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Vic Elford: 1935-2022

Adaptable. Dependable. Versatile. Humble.

These and many more adjectives can be used when describing the life of one of motorsport’s last true allrounders. Whatever the formula, whatever the surface, Vic Elford was the man Porsche Ag. turned to in all sorts of competitions around the world.

His initial entry into motorsport was via rallying Minis, Triumphs and Ford Cortinas, but a rally in a Porsche at the 1966 Tour de Corse would lead to the start of a lifetime association with the marque, which endured even though he drove in so many more categories and with other manufacturers.

From 1967 to 1971, alongside rallying (becoming 1967 European Rally Champion), rallycross (winning the first ever event at Lydden Hill), and touring car racing, he also entered sportscar racing, gaining a class win at his first attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

1968 was his most successful year, winning Rally Monte Carlo at his sixth attempt (this still remains the last overall victory by a British driver on the event). Then, just one week later, he would win the Daytona 24 Hours, as part of a 5 driver Porsche Works Team entry in a Porsche 907. A few months later, he and veteran driver Umberto Maglioli would claim another famous victory in the Targa Florio, losing 16 minutes on the first lap due to a puncture in their 907, but snatching back victory with their drives over the next nine laps of the forty five mile course.

Two weeks after Targa Florio, Elford and Jo Siffert won at 1000 km of Nürburgring. It was Elford’s first of six successes at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, an achievement only done by three other drivers.

He would compete at Le Mans nine times, only being successful on one other occasion with another class win in 1973 in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4, but much of his fame will be because of the taming of the initially unwieldly Porsche 917.

He achieved the first 150 mph lap there (a fact acknowledged in Steve McQueen’s film “Le Mans”, but accredited only to the car), and was dominating proceedings during the 1970 race when the engine expired after eighteen hours. Later, he would be involved in filming many of the race sequences used within the film.

There would be a number of wins elsewhere during 1970 with the works supported Porsche Salzburg squad though, competing against the factory JWA Gulf Racing cars. He would also win in the 917 at the 1971 Sebring 12 hour event, driving the Martini and Rossi team car, and the Nürburgring 1000km, in the Martini Racing Team, before Porsche saw the writing on the wall about reducing speeds and engine sizes in sportscars, and moved their interests to Can-Am racing.

After Porsche's withdrawal, he then completed a season for Alfa Romeo, driving the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33TT3. He achieved a number of placings with the team, but will always be remembered for his actions during the Le Mans 24 Hours when he stopped his car on the track to save a fellow driver when he saw a burning Ferrari Daytona in front of him. When opening the door, Elford found an empty cockpit, as the driver already had escaped, but Elford then noticed the wreck of a Lola among the trees, with Jo Bonnier having been killed. Cameras caught the act, and Elford was awarded the National Order of Merit by French President, Georges Pompidou.

After scaling back the driving opportunities, he remained involved in the sport, with the design of Jean Rondeau’s Inaltera racing prototype which raced to eighth and GTP class win at Le Mans in 1976, and fourth overall in 1977.

His final Le Mans was in 1983, driving for the Rondeau team and his last international race was the 1984 Daytona 24 Hours, fittingly in a Porsche, before moving to Florida where he would managed the Porsche Owners Driving School, and the Porsche Driving Experience amongst other things.

In later years, he made many appearances at Driver Reunions and demonstration events all around the world, talking to fans in his quiet, unassuming manner. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer some twelve months ago, and on Sunday received his final chequered flag.

Text: Steve Tarrant

Images: Steve Tarrant / Porsche / Unknown


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