50 years since his first championship, Hurley Haywood talks about his brilliant career with insight into the role the Brumos brand played.
Honoring the 50th anniversary of his initial championship–the 1971 IMSA title Haywood won with teammate Peter Gregg, The Brumos Collections latest installment of “Inside the 59” chats with motorsports legend Hurley Haywood where he shares thoughts of his historic racing career.
Haywood secured five overall victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2005 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
His achievements comprise the 1988 Trans-Am title, three Norelco Cup championships, two IMSA GT Championships and 23 wins, a SuperCar title, and 18 IndyCar starts.
Transcript of ‘Inside the 59’ Conversation with Hurley Haywood
Here is the transcript of the interview Hurley Haywood has with ‘Inside The 59’.
As we came into this year, everybody mentioned this is 50 years since your first championship, and I sit there and think about that, and really 50 years seems like yesterday.
I can recall just about everything that happened during that time frame. The first race was in VIR, and I had just got a weekend pass. I was rotating out of the army after coming back from Vietnam, and the CEO was a big racing fan. So he went to that race. He didn’t know me from Adam.
And in the Base paper the next morning, it read Hurley Haywood is rotating out of the army. And, you know, Sure enough, that afternoon, I got a summons to the commander’s office, and he said, “We got to accelerate your departure from the army so you can continue because it was a really good race.”
I came down to college here in 1967, and Peter and I met each other at an autocross which I beat him at. I was not old enough to get my racing license yet, but he said, don’t worry, we’re going to Watkins Glen six hours in 1969.
And I said, “how am I going to do that? I don’t even have a regional license”, which is your basic license. He said, “don’t worry about it- we’ll get it through NASCAR. Once you get your NASCAR license, which was twenty-five dollars in the mail, you could go down to the FIA, which was a governing body, and they will issue you a license.”
So that’s when I went to Watkins Glen with maybe three races under my belt, and the SCCA people there were completely freaked out. They said, what’s going on here? Who is this kid? And Peter said, “don’t worry about it. He’s fine. He’ll be perfectly OK”. And we won the race. So it was one of those things when you think back and realize how lucky I was to get that opportunity with Peter to begin with.
The first championship year with the Brumos team was 1971, and I was given a 914 to race. It’s a mid-engine car that was very nimble, very easy to drive, had great durability, and you really could get the brakes on.
By the midpoint of the race, we were right on top of those guys, and we just ran them into the ground. That was the reason why we were successful in that first year where we were racing against equipment that was much faster than ours. But we won the race because of durability and planning.
It was my first year of racing for a championship in 1971, and so that was kind of the learning process for me. I was learning and had an open book. Every time we went on to a racetrack, it was an aa learning experience.
Now, fifty years later, the book of knowledge is huge. A lot of people say, “what’s the most important thing that you can do as a racing driver? What what are some of the things that you learn that is important to your success?”
There are two things. One, the most important thing that a driver can do is vision. Your eyes tell your hands and feet what to do. If you’re not looking at the proper thing, you can instruct your feet and hands to make the right kind of adjustments.
Patience is also extremely important. You don’t want to push yourself. It’s like a chess game, and racing is like chess. Every move that you make is a calculated move to a risk-reward benefit. So you don’t want to risk something that doesn’t have a very, very good outcome. Ater many years of racing, you kind of learn how to evaluate a condition or a scenario and make the proper adjustments to make a move or the pass successful.
One of the things that we had to worry about when I first started racing was that racing was dangerous. The cars were constructed with speed and not necessarily safety at the forefront. Today because of the development of car-building technologies, driver’s suit technology, helmet technology, all the paraphernalia that we wear, the Hans device keeps your head located. We constantly thought about those things as we were driving, and they tempered our enthusiasm to make a really stupid move. Nowadays, the cars are so strong; the safety equipment is so technically advanced that today’s drivers don’t really have to worry about getting hurt.
Up until really kind of the early 2000s, all of the cars’ cars were managed by the driver. We didn’t have ABS brakes, we didn’t have power steering, we didn’t have sequential gear shifting, and we didn’t have air conditioning in the cockpit. We didn’t have anything. And we ourselves, our drivers, had to manage all those things.
