Monday, March 14, 2022 by Philippe Brasseur
Former Formula 1, rally, Can-Am, NASCAR but above all Endurance driver, Vic Elford died yesterday, Sunday March 13, at his home in Plantation, Florida. The 86-year-old has battled cancer in recent years with the same tenacity and determination that has made him one of only four drivers to record six victories in international races in various categories on the Grand Circuit of Nuerburgring.
Born on June 10, 1935 in London, Vic Elford made his racing debut in 1961 in England, in a Mini and then a DKW in national rallies. He then drove, still in rallying, for Triumph and then Ford before signing a contract for Porsche in 1964.
At the end of the 1964 season, he won the Marathon de la route, on the famous Nürburgring circuit (Nordschleife), where he drove no less than seven and a half hours consecutively and on several occasions, in rain and fog. Hans Herrmann and Jochen Neerspach were his teammates.
He won the European Championship (Group 3) three years later in a Porsche 911S (photo below), signing on the podiums at the Monte-Carlo Rally and the Tour de Corse before representing the German brand on the circuit, in sports car competitions, again winning several podiums.
Along with rallying and Endurance, Vic Elford made his debut in Formula 1 in 1968, competing in 7 Grands Prix (two Top 4) in a Cooper before returning to race for a partial season in 1968, in a McLaren of Colin Crabbe. He collected two new Top 6s before a serious accident at the Nürburgring, during the German Grand Prix, where he broke his arm and suffered a spinal injury which kept him out of competition for several months.
He will return to F1 for a single race, in 1971 in Germany (11th place in a BRM), concentrating mainly on Endurance events with Porsche. Elford was thus the first driver to complete a lap of the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit at an average speed of more than 150 miles per hour, at the controls of a Porsche 917 LH in 1970.
However, Vic Elford has never won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, whether in a Porsche (906, 908, 917 models – photo below – then Carrera RSR), Alfa Romeo (33 TT), Ferrari (365 GTB) or again Rondeau (M379C-Ford). In 9 participations between 1967 and 1983, he had 7 retirements and two Top 7.
In 1972, he left Porsche to compete in the World Endurance Championship on the Alfa Romeo of the Autodelta team. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he witnessed the fatal accident of Jo Bonnier, whose Lola crashed into the Ferrari Daytona of Florian Vetsch. If for Bonnier there is nothing more to do, Vetsch’s Ferrari caught fire at the edge of the track and Vic Elford stops to jump into the flames, thinking of extracting Vetsch, without knowing that the latter has already come out of his car. This gesture of courage will be worth to Elford to be decorated by the French president Georges Pompidou who makes him a knight of the National Order of Merit.
Among his greatest victories was the Rallye Monte-Carlo, driving a Porsche 911 in 1968, less than two weeks before winning the 24 Hours of Daytona, driving a Porsche 907 shared with Jochen Neerpasch, Hans Hermann and Rolf Stommelen. It was Porsche’s first international victory in a 24-hour event.
His racing career also extended to races in the Can-Am series and even the Daytona 500, the premier event of NASCAR races, which he contested in 1969, 71 and 72, when he finished 10th with a Plymouth. For the record, he is also the very first winner of a rallycross competition, when he won on February 4, 1967 on the Lydden Hill circuit, at the controls of a Porsche 911.
Elford’s skill can also be seen in the film Le Mans where Steve McQueen had chosen him to handle the big high-speed action shots behind the wheel of the famous Porsche 917. He had ended his racing career in 1974.
Vic Elford is the author of two books: The Porsche High Performance Driving Handbook and Reflections on a Golden Era in Motorsport. He is survived by his wife Anita.
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