Throughout most of my time at Porsche in Hertfordshire a cornerstone of our marketing effort was an involvement with motor sport. This took many forms including supporting Club racing, attending the Le Mans 24 Hours and British Carrera Cup series, and also sponsoring Porsche Classic rallying.
We supplied parts to Francis Tuthill in Oxfordshire who was one of the first to really recognize the potential for these events, and in the early/mid 1990’s we got together and held a “Classic Rally Evening” for our customers in our St. Albans Porsche facility.
Our star guests were Jimmy McCrea (Colin’s father); Bjorn Waldegaard; probable the most successful rally driver ever; Beattie Crawford (Bjorn’s co driver), Francis Tuthill himself, with me as “chairman”.
We started off the evening with a film show to which Francis gave an entertaining running commentary, and this was followed by a question and answer session from our enthusiastic audience, most of whom were proper “petrol heads”.
However, one guest (don’t ask me which Manufacturer he worked for) then asked Bjorn Waldegaard the following: “Mr Waldegaard, at your stage of life (he was in his early 60’s then) what possible satisfaction could you get from driving a 20-year-old 911 in these events when the reality is that a decent ‘hot hatchback’ today could show it a clean pair of heals?!”
Bjorn started to answer in a typically positive and diplomatic way when in mid flow he was interrupted by Beattie Crawford. “Recently I was co driving for this man in the Finnish 1000 Lakes Classic rally. Several weeks before us the World Rally Championship (WRC) cars had covered many of the same special stages in their own championship event with their 4-wheel drive, turbo charged, manufacturer supported cars.
After our event I overlaid Bjorn’s special stage times in his “20-year-old Porsche 911” driven by this “60 odd year-old driver” against the times set by the WRC cars, and I can tell you that on every stage this man and this car would make it into the top ten special stage times!
…no 4-wheel drive….no turbo charger, just a fantastic car driven by a brilliant and modest man.
Does that answer your question?”
Bjorn Waldegaard sadly died almost exactly a year ago, but will be remembered as probably the greatest rally driver of all time, who even in his late 60’s, behind the wheel of a great motor car could still demonstrate the skill, balance and judgement which set him apart from us normal mortals.