So my foot was my traction control. My foot was my ABS brakes, and my hands were my shifter. They weren’t sequential, they were a regular gearbox. That allowed us to be superior to the other guys on the track when the drivers who were able to master those conditions would be the most successful. Now we’ve got all those managed electronically, which forces everybody into a much tighter bracket.
I was able to start racing because I was a Business Administration major in college, and I drew up a really slick proposal to my father. He was so impressed with this proposal’s professionalism that he agreed to help me support it for two years.
Luckily, all the stars lined up together. Peter was a great mentor to me. The Brumos organization were the ones who were doing the preparation of the cars and everything lined up. I won two championships, and then in 1973, I moved over to the Can-Am, which was an enormous leap not only driving against the world-class drivers from all over the world, also driving a car that had twelve hundred horsepower (I was used to a car that had three hundred horsepower) with the 917 having huge downforce.
So it was really a big adjustment. In your third year of racing, which is pretty young when you think about it, to get into a 917 when I was 23 or 24 years old was a huge leap.
When you look at that car, you just say, “oh, man, this is a really cool look. This is really something”. But the first time I drove, and I put my foot down on that throttle, it was like being shot out of a cannon. The acceleration rate and the braking rates were just awesome. You just knew that you had to have a tremendous amount of respect for this car. If you just let your enthusiasm and your adrenaline run wild without having a cap on it, you were going to make a big mistake.
When you look at that technology of how that car was built in that era, basically, the aluminum tubing was the size of your finger. If you ever hit anything solid at a high rate of speed, you were just going to be in a world of trouble.
Mark Donahue was one of the guys that really, really helped me. The biggest advice he gave me was to take little steps, and then pretty soon you’ll be up to up to pace.
That’s what I did. You didn’t want to fool around with a car that had twelve hundred horsepower racing against the best drivers in the world.
Every time I walk into the Brumos Collection, I’m kind of awestruck by the visual part of seeing these cars that I have driven. When you look back to 1971, fifty years ago, it just is like this amazing rush because I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can remember what happened 50 years ago.
We are so lucky to be able to have all of this together in this beautiful building. All these cars have got the space they need. You can walk up to any car, press a button and get the history of the car. There is really no other facility that you’re able to get so close to the cars where you can almost smell the heritage in these cars.
A lot of people ask about the colors. Most people are familiar with the red, white, and blue stripes, but originally our cars in 1971 and 1972 were painted orange. Well, that was Professor Porches’ favorite color.
Somebody once then came and told Peter that orange cars do not photograph well in black and white. So we came up with the paint scheme. As we are an American team, the red, white, and blue scheme worked well. It was a really cool stripe with that sweep being very recognizable and very easy to layout on a car, especially on Porsche.
That color scheme is iconic. I mean, everybody knows it and recognizes it. When you think back to when I drove those cars in anger in a race and still have those cars in our family, that’s really something that makes me feel good anyway. When people look at these cars, they see that relationship, and I think it’s important for a lot of people to see that.
When people come into this building, they understand what romance is all about and why Brumos is such a strong name that is not only represented by the name Brumos but also by the color scheme. They understand why Brumos is such a revered name, why Brumos is the standard-bearer of excellence, why we won so many championships, why we are such a successful team. You’re going to see an evolution of racing technologies.
Harry Millard was somebody that was a real innovator with both engine technology and car building. And when you look around here, you can see these cars, but you can see the enormous acceleration of development from these cars, from the early twenties to our current cars. You can see all that technology come to the forefront. And what an old Miller, a 1923 Miller looks like versus what a 2019 RCR looks like. I think it’s really important for people to see that and see that technology on how these different things have developed into concepts that go on streetcars.
I think when people come into this collection, obviously, they love cars, and when they’re able to see this variety of cars all in one location, I think they walk away, and they say, “I’m not crazy for loving cars. I’m not crazy for loving racing”. Here this is what it’s all about in this building. It is kind of a justification of their love affair with the automobile, their love affair with racing, and their love affair with Porsche.
We have a spectacular display of Porsche race cars from the beginnings from a 550 all the way up to the latest greatest GT cars. It’s a justification of the love affair that people have with the automobile, and this is a perfect place to see that.