Jochen Mass is a man in demand. You can hardly turn anywhere in the world of historic motorsport without encountering the enigmatic German and, predictably enough, he was a guest at the recent Daytona Classic 24 Hours where he was driving a Porsche 911 RSR, more often than not holding court in the paddock to an appreciative audience.
We waited for a quiet few minutes in the Le Mans winner’s schedule and managed to steal a swift chat before and after the races. ‘The first time I came here was in 1972’ he replies when asked how well he knows the place. ‘I was racing in Supervee – not that quick, but quick enough. Oh and there were lots of cheerleaders!’ he says with a wry smile.
Steering the subject quickly towards today’s historic racing he is his usual, humble self. ‘I never take this for granted’ he says, gesturing at the magnificent scene around us of E-Types, Corvettes, Lolas and Porsche 962s all being prepped for overnight racing duty. ‘At this stage of my career it’s such a pleasure to be involved and I’m very grateful to still be here and to be able to race, although to be honest I’m not too interested in driving the cars I raced as a professional.’
‘To be honest I’d love to race any object of desire that tickled my fancy when I was younger!’
As for the circuit itself, Jochen is a big fan. ‘It’s a fabulous place. I love it!’ he says with genuine, bubbling enthusiasm. ‘There’s a great spirit here, too. Like a holiday.’ Unlike most circuits though it turns out that there is little time on each lap to relax. ‘No you never relax much around here’ he explains. ‘Up on the banking you can’t relax because you’re aware of the very high speeds. I once had a tyre blow-out here at over 200mph in the International Race of Champions…’
Despite it’s high-speed nature and that unfortunate tyre mishap, Daytona is, according to Jochen, ‘a circuit that lends itself as a reasonably safe place for drivers to enjoy their cars.’ This prompts us to ask which would be his favourite car to drive around Daytona. The answer comes quickly: ‘Oh the Porsche 935, although the tyres are critical’ he quickly adds. ‘To be honest I’d love to race any object of desire that tickled my fancy when I was younger!’
The race itself turned out to be an eventful one for the man who heads-up Darnley House at our Members’ Meetings. ‘Well I made a few little mistakes’ he concedes. ‘I stayed out on a yellow flag and didn’t come into the pits. That cost us some time. Also, we had a faulty light switch that caused the headlights to fail intermittently. But it’s been a great event, very streamlined. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.’
And is there anything else he’d like to have raced here? Again, the reply comes so fast it’s as if it’s been rehearsed: ‘That!’ he exclaims, pointing excitedly at a Mustang GT350 which has been producing one of the best soundtracks of the meeting. ‘Oh and one of those’ he says, gazing lovingly at a Lola T70.
We mention how much we’re looking forward to seeing him at the 74th Members’ Meeting next March and ask if he’s going to enjoy some rest in the meantime. He smiles that mischievous smile again… ‘Rest? I can’t afford to rest!’