Had he lived Richard Lloyd would have been 70 this week. And how absurd it still seems to refer to him in the past tense.
It is very rare that I write anything confident that everyone in a position to make an informed opinion will agree with me, but I am when I say that when Richard entered someone’s life, he never really left. Not even now. I knew him for years but never as a close family friend, but when I think of him I can recall every aspect of his presence – his looks, his walk, his voice, the omnipresent BRDC cap – in a way I cannot with people I’ve known far better and have seen much more recently.
I hope it is not the tragic circumstances of his passing that freeze-framed an indelible image of him in my mind. I don’t think so. Richard is there in my mind, clear a cloudless day, because he was not like other people. His achievements speak for themselves – as a driver he was good enough to share a Group C Porsche at Le Mans Jonathan Palmer and James Weaver damn near win it (they were delayed by a small fault for 20 minutes – less than the winner’s margin of victory and came second) and as a person he had class enough to dismiss his efforts in the car and describe himself as having been carried by his illustrious team-mates.
But he was a ace pedaller of saloon cars – coming second in the BTCC twice – before starting his career as a team boss, first of Richard Lloyd Racing, then Apex Motorsport. And of all the private teams that ran Porsche 956s and 962s in the 1980s, RLR was up there with likes of Joest and Brun among those the factory respected and valued most. And with good reason: at the Brands Hatch 1000km in 1984 there were eight 956s in the first nine places, but at their head was Richard’s, driven by Palmer and Jan Lammers.
It is perhaps too often forgotten that it was Richard who tempted Stirling Moss out of a 17-year retirement and paired him with a young unknown called Martin Brundle, that it was for Richard for whom Damon Hill raced a Porsche at Le Mans long before climbing into an F1 car, that it was Richard’s team who won the BTCC for Audi in 1996 and that it was his team in the pits the day Bentley returned to Le Mans in 2001.
It is a weekend I’ll never forget – the two Bentleys were quick but literally untested in the wet weather that bedevilled the race weekend, and the same can be said of their Dunlop tyres. Yet while one of the EXP Speed 8s succumbed to water ingress, the other was plugged with nothing more of the glamorous than the top of a bottle of mineral water and thundered on. And on Sunday afternoon, its drivers mounted the steps to the podium. I was in the test when Richard brought the trophy back and was humbled to see the tears on the face of this doughty, battle-hardened campaigner whom I thought had seen it all.