Porsche Le Mans legend Richard Attwood on racing at 77 and being back in his F1 BRM
Richard Attwood has been racing at Goodwood for 60 years. From piloting a Standard 10 when he was 17 to the Formula 1 BRM he drove last weekend at the 2017 Goodwood Revival, he knows his way round the Motor Circuit like few others.
He’s driven at every Revival – “except for 2013 when I had a quadruple heart bypass” – and usually in more than one car. This year he was racing a Cobra in the RAC TT Celebration and then, immediately after it, the 1965 BRM P261 in a Glover Trophy made trickier than ever when the heavens opened. The 77-year-old barely had time for a cup of tea between races.
With a schedule like that, plus regular appearances at both the Members’ Meeting and the Festival of Speed, the former F1 driver (17 world championship grands prix) and Le Mans victor (driving the 917 in Porsche’s first victory in 1970) it is no surprise the affable Englishman has long held the affection and respect of the entire Goodwood motorsport community.
We caught up with Richard after the Glover Trophy in a damp paddock with the hot BRM still ticking in the background. He drove an F1 BRM for the first time in 1964 – that too was at Goodwood, in the non-Championship News of the World Trophy race that year (he was fourth).
GRR: Was it as wet in ’64 as has been just now?
Richard: No, I don’t think it rained then. Certainly nothing like today. It was very wet and then the puddles came, so it got a bit difficult. But I enjoyed it, and I love the car.
Do you always enjoy your racing?
No. It depends on the car. I know this BRM very well (he drove it first in the ‘60s in the Tasman Series - ed) and I love it. But I didn’t get on with Bill Shepherd’s Cobra in the TT race. The car was too hard and I had no confidence in it. The BRM I have confidence in even though I haven’t driven it since this time last year. Confidence in a car makes all the difference.
Is it your favourite BRM?
It is the BRM I know the best. I only race it here at Goodwood and this year I had no time to test it, like the other guys do. The car has a new big-valve engine this year but when the car was ready I was in America so I had no time to test it.
How’s the new engine going?
Compared to the small-valve engine in the car last year this one wants to fly. In the dry, it will really go. From about 8500rpm it takes off but we couldn’t use that today because of the wet. As soon as I did the wheels started spinning.
In a field of 30-odd cars you qualified sixth on the grid and were running third…
I finished fourth which is not bad but the same as last year and I really wanted to do one better this time. I missed a gear and went off at Lavant, straight into the gravel. But I managed to bump start the engine and drive out, otherwise, I would still be there. I would have been third if I hadn’t gone off. We’ll change things next year.
Sounds like you are enjoying competing as much as ever, and at 77 you are obviously very fit…
Yes, so far. But you never know what’s around the corner. I think 77 is a rude number and you shouldn’t broadcast things like that. People probably think I am only 27. I love Goodwood, and will always come here for as long as I am invited. I just want to keep going. Why not?
What else are you doing at the moment?
All Goodwood apart from racing a restored Porsche 928 that’s being run by four Porsche dealerships around the country. Each takes it in turn to run the car at different events. The car is too heavy up against Lotus Elans and things but the last race is at Silverstone and it might be wet – when the car will be really good because it is heavy.
Any reflections on your career these days?
My problem right from Formula Junior and F2 was that I was always up against world champion drivers, Jim Clark and others. I finished second to Clark three times. If it wasn’t for him I would have won!
And I did tend to have last year’s car – Eric Broadley was too busy doing other things – so that was a shame. The Lotus BRM I drove in F1 in 1965 was a three-year-old car and I couldn’t do a lot with it really. I probably shouldn’t have done that. But I don’t believe in ‘what ifs’ – a load of rubbish!
You have won at Le Mans, but never been tempted by the Le Mans Classic?
When you drive a Porsche you certainly have a chance of finishing. But the Classic, no, I don’t do that. It’s too fast. You are always at high speed and you are still in the old cars and if you have a wallop then it’s goodbye to a lot of things.
What’s on your bucket list?
Nothing. Just Goodwood. The Members’ Meeting, the Festival and Revival – I love them all. My appearances are exclusive to Goodwood!
Photography courtesy of LAT Images and Jayson Fong