacky Ickx in a Gulf-Mirage with a Cosworth-Ford DVF engine. That time was about two and a half seconds faster than the 917 had been in the race, so now, we were 5 seconds faster than the 917 had been and more than 2 seconds faster than the fastest lap set in the race.

Passed by his own car, Daytona, 1970:

Brian Redman BR: In those days, it was a huge field of 75 or 80 cars and some very slow cars. On the 3rd lap, we were lapping the tail-enders! So we gained four miles in 4 minutes or so. Well, our trouble started about 4 or 5 in the afternoon when, on the back straight, and there was no chicane in those days, we were getting about 210 miles an hour coming on to the banking. Just before the banking there was a group of Trans-Am-type cars, Mustangs and Camaros, there were 4 or 5 of them, they were slip-streaming each other (but) there was room down the middle. I flew down the middle and just as I got past the front car my left rear tire burst. So, the tire went flailing around, hitting everything inside (the car). We lost about 20 minutes in the pits repairing the damage. And then, at about one in the morning we had a fuel leak, we lost another 20 minutes. About 2:30 in the morning, I’m coming off the banking at well over 200 miles an hour, there’s a bump and boom! I spin all the way down the pit straight but didn’t hit anything. The right rear suspension had fallen off. A bolt had broken and that took another 20 minutes. Now, we’re back somewhere in 5th or 6th, driving like maniacs, of course, which is fun! About 6 or 7 in the morning the clutch failed. So now, it’s pushed behind the wall and that’s it, we’re finished. Maybe 30 minutes later, David Yorke, the team manager said ‘Brian, I want you to drive’ (the Rodriguez/Kinnunen car) which was leading. So I did a session in that car and just towards the end of the session, on the pit straight, Siffert comes flying past me waving! They’d changed the clutch in like 45 minutes or something, unbelievable. We took 2nd place from the Andretti/Ickx Ferrari 512 with not very long to go. Brian drove both the 1st and 2nd place Gulf 917s in that race.

From the Brands Hatch 1000 KM race in 1970:

BR: This was the race that really made Pedro Rodriguez’ reputation. He got called into the pits early on for passing under the yellow flag and he didn’t take any notice (of it) for some time but then eventually came in and Nick Syrett, clerk of the course, gave him a telling-off, you know, and then when he went back out, he went berserk. He had a fantastic race. I was lying second. I got tapped by Chris Amon in the Ferrari 512 and it spun me. I went into a banking and I couldn’t get out because the tail came up over the roof. Anyway, I’d been complaining to Porsche engineering, to Herr Bott in particular, about why were Porsche building these aluminum space frame chassis when everybody else had monocoques or semi-monocoques. So, when I got back to the pits, it’s raining, I’m muddy and Herr Bott says: ‘Brian, are you okay?’ I said ‘yes, thank you, Herr Bott.’ He said: ‘Now you see – the 917 is a very good car to have a crash in!’

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Show Comments (10)

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  1. Wonderful. Brian’s natural delivery of the inside of the sport when it was a very different sport. The first 917 cars must have been a real ‘hand full’. We are lucky to have Brian still with us. Lets see more of Brian and other drivers of his time in SportsCarDigest.

  2. In person I always appreciate how Brian can recreate a story and make you feel like you were there, accents and all. This achieves that as well. Thanks for sharing Jay.

  3. Hi Brian,
    I am the Mexican journalist at Daytona, but it was more than a couple of years ago, maybe in 2006 or 2007 when you were inducted in the wall of fame behind the pits and next to the media center for your victories at the 24 Hours including 1970, and peter gregg’s son was there too.
    I enjoyed much talking to you, we did for about half an hour and the quote about the Paris 1000K in 1969 is in the book, page 473, I wrote later about The Brothers Rodríguez (Book of the Year 2009 by the Motor Press Guild). Hope your biography is coming along well!
    Carlos Jalife

    1. Carlos, your book was simply outstanding and a real tour-de-force in every sense of the word. My copy of it is signed by Vic Elford. I followed very closely Pedro’s entire career and cried like a baby when I heard of his death; feels like yesterday- the hurt and knowing “another” of my boyhood heroes is now dead! I would love to have you autograph your book sometime for me, but I seriously doubt we’ll ever be near each other. I live in the mid-Atlantic area of Virginia in the USA. The latee Malcolm Wyllie of Gulf Oil Corporation lived near me near Charlottesville and knew Pedro well when he drove for John Weyer in Ford GT 40s and Porsche 917s. I helped write Malcolm’s obituary upon his death last year. Thanks for such a heartfelt job on the Rodriguez Brothers book. I trust Brian Redman is making headway with his memoirs. The last I heard, he is being helped with this endeavor by racer and publisher Michael Keyser of Maryland (a former winner of Sebring). Regards, Major William I. Brown, U.S. Army (retired, Bedford, VA, US (near VA International Raceway in Danville)

  4. I have lived in Florida since 1963 and was very lucky to attend the 1970 and ’71 24 Hours of Daytona (plus many other years), both of which Pedro Rodriguez won. I was 16 and 17 years old at the time. I am of Mexican-American heritage, so Pedro Rodriguez was my “Hero”. My parents and I watched the finish of the 1970 race from the grandstands near the start/finish line. We remained in the stands for a while afterwards to see what we could of the festivities afterward and to let traffic die down before leaving. When we finally left the grandstands and descended the stairs, we ran into Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen coming up the stairs (I guess they were going to the press box which was above the grandstands at the time). I screamed something like “Dad, there’s Pedro!” I am sure that Pedro could see that I was awestruck and he smiled politely at my parents and I as he and Leo passed. I know that I will remember that moment til the day I die!

  5. I can seriously say that Brian Redman is my hero in every sense of the word. He is the most unassuming man I’ve ever met and one of many fine gentleman racers from his era. He’s blessed to have a fine family; wife Marion, son James and daughter Charlotte. Brian will give the shirt off his back for his legions of fans and I’ve never heard him brush off any request from anyone who approaches him for an autograph, picture, or simply to chat. It is a crying shame, truly, that so many of Brian’s friends and co-drivers did not survive those awful years of the 1960s-70s, many in avoidable accidents that bordered on criminal negligence. All the more reason to truly cherish the likes of those who survived: Brian, the ever-young John Fitch, Vic Elford, Bob Bondurant, Sam Posey, Sir Stirling Moss, Sir John Whitmore, Tony Settember, Pete Lyons, Bill Sadler, Jim Hall, the late Malcolm Wyllie, David Hobbs, Bob Tullius, Joe Leonard, Pete Lovely, Al Pease, George Follmer and scores of others who have taken the time to speak to me just this past year alone. I adore the greatest sport- motorsports, and esp. sports car racing, due to these fine men, a breed-apart from those driving today. God bless and protect them all; and a Merry Christmas to each of them and those reading such a great magazine: Sports Car Digest

  6. REDMAN is a class act. A vet of when men were men and safety be damned full speed ahead. There is a huge difference with someone with a good memory and someone with a great memory who can also tell a wonderful story. Thanks goodness Mr Redman is of the very special type who has a great memory he also can fascinate with wonderful stories and he was there in the middle of the action when the history was made and the story took place.

    Thanks a million Mr Redman … We love you for it.